Jul 25

Mukherjee sworn in as India’s new president 2012

NEW DELHI:
Former finance minister Pranab Mukherjee called for action to tackle India’s dire poverty as he was sworn in as president on Wednesday during an elaborate display of pomp and circumstance.Mukherjee Reuters

The presidency is mainly a ceremonial role, but Mukherjee used his acceptance speech to appeal for India to prioritise the hundreds of millions of poor who have been left behind by recent economic growth.

Mukherjee, 76, arrived for the swearing-in ceremony in a regal cavalcade escorted by horse-mounted bodyguards and was greeted by a military guard of honour lining the route leading to the parliament building in New Delhi.

After receiving a 21-gun salute, Mukherjee addressed lawmakers and spoke of erasing poverty from the “dictionary of modern India” and striving for equality for all.

“For our development to be real, the poorest of our land must feel that they are part of the narrative of rising India,” he said.

“There is no humiliation more abusive than hunger. Trickle-down theories do not address the legitimate aspirations of the poor. We must lift those at the bottom.”

Mukherjee also touched on corruption, a thorny issue that has dogged the Congress party government that he served in as finance minister until last month.

“Corruption is an evil that can depress a nation’s mood and sap its progress,” he said. “We cannot allow our progress to be hijacked by corruption.”

Mukherjee, the official Congress party candidate, was elected president on Sunday after winning 69 percent of the votes cast by national and state lawmakers.

Under the constitution, the prime minister wields most of the executive power in India, but the president can send back some bills for reconsideration and also plays a guiding role in the process of forming governments.

This could be key in the next general election – due in 2014 – which is expected to produce a fractured parliament that will struggle to produce a stable coalition government.

Mukherjee has a cross-party reputation as a skilled negotiator, and was described by leaked US embassy cables in 2009 as “the ultimate Congress Party fixer and operator”.

Although respected across partisan lines, Mukherjee’s performance as finance minister was criticised for a sharp decline in the growth rate and his failure to push through policies aimed at further liberalising India’s economy.

His exit from the ministry has raised investors’ hopes that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has taken over the finance portfolio, would kickstart stalled reforms like opening the retail sector to foreign investment.

Apr 13

India to allow foreign direct investment from Pakistan

Indian Minister for Commerce and Industry, Anand Sharma (L) shakes hands with Pakistani Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim during a joint press conference in New Delhiindia frindship pakistan

NEW DEHLI:
India has decided to allow foreign direct investment from Pakistan, India’s trade minister said on Friday, hours before the two countries were due to open a trading post on the border in the latest sign of thawing economic ties.

Liberalising heavily restricted trade and investment flows is now the driver of peace efforts between the neighbours, whose fragile ties were shattered when militants attacked the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008.

“India has taken an in-principle decision, as a part of the process to deepen our economic engagement, to allow foreign direct investments from Pakistan in India,” said Trade Minister Anand Sharma at a news conference with his Pakistani counterpart.

Under current rules, Pakistani citizens cannot directly invest in India. Investment flows are unlikely to surge, but the move will go some way to addressing concerns by Pakistani businessmen that India places too many restrictions on them.

More than 600 Pakistani businesses are in New Delhi this week at a trade fair to promote their products to the Indian market.

In the face of some domestic opposition, the government of Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari last November vowed to grant India most favoured nation status, which ends restrictions that require most products to move via a third country.

The move was hailed by India and the two countries are now focused on resolving economic issues before moving on to more intractable problems.

Sharma also said an agreement to relax restrictions on visas for Pakistani businessmen was almost ready.

Later on Friday, Sharma and the Pakistani trade minister, Makhdoom Amin Fahim, will open an expanded border trade terminal at Wagah, between Lahore and Amritsar.

With a capacity to handle about 600 trucks a day, the border crossing is expected to help bring trade to $8 billion annually from the current level of $2.6 billion, Indian industry chamber ASSOCHAM said in a study published this week.