Asia in Review Archive (2017)


Date of AiR edition

News summary

Web links

29 December 2017

India: Government to announce list of “illegal Bangladeshis” to be deported

India has announced to deport “illegal Bangladeshis” from its eastern state of Assam. Anybody who is not registered in the National Register of Citizens shall be deported. However, the measure is targeting mainly Muslims. It is estimated that there are more than 2 million Muslims in Assam who trace their roots to Bangladesh. Tens of thousands of people fled to India from Bangladesh during its war of independence from Pakistan in the early 1970s. Additionally, Rohingya refugees from Myanmar have recently come to Assam state as well [Reuters].

29 December 2017

India-USA relations: America needs India to become a great power

The values of human rights, democracy, and free-market economics have shaped the institutions and norms that have guided the free world since the end of World War II. Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. has tried to integrate those countries that don’t hold those same values into the international order. The author of this piece argues that the attempts to bring countries such as China and Russia into this rules-based order has failed, and argues that a democratic, diverse, and prosperous India can offer an alternative model to countries that wish to avoid the temptations of China and Russia’s authoritarianism [The National Interest].

29 December 2017

India-Nepal relations: Nepal’s Communists await the reins of power as India mulls how to mend ties

(kg) Nepal’s ruling “Nepali Congress Party” was overwhelmed in provincial and parliamentary elections held in that country earlier this month, faced a debacle in the recently held elections as the two Communist political parties handily won the majority of votes. While Prime Minister Deuba says he is eager to turn over the reins of power to the Maoist winners, Nepal’s major parties have failed to forge consensus on the National Assembly Election to pave way for the formation of new government [The Himalayan Times].

Regionally, Nepal’s election of a Communist coalition to rule for the next five years is widely viewed as a major victory for China and a major defeat for India. The author of The Wire’s article asserts that some of the roots of this historic election outcome were planted by New Delhi: it failed on many fronts, stemming from its failure to appreciate the impact of a devastating earthquake on the Nepali people, and political interference to its backing of an uprising and use of an economic blockade against Nepal. The author argues Nepali-Indian relations are too circumscribed by a narrow political and security lens: the answer to better ties between the two countries may lie in India’s willingness and ability to employ “soft power”. This soft power would use non-traditional diplomatic efforts to reinvigorate cultural connections, tong shared histories, and a deeper understanding of the Indo-Nepali relationship [The Wire].

In The Diplomat, Harsh V. Pant argues that, while New Delhi will be viewing the developments in Nepal with some concern, for Kathmandu there was greater room for maneuverability now between China and India. According to his analysis, India could and should not prevent Nepal from developing closer links with China so long as Kathmandu remains cognizant of vital Indian interests [The Diplomat].

29 December 2017

India-China relations: Talks and questions of intent in border dispute

(kg) Chinese state media reported this week that China and India have reached agreement to “properly handle” border disputes. The 20th round of talks between Chinese and Indian special representatives on boundary issues took place in New Delhi Friday. During the talks, both sides “agreed to strengthen strategic communication and boost strategic mutual trust” [Xinhua]. Just how far that “strategic mutual trust” goes remains to be seen, though, and the Doklam standoff is being closely monitored by all nations of the region.

Some are watching to determine if India will continue to support Bhutan against China. Southeast Asian nations are watching China’s reactions to India’s resistance, as a possible lesson to resolving their own border disputes in the future. What is likely, according to the author of this piece, is that China will try something different soon: it has a number of options to intimidate Bhutan and to impose costs on India as a result of its recent increase in force structure and infrastructure in the region. India, says the author, should be wary, and cannot expect China to make the same mistakes it has made in its recent gambits there [Eurasia Review].

29 December 2017

Maldives: Between India and China

Shortly after reaching a Free Trade Agreement with China and allowing Chinese warships to dock in its waters – and after a leading Maldives publication called India “an enemy nation” – the Maldives government is reaching out to New Delhi to demonstrate it is sensitive to India’s concerns. The Maldives’ President Abdulla Yameen disavowed the anti-India editorial, and now proclaims India his country’s “closest friend” and ally. A high-level visit is being planned, perhaps involving India’s Prime Minister Modi [First Post].

22 December 2017

India: Ruling BJP wins state assembly elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) victory in the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh state assembly elections, is also a major confirmation of the power of Prime Minister Modi who was the chief minister of the Gujarat state three times before becoming Prime Minister. In Gujarat BJP won 99 out of 182 seats and in Himachal Pradesh 44 out 68 seats. BJP together with its allies now forms 19 of India’s 29 state governments.

22 December 2017

India-China-USA relations: China targets India as political tensions rise, while America highlights India’s leadership in its new security strategy

A senior Chinese PLA officer said last week that China should “thank” India last for “compelling” Beijing to address shortfalls in its military buildup in the contested Doklam border region. In revealing comments at the annual meeting of a leading official Communist Party press organ, other Chinese representatives opined that India is “challenging China and containing China in Asia” and is now, accordingly, one of China’s “strategic targets” [Global Times].

Meanwhile, in his first National Security Strategy (NSS) released Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump placed the “Indo-Pacific” at the very top of the regions addressed – in a marked departure from his predecessors’ strategies –, above Europe and the Middle East [Council of Foreign Relations].

The NSS says that Washington supports a leadership role for India in the Indo-Pacific region.  As a means of countering “a wide range of threats”, Trump vowed to deepen America’s “strategic partnership with India and support its leadership role in Indian Ocean security and throughout the broader region.”  His strategy also called for continued pressure on Pakistan to intensify counterterrorism efforts and safeguard its nuclear weapons.  In addition, he framed the threats presented by China as “a geopolitical competition between free and repressive visions of world order is taking place in the Indo-Pacific region” [NDTV].

The third article analyzes the Trump’s National Security Strategy, providing historical perspective and background to the methodology.  It is, says the author, a “sustainment” strategy supported by a peace-through-strength defense buildup. It continues America’s post–World War II–era national-security policy, but tailors it to today’s challenges and clearly states that America is presently in a great-power competition with Russia and China [National Review].

The fourth link is the NSS as presented by President Trump. It lays out the four vital national interests driving the strategy, and bases on the strategy on clear-eyed “principled realism”. It is, says the release, clear-eyed about global competition and it “is principled because it is grounded in the knowledge that promoting American values is key to spreading peace and prosperity around the globe” [White House].

22 December 2017

India-Nepal relations: New Delhi fears losing Nepal to China after Communist return to power

The communist’s stunning upset victory in Nepal’s parliamentary elections is set to give New Delhi headaches for the next five years, Indian analysts fear. As India’s army faces off against Chinese forces on the Doklam Plateau and continuing political warfare regionally, India fears the incoming premier in Kathmandu will serve as Beijing’s proxy, a “vassal state”.  Since the communists took control of Beijing in 1949, Delhi found security in Nepal’s role of as buffer zone against Chinese influence [Asia Times].

15 December 2017

India: Death penalty has no clear guidelines

A study by Dehli’s National Law University indicates that India’s justice system lacks clear-cut guidance for how to implement the most severe of its court cases: those involving the death penalty. Legal statutes are insufficiently clear regarding sentencing procedures, and allow too much room for subjectivity. Complicating the already flawed process is the common use of torture by law enforcement officials to obtain evidence as well as to fabricate it. It is, says the report, an “abysmal state of affairs” that is cause for “an overwhelming sense of concern about the integrity of the criminal justice system” [Asia Times].

15 December 2017

India: Industry’s poor performance in fulfill-ing new pollution standards

On December 7, India’s government finally al-lowed long-delayed pollution standards to take effect. The new rules were designed to dramati-cally improve the health of ordinary Indians by reducing dangerous emissions and requiring power plants to install critical pollution reduc-tion technology. The new regulations could re-duce particulate matter emissions by nearly 40% and sulfur and nitrogen pollution by 48%. What has been the impact of the new rules by mid-month? Not much, apparently. Despite two years of warning to get ready, not one of the more than 300 coal power plants has begun ret-rofitting the new technology. Instead, India’s electricity and power regulators are lobbying to delay implementing the new rules until 2024 [Asia Times].

