Asia in Review Archive 2018 (July – December)


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4 December 2018

India state elections will be a test for the BJP before general elections in 2019

(jk) Results are due next week for all state elections that are conducted in India before the general elections next year. Early opinion polls had suggested the BJP is likely to retain power in Madhya Pradesh, despite losing seats. But the polls for Rajasthan for example, where Congress is expected to take power from the BJP, look far less comforting for Modi. Results in all the states are due Dec. 11. [BloombergQuint]

With an eye on the general elections in 2019, opposition in general and the Congress party in particular is bound to make some headway as Indian discontent is growing of late, for instance due to higher oil and therefore fuel prices, as well as a lack of efficient job creation in many parts of the country. Tens of thousands of farmers and rural workers marched to the Indian Parliament in New Delhi in a protest against economic development and soaring prices in the face of decreasing income. [Strait Times]

Nevertheless, Modi as a leader remains popular and one would be hard pressed to find analyst who would argue against the notion that the BJP will come out as the single party at the general elections next year with the mot votes. Theoretically, a coalition of Congress and other opposition parties to take on the BJP is possible, however given India’s political history not exceedingly likely.

4 December 2018

India’s ‘trilaterals’ with USA and Japan, and with Russia and China at G 20 summit

(dql) Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday participated in the first trilateral meeting with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe and US President Donald Trump at the sidelines of the G20 summit. He reaffirmed India’s close cooperation with the USA and Japan on the basis of a shared vision and goal in the strategic region among the partners. [Times Now News]

Meanwhile, Modi also met with Russian and Chinese Presidents Putin and Xi for the second Russia-India-China ‘RIC’ Trilateral Summit after 12 years. According to a statement of India’s Foreign Ministry, the “leaders discussed cooperation and coordination in various areas which could contribute to global peace and stability”, in an atmosphere “characterised by warmth and positivity”. [Scroll]

Modi’s trilateral meetings signals the necessity of India’s diplomacy to be nimble if New Delhi wants to preserve country’s national interests under the pressure of the US-Chinese rivalry. [The Diplomat]

4 December 2018

Pakistan: possible responses to India’s purchase of S-400? 

(jk) A former Director at Pakistan’s Arms Control and Disarmament Affairs (ACDA) Branch of the Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division has laid out some possible responses to India’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defence system in order for Pakistan to keep up its deterrence capabilities. His analysis includes as a potential response a larger nuclear force and the deployment of new missile technology including hypersonic weapon systems. [Hilal]

4 December 2018

India and the Maldives: realignment efforts

(hg) With a new government under pro-Indian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, India and the Maldives are about to redefine their relationship after the previous Yameen government had closely aligned itself with China. A recent highlight in this endeavor was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the Maldives earlier in the month for the swearing in ceremony of Solih followed by a number of Maldivian ministers and officials visiting India. [The Diplomat]

Despite the power shift in direction of a pro-Indian government, the Chinese footprint on the islands remains. Beside the China-Maldives Free Trade Agreement, China has made massive investments in the Maldives especially in terms of large-scale infrastructure projects such as ports and bridges under the BRI. [Forbes]

Forging its old partnership with the Maldives again, India will have to decide how to deal with the looming debt problem its small partner is facing as a result from these mega projects. [Times Now News]

4 December 2018

Inaugural Indian Navy-Indonesian Navy Bilateral Exercise

(jk) The Indian Navy joined the Indonesian Navy in the first iteration of a new naval exercise earlier last month in a sign of more interest in defence cooperation with Southeast Asia and Indonesia in particular. In May, Modi and Widodo have upgraded their countries’ relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership and also agreed for India to develop the strategically located port on the Indonesian island of Sabang, in the northern part of the Malacca Strait. [JagranRosh]

27 November 2018

India: Mass protests for a god statue as Hindu nationalism continues to grow

(ls) An estimated 50,000 Hindu nationalists rallied in the Indian city of Ayodhya on Sunday demanding prime minister Narendra Modi’s party build a temple to the Hindu god Ram on the place where in 1992 thousands had stormed a Mughal-era mosque and demolished it, believing it was built at the site where Ram was born. However, the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh said it will instead build the world’s tallest statue depicting Ram. The statue – along with a decision this month to rename the surrounding district from its Mughal-era name Faizabad to Ayodhya – are seen as efforts to temper the anger of rightwing Hindu groups at the continued delay in building the temple. Representatives of Muslim groups said the rally “terrified” Muslims in the city. [South China Morning Post]

27 November 2018

Gain of Indian influence in the Maldives as new president reassesses relations with China

(ls) Indian prime minister Narendra Modi met with newly elected Maldives president Mohamed Solih in Male, the capital of the Maldives, last week. It was his first visit to the Maldives as prime minister.  The fall of China ally Abdulla Yameen in September may give India a chance to regain influence in the Indian Ocean. India has long been the security guarantor for Indian Ocean island states – not just the Maldives, but also the Seychelles and Mauritius – providing patrol vessels, helicopters and training. New Delhi’s relations with Male had steadily deteriorated, as China cultivated ties with Yameen. Beijing, having obtained naval basing rights in Djibouti, in East Africa, while also building a port at Gwadar in Pakistan, is interested in creating a naval base in the Maldives, as well. [South China Morning Post]

Meanwhile, it appears that the Maldives’ new government will pull out of a free trade agreement (FTA) with China. “The trade imbalance between China and the Maldives is so huge that nobody would think of an FTA between such parties,” said Mohamed Nasheed, the chief of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party. Former president Yameen signed the FTA during a visit to Beijing in December, and the same month his parliament ratified the treaty. During Yameen’s presidency, China has underwritten millions of dollars in loans for infrastructure in the Maldives. [Reuters] [Economic Times]

The Chinese Ambassador to the Maldives dismissed claims that the Maldives owed the Chinese government a 3-billion-USD debt, stating the figure was “deeply exaggerated”. He said many had been misinformed and, according to the official figures on the Maldives Monetary Authority website, the Maldives’ total external debt up to now amounted to 1.2 billion U.S. dollars out of which 600 million U.S. dollars was to China. [Xinhua]

27 November 2018

Vietnam and India deepening relations

(dql) Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Indian President Ram Nath Kovind held talks about a joint vision to further deepen the Vietnam-India comprehensive strategic partnership during the Indian leader’s state visit to Vietnam. Both sides agreed to regularly maintain visits and meetings at all levels, as well as people-to-people exchanges between the two countries, and effectively implement existing cooperation mechanisms and seek new measures to promote bilateral relations. [Nhan Dan]

In a latest development, Indian Army Chief Rawat visited Vietnam for talks with Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Vietnam People’s Army Pham Hong Huong and Defense Minister Ngo Xuan Lich on fostering bilateral defense cooperation including personnel training, defense industry, strategic research, and UN peacekeeping operations. [Vietnam Plus]

The meetings signal increased efforts of both countries to deepen their cooperation to counter China.

For Vietnam as a lever for the USA to promote the concept of a “Free and Open Indo Pacific” in Southeast Asia where many countries are reluctant to appear joining an anti-China coalition see Joshua Kurlantzick in [The Diplomat] arguing that upgraded ties between Washington and Hanoi have the potential to convince “other Southeast Asian states that the Trump administration’s regional policies are not zero-sum.”

20 November 2018

Indian Navy Chief of Naval Staff: We can match China in the Indian Ocean region

(jk) In a brief interview, Indian Admiral Sunil Lanba, Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee, and Chief of Naval Staff assesses the Chinese naval build-up and while he cedes that China has the naval advantage in the South China Sea, India can match Chinese capabilities in the Indian Ocean Region. [India Today]

20 November 2018

Indian PM visits Maldives for swearing in of new President

(jk) Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his first-ever visit to the Maldives for the swearing-in ceremony of its new president. President Solih has won an election in September against former president Abdulla Yameen. Yameen had in his foreign policy decidedly looked away from India and towards China. Modi’s visit signals that India embraces the new government and that it wants to increase cooperation after the island nation elected a president more critical towards China. [Times of India] The Maldives is even rumoured to be considering pulling out of the free trade agreement it negotiated with China last year. [Economic Times of India] The new president has previously declared the state had been “looted” and warned that the country is in financial difficulty after racking up debt with Chinese lenders in an infrastructure boom. [The Guardian]

20 November 2018

India Rising

(jk) Melbourne’s La Trobe University has launched a great podcast series on India. Thus far, there are four episodes available, covering India from questions regarding independence and “colonial hangover”, to elections and waste management. [LaTrobe]

