Saturday, 27 October 2012

The Performer gets a Promotion?

Mr SM Krishna's exit from the cabinet today, and the news that Mr Anand Sharma's name was going to figure in the latest cabinet changes expected to be announced tomorrow had made it amply clear to me that he was likely to be the next foreign minister of India. Even though it hadn't been reported until yesterday that he was likely to take over the foreign affairs portfolio, I was suspecting that this might be the case. After all he had been the primary character behind the multibrand retail FDI 'reforms' and deserved a 'reward' for having 'delivered'.

Anand Sharma - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2012
As I had written in a previous post there had been considerable corporate and US government lobbying to get a fovourable result in mulitbrand retail FDI policy. Earlier The Hindu had  published a news story based on certain Wikileaks exposed diplomatic cables where Mrs Hilary Clinton was  very interested in knowing what was the position of Commerce Minister Anand Sharma on Multi-brand retail. I had also quoted Mr P Sainath's article which was critical of the decision making process in the present government and it susceptibility to foreign influence. I had also written  how Mr Pranab Mukharjee's presidency had the effect of paving the path to the FDI reforms, and also helped in stalling GAAR, and reversing the retrospective amendments to Income Tax act which had been brought about by him in his capacity as finance minister, to remove a loophole in the tax code which was being used by foreign companies to avoid paying capital gains tax in India.

Please be reminded that I had also written about mainstream Indian media's partisan role in this affair. It is evident that particularly the media company which owns the The Times Of India and Economic Times also has investment via 'private treaties' in the Future group companies which will benefit from the policy changes of allowing 51% foreign investment in multibrand retail.

The affair gets even murkier when a reader is reminded about another event which has occurred parallel to all this which was about  a possible breach of the previous FDI policy by Wal-Mart and the Bharti group. Ms Vandana Shiva had filed a PIL in Delhi high court questioning how Wal-Mart had used a circuitous route to invest in Multi-brand retail when the policy at that time did not allow foreign investment. Delhi High Court had asked the government to respond but alas before the date of response the policy itself  was changed to allow FDI in retail. When the time to appear in court came the government responded that in the light of recent policy changes this PIL should not be entertained any more and Ms Siva also obliged by withdrawing the case. Recently CNN-IBN reported a story on this. Later PM Manmohan Singh asked Commerce Minister Anand Sharma to investigate any possible wrong doing by Wal-Mart. This is very curious and very murky indeed. I have written extensively about this in a previous post tiled 'Wal-Mart something's not right'.

But the end result never the less is that Mr Anand Sharma has delivered to the benefit of the lobby which wanted FDI in multibrand retail and Mrs Hilary Clinton would have been delighted, as is also evident from the the visit by Mr Ben Bernanke and Mr Geithner. Promotion is due and what better role to play than that of Foreign Minister. We have to wait until tomorrow when it is formally announced but Mr Sharma is the right man who can surely deliver and  is an appropriate person to lead the New Order. A 'reform' in the foreign policy is perhaps long over due. Iran anyone?

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