15 December 2017

China-India relations: No stand down from India-China high altitude standoff

India’s “Doklman Standoff” with China at a sensitive border area seemed to have ended nearly three months ago, but Chinese troops are taking unusual steps to establish a permanent, year-round presence there. This recent increase in tension at the border with Tibet and Bhutan results from the People’s Liberation Army construction of a road designed to help its forces move more quickly in the area – a move seen by India as a violation of its and Bhutan’s sovereignty. Previously, observers thought the two sides might back off tension during the winter months, as has been the case in the past. But China seems intent on maintaining its presence – and its pressure – in this particular contested region [Asia Times]. Meanwhile, an errant Indian drone that intruded into Chinese airspace near Doklam has Beijing’s official publications calling for Dehli to “wake up from its arrogance”. Tying the incident to the recently highly publicized U.S., Japan, Australia, and India “Quadralateral” security concept, Beijing’s paper warns India to not be “desperately stupid” and rely on the Quad for security. China, they say, “has full strategic say and initiative to teach the Indian military a lesson” [Global Times].

15 December 2017

Counter-Terrorism in Asia: India, Russia, China resolve to step up cooperation

India, China, and Russia agreed this week to increase counter terrorism cooperation as well as more effectively fight the illegal drug trade, during an annual trilateral meeting of foreign ministers. While all three countries called on states to take measures to prevent terrorist activity in their territory, India also express concerns over increasing acts of terrorism by Pakistan-based terror groups, such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). This year’s agreements assume significance as China has been blocking the international efforts sanction a Pakistani terrorist leader who was the mastermind of a major terror attack in India [Outlook India]. Meanwhile, Michael Kugelman informs in his research report about signs of Pakistani government progress in countering the extremism and terrorist activity in North Waziristan which has been described as “the most dangerous place on earth”. There has been a sharp decrease in terror-related civilian deaths in recent years. But there is also reason to question the degree and endurance of the success, and obtained a clearer understanding of disconnects in U.S. and Pakistani perceptions of the terror threat in the region [War on the Rocks].

8 December 2017

Child abuse cases increasing

The Indian government has re-leased latest figures of child sexual abuse. Among close to 110.000 cases of crimes against children reported in 2016, more than 36.000 are child sexual abuse cases meaning one sexually abused child in every 15 minutes. [BBC News].

8 December 2017

India-China relations: Square off for sub-region navel supremacy

Sino-Indian naval competition for the Indian Ocean continues to intensify. China is considering deployment of warships to the Pakistani port of Gwadar, a move that would be of “grave concern” for India [Nation].  Beijing intends to develop Gwadar as a key hub in its global “Belt & Road” initiative, and claims it is a commercial aspect of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Based on the PRC’s incremental expansion of its military presence in Africa and elsewhere, sustained PRC military use of Gwadar is clearly probable, but such plans have not been formally announced. Meanwhile, Beijing continues to expand its commercial engagement and infrastructure development with Pakistan, to include high-level discussions of a free trade agreement.  In related developments, the second article reports India’s confirmation this week of its “mega-project” to build six nuclear submarines [Business Standard].  India also signaled its readiness to play a bigger in the proposed quadrilateral coalition with the US, Australia, and Japan. The third article reports a major Indian naval exercise at the time a Chinese nuclear submarine will transit into the Indian Ocean early next year [Times of India].  Finally, the fourth article examines China’s maritime strategy for the Indian Ocean, and the response of India and other countries to its advances into the sub-region [CIMSEC].

8 December 2017

India-Afghanistan relations: Chabahar Port project launched

India and Iran have inaugurated the first phase of their Chabahar port project. The port, located on the Gulf of Oman and 85km distant from China’s Gwadar port in Pakistan, will allow India to bypass Pakistan in accessing Afghanistan and Central Asia. The port should enhance trade between India and Afghanistan, and India with Iran, as Pakistan has denied India transit access for trade with the two countries [Times of India].

8 December 2017

China-Maldives relations: ‘Fast-Tracked’ Trade Pact Under Fire

In a rushed, short-notice night time vote, Maldives’ parliament last week voted to approve a free trade agreement (FTA) with China.  No opposition members participated in the vote (Mihaaru).  The ruling party asserts the FTA will boost the fisheries industry and tourism sector, while the opposition alleges it will be detrimental to the Maldives’ economy “as balance of trade is greatly in favor of China.” The vote has drawn fire from the opposition for both its procedural irregularities and its content. India’s perspective on the vote is reflected in the second article (The Economic Times). The pact, says Indian observers, will “push Maldives towards a debt trap like Sri Lanka”, and place the country in a geo-politically vulnerable position. India is also concerned that China is planning for a naval base in the Maldives. But there’s no need for India’s concern, per the third article from an official PRC press organ: although Maldives’ fast-tracking of the FTA with China seems to have caught New Delhi off guard, the pact does not “target any third party, India included” (China Daily). China suggest that “Indian media should not read too much into the deal”.  Meanwhile, per a report from another offical Chinese state organ, Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom will pay a state visit to China from Wednesday through Saturday of this week, at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping (Global Times). While the topics of discussion for the visit have not been released, the FTA and naval basing are certain to be high on the agenda.

1 December 2017

Court acquits 35 from anti-piracy ship of weapons charges

On Monday, an Indian court acquitted 35 men of illegal possession of arms while they were on a US-operated anti-piracy boat in 2013. The case was the subject of lengthy behind-the-scenes diplomatic maneuvering. The Indian coast guard intercepted the privately run MV Seaman Guard Ohio in Indian waters in October 2013. Semi-automatic weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition were found, which the owner of the vessel asserted were all legally obtained. The crew members were charged with not having proper paperwork to carry weapons in Indian waters, but India has faced intense diplomatic pressure over the case ever since. Indian authori-ties are still able to appeal, which could prevent the 23 foreigners in the group from leaving India [Channel News India].

1 December 2017

Film censorship on the rise

India is tightening its grip on artistic content and freedom of expression. In India, a film cannot be publicly viewed until it receives a review and censor certificate from the Central Board of Film Certificate (CBFC). In 2015-16, more than half (54%) the films cleared by the CBFC were censored (or “cut”, to use CBFC parlance), a significant increase over the previous year. The “censorship of films by frenzied mobs and a recalcitrant government” sparked off by the imminent release of two Indian films dealing with sensitive issues such as the caste system. A leading actor has been threatened with beheading, a director assaulted, and sets vandalized as the governors of India’s five most populous states have prohibited screenings. This state censorship appears to be in violation of India’s Constitution and court rulings, but political expediency seems to be carrying the day for the censors.

1 December 2017

Indian-Chinese relations: Cmpetition over Myanmar and Nepal

India’s leaders see Myanmar’s Rohingya refugee crisis and the situation in Rakhine as an opportunity for China to try to expand its strategic partnership with Myanmar and its influence in the region. China has offered to broker a deal between Myanmar and Bangladesh regarding the Rohingya, and to create economic projects in the ravaged Rakhine zone. In response, India kicked off a military exercise with Myanmar last week to keep the country’s military engaged. This was followed by 3,000 family relief packs delivered to Rakhine on Friday. With regional political and economic supremacy at stake, the contest between India and China for this strategic part of Asia is intensifying [Times of India]. Nepal announced this week that a state-owned power company will develop its biggest hydroelectric plant, after the government scrapped a $2.5-billion deal with a Chinese company, citing lapses in the award process. Nepal’s rivers, cascading from the snow-capped Himalayas, have vast, untapped potential for hydropower generation. The country is one of several geo-political battlegrounds between its giant neighbors China and India. The opposition Communist UML party has said it would hand back the project to China if voted to power after elections that began Sunday [Asahi Shimbun].

1 December 2017

Transregional cooperation: Vietnam-Australia, Singapore-India, and the “Asian NATO”

The Vietnam National Assembly backs the upgrade of the Vietnam-Australia relationship to a strategic partnership. Australia is among Vietnam’s largest providers of non-refundable official development assistance. The National Assembly’s Chairwoman also “noted with joy”  the effective collaboration in national defence-security and the fight against crimes and illegal migration [Vietnam News].

India and Singapore on Wednesday signed an agreement to deepen cooperation in maritime security and called for ensuring freedom of navigation in critical sea lanes in the backdrop of China’s increasing assertiveness in the region. The two sides also signed the revised Defence Cooperation Agreement to further strengthen the longstanding defence relationship between the Singapore Armed Forces and the Indian Armed Forces. Moreover, Singapore’s proposal to expand the Code of Unplanned Encounters at Sea to all ADMM (Asean Defence Ministers’ Meeting)-Plus countries as well as to establish guidelines for air encounters between military aircraft was discussed too [Livemint].