13 November 2018

India: Maoist attack before regional elections

(ls) Maoist rebels killed five people including a paramilitary soldier by detonating a landmine under a bus in the central Indian state Chhattisgarh where the first round of legislative elections is held this week. The Maoist rebels have been fighting the Indian government for more than four decades, demanding land and jobs for tenant farmers, the poor and indigenous communities. Chhattisgarh has been governed by the Hindu nationalist the Bharatiya Janata Party of Indian Prime Minister Modi for 15 years. [South China Morning Post]

13 November 2018

U.S. okays Indian port development in Iran 

(ls) The United States have exempted India from sanctions regarding the development of the strategically-located Chabahar port in Iran. The exception has been labeled as being related to reconstruction assistance and economic development for Afghanistan. However, it also exemplifies the US-Indian rapprochement in recent months. In 2003, New Delhi signed a deal with Tehran to renew the Chabahar port project in order to facilitate access to Kabul from the southwest. In 2016, India, Iran and Afghanistan signed a pact that entailed the establishment of a transit and transport corridor among the three countries using Chabahar port as one of the regional hubs. From another geopolitical perspective, the Chabahar port is also likely to counter Pakistan’s Gwadar port, which is backed by China. [Firstpost]

13 November 2018

Indian-Pakistani military balance after the S-400 deal 

(ls) An adviser to Pakistan’s National Command Authority (NCA) said that the country would not follow India’s suit in developing a defence system against ballistic missiles such as the S-400, but would continue to seek to redress the imbalances caused by Indian moves. In addition, he said that Pakistan’s response to India’s nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine INS Arihant could be found in Full Spectrum Deterrence which implied possession of a full array of strategic, tactical and operational weapons. [Dawn]

6 November 2018

India: Kashmir leader of ruling party killed

(cc) On Thursday, unidentified gunmen shot dead Anil Parihar, state secretary of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and his brother in the town of Kishtwar in Kashmir. Kashmir, the only Indian State with a Muslim majority, at the center of a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan since the partition in 1947, is highly divided and has been the theatre of violent confrontations for several decades. The police is still investing to determine if the shooting is a militant attacks or a criminal act. The authorities have imposed a curfew in the area.  [Reuters]

6 November 2018

US grants India waiver from Iran oil imports, but with a warning

 (am) The US administration announced to permit eight importers to keep purchasing Iranian oil until it re-imposes sanctions in order to force Iran to curtail its nuclear, missile and regional actions. While not having named any country which would be getting the benefit, the Indian petroleum minister said that India secured the waiver. [Reuters]

However, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in an interview to Fox News said that US Government is determined to shrink Iranian oil imports from its key consumers India and China to zero within six months and warned gloomily, otherwise “watch what we do” dismissing suggestions that India and China will never discontinue purchasing oil from Iran. [HT]

6 November 2018

India lodges protest with Pakistan and China on bus service via disputed territory

(am) India’s Ministry of External Affairs has lodged a formal protest with Pakistan and China over a bus service set to run between Pakistan’s Lahore and the Chinese Kashghar in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The route runs through the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. India raised concerns that any such bus facility will be a violation of India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. [India Today]

6 November 2018

India now nuclear proficient at sea, land, air

(am) The INS Arihant, one of India’s nuclear submarines, has positively accomplished its first deterrence patrol, allowing India to complete the nuclear triad, meaning that it has reached the capacity of firing nuclear weapons from land, air and sea. The submarine’s capability to launch nuclear missiles from below the sea is strategically particular significant as submarines, contrasting fighter aircraft and land-based missile systems, are harder to track and destroy. [India Today]

Prime Minister Modi announced in a nationwide televised speech that the INS Arihant was a “fitting response to those who indulge in nuclear blackmail” as “an open warning for the country’s enemies, for the foes of peace: don’t try any misadventure against India.” [Channel News Asia]

6 November 2018

How much can the Maldives recalibrate their foreign policy?

(hg) Since the transition to a new, more Indian friendly government in the Maldives after the recent elections, India gains some much needed strategic space to reestablish a greater degree of influence in the Maldives which are a highly important area of Delhi’s maritime backyard.

With an increasingly likely visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Malé to meet newly elected President Ibrahim Solih an advance team from the Indian government has just reached the Maldives to lay the groundwork after a visit by Modi in 2015 was cancelled due to the growing tensions with the China friendly Abdulla Yameen administration.

While Indian diplomacy might gain an upper hand in dealing with the Maldives, Chinese influence remains as Beijing still holds considerable leverage due that fact the Maldives have borrowed heavily from China to finance its infrastructure with China holding more than 80% of the Maldives’ sovereign debt accounting for nearly a quarter of its GDP. Moreover, India will probably not be able to compete with Beijing’s ability to meet the Maldives’ infrastructure demands. [The Wire]

Sri Lanka might serve as an instructive example so far. After the now returning Rajapaksa had also heavily borrowed from China the government of President Sirisena proved unable to drive back the influence despite trying it. Ultimately the Sirisena government was even forced to transfer control of its strategically situated Hambantota port to a Chinese state-owned company under a 99-year lease deal. It remains to be seen if India and its Western partners will find ways to use the strategic space they have gained to contain the influence China has successfully build up in the Maldives. [Forbes]

30 October 2018

Open conflict between Indian central bank and government

(ls) The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the country’s central bank, is pushing back against government pressure to relax its policies and reduce its powers ahead of a general election due by next May. “Governments that do not respect central bank independence will sooner or later incur the wrath of financial markets, ignite economic fire,” said its Deputy Governor Viral Acharya. Government officials have recently called for the RBI to relax its lending restrictions on some banks, and the government has also been trying to trim the RBI’s regulatory powers by setting up a new regulator for the country’s payments system. Prime Minister Modi is currently under pressure as higher international oil prices have hurt the rupee currency and driven Indian fuel prices to record highs, leading to protests. The case also illustrates the difficulty in finding a balance between central banks’ operational independence and democratic accountability. [Reuters]

30 October 2018

India renames city with “Islamic-sounding” name

(ls) The Indian city of Allahabad in the state of Uttar Pradesh has been renamed Prayagraj by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government. The move, which comes months away from the 2019 parliamentary elections, is seen to appease right-wing Hindu groups demanding that the city of Allahabad be cleared of an “Islamic-sounding” name. Allahabad, which played a key role in India’s struggle for independence, is famous as the site of the confluence of Ganges, Jamuna and the mythical Saraswati rivers. It is equally famous as a crucible in which Hindu and Islamic influences fused to create a widely practiced culture. The change to Prayagraj is part of a larger Hindu right-wing trend that seeks to purge names and influences that may be associated with Islam. [Straits Times]

30 October 2018

Indian police bust Amnesty India office over misuse of foreign funds

(am) India’s leading anti-corruption agency Enforcement Directed (ED) raided the Amnesty International India office in Bangalore over alleged violations of foreign funding rules. The agency, which probes financial misconducts, said the international rights watchdog was alleged of having channelled 360 million rupees ($4.8 million) into the country in violation of foreign funding rules. Amnesty International has condemned this move and accused the Indian Government of instilling fear in civil rights groups in the country. [ET]


30 October 2018

Pakistan Supreme Court bans Indian content on TV  

(am) Pakistan Supreme Court has recalled the ban on broadcasting of Indian content on Pakistani television. In the verdict, the Chief Justice of Pakistan claimed that when India can obstruct the construction of Pakistani dam, Pakistan can ban Indian content on local television. He ordered a complete blackout on the airing of Indian shows on Pakistani local television while adding that only suitable content would be allowed to broadcast. [ET]


30 October 2018

Modi-Abe summit in Japan

(ls) Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his holiday home in Japan. They held a more formal summit on Monday in Tokyo. Relations with China are a major issue shared by Modi and Abe. In a sign of closer relations, India and Japan are also set to hold their first joint military exercises involving ground forces, starting next month. Although Japan has long seen the U.S. as its main ally, especially in defense, Abe is courting other ties. He has also been vocal about free trade, which runs counter to Trump’s moves to raise tariffs. [Japan Today]

The warm Modi-Abe relationship has been built over 12 meetings, including four summits, since 2014. Such symbiosis, unusual in international relations, has heightened interest in this 13th India-Japan Summit. Close cooperation with a democratic India, located mid-way along trade-routes connecting East Asia with the Middle East and Africa, would be advantageous to Japan. At the same time, a technologically deficient India has much to gain from a relationship with a country like Japan. [Indian Express]

