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The Euphoria of New Beginnings

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I can’t wait for January to finish because then I can stop with small talk of what I did to usher to celebrate the first of the month. The dawn of the New Year is pressure. If social media is to be believed, you should be on a yacht or camping in the hills or at an exotic foreign country. My friend asks me if it’s true that what we do at midnight will colour the rest of the year. I think of my exciting plans – tucked into bed with a pizza at a decent hour – and dismiss this as an urban myth. Meanwhile, cities lit up with firecrackers, people counted down to midnight and welcomed 2018. The next morning is often slower, as people remind themselves that as they grow older, the hangover only gets worse.

Donald Trump got out of bed wearing soft, golden pyjamas that only clash with his hair a little. He put his hand to his head while brushing his teeth. He couldn’t remember anything from the night before. As he sat down on the commode, he realized that the curry at the party was too spicy. It’s the Pakistanis who make curry, right? Well, he knew how to teach them a lesson. He tweeted,

US Ambassador Nikki Haley corroborated this, saying that the US was withholding $255 million in aid from Pakistan. While some analysts point out that this action by the US is consistent with the stance taken by Trump over the last year. The Indian establishment can hardly conceal their grins, they also know not to take the aid cut too seriously – history has taught them that.  Even if the US expects Pakistan to cut down on terrorism, India should not take the threat lightly.

The last year has been a difficult one for the stability of Pakistani politics. Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, General Bajwa met with Senators to answer questions about the coup earlier this year and the details easily found their way to hands of the media. But the incident has gone on to prove that there is no such thing as bad press because the Army’s image seems to have only improved. Another argument that Ajai Shukla brings to light is that, despite limited resources, Pakistan has managed to maximise national defence while India has not. But then, India has also not prioritized lifting millions of people out of poverty.

Another grouse that came up over the last week was the Kulbhushan Jadhav case. If you haven’t been following the almost Bollywood-level scripting of this spy thriller, read this article by Ejaz Haiderwhich which lays down what has happened so far. What made news recently was that Jadhav’s family was allowed to meet him in Pakistan. There are conflicting reports by the Indian and Pakistani sides as to how who was coercing whom. But as far as the war of narratives goes, it will not be resolved anytime soon.

As Trump axes down Pakistani aid, there is a key legislation that is worrying Indians as well. The “Protect and Grow American Jobs Bill” is being debated at the US Congress. If passed, this could prevent the extension of H1B visas, which would have a huge impact on Indians who account for 82% of the total visas along with the Chinese. While we do not knowif this bill will pass muster, this article is a good overview of how students from the Indian subcontinent approach the visa regime.

Closer to home, the euphoria of the Nepali elections have died down and analysts prophesise a divided lower-house and resulting political instability. Elections to the upper-house, location of the administrative headquarters and proportional representation of women are all matters of contention and there are no easy answers.  The new year also ushered in the 70th Independence Day of Myanmar. With the Rohingya crisis, this year (and 69 years behind it) has been tough for Burmese citizens and Swaran Singh says that there is no respite yet in sight.

While new year celebrations were in full swing, in Iran the weekend was filled with protests. The largest protests since 2009, they seem different in tenor from those in the recent past as they call for overthrow and not just reformation of the Republic. More than anything, the protests signal discontent with domestic policy though their trajectory is still uncertain. What does this mean for India? Nitin Pai argues that weakening of a theocracy will be in India’s favour and that we should do business with whoever is in power.

The first week of January is a point in time to take a step back and assess how far we’ve progressed. There is a flurry of articles looking at everything that’s happened over the last year and what we should be looking forward to. If you haven’t seen any of these floating on the internet yet, I suggest you check out the 2017 in Review series by Pragati.

I try to remind myself that people are excited about the New Year because it is a chance at a new beginning. You get to wipe off a slate and begin afresh irrespective of how horrible life is. But already the dust has settled and everyone has gotten back to work. What better way to change yourself (and the world) than to get your hands dirty and do the job you’re meant to do?

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About the author

Hamsini Hariharan

Hamsini Hariharan is the Associate Editor at Pragati. She is the host of the the States of Anarchy podcast. Her research interests include Chinese foreign policy, Asian geopolitics, and India's worldview.