India Rises in WEF’s Competitive Rankings

India jumped 16 places to number 39 out of 138 countries rated in the World Economic Forum’s competitiveness ranking, due mainly to better infrastructure and strong economic growth. In the World Competitiveness Report 2016-2017 rankings are made on the assessment of 12 parameters: institutions, infrastructure, macroeconomic environment, health and primary education, higher education and training, goods market efficiency, labor market efficiency, financial market development, technological readiness, market size, business sophistication, and innovation.

India has made significant progress on infrastructure, one of the pillars where it ranked worst,” said the report.

Rail Infrastructure

Switzerland, Singapore and the U.S. were ranked first, second and third, respectively. China was ranked 28th, Sri Lanka was 71st, while Pakistan ranked 122nd.

The report also highlighted some of the remaining problems of doing business in India: confusing tax regulations, corruption and others, says the Wall Street Journal.

October 4, 2016   No Comments

Dramatic Changes Predicted at Future of Asia Conference

According to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council‘s  (LAWAC) Future of Asia Conference that took place on September 15 and 16, “Asia is a continent where the stakes are rising rapidly – both in economic promise and expansion of individuals’ horizons, but also in environmental and security challenges.”

57 speakers, that included Gunjan Bagla of Amritt Inc., and 414 attendees engaged in wide-ranging conversations at the Fairmont Hotel in Santa Monica, California  about the future of the Asia-Pacific and its relations with the U.S.  “Asia’s Emerging Middle Class”, is predicted by the Organization for Economic C0-operation and Development to grow from 500 million in 2009 to 3 billion by 2030; and by 2050 more than 50% of world GDP will be generated in Asia, up from one-third today.

Quotable quotes from the conference as provided in a summary by LAWAC

Shivshankar Menon, former Indian National Security Adviser, said that by 2030 “Asia will surpass the combined economic and military might of North America and Europe – this is not that the U.S. is declining, but that China and India are rising.”

Martin Drew, CEO  of Etihad Airways USA  said, “In India, currently only 3% of the population travels overseas – a “mere” 40 million people, while in China just 4% of the population has passports – and Chinese tourists still spend more money around the world than any other nation.  Wait until they reach American levels of 35%, or European levels where 70% of the population has a passport!”
 “One Canada is being built every year in Asia” said Benjy Ward from the architectural firm Gensler.

Andy Xie, former top China economist for Morgan Stanley, said, ” “the nominal GDP [of China] is up by 22 times, but nobody has made money off the stock market – that is totally nuts! All China’s problems can be traced to misallocation of capital.”

“China and India will account for half the Asian middle class by 2030 and one-third of the global middle class,” said Alan Siqueira of Wells Fargo. “The numbers are staggering and will generate significant growth opportunities for multinational companies.”

Bilahari Kausikan, ambassador-at-large from Singapore, said that South East Asian countries “want to have the best possible relationship with both the U.S. and China, and do not want to have to choose between them – the U.S. will play a vital role in maintaining this balance.”

Duncan Clark, the author on a book about Alibaba’s Jack Ma, recounted the meteoric rise of Ma from tour guide to one of the wealthiest entrepreneurs in the world through his ability to “lead and inspire – he is a fantastic talker.”

Gunjan Bagla of Amritt said that under Prime Minister Modi “corruption in the higher levels of India has been pretty much eliminated.”

Jonathan Friedland of Netflix said, “Incomes are rising enormously across Asia and there are lots of adaptations for mobile businesses. All of this benefits the consumption of entertainment.”

Admiral Harry Harris, the Hawaii-based PACOM commander, said in his keynote speech, “I want you to stop for a minute and think about this – combining nuclear warheads with ballistic missiles in the hands of a volatile leader like Kim Jong-Un is a recipe for disaster.”

Dinner Keynote by Admiral Harry Harris

Dinner Keynote by Admiral Harry Harris

Eiichi Katahara from the National Institute of Defense Studies in Tokyo expressed paradoxical concerns about China: “Yes, we are concerned about China’s growing [military] capacity, but we are also concerned about China collapsing.  We need China to be stable!”

“There is a low probability of conflict breaking out over the South China Sea,” said Admiral Dennis Blair, former PACOM commander and Director of National Intelligence.

Richard McGregor of the Financial Times, said of the relationship between Japan and China,  “Japan is not sure if they want China to succeed or fail.” On the same topic, Liu Ming from the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences said, “I think our countries are both very smart. We will have half competition and half cooperation.”