30 October 2018

China and India announce joint army exercises in China

(ls) China and India aim to hold joint army drills in China before the end of this year, China’s Defence Ministry said. Relations between the two countries were strained last year over a 73-day military face-off in Dokhlam, a remote, high-altitude stretch of their disputed Himalayan border. But since then, observers witnessed a rapid rapprochement. The two big Asian economies share similar positions on a number of issues, including concerns about US tariffs. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi agreed in April to improve relations. [South China Morning Post]

30 October 2018

India signs $950 million frigate deal with Russia

(am) India has signed a $950 million deal with Russia, where Russia will supply two new warships equipped with BrahMos missiles to India, which will give a major boost to Indian Navy’s weaponry. India will buy the two frigates directly from Russia which is expected to be delivered by 2022 and another contract is in pipeline to develop two more such frigates at an Indian shipyard. [ET]


23 October 2018

Power Shift in Bhutan that might favour India

(jk) In the third elections after democracy has been introduced to the Himalayan Kingdom in 2008, voters decided for a power shift to the centre-left party (Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa – DNT) which has won 30 seats in the 47-member National Assembly, the lower house of the Bhutanese parliament. All other seats are held by one opposition party which is intended by the Constitution according to which only two parties with the highest votes in the primary round qualify for the final round. Voter turnout was relatively high at 71 percent of registered voters and Bhutan’s next prime minister will be 50-year-old surgeon Lotay Tshering from DNT. [Economic Times]

The elections have been watched closely by both China and India who vow for influence in the small kingdom. India has long been a traditional partner and plays a significant role in Bhutan’s development. China has been making inroads though through its Belt and Road initiative and Bhutan has been the location of stand-offs between India and China before, most recently in last year’s “Doklam” dispute [Washington Times]. 

Due to the sensitivities, foreign policy was kept out of the election campaign. During the 2013 campaign, fearing that Bhutan was moving too close to China, India withdrew certain subsidies in an alleged attempt to influence a change of government. Relations with India remain sensitive and some candidates and activists were fined for sending statements on relations with India. Under the new government India’s position as a special partner will remain secured. [SCMP]

23 October 2018

The state of military cooperation between India and Russia in Asia emergent security order

(hg) An important indicator for the state of the emerging Asian security order is the recent 19th bilateral summit between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A positive assessment by Russian ‘sputnik news’ focuses on India and Russia having now decided to create an all-new department under the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military Technical Co-operation to enhance military cooperation. [Sputnik News]

More differentiated are the views of Aleksei Zakharov writing for the Indian ‘Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses’ [IDSA] and Harsha Kakkar writing for the Indian ‘Statesman’ [Statesman].

For India, the defining factor for its foreign policy is China, India’s militarily and economically superior neighbor that will inevitably continue to expand. While the ‘China factor’ greatly valuates strategic ties with the US, India still considers its long-developed defense ties with Russia highly important and also refuses to give up an autonomous foreign policy which many Indian observers see threatened by possible sanctions under the US Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) with regard of weapon deals with Russia [Statesman].

In this sense, the signing of multiple defense agreements with Russia including the particular purchase of the S-400 anti-aircraft missile defense – a symbol of Russian expertise in weapon-making -, assertively affirmed India’s strategic autonomy. After India has recently shown reluctance to drive the QUAD cooperation with the US, Japan and Australia too forcefully it has now expressed its willingness to maintain relations with Russia as a trusted ally rather than succumb to pressure [Statesman].

Nevertheless, the parties of the India-Russia summit carefully refrained from provoking the US more than necessary but could also lack behind the Russia might have expected. Significantly, the joint statement does not contain a clause on the unacceptability of unilateral sanctions as some have expected it. Moreover, besides the major S-400 deal, agreements between India and Russia remained low in number and substance with a majority of them being pro forma documents. Especially the expected deals on Kamov helicopters and Krivak/Talwar class frigates were not concluded (what will, however, be discussed at the Inter-Governmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation scheduled for December 2018) [IDSA].

Interestingly, the joint statement mentions Iran unusually often where especially longstanding Indian interests are under threat of US sanctions. Highly important for India is the Iranian Chabahar Port as a crucial transit point in the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC). There are also related connectivity projects including a transport network connecting India and Russia and the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) offshore gas pipeline to name other Indian interests while Russia is also expanding its cooperation with Iran looking for partners to counter the reach of US sanctions [IDSA].

For the meanwhile, Asia’s new security order remains in flux with India and Russia continuing ties despite a carefully growing strategic convergence between India and the US on the one side and Russia and China on the other. At the same time, both, India and Russia remain careful to not get to closely aligned with their new partners, the US and China respectively. Compared with China, the US are much more assertive however, in pressuring their partner India – against more cautionary voices such as those of US Secretary of Defense, General James Mattis.

23 October 2018

India and China signing security agreement while Japan and India enhancing military cooperation

(hg) India and China are about to sign a bilateral agreement covering counter-terrorism operations, fighting drug and human trafficking, strategic intelligence sharing and natural disaster mitigation, the first-ever security agreement between the two countries. [Livemint]

More important, however, appear preparations of a military cooperation agreement between Japan and India that will be discussed when the countries’ Prime Ministers meet later this month on occasion of the 13th India-Japan summit in Tokyo.

The agreement aims at allowing the reciprocal exchange of supplies and logistical support for the countries’ forces based on mutual access to ports and bases.

For India, that would allow the use Japan’s base in Djibouti between the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean, overlooking one of the world’s busiest shipping corridors. Djibouti also hosts a major US special-operation forces outpost at Camp Lemonnier and, just a few miles away, China’s first overseas military base.

In turn, Japan could access Indian bases in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, close to the sea lanes west of the Malacca Strait where India started to position advanced P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol planes and maritime surveillance drones.

Besides, Japan and India might also discuss at the summit later this month India’s purchase of 12 Shinmaywa US-2i search-and-rescue and maritime surveillance planes, which would also be stationed at the Andaman and Nicobar islands. [Business Insider]

23 October 2018

16 October 2018

Maldives president does not yet accept his defeat

(ls) The Maldives’ President Abdulla Yameen filed a legal petition with the Maldives Supreme Court to challenge his landslide election defeat last month, alleging that the vote was rigged by the independent election commission. The election was won by Ibrahim Mohamed Solih with 58.4 per cent of the vote. Yameen had reluctantly conceded defeat amid international pressure from regional superpower and immediate neighbour India and others. [South China Morning Post]

Under pressure from the United States, Europe and India, which is seeking to counter growing Chinese influence in the strategically positioned 1,200-island holiday paradise, Yameen said he would leave office on 17 November. In response to Yameen’s petition, the US – which like the European Union threatened sanctions if the elections were not free and fair – warned again it would react if Yameen does not go quietly. [Straits Times]

Meanwhile, former Maldivian foreign minister Dunya Maumoon said after a meeting with India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj that the Maldives and India need to regain mutual trust. Maumoon met Swaraj Saturday during an unofficial visit to India “on behalf of” former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. India’s ties with the Maldives came under pressure after Yameen, who was known to be close to China, declared emergency in the country on February 5, following an order by the country’s Supreme Court to release a group of opposition leaders, who had been convicted in widely criticised trials. [Economic Times]

16 October 2018

Japan-India relations: Joint maritime exercises resumed

(dql) Signalling improving military ties between Japan and India, both countries resumed the Japan-India Maritime Exercises after a break of five years. The weeklong drills from 7-15 October involved Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF) Ships Kaga, an Izumo Class Helicopter Destroyer and Inazuma, a guided missile destroyer and three indigenously designed and built warships and a Fleet Tanker on the Indian side. [SLD]

For  a critical assessment of India’s “inconsistent” approach towards the Indo-Pacific “confus[ing] both India’s partner as much as China”, see Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan in [The Diplomat].

