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It’s been one of those weeks where nothing happens but you seem to be on your feet constantly. This week was like running on a treadmill. I never move forward – I only get tired out by the time I’m done running. My neighbours glare at me every morning even as I politely wish them a good morning. One of them asked me where my husband worked and looked aghast when I told her that I lived alone. “But you’re wearing a nosering,” she said annoyed that I was defiling her idea of jewellery. I forced myself to keep the smile on my face as I walked out. “Thank God it’s Friday,” I whispered,dreaming of the bottle of red wine that I would treat myself to. As I battled sleeplessness and fatigue on a slow Friday morning, I drank cups of coffee in succession just in the hope of keeping my eyes open.
And then one of my colleagues runs into the room. She reminds me of an eight-year-old who has watched her first cricket match when her team won. “It’s a constitutional crisis!” she declares with a misplaced glee that I did not understand. So, the Filter is late by two hours because four Supreme Court judges held a press conference speaking of dangers to a democracy. Now we’ll take the weekend off, go about our dreary lives and the drama of the Supreme Court will be back on Monday. So this Filter is not about how the Judiciary is falling to pieces.
As everyone debates what will happen to the Supreme Court, next door, the Pakistani military is debating over how to respond to Donald Trump’s tweets and whether or not to hand over the Haqqani network. Meanwhile, Aimal Faizi provides an Afghan perspective on the supposed US-Pakistan rift arguing that the current war of words will not lead to a complete breakdown of ties between the two countries. Meanwhile, it is yet to be seen if and how the Pakistani people will be able to challenge the ‘War on Terror’.
While our Republics grapple with fissures, cross-border firing is still a trend. The difference between the Line of Actual Control and the Line Of Control is that at the Chinese border, both armies are not trigger-happy but looking for a non-violent way to solve the border issue. While this may be true, Brahma Chellaney points out that China’s withholding of hydrological data is coercive diplomacy. Meanwhile, Joseph Nye counsels states against ‘sharp power’ while they continue to exercise soft power.
The yearly roundups were still in vogue this week. In 2018, different regions of the Asia-Pacific will continue to face conflicts in inter and intra-state relations. In the neighbourhood, analysts postulate that Myanmar will come under international criticism for press freedoms and peace processes yet again this year. The Asia-Pacific will also get a lot of attention, particularly this month, because the ten heads of state of the Association of South-East Asian Nation (ASEAN) will visit India for Republic Day. While links with ASEAN are important, India has yet to figure out its back-end connectivity projects so vital for relations to move to the next level.
In West Asia, analysts seem to have come to the conclusion that the protests in Iran, caused by policy dissatisfaction show that the Iran crisis is far from over. The protests have divided the support for the reformists though the Iranian middle class continues to exercise caution.
Indian foreign policy is also a matter of debate considering the visit of the Israel Prime Minister and the heads of ASEAN states this month. The most important story however, seems the Indian delegation to the World Economic Forum. Prime Minister Modi is the chief guest at the World Economic Forum and his overtures to America (and hedging against China) will have to be taken note of. While this is touted as the largest delegation to Davos, the payoffs from corridor diplomacy and personal interactions are questionable.
Meanwhile in the Rajya Sabha, Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj announced that the government of India was ready to pay 400 crores to push for Hindi as an official language. This was automatically rebutted by Shashi Tharoor on the grounds that the exercise would be a costly one with few benefits. Indeed, some analysts wonder why the Government of India would spend that much money on one language while the rest of the languages languish even within the parliament.
Domestically, the biggest story was the report by The Tribune that they were able to gain access to the entire Aadhar database by paying a paltry Rs 500. How safe is our data? How can we enforce data practices through regulatory tools? Malavika Raghavan answers some of these questions in her brilliant Brainstorm essay this week.
The people who would be most interested in my Aadhar data would be my building society. They constantly sniff their noses at me when I leave the apartment post 6 p.m. They never understand what I work in and I’m sure their conjectures are never flattering. If they found out that I drink red wine while reading chick-lit every Friday, I’d probably be kicked out of the apartment.