Jeff Wasserstrom of UC Irvine cautioned that by trying to build railroads in violence-prone countries like Pakistan, China might be overstepping – “China is venturing into dangerous territory there.”


Terry McCarthy, president and CEO of  the LA World Affairs Council summed up the various discussions and deliberations of the two day conference:

The future of Asia is, of course, uncertain territory – full of opportunity, but pricked with risk and unknowable unknowns. Who could have imagined a penniless tour guide from a small Chinese city rising to become the world’s largest online seller in the space of 15 years?  As Asian countries continue to grow in economic and political might, one of the defining questions for their future, and for the future of the world, will be the quality of leadership in Asia – in government, in board rooms, and in society at large. ”


September 28, 2016   No Comments

Yoga Day Marked in Times Square and Across the Globe

Last year, the United Nations proclaimed June 21 as International Day of Yoga, and many countries marked this day performing yoga exercises, report both NBC News and the BBC.

On June 20, at Times Square, New York City, traffic came to a standstill as people practiced for a yoga session during the summer solstice on Monday. In the Philippines, Australia, Malaysia, China, Belarus and India, young students and adults practiced yoga breathing exercises and yoga poses to mark the International Day of Yoga.

On Yoga Day with Prime Minister Modi of India

On Yoga Day with Prime Minister Modi of India

Venues were as varied as the Sydney Harbor Bridge, the Sydney Opera House, Gorky Park in Minsk,  schools, parade grounds, parks, a glass sightseeing platform on the outskirts of Beijing, and even a swimming pool!

June 22, 2016   No Comments

Defense Alignment Between India and U.S. Accelerates

DefenseNews reports that the Obama administration has made strengthening ties with India a priority, and this has been highlighted by the focus Defense Secretary Ash Carter has had on the South Asian nation. Ashley Tellis, a former State Department official now with the Carnegie Endowment, calls the recent state visit of Prime Minister Modi, “a culmination of what Obama has tried to do since he came into office.”

“This is one of the biggest, fastest moving defense relationships in the world, period,” said Frank Wisner,  ambassador to India under President Clinton, and now with the international law firm Squire Patton Boggs. He added later, “We have an interest in an India that is robustly armed. India is not a predatory power, and she is big enough and important enough that she helps anchor the balance of power in Asia. A good relationship with India is part of a good relationship with China.”

Obama and Modi

With this focus, the Pentagon has grown increasingly open to technological development programs with India. The core of the technology relationship between the two nations is the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative, a specialized program launched in 2012 and championed by Carter, then deputy defense secretary.

India is seeking help from the U.S. in two importent areas: engine technology for its proposed homegrown advanced medium combat aircraft, and an electro-magnetic aircraft launch system for the proposed homegrown aircraft carrier INS Vishal. India is also in the market for high-end, secure communications gear for her troops, and here Wisner sees potential for a deal for a U.S. firm to install, operate and maintain such equipment.

The biggest opportunity for the nations to work together will materialize if India selects an American fighter to become the backbone of the Indian Air Force, and if this happens, Tellis says, “I think the game changes because then you will have major defense cooperation on a scale we have never seen with the U.S.  It starts with buying 90 planes but probably ends up with manufacturing 200 airplanes in India. That is big. So I think that is something we will have to wait and see what happens.”

June 20, 2016   No Comments

Ashton Carter express Readiness to Share Technology for India’s Aircraft Carriers

During his recent visit to India, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter spoke to reporters about the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System  that will replace the steam catapults used on older U.S. carriers for launching and landing systems.

“We are working with the Indian Navy on technology for their next generation of aircraft carrier,” he said on the first day of his two-day visit to India to strengthen defense ties with New Delhi.

U.S. Defense Secy. Ashton "Ash" Carter

U.S. Defense Secy. Ashton “Ash” Carter

“India would like to migrate on flat deck design” in construction of its next carrier, Carter said, and the systems being installed on the USS Gerald R. Ford have “some advantages in terms of weight of the aircraft and others.” He said “we are more than willing to share it with India,” reports Defense Tech.

“The U.S. approach to this region is not to confront,” Carter said. “We have to do what we have been doing for 70 years, that is to keep the stability and peace that has allowed economic and social miracle in modern India and China.”

April 15, 2016   No Comments