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Indian Finance Minister: On downgrades, reversals and press misquotations

"I must confess to you that at times the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] is misunderstood, misreported and statements are quoted out of context," says India's new finance minister Yashwant Sinha.

This is Sinha's comment on BJP president Kushabhau Thakre's observation that India should leave the World Trade Organization. Sinha says it was a misquote on the part of the Indian press. "He contradicted that statement the next day."

Sinha talked to Euromoney on his and his party's 100th day of government. That's considerably longer than the BJP's last and only other period of office in 1996. That attempt by India's Hindu nationalist party to govern lasted only 16 days.

For investment bankers it may seem like a 100 days too many. During this short time, the BJP has tested nuclear devices, received US sanctions and been downgraded from investment grade to junk. "India was supposed to be a safe haven in a troubled Asia," commented one banker. "But it's blown it." Another Indian-born banker was even more pessimistic: "I worry the sanctions will set us back 10 years."

If Sinha is worried, he doesn't readily show it. He says the world will have to get used to a more assertive India, and he dismisses fears that sanctions will drag India into recession.

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