Moreover, the US, Japan, Australia and India announced this month they had agreed to create a coalition that would patrol and exert influence on waterways from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific to the East and South China Seas. The grouping of the four countries – known as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad – was first suggested by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2007, but the idea was dropped after Beijing protested. It made a sudden comeback when senior officials from the four nations met in Manila on November 11 – on the sidelines of regional summits during US President Donald Trump’s maiden tour to East Asia [South China Morning Post].

24 November 2017

Top leadership of Islamic militant organization in Kashmir Valley wiped out

Indian Army officers say they destroyed Pakistan-backed Islamic militant organization Lashkar-e-Taiba’s top leadership in the Kashmir Valley in a battle that took place in Jammu and Kashmir’s Bandipora district on Saturday. The Lashkar leader was killed along with the six terrorists and an Indian Army commando in the gun battle. Indian commanders continue counter-terrorist operations as they continue efforts to wean young militants away from the terrorist organization. Concurrently, Indian officials doubt any direct IS involvement in the November 17 attack that killed a policeman. Globally, IS has claimed credit for attacks from Las Vegas to Bangladesh and Europe in an effort to gain attention and adherents, with authorities often dismissing its involvement due to either lack of concrete proof or political caution about admitting IS presence. Indian intelligence acknowledges an IS strike into Kashmir would be “cause for worry”, but they are more immediately concerned over the ability of the terrorist organization to attract self-radicalized recruits.

24 November 2017

5 factors that make it the most corrupt country in Asia

Moody’s upgraded India’s credit ratings last week, praising the reforms taken by the Modi government – but India remains the most corrupt country in Asia, according to the latest list by Forbes. According to an 18-month survey by Transparency International in March this year, where it talked to more than 20,000 people in 16 countries, regions and territories in Asia Pacific, India’s bribery rate stands at 69 pct. In five of the six public services – schools, hospitals, ID documents, police, and utility services – more than half the respondents have had to pay a bribe. The report, however, recent steps taken by the Modi government against corruption did have a positive impact on the citizens. India is followed by Vietnam on the number 2 spot with a bribery rate of 65%, followed by Thailand with a bribery rate of 41 pct. And Pakistan placing number 4 [Financial Express].

24 November 2017

India: ‘Quad’ and OBOR

In the face of a radically altered strategic situation in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, India is working with the US, Japan and Australia to resurrect the concept of a quadrilateral alignment of democracies.  The “Quad” is not a new concept: it was conceived more than a decade ago, but the concept failed due to weak political will and pressure from its presumed target of deterrence, China.  Will the idea materialise this time? And is the idea of Quad bigger than what is generally perceived — a partnership to contain China’s illiberal and hegemonic designs? The author of this Op-Ed examines the history of the Quad concept, the China deterrence aspect, and larger strategic issues the Quad can address.  He  concludes it is a “win-win” for India to pursue it. Meanwhile, the Chinese Communist Party enshrined President Xi Jinping’s “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) into its constitution at the 19th National Congress in October. This massive global infrastructure investment plan at least partly prompted last week’s quadrilateral meeting between senior officials from the United States, Japan, India, and Australia on the future of a “free and open Indo-Pacific.” India’s participation in the dialogue signals that China’s method of implementing the BRI is driving a wedge between these neighbours. By its heavy-handed treatment of sovereignty disputes, China has lent credence to critics of the BRI who see it as a nationalist endeavour rather than a program of international cooperation. Fuelled by suspicions of China’s ulterior motives for BRI and its China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, India has increased cooperation with other powers [The Daily Times (Pakistan)] [The National Interest].

24 November 2017

India-China relations: A new bipolarity in Asia on the rise

With China’s assertiveness and ambitions for global leadership on the one side, boldly reaffirmed in Xi Jinping’s speech at the recent Party Congress, and India’s growing self-confidence in claiming regional power status, reinforced by the latest developments in US-India ties and Washington’s reassurances of the importance of a free and open Indo-Pacific region, the trend towards a Sino-Indo bipolar order in Asia is clearly discernable. However, to sustain such an order India would be required to form a bloc among Asian countries aimed at containing China. This will be a huge challenge, given China’s determination to bring by force and economic incentives more and more countries on her side [The Hindu].

17 November 2017

Judicial crisis over the Chief Justice’s handling of corruption case

The Supreme Court – a strong and respected institution of India´s constitutional system for decades – faces its greatest crisis with the potential to taint the Supreme Court if not the entire Indian judiciary´s public perception. Subject of the scandal is the case of a retired high court judge accused of offering his services to bribe Supreme Court judges for cash. Handling this case at the Supreme Court, its Chief Justice Dipak Misra allegedly intervened with a highly unusual and questionable move to ensure that only judges of his choice hear the case. Even worse, the bribery scandal relates to a case over which Chief Justice Misra himself had presided. The affair started with a legal reform group requesting an independent judicial investigation raising a likely bias of the Chief Justice. The petition was then lodged for hearing by the Supreme Court’s second most senior justice, Jasti Chelameswar before the usual constitution bench of the five senior-most judges of the court including the chief justice. When the Chief Justice overturned this order allocating the case to a different bench, justice Chelameswar re-scheduled the case despite a note of Misra asking him not to make any decision. Chelameswar, however, attached the note to the publicly available case record. The Chief Justice then again overrode the decision by Chelameswar ordering the case to be heard by a bench of his choice consisting of none of the five senior most judges. Despite the fact, that conventional practice has been that sensitive cases were heard by the five senior most judges, Chief Justice Misra now claims that he as chief justice alone had the power to decide the schedule and roster of the supreme court’s hearings. Cases heard in the past by the five senior most judges were the famous election appeal of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the likewise prominent Habeas Corpus case during the so called ‘Emergency’ setting a standard from which to deviate means something not only pertaining to conventions but also the very reputational identity of India´s Supreme Court. As unusual the use of power by the Chief Justice and as unpleasant the corruption allegations against several Supreme Court justices are, there is also another side to the ongoing scandal. After all, it is also remarkably unusual to have such open in-fights among judges with a senior judge effectively blowing the whistle against the chief, whereas the case also points to the fact that the judicial system still allows for some transparency and civil society vigilance. Lastly, the old question remains how to secure judicial independence while holding the judiciary accountable for appointments to the bench. Anyway, in the given situation, the Chief Justice has sadly ensured that the damage done by the corruption allegations remains lasting – at least for him. A similar crisis of confidence with two subsequent corruption cases over the last years has contributed to an erosion of trust in the Indonesian Constitutional Court. In both countries the court has occupied a central position in the respective power architecture giving these corruption cases an inherently political dimension beside their impact on the rule of law [The Wire].

17 November 2017

India and the US: Natural allies and the re-emergence of the quadrilateral coalition

In wake of the US-Indian rapprochement on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Manila, India, the US, Japan, and Australia have held their first meeting to revive their coalition, ‘the quad’, with the explicit aim to ensure an open Indo-Pacific zone. The respective public statements highlight the major objectives — beside the ultimate goal to contain China: upholding the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific, freedom of navigation and overflight, increasing connectivity, countering terrorism and upholding maritime security. Remarkably, while the US, Australia and Japan also emphasized talks on the DPRK nuclear issue, India, still fostering relations with Pyongyang, skipped the discussion on North Korea in its respective readout [Times of India].

In the context of the rapprochement, the US have announced significant statements on the new partnership such as the White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary, the highest-ranking Indian-American ever in the White House press wing ever, telling Indian reporters that “India is a natural ally of the United States” while stressing the particular good personal relationships between both country´s leaders Trump and Modi [Economic Times].

More remarkable have been U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson’s words on India before he visited the country recently talking about a “profound transformation that’s taking place, one that will have far-reaching implications for the next 100 years: The United States and India are increasingly global partners with growing strategic convergence” and both nations being “two bookends of stability — on either side of the globe — standing for greater security and prosperity for our citizens and people around the world”. Even more remarkably, the national interest has scaled the respective speech the “most prominent speech since taking office” [National Interest].

Reinforcing Tillerson’s  words, President Trump, in his speech on the US strategy towards Asia at the APEC Summit in Vietnam, highlighted the importance of a free and open Indo-Pacific region and announced US support of India’s membership in the APEC as the world’s seventh and Asia’s third largest economy [Forbes].

