The Indian press has commented on the “baptism by fire” of Imran Khan, the Pakistan Prime Minister- designate by the United States. It appears that the Washington is now pulling the long rope it had given to Islamabad. Dailies have lauded the opening of the Friendship Bridge that would provide connectivity from India to South-east Asia and beyond. Indian press has highlighted the IMF’s report appreciating India’s growth story.

THE STATESMAN in an editorial TRUNCATED ASSISTANCE writes, More than a week before Imran Khan is sworn in as Pakistan’s Prime Minister, US President Donald Trump has emitted a decidedly disconcerting signal to the new establishment in Islamabad. The National Defense Authorisation Act 2019, passed by Congress on Thursday, has fixed the security-related assistance to Pakistan at $150 million a year ~ significantly lower than the historic level of more than $1 billion annually. Arguably, the aid cut mirrors the anxiety of the White House over Pakistan’s failure to rein in terrorists. Furthermore, the involvement of the military in the purported tryst with democracy could well have been another deterrent. The truncated package can also be contextualised with the IMF’s resolve ~ post election ~ to tighten its purse strings vis-a-vis Pakistan, irrespective of whether it is “new” or in the state of present continuous. Markedly, the latest defence legislation has removed certain conditions, such as action against the two terrorist outfits ~ the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). Action against both was for the past few years integral to the package for the disbursement of US aid to Pakistan. The Senate has passed the legislation with a convincing margin of 87 votes to ten.

THE INDIAN EXPRESS in an editorial PROMISE OF MOREH says the opening of the Friendship Bridge at Moreh, on the India-Myanmar border, offers cheer. Moreh, a town 110 km from Imphal, is expected to be the gateway to Myanmar: Mandalay, Myanmar’s second largest city is a 10-hour drive from the Manipur town. Mandalay is famously known as the place where “the flyin’-fishes play”. Mandalay offers direct land connectivity to both China and Southeast Asia. In short, the road to Mandalay can mean a long drive to East Asian cities including Yangon, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Vientiane, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and Kunming in Yunnan, China. Moreh for some time has been designated an immigration check post of India. Citizens of both countries were allowed to cross the border and travel upto 16 km of each other’s territory. Indians, who wished to travel beyond that, needed special land permits from Myanmar authorities. From now on, Indian passport-holders can get their visas at Moreh and travel on. The easing of travel restrictions at Moreh transforms Manipur from a land-locked, frontier state to a trade and transit hub connecting South Asia and Southeast Asia. The closing of borders in the years since Independence had blocked old travel routes and disrupted community ties.

DON’T MISS THE FINE PRINT IN THE IMF ANNUAL REPORT; THE HINDUSTAN TIMES in an editorial comment the International Monetary Fund (IMF) released the results of its annual assessment of the Indian economy this week. The good news is that India’s growth trajectory has recovered from the disruptions. Real GDP growth in the fiscal year 2019-20 is expected to be 7.5%, the second highest under the Modi government. While there is always an element of uncertainty in such projections, it is the broad direction of continuous improvement in projected growth rate which is more important. The Fund has also praised India for its overall economic management on both domestic and external fronts. While the IMF notes risks to growth and macroeconomic stability such as rising oil prices, turbulent global trade environment and possible slippage in GST collections, it has decided against pressing the panic button yet.