What did India gain from PM Modi’s visits to Japan and Australia?
The PM raised attacks on temples with Aussie PM Albanese, but did not raise PLA occupation in India with President Xi Jinping
India observers and commentators were bemused by the news that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was invited by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to the 19-21 May G7 summit in Hiroshima, ostensibly to explain to the attending leaders what he, as the “voice of the Global South”, intended to place on the G20 agenda regarding global challenges, including food security.
India of course chairs the G20 grouping this year and the concluding summit will be held on 9-10 September in New Delhi. PM Modi expectedly turned the largely inconsequential meet into a frenziedly spectacular sequence of ‘meets’—100 of them in 56 cities—for ministers and delegates from G20 countries. Invariably again PM Modi’s portraits and photographs loom large at these meetings, with every conceivable space for hoardings, posters and advertisements in newspapers and in trains taken up by his smiling visage.
The amusement was because Prime Minister Modi, after all, has been unable to raise with Chinese President Xi Jinping the issue of thousands of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops occupying several border areas after they overran the eastern part of India’s border Union Territory of Ladakh in May 2020.
While the PM clearly took up the issue of attack on temples in Australia by miscreants with the Australian Prime Minister, as has been widely reported, no report has appeared yet on the Indian PM raising the border issue with President Xi Jinping of China at Hiroshima or elsewhere.
Besides, India has been slipping precipitously on most human development parameters since Modi came to power in 2014, the country ranking 132 out of 191 in the Human Development Index 2023 of the UN Development Programme (UNDP).
PM Modi’s sudden announcement of a complete nation-wide lockdown during the pandemic pushed 75 million newcomers to poverty in 2020 and annihilated small businesses that thrived on migrant workers; and that is not all.
More than 230 million people in India, or 16 per cent of the population of 1.43 billion, still experience poverty, the highest number among all emerging economies, says a recent UNDP report, the poor identified as those living on less than Rs 150 a day.
The middle class too shrank by 32 million in 2020, while the richer population fell almost 30 per cent, to 18 million.
India ranked 107th out of 121 countries, behind Sri Lanka (64), Nepal (81), Bangladesh (84) and Pakistan (99), in the 2022 Global Hunger Index, jointly published by Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe. The only Asian country behind India is Afghanistan, ranked 109.
With a score of 29.1, India has hunger levels estimated as ‘serious’ and has 224.3 million people, out of 828 million globally, who are considered undernourished.
Predatory taxation has ensured faster rise in food prices than workers’ wages, five per cent Goods and Services Tax (GST) being unprecedentedly imposed on even staple foods like pulses, flour, and cereals like rice and wheat, when pre-packaged and labelled.
“Even the British [colonialists] did not impose tax on food items,” commented Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, from the opposition Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). “Today the biggest reason for inflation in the country is the high GST being levied by the central government.”