17 November 2017

India: Advancing military cooperation and build up

Indian air force commandos recently took part in a joint military exercise in Israel, the two country´s first-ever joint military exercise. The exercise involved seven countries plus Isreal in the country´s largest-ever air force drill. India sent pilots and members of its Garud Commando Force – the Indian Air Force’s special operation forces equivalent to Israel Air Force’s Unit 669 – to the two-week-long drill. Other partaking forces came from Germany, France, Italy, the United States, Poland, and Greece with the German and French aircraft also for the first time having trained in Israeli skies [Haaretz].

Meanwhile, India will arm its Russian origin Sukhoi fighters with BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles if an ongoing test is successful. The missiles are produced by BrahMos Aerospace, a joint venture between the Russian Federation’s NPO Mashinostroeyenia and India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). Aim of the ‘marriage’ between the fighter jet and the air-to-ground BrahMos missile to enable the Indian forces to carry out deep surgical strikes with the missiles´ reported ability to destruct underground nuclear bunkers and command-and-control centers and – noteworthy mentioned as noteworthy – military targets as aircraft carriers deep in the ocean and terror camps located deep inside enemy territory. Once the tests are completed, around 40 Sukhoi fighter jets are supposed to be armed with the BrahMos missiles [Times of Now].

At the same time, the US and India seem to have agreed on building an ‘aircraft carrier’ alliance with the US willing to provide a significant boost to India’s future carrier special in comparison to the US nuclear driven models due to its electromagnetic aircraft launch system [National Interest].

17 November 2017

Sri Lanka: In the geopolitical focus of the great powers

With an increasing competition over the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka has shifted into the geopolitical focus of the major actors struggling for influence. In this context, Indian Prime Minister Modi has assured Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena of all possible assistance in response to Sri Lanka’s request for emergency petroleum shipments and India’s generally continued support for development cooperation [DDI News]. At the same time, a Chinese foreign minister official stressed that China would not attach any strings when extending financial assistance to Sri Lanka and not use an investigation into alleged human rights violations or war crimes as a precondition for aid [Daily Mirror].

A similarly vexatious game has been staged at the security front. After ships of the US Nimitz Carrier Strike Group have recently pulled into Sri Lanka for the first time since 1985 [], the Chinese People’s Liberation Army – Navy Ship ‘Qi Ji Guang’ has not visited the country [].

10 November 2017

One year demonization

A year ago in November 2016, the Modi government started its demonization policy with the removal of close to 90% of the country’s currency notes by value from circulation. This drastic step was possible due the strong mandate Prime Minister Modi had received in the 2014 election for his pledge to combat corruption and hidden wealth as well as to ensure effective tax collection. With this policy India has boldly returned to republican politics and put the state back in the position of a forceful agent and driver of the res publica defying the trend towards a retreat from politics under the pressure of the economy witnessed in more and more neighboring countries. Concurrently, a comprehensive digitalization of the Indian economy as condition and result of the demonization has been achieved across the country. For the denomization policy, the Modi government has received praise and critics, both in terms of its economic and societal impacts. In legal perspective, as a consequence of the demonization a number of measures have been undertaken by various regulatory bodies under the Companies Act 2013.

10 November 2017

Life fine for custodial torture by police?

The Law Commission has submitted to the Ministry of Justice an anti-torture bill proposing life sentence for police officers found guilty of custodial torture. Signatory to the UN Nations Conventions Against torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment since 1997, India has not ratified the Convention yet [Hindustan Times].

10 November 2017

Some bleaker sides of human rights protection

Following a notification of a human rights group in Kashmir about unmarked graves in the area along the Line of Control, which divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan, the Human Rights Commission in India demanded a comprehensive investigation in this matter from the Indian government which, however, has continuously refused to meet demands for such investigations since 2011. A West-Bengalen teenage girl, who had been kidnapped and sold into prostitution, has been threatened by her traffickers to be murdered if she refuses to declare voluntary sex work before the court. This case demonstrates how intimidation of victims and the lack of victim protection in India make possible a ratio of less than 2 out of 5 cases leading to convictions. Meanwhile, a low-caste woman who, facing pressure by her village council, dropped the charges against the rapists [Al Jazeera] [The Times of India] [The Guardian].

10 November 2017

India: Geopolitical allies

Reflecting her growing ambitions and influence, India has offered to share real-time intelligence of maritime movements in the Indian Ocean with 10 countries that participated in a Naval Conclave at the Indian Naval War College last week (Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Bangladesh, Maldives, Seychelles and Singapore ). Analysts believe India’s proposal is aimed at countering China’s growing naval presence in the Indian Ocean Region: it comes at a time when China is becoming increasingly aggressive in the South China Sea region and recently established its first overseas base in the Horn of Africa country of Djibouti.  India is still assessing the regional response to its offer [Mizzima]. Meanwhile, following the first shipment of Indian wheat at the Iranian Chabahar port, Indian officials have announced that both countries are in discussions about the begin of interim operations at the port. India’s Chabahar engagement dates back a decade, but it has gained strategic importance with India signing Chabahar Agreement with Afghanistan and Iran 2016 allowing India’s access to Afghanistan through the port [Business Insider].

10 November 2017

India: Successful test of first nuclear-capable cruise missile

Ending a decade of preparation, India has tested its first indigenous cruise missile with the capability to carry a 300-kg nuclear waterhead [The Times of India].

10 November 2017

India: Demand for transparency of UN Security Council reform process

The Indian Ambassador to the UN, speaking at the plenary meeting of the UN General Assembly, criticized the delay of the UN Security Council reform process and demanded from UN members the disclosure of the reasons for failing to even come to an agreement on a document as basis for reform negotiations after more than two decades of intergovernmental discussions [The Economic Times].

10 November 2017

Japan: Increasing pressure on Pyongyang

In a show of force directed against North Korea, Japan’s Military Defense Force conducted trilateral exercises with US and Indian vessels in the Sea of Japan, short before President Trump’s Asia trip [The Japan Times]. In a related move, Tokyo announced further sanctions against Pyongyang, including the freezing of assets of organizations and individuals [The Asahi Shimbun].

10 November 2017

Terrorism and international relations

Last week, China blocked a bid at the United Nations by the US, France, and Britain to list the chief of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) militant group, Maulana Masood Azharas, a global terrorist.  Azhar is accused of several significant terrorist attacks in India.  China’s move is doing “material harm” to the already stressed India-China relationship and affirms Delhi’s belief in Sino-Pakistani collusion, top American experts say. China’s timing is significant, coming on the heels of Washington’s stronger rhetoric against Pakistan’s support for terrorism and China’s blocking of India’s application to become a member of the 15- nation UN Security Council [Deccan Herald/Press Trust of India].

3 November 2017

India’s new Afghan trade route via Iran, bypasses Pakistan

Opening a new trade route to Afghanistan that bypasses Pakistan, India has dispatched its first consignment of wheat to the war torn country via the Iranian port of Chabahar. The strategic sea route is a significant step in bolstering trade with Kabul that has been hampered because rival Pakistan does not allow India to transport goods to Afghanistan through its territory [Voice of America].

28 October 2017

The ban on commercial surrogacy and its international loopholes

After having become a major target for the global baby trade India has banned commercial surrogacy in March 2017 after it had already banned gay couples in 2012 from bidding. Now, only “altruistic surrogacy” is allowed – when a consenting female family member bears a child for a childless heterosexual Indian couple without pay, emulating models in Canada and Australia. The article highlights both the ethical dimensions of selling pregnancy as a service putting a price on human body parts and life but also the fact that commercial surrogacy still finds its ways using other countries as breeding grounds such as Nepal and Kenya for India or Thailand for Cambodia. International agreements to govern global surrogacy could be a solution which, however, seems quite difficult to achieve given the diverging ethical understandings and normative standards [The Conversation].

28 October 2017

Chinese foreign policy towards South Asia, Eurasia and East Asia

Being nuclear powers which account for almost half of the world population, the relations between China, India, and Pakistan build up one of the most tensest and explosive strategic configurations [China Policy Institute: Analysis 1]. Within this triangle, the strengthening of the Sino-Pakistani relations has put India under pressure to find strategies to counter China’s growing influence in South Asia [China Policy Institute: Analysis 2].  A latest example is New Delhi’s launching of a satellite program offering communication and meteorological data to its neighboring countries, such as Sri Lanka for which China had installed a satellite in 2012 and with which it has established strong economic and defense cooperation since 2015 [China Brief: The Jamestown Foundation].

The Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) with its members Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia is a core element in China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative as it not only secures China’s connection to Europe and provides economic opportunities due to the wealth of national resources in the EEU-region, but also stabilizes the relation to Russia as the first and foremost condition for the success of OBOR [East Asia Forum].

South Korea and China have signaled efforts to overcome their differences on the deployment of US anti-missile systems on South Korean soil to pave way to re-vitalize diplomatic relations. At the margins of the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting (ADMM) Plus in the Philippines, the defense ministers of both countries met and had talks for the first time since 2 years [Channel News Asia].

28 October 2017

North Korean Cyber Warfare: Two reports on hacker army’s activities point to India

IT security software company Kaspersky has detected some servers in India used by notorious cyber criminal gang Lazarus – “thought to be state-sponsored” – as part of its global command and control infrastructure, yet highlights that “compromised servers, [are] found in Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Vietnam, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand” [The Economic Times].  ‘Recorded Future’, a cyber security company, reported North Korean attacks from India, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nepal, Kenya, Mozambique, and Indonesia with nearly one-fifth of all activity observed involved India which it tries to explain by “close” Indian-North Korean relations enabling “a broad physical and virtual [North Korean] presence in India”. The report quotes the Indian Ministry of External Affairs stressing a relationship of “friendship, cooperation, and understanding” and stresses that the findings coincide with reports of increasingly close diplomatic and trade relationship between India and North Korea as well the fact a number of North Korean students in at least seven Indian universities [The Hindu Business Line].

28 October 2017

India: An old, new pivot in the Great Game

India is shifting from a mere fringe position in global politics to the role of a central and active player that aims to significantly shaping the new emerging Asian security order. As it seems to find itself relentlessly caught up in competition with China, the Modi administration advances its regional presence, connectivity and influence in all directions. Its multi-alignment approach includes aligned powers like the US, Australia and Japan, South Asia, and Southeast Asia while it also keeps good relations with its old ally Russia. An impressive line-up of projects to strengthen links within and to South and Southeast Asia is subject of the first article looking at a number of mega cross-border air and land connectivity projects and energy initiatives as just agreed in Bangladesh and generally aiming at countries like Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka in South Asia as well as in the South East Asia with Japan as a key partner in this process [The Economic Times 1].  Arguably the most important element of the new Indian foreign policy assertiveness are the Indian-US ties. After US Defense Secretary Mattis has visited India last month, the recent Indian-US foreign minister meeting expressed the US acknowledgment of India as a “leading power”, a democracy and the US interest to enhance India’s status as a ‘major defense partner’. The ‘Major Defense Partner’ status that has been given by the Obama Administration provides for deeper defense cooperation including technology transfer which culminated last year in a crucial logistics defense pact that enables the countries’ military to use each other’s assets and bases for repair and replenishment of supplies. After Mattis’ recent talks on India’s role in Afghanistan and the issue of Pakistani support for Islamic terrorism which were now continued on the sidelines of the ASEAN defense ministers meeting in the Philippines, Tillerson and his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj touched on India’s remaining diplomatic presence in North Korea and its ties to Iran, while highlighting the mutual interests in expanding maritime cooperation and alternatives to China’s Belt and Road Initiative as already proceeded by India and Japan in form of the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor project. Tillerson also offered “the best” of its military technology to India with current military US-Indian cooperation projects including a deal about US Sea Guardian drones and a program on ‘Helicopter Operations from Ships other Than Aircraft Carriers’ (HOSTAC). The momentum of US-Indian relations which is likely to turn out to exert growing impact on the overall alignment of regional ordering is already affirmed by the much recent Japanese proposal to have top-level dialogues between Japan the US, India and Australia to promote free trade and defense cooperation. The 31st ASEAN and East Asia Summit in the second week of November which is expected to bring together US President Trump, Japanese Prime Minister Abe and Chinese President Xi will have to be carefully watched in this respect [The Christian Science Monitor, ABC News, The Economic Times 2]. While India faces its biggest national security challenge with Pakistan and China steadily growing closer, the US-Indian rapprochement is, however, both inevitable as complicated. While the democratic form of government and English as a common lingua franca are often highlighted as assets, there is a noteworthy Indian identity discourse stressing the superiority of Indian culture and its non-materialistic values against claimed degenerations of neo-liberal capitalism. Currently the issue manifests in a dispute between American free trade versus Indian health care interests [The Wire]. It has also been noted in India that the US will remain reliant on Pakistan for logistical support for its Afghan engagement and that the Trump administration – in contrast to Japan’s Prime Minister Abe – has refrained from any statement in support of India throughout its most serious confrontation with China in the recent Dokhlam stand-off [The Indian Express]. Central for the future of the US-Indian partnership will be the spaces for pursuing India’s national interest with the Afghan theater and India’s carefully cherished ties to Iran as an testing field. Crucial as the elephant in the room will be its ties to Russia. Celebrating 70 years of diplomatic ties between India and Russia, the Vice Chief of the Indian Air Force recently noteworthy stressed regarding military technology transfers that Russia’s offered “everything they have from the heart without any strings attached” and highlighted the scope for further deepening the military ties [The Economic Times 3]. In fact, Russia has provided the largest part of India’s heavy weaponry since times when the USA didn’t consider India as a noteworthy security partner. With the Indian Air Force planning to acquire a fleet of single engine fighter jets Russia will soon be invited to bid against Swedish Saab and US Lockheed Martin offers. Yet, while India’s Defense Production Secretary encourages Russian defense firms to come forward for entering into strategic partnerships with Indian companies for developing defense platforms, France and India are currently enhancing their defense cooperation. The visit of the French Defense Minister to Delhi last week was part of India’s attempt to bolster its strategic cooperation in defense with respect to maritime security in the Indian Ocean but also saw the French minister attending the foundation stone-laying ceremony of the Dassault-Reliance Aerospace manufacturing facility. Established under a joint venture in the wake of a Rafale fighter jets sale to India with some critical parts to be made in India for later assembly in France, the facility seems to be able to be developed to completely manufacture own Indian jets in the future. Generally, western weapons are more expensive than Russians and often come with less favorable conditions while Pakistan and China will remain major buyers of Russian weapons [The Economic Times 4].

28 October 2017

India: The coming US Ambassador

The final Senate confirmation of Ken Juster as the next American ambassador to India seems only a formality after a Senate Committee has approved it. Juster who holds a law degree from the Harvard Law School played a key role in the landmark Indo-US civil nuclear deal and is regarded as an old India hand. He has been a partner at the investment firm Warburg Pincus LLC, Executive Vice President at and senior partner at the law firm Arnold & Porter and also served as Chairman of Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, and as Vice Chairman of The Asia Foundation [The Hindu Business Line].

28 October 2017

India´s Dangerous Taiwan Gambit

Following the redefinition of its previous “Look East” policy to an “Act East” policy after the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) takes shape as a major geopolitical move that is accompanied by the impressive Chinese advancement in the Indian Ocean region India continues its daring rapprochement with Taiwan. Under Modi who has always been ‘Taiwan friendly’, the bilateral economic relations are thriving with some Indian voices recommending to send an Indian defense attaché to Taipei. The development is in line with a policy to use China’s ‘core issues’ like Taiwan, the Dalai Lama, and the South China Sea as a strategic card that gains weight in context of the emerging quadrilateral and triangular coalitions with the United States, Australia, and Japan [The Diplomat].

28 October 2017

ASEAN countries: In between major powers

Further intensifying Vietnamese-Indian relations, the deputy foreign ministers of both countries met in Hanoi for strategic consultations on political and security issues. This meeting follows a number of high level visits and exchange in the recent past [Viet Nam News]. In the meantime, Singapore is hedging between the US and China. After a recent visit to China, Singapore’s PM is currently on a visit to Washington upon invitation by President Trump. Whilst business has unsurprisingly been the focal point of the trip, Singapore is trying to position itself neutral, cooperating with both China and the US [Asia Times]. Similarly, the Philippines – after hosting US Secretary of Defense for a routine visit at the sidelines of the ADMM [NPR] – are making headway in diversifying their defense co-operations. New deals have been inked with both Russia [PhilStar 1] and China [PhilStar2].

