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'Feel good' effect there, but time for action now: Experts
Friday September 5, 2014 0:59 AM, IANS

While the Narendra Modi-led government has given people a good feeling in general about the state of the nation, the government needs to show more concrete action, appoint a separate defence minister to address pressing security concerns as well as assuage growing concerns of minorities, experts said at a panel discussion Thursday.

In a discussion on the "100 days of Modi Sarkar" at the India International Centre, analysts and domain experts said the new government has brought a "sense of definitiveness" to the office of prime minister.

"There was a consensus at the discussion that this government has brought a sense of definitiveness and determination to the office of prime minister," said C Uday Bhaskar, strategic expert and director of Society for Policy Studies (SPS) that organised the roundtable discussion.

"Though 100 days is a short time for any major change, there is a change in perception that this government has brought," Bhaskar told IANS.

Mohan Guruswamy, policy expert and Distinguished Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, said there was a general "good feeling about this government.

"We have a colourful prime minister... We have had enough philosophers and we need a warrior, that is what he is," said Guruswamy.

He, however, added that there has not been much change in the ground situation and the government needs to take firm steps to walk its talk.

"There has been cross-firing on the border through last month, arrival of Modi has not changed the attitude of Pakistan's army. Food inflation has infact grown... the housing and other infrastructure project that the government has promised, they are yet to tell where they would raise the huge funds from," he asked.

Prabhat Shukla, former ambassador and a Distinguished Fellow with Vivekananda International Foundation, said while the government has done remarkably well in the field of foreign policy, in prioritising its relations with Asian nations and balancing it with the Western world, there was an urgent need for a full time defence minister.

"The government has given a clear indication that South Asia would be the priority, and it has been very skilfully combined with developing relations with the great powers," said Shukla.

"Absence of a full time defence minister is, however, one of the troubles, even though the cabinet is marvellous and all ministers are capable of handling more than one portfolio," he said.

He also said there is a need to revise the nuclear doctrine, while clarifying that a revision does not imply any modification in the "no first use policy".

Seshadri Chari, secretary general, Forum for Integrated National Security, said there is a "perceptible change" since the new government has come.

"The change since the new government has come is perceptible. In the past, pronouncedly in the last decade, India lost important strategic space to China. Now is the time when Indian foreign policy will be decided just by Delhi, and not by anyone else," he said. He spoke of the need to have an "integrated strategic policy" combining foreign affairs, defence and internal security.

Journalist and commentator Neerja Chowdhury said the plans for economic development and stability cannot succeed unless the concerns of minorities were addressed.

"Secularism is not a luxury for India, it is necessary to hold India together. The government needs to instill confidence in the minorities," she said, adding that Muslims had become "sullen" towards this government and were closely watching its moves even as fringe groups sought to play the game of "communal polarisation" in states that were going to elections in the next few months.

"If there is communal violence, the plans of development will not succeed as investors will stay off India," she said.

Arvind Virmani, former chief economic adviser to the government who now heads the think-tank Chintan, said the government needs to address basic structural issues to revive growth. He said there was a "bubble" in the growth projected and unless areas like manufacturing, sanitation, malnutrition, agriculture etc were addressed, it will be difficult to bring back the economy on track soon.

He particularly laid stress on the importance of sanitation in Modi's scheme of things, saying lack of it led to malnutrition which in turn slowed down harnessing of India's human resource potential.

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