16 October 2018

Russia maintains that US sanctions won’t stop future deals with India

(ls/am) With last week’s conclusion of a US$5.43 billion deal for five regiments of Russia’s S-400 Triumf long-range air defence system on the occasion of the Modi-Putin summit in New Delhi, India signalled that, notwithstanding the growing US-India strategic and military partnership, India’s strategic balance and its dependence on Russian submarine and missile technologies requires it to continue buying arms from Moscow. [South China Morning Post]

Russian Ambassador to India Nikolay Kudashev said the warning of US sanctions would not halt Russia from securing future defence contracts with India. He added that India and Russia could sign contracts on frigates and Kalashnikov assault rifles within two to three months. The US’ “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act” (CAATSA) levies sanctions on countries partaking military trade with Russia and Iran. [HT]

Meanwhile, the US State Department has cautioned India that it is “not helpful” when it gets about its $5-billion defence contract with Russia to procure the S-400 missile system or purchasing oil from Iran. The department echoed President Donald Trump’s fresh announcement that India will “find out” about his verdict on implementing CAATSA sanctions. []

Despite the looming American threat, Modi has decided not to abandon either Russia or Iran. It is notable that the joint statement issued by Modi and Putin during their latest summit meeting boldly calls for trilateral cooperation among India, Russia and Iran for trade and transport corridor connectivity. Moreover, India reckons that Washington would be irrational to impose sanctions on New Delhi over the S-400 pact, and so punish a leading customer. American defense contractors would lose access to their Indian business if sanctions were slapped by the Donald Trump administration. [Nikkei Asian Review]

On September 20, Washington imposed its first sanctions under CAATSA – on a Chinese entity over the import of the S-400 system and Sukhoi-35 fighter aircraft. But Indian analysts believe that, posturing notwithstanding, Washington will grant India a waiver, especially given the understanding of India’s position among senior Trump officials, most notably secretary of defence James Mattis. [South China Morning Post]

The Modi-Putin summit has had little resonance in the Indo-Pacific. With the Russian Navy a marginal presence in the Indian Ocean, the Indian Navy works increasingly closely with the US Navy in subtly countering China’s expanding presence in these waters. Moscow does not subscribe to the notion of “the Indo-Pacific”, which it regards as an American construct.

16 October 2018

India wins seat in UN Human Rights Council

(am) India was elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council for a period of three years commencing from January 1, 2019. India gathered 188 votes in support, the utmost polled by any of the 18 countries nominated in the polling by the 193-member General Assembly. India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Syed Akbaruddin, said they will endure to work in a balanced approach to safeguard human rights. [HT]


16 October 2018

Sri Lanka’s role in the Indian Ocean 

(ls) Lasanda Kurukulasuriya writes about Sri Lanka’s possible role in geopolitical rivalries in the Indian Ocean. She argues that while the goals of the smaller states mainly relate to the trade, investment, technology, this is not the case with big powers, for whom there is inevitably a contest to gain strategic advantage for themselves, and to rally regional support in that exercise. Adding to the familiar tensions between ‘big-brother’ India and its neighbours, she writes that the Indian Ocean has become the locus of intense contest for influence between extra-regional powers, China and the US. In this situation smaller states would need to guard against being used unwittingly by any big power against its rivals. [Daily Mirror]

9 October 2018

India’s opposition in protest over “fishy” arms deal

(jk) PM Modi has played a relatively strong hand since in office with little pressure coming from the main opposition party. Modi had in fact accused the Congress Party of overspending and crony capitalism, giving himself the image of “cleaning up” corrupt politics.

After a widely publicised arms deal with France however, it looks like Modi is the one who has to provide some answers after Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the main opposition, has alleged that Mr Modi “favoured” a specific Indian company that is part of the deal. The deal itself concerns a modernisation of India’s air force fleet by purchasing Rafale warplanes of which parts were to be manufactured in India. Since 2008 India has an “offset” clause for defence procurement, saying that foreign firms need to invest at least 30% of a deal’s worth back in India. [BBC]

The opposition laments that the Indian firm that won the contract was a company run by one of India’s wealthiest families and that it had won despite not having experience in building jets. It also says that the opaque deal has seen a surge in costs without any obvious explanations. Modi is facing some headwinds on this issue and the opposition has made sure to spread the allegations far and wide. India will have elections in 2019. [New York Times]

9 October 2018

New Chief Justice of India

 (am) Justice Ranjan Gogoi on Wednesday took oath as the 46th Chief Justice of India (CJI). Previously, he was the Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court in 2011 and Supreme Court judge in 2012.  He is famous for organising a press conference earlier this year with three other Supreme Court judges interrogating the Supreme Court’s working. [Quint]

9 October 2018

Supreme Court of India refuses to stop deportation of 7 Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar

(am) The Supreme Court of India has declined to obstruct in the Central Government’s decision to deport seven Rohingya refugees to Myanmar. A petition was filed looking for restraint on Centre’s directive for deporting the refugees over their illegitimate stay. Over 14,000 Rohingyas are listed with the UN refugee agency while 40,000 are expected to be living in India. [ANI 1]

Meanwhile, Rohingya refugees residing in Indian camps have uttered their anxiety over being deported to Myanmar, saying they will not rehabilitate until “peace is re-established in their homeland”. “We did not leave our country out of greed, no one really wants to leave their own nation,” they added. [ANI 2]

9 October 2018

Nepal has become a source country for trafficked women

(jk) Activists estimate that about 50 women are trafficked from Nepal to India on any given day, with the situation having deteriorated in particular since the 2015 earthquake in Nepal.

Many girls and women are trafficked to the Gulf countries, going through India with Delhi emerging as a trafficking hub. According to one activist, “Lack of evidence, out-of-court settlements, threats from traffickers and taboo have kept prosecution and conviction rates low”.  [India Today]

9 October 2018

UN Refugee agency raises concern regarding repatriation of Rohingya

(cc) Following a ruling of its Supreme Court refusing to stop their deportation, India expelled seven Rohingya to Myanmar. In a statement on Friday the UNHCR spokesman, Andrej Mahecic, raised concern regarding their safety and security, stating that the seven men were not granted access to legal access and that the “current conditions in Myanmar’s Rakhine State are not conducive for safe dignified and sustainable return of stateless Rohingya refugees”. [UNHCR] [Reuters]

9 October 2018

China to sell 48 attack drones to Pakistan

(dql) Pakistan will reportedly purchase 48 Chinese Wing Loong II drones, a high-end reconnaissance and strike multi-role endurance unmanned aircraft system, capable of carrying 480kgs of munitions and enduring 20 hours. According to analysts, the sale is China’s largest export deal for drones to date and comes shortly after the Indian-Russian deal over S-400 missile defence system (see below). [Daily Pakistan]

9 October 2018

India signs deal with Russia for air-defence missile system; vows to buy more Iranian oil

(jk) Indian Prime Minister Modi and Russian President Putin announced a US$5bn deal in Delhi last week. The S-400 surface-to-air missile system, also in use in neighbouring China, will boost India’s defence capabilities significantly, but its purchase has met strong criticism from the US. The US has put several Russian firms under sanctions through its “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which was introduced in 2017. It prohibits any country from signing defence deals with Russia, although President Trump can sign waivers which is undoubtedly what India is hoping for. [LiveMint]

Before the deal was signed, Washington sent mixed signals but threatened it would not waive the sanctions as in the case of China which bought S-400s in September [AiR].  India has gone ahead and took the risk as it deems the system crucial for its defence, especially in the case of a two-front war with China and Pakistan. It is, according to its Army Chief, following an “independent policy”. [Economic Times]

India is the world’s number one arms importer with almost two-thirds of its imports coming from Russia. [Times of India]

In addition to disregarding the threat of US sanctions here, India has furthermore announced it will buy nine million barrels of Iranian oil in November. Relevant US sanctions will come into effect on November 4 but again, the possibility of waivers for a number of countries importing Iranian oil is being discussed. [Sydney Morning Herald] India may be seen to be trying to force the US’ hand. However, it is also facing severe domestic pressures with the Indian Rupee hitting a new low against the US Dollar last week and rising fuel prices. The government last week cut prices of petrol and diesel to ease inflationary pressure and boost consumer confidence and many BJP-ruled states have cut the value-added tax (VAT) on fuel.

9 October 2018

India – Japan hold maritime military exercises

(jk) The third instalment of the JIMEX exercises between Japan and India are taking place this week. The last time these exercises were held was in 2013. It is aimed at improving inter-operability and understanding as well as learning from each other’s best practices. [Economic Times]

9 October 2018

Video: Why Have India-Pakistan Bilateral Relations Taken a Negative Turn?

(jk) In this video, a journalist talks to Aziz Ahmed Khan (Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India from June 2003 to September 2006) and Indian diplomat K. C. Singh, to understand why India-Pakistan bilateral relations have taken a negative turn. The conversation veers into possibilities of redirecting the bilateral relationship towards peaceful coexistence and what each country will have to do to achieve this end. [The Wire]

9 October 2018

Bangladesh’s national Human Rights Commission organises Roundtable on Rohingya Crisis

(cc) On Thursday last week, analysts and former diplomats met in Dhaka at a roundtable hosted by the National Human Rights Commission to discuss “durable solutions of Rohingyas Crisis”. The speakers urged the government of Bangladesh and the international community to resolve the Rohingya crisis, either bilaterally or multilaterally.  The participants expressed concerns regarding Bangladesh’s relationship with the two regional powers China and India. China refuses the internationalization and maintains that the issue is “in essence an issue between Myanmar and Bangladesh”.  According to a retired Brigadier and now researcher of National security and Defense, Sakhawat Hossain, “None of us know how the crisis will be solved. Myanmar is not going to resolve it unless it’s forced; they are not going to listen”. He insisted that China has more weight on this issue than India and added that “We must convince China, but to convince China is a very difficult task as it has invested more money for a deep sea port in Myanmar”. Azizul Hoque, a former envoy to China called on Bangladesh to support the International Criminal Court to prosecute Myanmar’s military officials.