20 October 2017

India´s supreme court bans Diwali fireworks in Delhi to tackle pollution

India’s supreme court has banned the sale of fireworks in Delhi during the upcoming Diwali festival, hoping to prevent the usual spike in toxic air pollution levels that accompany the holiday. India’s highest court cited data from the World Health Organization that found the city’s air quality to be the world´s worst and a report from the country’s Central Pollution Control Board indicating that pollution levels in the region were four or five times as high on Diwali. The ban will remain in place until November to monitor whether air pollution levels would be substantially affected [The Guardian].

13 October 2017

Pressure on foreign funded NGOs in context of a slavery research report

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) and an Australia financed NGO have released figures revealing more than 40 million people currently living in slavery with successive research revealing the number of 14 to 18 million for India which would make it the country with most slaves in the world. As a response the country´s domestic intelligence agency, the influential and highly secretive Intelligence Bureau (IB) has reportedly informed the prime minister’s office and other high-level government departments on the initial report and advised them to “discredit” it and to pressure ILO to disassociate itself from the NGO. The move is accompanied by warnings of international organizations and NGOs that India is becoming an increasingly difficult environment to operate after restrictions including those on foreign funding in recent years [The Guardian].

13 October 2017

Supreme Court Criminalizing Rape of Underage Wives

The SC clarified two somehow contradicting legal regimes in favor of underage girls. With an age of consent of 18 on the one hand, marital rape has generally still not been recognized as a crime. Under the new ruling, girls who are raped by their husbands can bring charges now within one year of the offense. While the decision affect millions of girls it can be expected to face difficulties to be implemented [Time Magazine].

13 October 2017

Chinese and Indian stakes in Myanmar today

The volatility that is caused by the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar is viewed with some dismay by two other major powers that both have a long history with Myanmar and are currently competing for investment and influence there. Both have a long, if mixed relation with its neighbour whilst India’s interest has hugely increased since its 2014 “Act East” policy [The Daily Star].

6 October 2017

The poisoning of Indian politics

As the recent assassination of a journalist-activist was celebrated by Hindu nationalists, Amy Kazmin describes the incident as a disturbing reflection of contemporary India, where space for civil debate and public dissent is shrinking rapidly. She argues that, as Prime Minister Modi had made little secret of his disdain for India’s media, public debate in India now largely consisted in verbal violence and intimidation [Financial Times].

6 October 2017

Police between extrajudicial killings and smart policing

The government of the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh has been accused of carrying out hundreds of extra-judicial killings. With a popu-lation of more than 222 million, Uttar Pradesh is India’s most populous state and also its most sig-nificant politically – it sends 80 MPs to India’s parliament. But it has often been in the news for gruesome violence, rioting and rape [BBC]. The government under Prime Minister Modi wants to tackle current shortcomings by modernizing the police force under the tenets of “smart policing”. Kadayam Subramanian argues that, in order to be effective, the reform of India’s police must take much larger scale, including improvements of the living conditions of subordinate police-men, police accountability, a separation between investigation police and law and order forces, and police decentralization [Asia Times].

6 October 2017

Rising contenders in Asia: India and China

Within Asia the rising powers India and China are competing for dominance manifest in efforts  to assert own’s position vis-a-vis the other across the region and beyond. Military exercises in Djibouti (South China Morning Post I) and a research vessel’s month-long presence in the Pacific Ocean southeast of US territory Guam express China’s ambitions as global player once more. While the US considers the research expedition as directed towards the future build-up of a military base on the island country of Micronesia (South China Morning Post II), India is concerned about the conduct of the first live fire exercise at the Djibouti base. Besides increasing her presence in the region around the Indian Ocean, China continues to advance its influence in Southeast Asia, where Laos and Cambodia are China’s closest allies. However, their respective relation with China differs.  While Laos appears to be savvy in navigating the tricky diplomatic waters and faces less risk of “over-reliance” on China, whereas the Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has said his country is China’s “most trustworthy friend” (Myanmar Times). On the other side, two Indian Navy warships made a goodwill visit to the Philippines this week. The visit, a manifestation of PM Modi’s “Act East Policy”, was boost for bilateral ties and part of commemorations under way marking 25 years of partnership between India and ASEAN. The Indian ships sailed from to visit Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Philippines, South Korea, Japan, Brunei, and Russia (The Diplomat). Meanwhile, U.S. defence secretary Jim Mattis said that there was a strategic convergence, a “generational opportunity” between the two largest democracies in the world to work together, based on shared interests of peace, prosperity and stability in the region (Times of India I). Furthermore, during the six days long visit of India’s Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee and Chief of the Naval Staff to Vietnam, both countries expressed their strong determination for intensify their strategic partnership and security cooperation (Vietnam News). This meeting comes at a time in which Vietnam is stepping up efforts to build up a robust self-defense on the country’s maritime features in the South China Sea (China Policy Institute: Analysis) while India tries to position itself a regional power to counter not only China’s strategic influence in Southeast Asia (Times of India II), but also its soft power and cultural influence (New York Times).

29 September 2017

Developments on the Rohingya in South Asia

After the Indian government has announced that India would deport its entire Rohingya population, including those having been regis-tered as refugees by the UN, the case went to the Supreme Court where the government responded the Rohingya living in India would pose a clear and present danger to national security. The government claims to have intelligence on links of Rohingya with global terrorist organizations, including ones based in Pakistan [BBC News]. While the newly-emergent Rohingya militant group, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, that started the surge in persecution with its attacks on Myanmar police posts, seems to represent a considerable militant force that allegedly has links to Bangladeshi hardened terrorist group Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh, the Indian move addresses an entire community for the perceived threat by some [The Diplomat 1]. Mean-while, India has stepped up security along its eastern border with Bangladesh with its security forces using pepper spray and stun grenades to stop Rohingya Muslims from entering the coun-try [Voice of America]. Pakistani lobbying for the fate of Myanmar´s Rohingya is responded by criticism of a double hypocrosi in the article pointing out the coun-try´s own intolerance towards religious and other minorities in the shadow of a constitutional iden-tity centered on Sunni Islam in general and the deplorable plight of the country´s own Rohingya population – the largest out of Bangladesh and Myanmar – that has been encouraged during the Zia ul Haq regime to participate in the Afghan jihad against the USSR [The Diplomat 2]. The Turkish PM, in the meantime, visited a refugee camp in Bangladesh to distribute help [Anadolu].

29 September 2017

Deepening India-US ties

US Defence Secretary General Mattis further deepened the US–Indian ties during his visit in Delhi. One subject are arms deals with India moving away from Russia, its traditional supplier (Channel News). Meanwhile Indian soldiers participated a joint training with Japanese and American troops in the US (King5) and influential lawmakers in the US House of Representative have introduced a resolution to support India´s UN-Security Council membership (Economic Times).

29 September 2017

India and Pakistan adjusting their international relations in Asia changing security order

As India expands its ties not only with the US and Israel but also the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), New Delhi is also seeking to strengthen its ties with Tehran made possible by the Iran nuclear deal signed in 2015. As a factor in Afghanistan, a gateway to the Central Asian markets and a neighbor to Pakistan, Iran offers opportunities India aims to exploit. A three-nation agreement between India, Iran and Afghanistan seeks to establish a land transit and trade corridor across the countries while India faces a major challenge to strike a balance between increasingly good relations with Washington and closer ties with Tehran. Iran on the other side fosters good relations with China while it also threatens to advance against Sunni terrorist basis in Pakistan from which attacks on Iranian territory are launched (Fair Observer). With Pakistan having difficult relations with its neighbours, tough tones from the White House and even the recent BRICS summit – on behalf of China –, it is looking closely at Iran’s foreign policy as a model to counter isolation, for example its closer cooperation with Russia which it may want to emulate (Geo).

29 September 2017

Indian army cracks down on Naga-insurgents

In a pre-dawn encounter along the Myanmar border the Indian Army´s para regiment responded with heavy retaliatory fire to previous attacks of a socialist leaning Naga insurgent group, the NSCN(K). According the army’s Eastern Command high casualties were inflicted on the rebels who are part of the complex Northeast Indian insurgence theater with several militant groups alone in Nagaland famous for its warrior tradition including the meanwhile abolished ritual headhunting.

22 September 2017

Internet shut-down raises free speech con-cerns in India

The total number of internet shout-downs has gone up significantly this year with the govern-ment having moved to legalise the efforts with new legislation last month.

22 September 2017

Geopolitics, democracy and India-Japan security cooperation

Arguing against the trend of an autocratic redux in Asia, the author paints a more complex picture and describes dynamics strengthening democracy in the region citing for instance Hong Kong’s and Taiwan’s reactions to a more assertive China and referring a deepening India-Japan security cooperation.

