11-08-2017

The Indian print media has discussed the BIMSTEC Foreign Ministers meeting in Kathmandu. The seven nation grouping has tremendous economic potential as the combined economies have already crossed $2.5 trillion. Papers have welcomed the forecast of a normal monsoon this year; which is very important for Indian agriculturists. The violence after the Presidential elections in Kenya has also been commented upon.

THE PIONEER in an editorial STRONG REGIONAL GROUPING writes that working in tandem to give a boost to the Government’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ and ‘Act East’ policy, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is in Kathmandu to attend the 15th Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) ministerial meeting on August 10-11. Apart from discussing key issues of multi-sectoral and economic cooperation, the gathering also gives an opportunity to the countries of the grouping to exchange ideas on new developments and prepare a roadmap for future engagements. BIMSTEC is a regional organisation of seven countries — India, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand — lying in the littoral or adjacent areas of the Bay of Bengal. The grouping has a combined gross domestic product of over $2.5 trillion. Besides, the regional group acts as a bridge between South and Southeast Asia and represents a reinforcement of relations among countries. While priorities at present remain at working for regional peace and economic cooperation, it is also time to promote BIMSTEC as a model of regionalism and an effective global player. India is the lead country in cooperation in four priority areas — counter-terrorism and trans-national crime, transport and communication, tourism and environment, and disaster management.

BUSINESS LINE in an editorial MONSOON BLUES writes that with another normal monsoon on the cards — after a near-normal monsoon last year — India’s kharif crop looks set to better last year’s record output of 138 million tonnes. The forecast would have come as a relief to peninsular India, which has so far missed out on the south-west monsoon; a revival is expected in a week in this region. However, the sobering fact is that agriculture growth over the last four years has averaged just about 2.5 per cent, against nearly 4 per cent in the preceding four years. A May 2015 paper of the Reserve Bank of India had observed that output responds more to a negative than a positive monsoon shock; a pointer to the productivity crisis. The income benefits of a good agriculture year in 2016-17 were felt by the agricultural community, The Centre must take steps beforehand to stabilise prices in coordination with the States, particularly with respect to pulses where acreage has gone up by 4 per cent this kharif, following a 7-8 per cent support price hike across pulses varieties.

THE HINDU in an editorial RACE FOR NAIROBI opines Kenya’s elections typically are not just highly charged campaigns, but they are protracted affairs after the vote too, with fierce contestation over the result and often violence. It had been hoped that this month’s presidential election would break that cycle, but events have so far played to previous trends. All votes have still not been counted, but with well over 90% of the polling stations declaring results, President Uhuru Kenyatta had secured almost 55% of the vote, with the Opposition candidate, Raila Odinga, trailing by about 10 percentage points. Mr. Odinga of the National Super Alliance has disputed the provisional lead for the incumbent in Tuesday’s election. The former Prime Minister has claimed the Opposition alliance’s own tabulation is at variance with the provisional figures, alleging that official databases have been hacked. The election commission have dismissed the allegations, insisting that the polls were held in a free and fair manner after an overhaul of the mechanism. Curiously, the poll authority said that it had not received any formal complaint from the Opposition. The suspense over the ultimate outcome is likely to linger.