[Dhaka Tribune] [Irrawaddy]

9 October 2018

US strategy towards India: How India’s Rise Can Complement U.S. interests

(jk) As laid out in this essay, for the US, helping India build up its maritime presence would be an effective counter to China’s rise. However, India will not become a strategic balancer against China by itself and US strategy needs to recognise India’s specific circumstances and constraints. [Lawfare]

9 October 2018

Book review: “Anglo-Indians and Minority Politics in South Asia”

(ls) Brent Howitt Otto reviews the new monograph “Anglo-Indians and Minority Politics in South Asia” by Uther Charlton-Stevens (Routledge, 2018). He writes that it is a “deeply textured historical study of the Eurasian community over its lengthy history. Uninterested in presenting a uniform narrative, Charlton-Stevens digs deeply into diverse sources to show the various interlocutors that Anglo-Indians and their leaders had, and the often discordant opinions they took with respect to their own history, concepts of race, Indian nationalism, the colonial state, and plans for their post-colonial future.” [JHI Blog]

2 October 2018

India, Mauritius held a new round of FTA talks

(jm) Representatives from India and Mauritius met in a three-day talk about a potential free trade agreement between the two countries which would be called the “Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement (CECPA)”. Mauritius is also holding negotiations for a similar pact with China. [Times of India]

2 October 2018

Bhutan & Nepal: Readjusting priorities between China and India?

(ls) India’s neighbor Bhutan approaches the third general election in the country’s history on 18 October 2018. In September, voters had unexpectedly ousted the ruling People’s Democratic Party in the primary, along with it the pro-India Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay. That has awakened concerns over how the new government will manage its relations with China and India. In July 2017, geopolitical tensions surfaced when China began building a road along the sensitive Doklam Plateau on the Bhutan-Tibet border, which China claims as its own, without informing the Bhutanese capital of Thimpu. [Asia Sentinel]

Observers have held that a change in guard at Thimphu does not necessarily mean a pro-China tilt, however, it could lead to Bhutan trying to pursue a more equated relationship with both India and China. The Chinese may offer greater funding than India can afford. However, Bhutan may not be looking for huge investments. [DailyO]

Nepal’s quest for an alternate transit country with a view to reducing its dependence on India succeeded with the finalization of the text for the Protocol of Transit Transport Agreement with China on 7 September 2018. As per this text, China formally agreed to provide seven transit points – four sea ports (Tianjin (Xingang), Shenzhen, Lianyungang, Zhanjiang) and three land ports (Lanzhou, Lhasa, Xigatse) – to Nepal for trade with third countries. Nepal’s move towards China was sparked by India’s 2015-16 limitation of cargo movements through major India-Nepal border points. An analysis of the agreement has been published by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) in New Delhi. [IDSA]

2 October 2018

India and Pakistan exchange hostilities at the United Nations

(ls) On the occasion of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meeting in New York, India’s external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj blamed Pakistan’s alleged support of violence against it for the breakdown of the most recent attempt to improve relations, accusing Pakistan of harbouring terrorist groups and using them as an instrument of foreign policy. In a rebuttal, Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said India had repeatedly canceled dialogues between the two countries, preferring politics over peace. India days earlier called off a foreign minister-level meeting during the UN General Assembly meeting because of renewed violence in the Kashmir region. [South China Morning Post] [Time]

India then also rebutted allegations of Pakistan that it was behind the Peshawar school massacre in December 2014, an allegation made by Qureshi. [India Times]

At a meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) on the sidelines of the UNGA, Swaraj mphasized that an environment of peace and security in South Asia is essential for cooperation and economic development. Qureshi responded that “the attitude of one nation is making the spirit of the founding fathers of SAARC unfulfilled”, accusing Swaraj of being overly vague. [Times of India]

2 October 2018

Japan-China relations: Agreement on North Korea’s ship-to-ship transfers and military muscle-flexing in the Indian Ocean

(dql) In a sign of thawing ties between China and Japan, both countries reached an agreement at the sidelines of the UN General Assembly last week on cooperation and information sharing in handling ship-to-ship goods transfers by North Korea in violation of U.N. sanctions. Both sides also agreed to increase cooperation in advanced technology and strengthen efforts towards the resumption of a currency swap arrangement to provide funds in times of crisis [Japan Times]

At the same time, however, Japan’s biggest warship, the Kaga helicopter carrier, joined naval drills with Britain’s HMS Argyll in the Indian Ocean signaling Japan’s efforts to ally with the UK (and the USA) to counter growing China’s influence in the region and to prevent key commercial sea lanes coming under Beijing’s control. [Reuters]

In a latest development the helicopter carrier sailed into Colombo harbor of Sri Lanka, a move signaling Japan’s readiness and capability to dispatch its most powerful military hardware to the strategically important region. Japanese naval vessels have made 50 stops in Sri Lanka in the past five years. [Channel News Asia]

2 October 2018

Supreme Court of India declares crime of adultery unconstitutional

(ls) India’s Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that adultery is no longer a crime, declaring that the colonial-era law is unconstitutional and discriminatory against women. The Court held that the criminal offence of having a sexual relationship with a woman without her husband’s consent was archaic and deprived women of agency. The decision is one of several socially progressive rulings by the court this session. Earlier in September, the justices ruled to ecolonizing homosexuality. The Supreme Court’s jurisprudence can be seen as an act of ecolonizing the country’s Raj-era criminal code. [The Guardian]

The Indian government, a coalition led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, had supported adultery remaining a criminal offense, suggesting that rather than scrapping the law, it was amended to be gender neutral, with equal punishment for both men and women. However, in its ruling, the Supreme Court dismissed concerns that the abolition of the law would result in higher rates of infidelity. [CNN]

2 October 2018

World’s largest biometric database approved by Indian Supreme Court

(ls) India’s Supreme Court has upheld the legality of the government’s Aadhaar (Hindi for “foundation”) system, the world’s largest biometric database containing the personal information of more than a billion Indians. Though the court, in a 4-1 decision, laid down stricter limits on how Aadhaar information could be used, it ruled that the benefits of the system outweighed any risks to privacy. The panel struck down Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to require the digital ID for other purposes, including verifying the identity of students taking exams. The judges also declared unconstitutional a provision in the 2016 Aadhaar Act that had allowed private companies like banks and cellphone companies to use the ID to verify customer identities. [New York Times]

Aadhaar was first proposed by the previous Congress government and then vastly expanded under the current Modi government. Advocates say it has granted hundreds of millions of Indians a unique identity document. They envision a future where Aadhaar forms the core of a digital identity that could eventually include every Indian’s health records, credit scores, electronic signatures, criminal backgrounds, welfare entitlements and other data. The system has already been used to give hundreds of millions of Indians their first bank account. [South China Morning Post]

Critics say that reports of security breaches are abundant and that the 1,500-pages judgment will not put to rest the discussion about the validity of the system. They hold that the court’s optimism that the system will be improved over time remains largely unsupported by evidence. [The Wire] Others hold that perpetual surveillance becoming linked to more and more daily services and functions, and the concept of mandatoriness, ultimately are a real world deprivation of power of the individual to the government and corporations. [Hindustan Times]

25 September 2018

World Bank support for economically suffering India

(hg) While India´s currency has fallen by more than 12 percent this year against the dollar making it the currently worst-performing currency in Asia largely due to rising oil prices and the US – China trade war and its repercussions [Al Jazeera], the World Bank endorses a financial support framework for India’s transition to high-middle income nation. [The Economic Times]

India is expected to receive USD 25-30 billion in financial support under the ambitious five-year framework. [The Economic Times]

However, the Indian currency crisis seems still far less threatening than the Turkish. India, besides ASEAN, has moreover been mentioned by [Forbes] as the most promising market in the world only some weeks ago.