22 September 2017

India-China relations: After the Doklam stand-off and the BRICS-Summit – tensions are far from over

While the recent BRICS-Summit turned out as a major factor in resolving the Doklam stand-off, India and China will continue to find themselves at odds over numerous issues (Quartz). As an example: China will likely finish a huge hydro-power project in the disputed area of Kashmir way ahead of schedule. The project is part of the Pakistan economic corridor. China presses ahead: “The Belt and Road initiative cannot be delayed or sidetracked by the territorial disputes.” Another example of likely further tension is a strategically important China-Nepal highway (Hindustan Times) built by China. Demographics may turn the tables in the long run in India’s favour however (The Strait Times II). Last, but not least India’s Army Chief of Staff has spoken twice publicly on India’s ability to wage a two-front war against China and Pakistan. Gautam Sen, a retired Indian defence accounts officer, considers possible strategic reasons of such a statement as well as the substance of its claim. The author argues that short-term posturing may be detrimental to India’s long-term interests (Mainstream Weekly).

22 September 2017

Japan-India relations:  Deepening defence ties

Japan’s Prime Minister Abe and India’s Prime Minister deepened defense relations between Asia’s second and third largest economies in a recent meeting in India, as both leaders eye balancing China as the dominant Asian power.  Abe’s visit comes days after New Delhi and Beijing agreed to end the longest and most serious military confrontation along their shared and contested border in decades, a dispute that had raised worries of a broader conflict between the Asian giants. In a lengthy joint statement, India and Japan said deepening security links is paramount.

15 September 2017

Ruling Bharatiya Janata Party hits back after Rahul Gandhi says dynasties are common in India

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Tues-day revived the debate on dynastic politics, tell-ing a US audience that dynasties are common in India – a remark that led the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to call him a “failed dynast” and a failed politician. BJP president Amit Shah countered that his party has removed dynastic politics from India and introduced the politics of performance.

15 September 2017

Supreme Court to hear on September 18 plea of Rohingyas against deportation

India´s Rohingya Muslim refugees face new de-portation threat. The Supreme Court fixed Sep-tember 18 for hearing a plea challenging the government’s decision to deport illegal Rohingya Muslim immigrants back to Myanmar [The Economic Times]. This petition of two refugees was filed after Union Minister of State for Home Af-fairs, Kiren Rijiju, had said that over 40,000 Ro-hingyas staying illegally in India stood to be de-ported [The Print]. Also Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh indicated that some action will be taken with regard to deportation of Rohingyas, who are considered to be a security threat to Jammu and Kashmir [Asia Times].

15 September 2017

Enhancing presence in Afghanistan

Coinciding US President Trump’s suggestion to the Modi government to expand socio-economic footprints in Afghanistan the governments of India and Afghanistan plan to expand their part-nership. This includes the launch of a New De-velopment Partnership involving 116 new high impact development projects, the implementa-tion of 500 scholarships “for next of kin of the martyrs of Afghan Forces” and further Indian assistance for the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces in fighting terrorism.

15 September 2017

Japan: PM Abe seeks to upgrade security talks with India amid China muscle-flexing

Japanese PM Abe is looking to upgrade the so-called two-plus-two framework between his country and India during his trip there this week to ministerial-level talk. Thus far, India has been reluctant to upgrade the talks but with China growing increasingly assertive, Japan feels it could have some momentum.

15 September 2017

On the legal profession in Asia: Entrance barriers in India, professional strain in Singapore

Increasing demands on time and performance of young lawyers as well as stiffer competition lead many to leave the profession after a few years an issue raised by Singapore´s Chief Justice for the second consecutive year (Straits Times). Differently, in India, it is access to the legal profession which is one of the major problems for young lawyers. Here, the law field continues to be a bastion of a few privileged and powerful families in particular those whose members are in the legal profession since generations. Also, low payment for junior lawyers makes it more challenging for people with a less financially fortunate background (The Times of India).

7 September 2017

Indian journalist critical of Hindu politics gunned down outside home

An Indian journalist and critic of right-wing Hindu nationalist politics has been shot dead causing an outcry. Condemning the murder and not the political capital that could be gained or lost from it should be put first, argues Rakesh Sinhar.

7 September 2017

Winston Churchill accused of genocide by In-dian politician

An Indian politician questions the heroic legacy of Winston Churchill citing his role in the devas-tating famine of Bengal in 1943.

7 September 2017

Warming India–Myanmar ties: India threatens to deport its Rohingya population

Despite the international outcry about the dire situation of the Rohingya in Myanmar, India is strengthening ties with Myanmar’s government over PM Modi’s visit to the country this week and an ongoing strengthening of bilateral military cooperation. Buddhist hard-liners and nationalist are seen to have significant political synergies with Modi´s BJP in their view of the Muslim population. At the same time, India advances in Myanmar to balance out the growing Chinese influence in the country (The Times of India).

7 September 2017

The Belt and Road to China-based globalization

China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative must not be understood only in economic terms but as nothing less than the launching of a China-based globalization with significant ramifications in the field of geo-strategy and geopolitics, especially for India in the wake of a intensifying China-Pakistan relationship, Colin Mackerras writes.

7 September 2017

China’s Indian Ocean power play

The recent establishment of China’s military base in Djibouti was the start of a foreseeable bigger military presence in the Indian Ocean. Will the region become the next conflict spot between China, India and the US?

7 September 2017

 What not to learn from Doklam

As future crises between India and China, or China and other powers, cannot be ruled out, it is time to reflect on the recent China-India stand-off. The first link describes what lessons not to draw from its resolution, whereas the second article argues India has not “won” this conflict. The third article describes however, how the resolution of the conflict could strengthen India’s hand in Asia.

7 September 2017

Japan’s reach out to India and Germany for support against North Korea

In the frame of Indian Defense Minister Arun Jaitley’s visit to Japan on Tuesday, he and Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera agreed to work for an increase of pressure on North Korea by the international community. They also discussed cooperation issues pertaining to maritime security and freedom of navigation in the light of China’s maritime activities in the Indian Sea (The Japan Times). In a related development, German Chancellor Angela Merkel on a teleconference agreed with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the need for a new UN resolution containing tougher sanctions against North Korea in the wake of Pyongyang’s latest nuclear test on Sunday (Reuters).

31 August 2017

With dramatics in Bihar, the BJP’s march to dominance in Indian politics continues

Across India, the governing party’s (BJP) march to dominance continues with a shocking switch of political alliances in Bihar, the subcontinent’s third most populous state leaving very few fed-eral states with the Congress Party in power. Events like the opposition’s collapse in Bihar and the recent election of India’s 13th Vice-President lead to the overall conclusion of a steady decline of India’s former grand party, the Congress, while Prime Minister Modi’s BJP gains more and more traction (see the first and second link). For a background on the general development of the rules of the political game in India see the third link below.

31 August 2017

Darjeeling unrest: Government begins dia-logue with Gorkha leadership

As of July 2017, there is still an ongoing agita-tion in Darjeeling. Protests first started on June 5, after the West Bengal government announced that the Bengali language will be made manda-tory in all schools across the state. The people of Darjeeling and the adjoining areas who are pre-dominantly Nepali speaking, saw this as an im-position of an alien culture upon them. Fueled by the determination to preserve their own culture, identity and language, this protest soon turned into a full-fledged resurgence of the agitation for a separate state of Gorkhaland. Initiating a dia-logue process with an aim to end the Darjeeling impasse, the Mamata Banerjee government on Tuesday held a crucial meeting with major hill-based political parties in Kolkata.

31 August 2017

Supreme Court rules privacy a ‘fundamental right’ in landmark case

A rare nine-member bench of the Supreme Court issued a historic ruling with potentially wide-spread consequences, decreeing that a right to privacy is part of the fundamental rights to life and liberty enshrined in the country’s constitu-tion. The judges ruled the right to privacy was “an intrinsic part of Article 21 that protects life and liberty”. The ruling has implications for the government’s vast biometric ID scheme, cover-ing access to benefits, bank accounts and pay-ment of taxes.

31 August 2017

Supreme court bans Islamic ‘instant divorce’

India’s supreme court has banned the controversial Muslim practice of instant divorce in a ruling that furthers women’s rights but which some fear will inflame tensions between Muslims and the country’s Hindu majority. Judges ruled on Tuesday that “instant triple talaq” – which allows Muslim men to divorce their wives by saying “talaq, talaq, talaq” – was illegal under the Indian constitution. Hindu men do not have the same rights and must prove in court that their wives have wronged them to be granted a divorce.

