The Big Story: US and them
India's ties with the United States took a big step forward this week with the signing of a military logistics agreement, which allows the two sides to share refueling and repair facilities around the world. For India in particular the signing of the agreement, after more than a decade of debate, represented a larger shift in its approach to the US, as equally reflected by the various others agreements signed over the course of the last few days which included the visit of American Secretary of State John Kerry.
Speaking to the Times of India, Kerry claimed that the US will work harder to get India into the Nuclear Suppliers Group – an international network that controls the flow of nuclear fuel around the world. The NSG for a brief period seemed like the linchpin of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's foreign policy efforts. But that bid failed last year after India was unable to push through its application at a plenary meeting in Seoul.
"We want to make it happen before the year end," Kerry said, and the joint statement between the two countries reflected that. But there are serious doubts over whether America has the capability, or even the willingness, to pull its weight in getting India into the nuclear suppliers club.
That was the technique used by former US President George W Bush in 2008, when he made a personal call and managed to get India an NSG waiver, but we are dealing with a different president, a vastly different America and an upcoming US election that will not make things easy for any side.
There was hope that there would be a special NSG session later this year, possibly in November, when India's application would be taken up separately, but that might come up right around the time of the US elections. What are the chances that Kerry's administration, at that point either transitioning to a Hillary Clinton's team or enduring the lame-duck period before Donald Trump takes over, will muster the willpower to take on the Chinese on behalf of India?
- Central trade unions are on strike today demanding better working conditions, raised minimum wages, universal social security (see the whole list). The government already announced a raise in the wage floor but the unions believe not enough has been done.
- Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi told the Supreme Court that he stands by his claim that Mohandas Mahatma Gandhi was killed by people from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
- Indian Air Force Chief Marshal Arup Raha believes if India had used a military solution, Pakistan-occupied Kashmir could be a part of India's today.
- Former Goa Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh head Subhash Velingkar said Union ministers Nitin Gadkari and Manohar Parrikar were responsible for his sacking, which has caused a rift between the RSS and the Bharatiya Janata Party in the state.
- Latest indicators suggest the Trinamool Congress is not going to make it easy for the Centre to build consensus on the Goods and Services Tax specifics that still have to be worked out.
- Pratap Bhanu Mehta in the Indian Express tries to use the address of the Digambar monk in the Haryana Assembly as an opportunity to discuss dharma and politics.
- All future correspondence on the proposed Memorandum of Procedure for judicial appointments should be made public argue Ajit Prakash Jha and Arghya Sengupta in the Hindu, saying that is the only way to end the judiciary-executive impasse.
- Sanchit Vir Gogia and Anshoo Nandwaani in Mint have six take-aways for the telecom industry from the launch of Reliance Jio.
- Garrison Keillor on Donald Trump in the Chicago Tribune is unrelenting: "So what do you do this winter? Hang around one of your mansions? Hit some golf balls? Hire a ghostwriter to do a new autobiography?"
Manob Chowdhury reports on the death of two villagers who were protesting against a Jharkhand power plant.
Nakul Mahto, a 38-year old farmer from Bamni village said that instead of using water from Gomti and Barha river 10 km away from the plant as had been expected, the company was taking water from the Seranggada river, which was the source of water for locals. “They will finish off our water source this way," said Mahto. "They have already ruined our crop with their smoke and pollutants."
In Tonagutu village, Suresh Kumar Patel a 36-year-old farm worker said villagers from 10 villages – Tonagutu, Bamni, Baying, Urba, Karo, Putridih, Bariatu, Saranhatu, Karamara and Nawadi – had sold land at Rs 1 lakh-Rs 1.5 lakhs per acre to the company but had failed to get decent jobs.
“If any displaced villager get work in the plant, at most they pay Rs 150,” said Lakeshwar Kumar, a farmer in Tonagutu.