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Family is important. I know this. When I am at home on holiday, all I want is to sit on my balcony with a cup of coffee and talk about everything under the sun with them. This is inevitably punctuated by the doorbell. It could be a neighbour, a third cousin twice-removed, friends, the milkman, people who you haven’t spoken to in ten years- anyone. While this is all well and good, I often get annoyed because all I want to do is put my own house in order before dealing with every other random person who shows up at the door. My parents point out that each of these visits have purpose and that it is impossible to live in a silo. I spend the rest of vacation in my room reading.
Over the last two months, there have also been a slew of foreign guests to the country- I wonder how our government manages to get any daily work done despite these visits. This time around, it was the French President, Emmanuel Macron. The reason Macron was in India was the launch of the International Solar Alliance– a concerted and co-ordinated effort to enable countries between the tropics, mostly the third world countries, to improve the lives of their people through applications of solar technologies in a cost-effective manner.
Apart from that, several deals were inked in diverse fields including civil nuclear, defence, space, counterterrorism, education, research and development in science and technology, culture, urban development, climate change, trade and economics and people-to-people contacts. France could also be an ideal strategic partner for India in Africa.
Perhaps the new deals that the two countries signed will make the relationship live up to the name of a ‘strategic partnership’. The strengthening of ties in the defense sector, caused people to question whether France is replacing Russia as an ally to India. For any of this to actually work out though, Macron needs to first implement domestic reforms particularly its bureaucracy and its labour laws .
It seems like there are few weeks when we can go without mentioning Pakistan. This is not one of those weeks. In February, there was an attack on an Indian army camp in Jammu which led to 10 deaths but strangely, there was little chest thumping about it. Why was there little hullabaloo over the strategic attacks in Sunjuwan while the Uri and Pathankot attacks recieved massive attention? Sameer Lalwani and Hannah Hegeland suggest that some crises escalate more than others depending on the government’s objectives. Meanwhile, Sushant Singh says that India makes the same mistake it did in 1959 by focusing too much of its military power on Pakistan rather than China.
You would think that nothing that Donald Trump does could shock you. Trump’s firing of his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was expected since Tillerson seemed to unable to manage both his boss and his subordinates. But the startling news came when Donald Trump agreed to meet Kim Jong-un by the end of May. Even in the past, dialogue with North Korea has been circumspect as credibility and reliability of the country has always been problematic. But since both Kim and Trump seem ready for drastic political action, India should keep an eye on the talks that could potentially change the East Asian landscape.
Meanwhile in China, it took merely half an hour to extend the two-term limit on the President’s term with two dissents and three abstentions out of 2964 votes. (I know smoke breaks that have lasted longer and been less productive.) Swaran Singh points out that this has brought an end to China’s years of collective leadership:
While leaders may celebrate this growing unanimity, nothing is more dangerous for rulers than citizens’ being resigned to their fate and giving up constant questioning of their official make-believe. Conversely, ruling-by-rhetoric always ends up unleashing jingoistic impulses and brinkmanship. Mao and Deng had long innings but never needed official titles as they had ushered new eras in China’s life.
Another interesting read was an article by Jabin T Jacob, who draws attention to Wang Huaning who is ‘China’s Amit Shah’ who has dictated much of China’s narratives in foreign policy.
Shishir Gupta points out that the Prime Minister’s overtures to West Asia have finally borne fruit as fugitives in these countries are finally being rounded up. But there are limits to celebration. This week, the Iranian foreign minister offered Pakistan and China participation in its strategic Chabahar port, which is being co-developed with India causing disconcertion for India. This may seem disconcerting but let’s see how it will play out.
Now that the BJP has won the Tripura elections, it could be easier for the BJP to put the North-East at the centre of the Look East Policy. The problem with such rhetoric is that it’s been stated to death but little headway has been made. Meanwhile, further east, the relations between the Indian and Japanese governments is far ahead of the business relations between companies from the two countries.
All of this gloomy news makes it sound like a new Cold War is heating up. WPS Siddhu says that the Nuclear Posture Review, the Worldwide Threat Assessment report, the State of the Union address by Vladimir Putin and China’s reaction to the US documents, all point to the inevitable heating up of relations, particularly between nuclear weapon states.
You know what that means? The doorbell is going to ring all day long.