31 August 2017

Why India doesn’t have a Uniform Civil Code

The article ponders the question whether India should have a Uniform Civil Code and why it has not, giving a number of reasons among which social diversity and the correspondingly diverging interests and values are the main rea-sons.

31 August 2017

India and China reached an agreement – border dispute resolved

China claims victory over India in Himalayan border row. The border triangle in the Himalayan between China, India and Buthan very often led to conflicts. Now India and China have agreed to end a month-long military stand-off at a disputed border area in the Himalayas, with Indian troop already beginning to pull out, officials say.

31 August 2017

South Asia and US

The alienation between Pakistan and the USA under Donald Trump’s administration has opened doors for the currently very good relations between India and the USA. In the light of expectations towards increased engagement India’s in Afghanistan, it remains, however, to be seen at what price US-Indian relations are to be bought on India’s side.

31 August 2017

India may start exporting F-16 fighter jets with Lockheed wants India as global factory

Lockheed Martin is closing in on an international deal for F-16 fighter planes, and has offered to eventually build all the jets at a proposed plant in India

31 August 2017

Is the Japanese PM seeking to encourage Indian aggressiveness for own ends?

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to India, scheduled for mid of September, has a hidden agenda. According to this article, Abe will attempt to make use of India’s current tensions with China over Doklam and to strengthen Japan’s position vis-à-vis China by fostering its relations with the USA and India.

31 August 2017

Vietnam is the cornerstone of India’s “Counter China” policy

Amid news on a weapons deal between India and Vietnam there is a significant rapprochement between both countries that both display a rapprochement with Japan. This places Vietnam at the center of an ‘Anti China Axis’ from India to Japan meanwhile India and Vietnam increasingly fostering ties with the US. The article focuses on the new Indian eastward movement with Vietnam as its linchpin.

24 August 2017

Narendra Modi stakes his claim for a new, conservative India

Last week, India marked its 70th independence anniversary. After the country has long been dominated by the Congress India’s levers of power are largely in the grip of Prime Minister Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. The political vision they pursue in a clean break with the past is those of a majoritarian so-ciety shaped by conservative Hindu cultural norms analyzes Amy Kazmin.

24 August 2017

A yawning gap in India’s political spectrum

Indian governments through the decades have been dominated either by the statist, socialist tendencies of the Congress or, in more recent years, the statist, majoritarian tendencies of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), analyzes Narayan Ramachandran, arguing that India must go down as one of the very few large democracies that does not have a credible centre-right party. According to his analysis, the space is wide open for a political party to capture the centrist narrative.

24 August 2017

Ten-year-old rape victim delivers baby

A 10-year-old rape victim whose abortion plea was turned down by the country’s Supreme Court has delivered a baby. A local court had refused to grant the child an abortion, saying it was too risky at such a late stage. A plea to the Supreme Court was dismissed. An increasing number of such cases have come to the courts in recent years.

24 August 2017

Supreme Court on women´s abuse of anti-abuse laws

India’s laws on dowry and domestic violence are meant to protect women against mistreatment by violent husbands. The Indian Supreme Court, noting that a large number of false cases have being filed to intimidate or blackmail husbands, has ruled that charges against men should be verified in future first instead of men being automatically arrested and put behind bars when their wives level allegations.

18 August 2017

India proved James Madison right about federalism

Modern federalism can be traced all the way back to James Madison and the Philadelphia constitutional convention 230 years ago. The event arguably constitutes the most important American contribution to democratic govern-ment. Without it, vast and populous countries such as India, Canada, Australia, and Germany could not be governed in such a diverse yet unified manner.

11 August 2017

Junk today’s secularism: India needs a reinvented secularism 2.0 rooted in separation of religion and state

India is in need of a new definition of secularism to finally end the state’s power of granting religious freedoms and its involvement in religious activities, the root cause for India’s failed securalism.

4 August 2017

Two articles on the current political condition of the Indian state

While Mihir Bose argues that, since Narendra Modi’s astonishing election victory in 2014, the country seems to be turning its back on the toler-ant, secular society India’s founding fathers wanted, Manish Tewari write that the Bharat-India cleavage has widened to an unprecedented degree. According to his analysis, the disconnect between ground narrative and public discourse is nothing short of hallucinatory.

4 August 2017

What is India’s president actually for?

The Indian presidency differs from most presi-dencies across the world. The president does not exercise executive powers – he is the head of the state, and is required by the constitution to act on the advice of ministers. This article assesses how previous presidents interpreted their office and how their legacy affects the role of the president today.

27 July 2017

Sikkim standoff: India must counter aggres-sive China

The military standoff in Sikkim between India and China has been ongoing for over a month. India’s troops last month stopped China from building a road in the disputed region of Dok-lam. The road was seen as a geopolitical risk due to its close proximity to India’s “Chicken’s Neck”. China has made the pullback of Indian troops the only condition for dialogue, while In-dia maintains that it is on the right side and that the world is supporting its actions [The Indian Express].

27 July 2017

The only way to deal with the Chinese is di-rectly, says Shivshankar Menon

Shivshankar Menon, an Indian diplomat, former national security adviser to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and ambassador to China and Israel says that China as well as India will be increasingly assertive. India needs to talk di-rectly to China and find a new way of coexisting despite the larger strategic competition between the two [The Hindu].

21 July 2017

Indian – Pakistan Border ceasefire violations

The Indian army has retaliated against Pakistani ‘heavy shelling and firing’ in Kashmir. The In-dian army and the Pakistani army routinely ac-cuse each other of initiating fire across the Line of Control that separates Pakistani and Indian Kashmir [The Indian Express, Voice of America].

16 July 2017

‘Powerful convergences’ with ASEAN can boost cooperation: India

At a distinguished lecture in Singapore, India’s foreign secretary Jaishankar highlighted strong convergences between India and ASEAN, which can spur cooperation, harmonize global contra-dictions, and create credible meeting points [The Indian Express].

16 July 2017

India, U.S. and Japan Begin War Games, and China Hears a Message

For the first time since their inception in 1992, India’s Malabar series prompted joint naval ex-ercises by the Indian, Japanese, but also US na-vies. The goal of the exercises is to permanently station warships near the Strait of Malacca, a strategic stronghold which could be used to put pressure on Chinese supply and trade routes [The New York Times].

7 July 2017

Nagaland declared as ‘disturbed area’ under AFSPA for 6 more months

While Gorkha agitation has lasted over 20 days in Darjeeling, India’s central government has declared Nagaland as a ‘disturbed area’ for 6 more months under AFSPA, empowering secu-rity forces to conduct operations without prior notice. The area, considered to be in a ‘disturbed and dangerous condition’, and prone to ‘killings, loot and extortion’, has remained under AFSPA enforcement for over 18 years [The Indian Express].

7 July 2017

Vietnam for greater Indian role in SE Asia

The Delhi Dialogue IX, marking the beginning of celebrations of 25 years of ASEAN-India dip-lomatic ties, saw a strong call by Vietnamese leaders for ASEAN and India to further strengthen ties amid new geopolitical circum-stances in Indo-Pacific Asia [The Hindu].

30 June 2017

When the opposition party played the role of NGO

By committing to desilt water bodies across the state, Tamil Nadu’s opposition party DMK moves away from the mere organization of pro-tests, towards a strategy of actively fulfilling the government’s allegedly unfulfilled work.

30 June 2017

All eyes on Modi-Trump meet: What to expect

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet with U.S. President Donald Trump to discuss three conflict regions of Afghanistan, ISIS-held Syria and Iraq, as well as tensions in the South China Sea. Since the U.S.’s revised “Af-Pak” policy is only a few weeks away, the discussion on Afghanistan is quite significant.

22 June 2017

Minister Sees Need for Scrutiny of Judiciary

“(…) maybe, there is a case for greater scrutiny of the judiciary. The particular incident you have cited only underscores the compelling need.”

22 June 2017

India’s Ceasefire Violations took 832 Lives in AJK

Lahore – Unprovoked firing by Indian forces across the Line of Control (LoC) has taken 832 lives in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Kashmir Affairs learnt on Monday. 3,000 civilians have been injured and 3,300 houses been damaged in repeated Indian aggression.