25 September 2018

India Tells Russia its Indo-Pacific Engagement is Not Directed At Any Country

(hg) Ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit next month, India has conveyed to Russia that its engagement in the Indo-Pacific region is not directed against any country after India joined the US, Australia and Japan to revive the long-pending “Quad” coalition which is seen as a China-containment plan.

25 September 2018

India cancels scheduled talk with Pakistan over “evil agenda”

(ot) Less than 24 hours after agreeing to a meeting with her Pakistani counterpart, India’s foreign minister called off what would have been the first high-level encounter between the nuclear-armed neighbors in three years. Initially, India agreed to an invitation by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to have a meeting at the sidelines of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in the coming week. India cited in a statement the recent killings of Indian security personnel in restive Kashmir and the release of a series of 20 postage stamps by Pakistan glorifying a terrorist and terrorism. The statement called Pakistan’s proposal for talks “the evil agenda” and said that “the true face” of PM Khan “has been revealed to the world”. [The Guardian]

India and Pakistan have fought three wars over Kashmir, a Himalayan territory divided between the two countries but claimed in full by both. India has long accused Pakistan of arming rebel groups in Kashmir. Their relations have deteriorated since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014. The cancellation is likely to aggravate further tensions between the two rivals. In response, Pakistan said that it was “deeply disappointed” by India’s decision. It rejected allegations of killing, calling it a “motivated and malicious propaganda” and blamed India’s internal politics for the cancellation. It also called the comments made by India about PM Khan as “against all norms of civilized discourse and diplomatic communication”. [Al Jazeera 1, The Washington Post]

PM Khan also expressed his disappointment, calling India’s decision as “arrogant” and “negative”. [Al Jazeera 2]

25 September 2018

Developing the India-Oman strategic security ties

(hg) India and Oman continue to develop their bilateral ties on occasion of Oman defence minister’s visit. This includes especially the early operationalization of Oman’s Duqm port for the Indian navy and the training of Omanese military officers in India. The visit shall also help further Oman’s nascent space programme and an expansion of bilateral military exercises while the two sides are also looking to put in place a mechanism for ensuring rule of law in the western part of the Indian Ocean region.

Located on the south-eastern seaboard of Oman, overlooking the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean, the Duqm port has the potential to develop into one of the region’s largest ports for which the Indian navy has received berthing rights for its ships in the Gulf of Aden.

Oman is India’s oldest defence partner in West Asia, an ally in its anti-piracy campaign and the only country in West Asia that conducts exercises of all three forces – army, air force and navy – with India. Moreover, India is also considering setting up defence production facilities in Oman. [The Economic Times]

25 September 2018

Indian government introduces new memorial days in militarist move

(am) The Indian government has decided to celebrate special days to display its victories and achievements representing its resolve to do whatever it takes when it comes to national security. The nationalistic project starts with September 29 as ‘Surgical Strike Day’, two years after Indian troops destroyed camps in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir as a response to an attack on an army base.

All ministers and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MPs have been “directed to go to their constituencies to organise events

In this context, the University Grants Commission has directed Indian universities and higher educational institutes throughout the country to also celebrate requesting National Cadet Corps (NCC) units of all Indian universities to arrange an exceptional parade and conferences with ex-servicemen to enlighten students about military martyrdom. [HT]

25 September 2018

Ex French President puts serious allegations against India

(am) Former French President Francois Hollande affirmed that the Modi-led government had influenced a defense deal which is suspected to harbour a huge corruption scandal [Quint] involving French aerospace company Dassault Aviation and Anil Ambani-led Reliance Defence. [India Today]

25 September 2018

India launches world’s largest government healthcare scheme

(am) Ahead of national elections in May, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched the world’s largest government health insurance program for economically marginalised people. The flagship scheme promises free coverage for half a billion of India’s poorest citizens, the  bottom 40% of India’s 1.25 billion people.

A report published by ‘The Lancet’ medical journal found substandard healthcare responsible for an estimated 1.6 million deaths a year in India – the highest rate anywhere in the world. [Guardian]

18 September 2018

Asian countries on UN’s shameful list over attacks on human rights activists

(am) A number of Asian countries found themselves on the UN’s list of 38 “shameful” countries displaying an “alarming” level of harsh reprisals and intimidation against those who cooperate with the UN on human rights issues. [Reuters]Pointed out are also practices of selective application of laws and new legislation that restrict or obstruct organisations from cooperating with the UN, including by limiting their funding capacity, especially from foreign donors.

Among the Asian countries listed with new cases are China, India, the Maldives, Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand. Other countries listed are Colombia, Hungary, Israel, Morocco, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Venezuela. [Times of India]

18 September 2018

New Indian Chief Justice appointed

(am) Indian President Ram Nath Kovind consented to assign Justice Ranjan Gogoi as the subsequent Chief Justice of India after the stepping down of the incumbent Chief Justice Dipak Misra. As per agreement, the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court is selected as the Chief Justice of India. [Times Now]

18 September 2018

The ongoing unease in the US-India rapprochement

(hg) In times of an assertively sanctioning US administration, the China motivated US-Indian rapprochement is still under stress with India´s strategic investment in Iran´s Chabahar port, its import of Iranian oil and its deep defense ties with Russia.

While the US is still studying India’s Chabahar port investment in Iran, it has already requested India to lower down its oil imports from Iran to zero by November or to possibly face sanctions. [NDTV]

As India imports its fuel to 80 % while its rupee continues to be under pressure having caused widespread public protests recently, the issue is of some concern for the Modi government. Meanwhile, petrol prices are steadily rising, and on the way to approach an unprecedented pike with elections looming next year. [Quartz India]

Another bone of contention is India´s wish to conclude its purchase of the Russian state-of-the-art S-400 missile defense system. The deal is threatened by the US Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act aiming at Russia and those dealing with it.

Ahead of Russian President Putin’s India visit of the annual India-Russia summit next month, Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has now stated that India will not allow its time-tested defence and security ties with Russia to be impacted by US sanctions. Referring to Indian sovereignty with regards to its relationship with other countries she stressed: “We shall maintain it in all earnestness”.

Russia has been one of India’s key suppliers of arms and ammunition. Ironically, India seeks the S-400 in particular to protect its border with China which has been the first foreign buyer of the legendary missile system in 2014 with Moscow having already started delivery. [The Economic Times]

As India, the US is sending mixed messages on the bumpy road to friendship. On the one hand, the US supported India´s recent attempt to secure membership of the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group that is charged with controlling nuclear trade, an attempt however, that was doomed to fail due to China’s veto. [Times of India 1]

At the same time, a US Congressional report claims, Hindu nationalism has been a dangerously rising political force in India eroding its secular nature, especially since Modi´s election victory in 2014. As much as the observation is fairly accurate as much it is not new. In India, some received it as hinting at another possible stick in bilateral relations. [Times of India 2]

18 September 2018

India and France enhance space cooperation aiming at maritime surveillance

(hg) India and France plan to jointly launch 8-10 satellites as part of a “constellation” for maritime surveillance. The project would represent India’s largest space cooperation with any other country.

While the satellites will focus on the Indian Ocean, France will also share its expertise with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on inter-planetary missions to Mars and Venus. Robust bilateral space cooperation goes back six decades already. [The Economic Times]

18 September 2018

Turkey to back Pakistan over Kashmir issue at UN

(am) Pakistan claims that Turkey will back its proposal to discover a non-violent resolution to the Kashmir dispute at the UN and also maintains support for Pakistan’s participation in the Nuclear Suppliers Group. The Foreign Ministers of both nations recently met and agreed to boost their trade, economic, investment and defense relations. []

11 September 2018

Indian Supreme Court decriminalizes gay sex

(am) In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court of India has unanimously invalidated the legal prohibition on gay sex after the reigning Bharatiya Janata Party earlier said it would back any verdict by the Supreme Court. However, some well-known members of the party condemned the court verdict. [Reuters] For a clip see [New York Times].

11 September 2018

‘Shut down India’: Opposition parties in nationwide protests over fuel hike

(hg) Following a call of the Indian National Congress (party), India´s major opposition party, many opposition parties join hands in nationwide protests against the ruling BJP government over increasing fuel prices.

In several states highways, educational institutions, transport services and shops are closed or blocked while angry protesters are heading to the streets. At the some places vehicles were vandalized while highways were blocked by burning tyres in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat.

Amid rising global crude oil rates India, which is importing 80 % of its fuel being the world’s third largest oil importer after China and the U.S., has been facing increasing prices since months. [Quartz] [Al Jazeera]

At the same time, the Indian rupee is plunging to a new low, seriously worrying the central bank and ministry of finance. [The Economic Times]

Anyway, the India shutdown has, – at least until now –, not evolved into a wildfire of discontent and resistance on a national level as wished by the Congress.

11 September 2018

India supports Mauritius’ claim before the ICC against US interest

(am) Mauritius is fighting since years before the International Court of Justice to have its sovereignty over the Chagos Islands which are controlled by the UK as the former colonial power and used by the US to maintain its military base Diego Garcia.

Now, India has – again – backed the assertion of Mauritius. This sign of support is significant as strategically important US interests are involved in times in which it is uncertain how close India and the US might develop their partnership. [Hindustan Times]

11 September 2018

Chances & Obstacles for US-India relations: Arms & Oil

(hg) With the recently concluded Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) India and the US have done a major step to prepare joint forces coordination. Ultimately, COMCASA will help to prepare US and Indian forces to enhance military coordination of complex operations more fully in real time. This includes Indian access to more advanced communications technology for defense equipment purchased from the US, “tri-services exercises” on more complex military platforms, a new exchange between the U.S. Navy’s Central Command and the Indian Navy, defense innovation, and the reaffirmation of existing areas of agreement on counterterrorism and cybersecurity. [Council on Foreign Relations]

The US government has just declared to not have decided on two issues with significant potential to influence the state of India-US relations, the decision to extend the waiver to India firstly for the purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile system and secondly for its investment in the strategic Chabahar port in Iran.

Both Russia and Iran are under US imposed sanctions according to CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) and in wake of the US pullout from the six-country nuclear deal with Iran. [India Today]

A related question is if the US will let oil hungry India continue to import from its strategic partner and US archenemy Iran. [Oil Price]

11 September 2018

Shifting alliances in South Asia

(hg) An article of the Economic Times reflects on views expressed by China’s state-run Global Times on the new Asian security order. Core observation is that the US strategic focus in South Asia is shifting from Pakistan towards India. This inclination is hardly new and unfolds actually not undisturbedly at all. At current it is, however, indeed somehow indicated by the recently signing of the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) between India and the US at the inaugural Indo-US 2+2 dialogue and the suspension of anti-terrorism aid to Pakistan. [The Economic Times]

Natural complement of this tendency is the corresponding rapprochement between China and Pakistan which also comes with some costs, even if Pakistan is far away from becoming a Chinese colony as some Indian observers paint it. [DailyO]

This is the background of the visit of Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister and that of Saudi Minister for Information to call Prime Minister Imran Khan after the visit of Mike Pompeo.

The Chinese FM, heading a high-level delegation including three vice ministers, underscored the significance of the Sino-Pakistani relationship as well as of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor while newly elected PM Khan reiterated that friendship with China was a cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy. [Dawn]

Crucial could be another shift in Pakistan’s foreign policy and security policy that takes shape increasingly, the country’s reversing attitude towards its old arch enemy Russia in the ‘Great Game’. The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a leading British security think tank, points out that for the first time in 200 years Pakistan’s Army has abandoned the old British Raj policy of confronting Russia for control over Central Asia and is envisioning Russia as a new strategic partner instead. [Geo News]

A determined defense diplomacy is pivoting to Russia with multiple military deals, intelligence cooperation and joint training exercises that could well contribute to a redefinition of the region’s security order. Highly important and multifaceted is still the ‘Afghanistan factor’, yet under reversed signs. US Afghanistan policy is perceived unsuccessful, dangerous for Pakistan and disregarding its efforts while the Russian and Iranian presence is more positively perceived.

Moreover, Russia joins the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and in the development of Gwadar Port now, being thus involved in what Pakistan’s hopes will be an economic game-changer. [Geo News]

In this context, it might be added that Pakistan is expanding its uranium-enrichment and plutonium production facilities, triggering fears that it may become the 5th largest nuclear -weapon state and have 220 to 250 warheads within the next seven years. [Khajeej Times]

11 September 2018

Nepal doesn´t join India-led BIMSTEC military drill but conducts joint exercise with China

(hg) Nepal will not participate in the first ever ‘Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation’ (BIMSTEC) military exercise in India. The decision was taken just a day before the Nepal Army was set to travel to Pune, where the exercise will be commenced. [Hindustan Times]

Meanwhile, Nepal´s Army prepares for a joint military exercise with China starting next week under the label Friendship-2. [Times of India]

11 September 2018

Nepal gets access to Chinese ports

(hg) Sought to untie Nepal from its dependence on India for supply and connectivity, Beijing will allow the landlocked Himalayan nation the use of four of its sea and three of its land ports.

Additionally to two Indian ports, international cargo to Nepal can no pass to the four Chinese seaports. [Reuters]

Moreover, Beijing and Kathmandu are talking also to building a railway link, constructing an electric transmission line and are exploring a feasibility study for a free trade agreement. [The Kathmandu Post]

11 September 2018

Sri Lanka: Military cooperation with India and Russia

(jm) Amid growing influence of China’s in Sri Lanka, the island nation is conducting a week-long maritime exercise together with India involving three navy ships on each side and around 1000 naval personnel. [Times of India]

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka and Russia signed an agreement on military cooperation during the visit of Sri Lankan Secretary to the Ministry of Defense to Russia last week. [Daily Ft]

4 September 2018

Indian Supreme Court starts hearings over Jammu and Kashmir’s special status

(ls) The Supreme Court of India has opened hearings over a possible annulment of a constitutional provision that bars Indians from outside Kashmir from buying land or seeking government jobs in the territory. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wants to this special status, saying it is an obstacle to outside investment. [India Today]The hearing in New Delhi has caused a major spike in tensions in Kashmir, adding to the near daily deaths in battles between government troops and rebels. Separatist groups say the legal challenge against the special privileges is a bid by India’s Hindu nationalist government to alter Kashmir’s religious make-up. [Channel News Asia]

Article 35A of the Indian Constitution is an article that empowers the Jammu and Kashmir state’s legislature to define “permanent residents” of the state and provide special rights and privileges to those permanent residents. It was added to the Constitution through a Presidential Order issued by the President of India on 14 May 1954.

4 September 2018

Arrest of Indian civil rights activists sparks outrage

(ls) The arrests of five civil rights activists by the Indian police under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act in different parts of the country have led to national outrage. All five have been accused of having links with Maoist rebels and for inciting violence at a rally of so-called lower-caste Dalits. Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept into power in 2014, tensions have soared between Hindu nationalists and right-wing groups on one side and left-leaning groups and civil rights activists on the other. The tensions have been particularly apparent on college campuses across the country. [The Straits Times]

4 September 2018

The next step on the way to RCEP amid improving Sino-Japanese relations

(ls) Economic ministers from ASEAN countries and China, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, India and Korea announced that they made “good progress” at the latest round of talks aiming to create the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which would be the world’s largest trade pact. ASEAN leaders said that they were willing to substantially conclude the pact by the end of this year, but India has expressed reservations about the liberalization of trade in goods and services without a corresponding liberalization of the movement of people. [The Straits Times]

The optimistic prospects of the pact are backed by improving ties between China and Japan reflected by talks between both countries finance ministers last week who agreed to bolster economic cooperation and confirmed to strengthen efforts to “maintain and promote the multilateral trade system” against. [Mainichi]

4 September 2018

U.S. and Indian foreign and defense ministers to meet over deepening of Indo-Pacific cooperation

(ls) US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo along with Defence Secretary Jim Mattis will hold “two-plus-two talks” on Thursday with their Indian counterparts, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. On the agenda are the cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region and the finalization of the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), which would facilitate the transfer of high-tech communications security equipment. [The Straits Times]

However, relations have recently also been put under constraints. US sanctions on Russia and Iran have impacted India, which has longstanding ties with Tehran and is a major importer of Iranian oil. American sanctions against Russia have been another challenge for New Delhi. India is currently in talks to acquire five S-400 air defence missile systems from Russia and is seeking a waiver from the US for its acquisition. India has increasingly turned to the United States and France for arms purchases but still relies on Russian hardware and expertise to maintain its existing arsenal. [South China Morning Post]

Observers consider that the unprecedented “2+2” meeting not only bears considerable symbolic value, but also stands as forensic bureaucratic evidence that the two governments are determined to find ways to operationalize comprehensive cooperation. [The Diplomat]

However, former Indian officials say that a chronically understaffed foreign ministry is holding back Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plan to seek greater global influence in line with his country’s fast-growing $2.6 trillion economy. The nation of 1.3 billion people only deploys around as many diplomats as New Zealand, which has a population of around 5 million. [Bloomberg]

4 September 2018

India boycotts inauguration of the China-funded bridge in the Maldives

(jm) The Indian ambassador refused to follow an invitation to the inauguration of a Chinese-funded bridge in the Maldives. While Indian officials did not comment on the issue, other countries, like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, criticized the way their envoys were treated, saying that the Chinese representative’s car was the only one allowed to pass up to the venue. [Times of India]

4 September 2018

External Powers increasingly vying for influence in Sri Lanka

(jk/jm) Japan’s defense minister has recently been on a 2-day trip to Sri Lanka where he as one item on the agenda visited some of the island’s port facilities. Japan as well as other nations are concerned over Chinese influence in the strategically important area in the Indo-Pacific, especially after the much reported on issue surrounding the Hambantota port facility. Sri Lankan officials have talked in particular about plans to develop Trincomalee port, a former British naval and air base and then commercial deep-water port, potentially with help from Japan and India, but nothing specific has been announced yet.

Following the defense minister’s visit, the Japanese foreign minister oversaw the commissioning of two naval vessels that have been gifted by Japan to the Sri Lankan Coast Guard recently. [Forbes] In related news, the US coast guard has also gifted a vessel to Sri Lanka. The US Coast Guard cutter will be the Sri Lankan Navy’s largest ship when it will be handed over in 2019. [Economy Next]

 China and India in the meantime are also competition over the development of rural areas in Sri Lanka as China announced its plan to build 40 000 houses in Northern Sri Lanka, in an area where India built some 44 000 houses already.  [The Economic Times]

Sri Lanka has some evident opportunities here while it wants to be careful not to over-rely on one partner or another. Another strategic opportunity for Sri Lanka is its upcoming chairmanship of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), a regional organization that gathers Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand, Bangladesh, India, Bhutan and Sri Lanka, discussed here [The Diplomat].

28 August 2018

India-China relations: Increasing military cooperation

(nm) India and China agreed to work more closely together on securing their common border in the Himalayas, during Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe’s trip to India last week to meet with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as with Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. [Reuters 1] Both sides also agreed to strengthen military ties through joint exercises and other interactions.

The talks signal improved relations between India and China following the meeting between Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in April where they agreed to ameliorate their ties. [Reuters 2]

28 August 2018

India’s federalism under pressure: Debate over contentious constitutional provision, granting privileges to residents of Jammu and Kasmir State, heats up

(dql) India’s Supreme Court adjourned its hearing on a fresh petition seeking to scrap article 35A of the Indian Constitution which empowers the legislature of the Muslim-majority State of Jammu and Kashmir to define ‘permanent residents’ and grant them special rights and privileges including employment under the State Government, acquisition of immovable property in the State, settlement in the State; or right to scholarships and such other forms of aid as the State Government may provide. [The Constitution of India, Application to Jammu and Kashmir] Earlier, the apex court had already adjourned the hearing on a batch of petitions in the same matter. [Times of India]

While Art. 35A has been criticized by the petitioners for violating the constitutionally guaranteed rights to equality and to freedom to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India and to practise any profession, trade and business [Live Law], defenders of the article threatened mass agitation across the state should the Supreme Court scrap the article. [Kashmir Reader]

In a latest development, clashes erupted on Monday during protests staged in support Article 35A various parts of Kashmir, leaving nearly two dozen people injured. [The Tribune]

28 August 2018

India-Pakistan first joint military exercise ever

(nm) Under the umbrella of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation the multi-nation counter-terror military training “Peace Mission 2018” has started in Russia with the participation of Indian and Pakistani forces along with forces from China, Russia and other countries that are part of the (SCO). It is the first time ever that Indian and Pakistani soldiers take part in a multilateral exercise. [Times of India]

28 August 2018

Pakistan ready for talks with India

(ot/nm) Pakistan’s foreign minister said its government wants to improve ties with India, including the ongoing conflicts in Kashmir, through talks. The countries’ relations have deteriorated in recent years, and no bilateral talks have taken place since January 2016. The new administration said it is willing to take steps to approach India to solve the bilateral issues. He also added that the government and the opposition are in consensus regarding the Kashmir issue. [The Economic Times]

Meanwhile, India plans to push for an international ban on Massod Azhar during the upcoming 2+2 dialogue with the USA. Azhar, based in Pakistan, is accused of plotting the terrorist attack on the Pathankot airbase and being the leader of the terrorist group Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM). The move is also seen as a test for Pakistan’s government under Imran Khan, who affirmed Pakistan’s willingness to improve the Pakistan-India relations. Last year China had blocked the attempt to declare Azhar a global terrorist. This year the US has assured India that it would work towards support of the ban from China. []

21 August 2018

India: 1st Hindu court set up

(am) Reacting on the announcement of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, a non-government organisation committed to the protection and continued applicability of Muslim Personal Law in India, to set up Sharia courts in all districts of the country,  Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha, a Hindu nationalist political party, announced it has established the country’s first ‘Hindu court’ ruling on matters related to Hindus only, ranging from harassment of Hindu women, Hindu marriages, disputes of property or money. The party’s move sheds light on the contentious issue of secularism and identity politics in India. []In a related development, the Law Commission of India announced that it will not propose the much awaited Uniform Civil Code (UCC) to replace personal laws based on the scriptures and customs of each major religious community in India with a common set of rules governing every citizen. The Commission referred in its decision to the sixth appendix of the constitution which protects personal laws in tribal majority regions. The Commission will now pass only revisions to some personal laws to the government. [News 18]

21 August 2018

India: Ministry of Interior panel considers changes in law on lynchings

(am) A central government sponsored draft report on lynching and mob violence of an informal three-member group has brought forward suggestions for amendments to the Indian Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure, including strengthening police action against violent mobs and crimes committed by them, making such crimes crime non-bailable, fast-tracking trial in such cases through special courts, and providing compensation to the victims from a central fund. [Indian Express]

21 August 2018

Japan-India relations: Expanding defense ties

(dql) Facing China’s increasing maritime assertiveness, the defense ministers of India and Japan agreed to begin talks as soon as possible on an agreement that would allow the Japanese Self-Defense Forces and India’s military to provide each other with supplies, such as fuel, transportation and other services. Both sides also agreed that the Air SDF will be observer at the next joint drills of U.S. and Indian air forces. The agreement signals a new stage in national security cooperation between the two countries. [Nikkei Asian Review]

Meanwhile, the Japan’s Defense Ministry’s Maritime Staff Office announced that it will dispatch three destroyers to the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean from Sunday through October with port calls in India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines. [The Japan Times]

21 August 2018

New Pakistani foreign policy to focus on economic diplomacy and international engagement

(ot) Newly appointed Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi ensured that the country’s foreign policy will be made “here at the Foreign Office”. It will be reviewed with the focus on improving the standard of life of the people through economic diplomacy and international engagement. He said that he would send a message of peace towards India and Afghanistan. He also emphasized the importance of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that will be moved forward. [The News]

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo is likely to be the first foreign dignitary to meet newly-elected Prime Minister Imran Khan in the first week of September. The meeting is reportedly going to focus on efforts to revive close ties between the two countries and Pakistan’s support for a U.S.-led move to start the Afghan peace process. [Pakistan Today 1]

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently sent a message to Khan, conveying his wishes to improve the nations’ ties and foster economic cooperation, to which Khan responded with keen interest. A statement from the Russian foreign ministry also confirmed a bid to deepened contacts in the defense sector, including further possibilities for the sale of more military equipment. The improvement of relations has been an ongoing process based on mutual benefits that is also essential for regional stability. [Pakistan Today 2]

21 August 2018

Mauritius reclaims islands hosting US base Diego Garcia before ICJ, claiming Indian support

(jm) From September 3-6, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) will start to examine Mauritius’ request about the Chagos Islands, which were unilaterally separated from the archipelago by the United Kingdom in 1965 before Mauritius became independent. Purpose was to establish the American military base Diego Garcia. Since that, the Mauritius governments have always reclaimed the territory from which 1500 inhabitants have been deported and never been allowed to return.

Mauritius continuously claims to have a strong support from India for its request, which is a bit tricky as Diego Garcia is a significant strategic asset for US. [India Today]

While the decision of the ICJ will not be binding it would still render some support for the winning side. [McGill Internation Review] [Los Angeles Times]

21 August 2018

Atal Bihari Vajpayee, former Prime Minister of India, dies at 93

(ls) Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was India’s prime minister from 1998 to 2004, has died. In the New York Times’ obituary, he is described as a statesman who stunned the world by ending a decades-old moratorium on nuclear weapons tests but nevertheless managed to ease tensions with Pakistan and build closer ties to the United States. In 1980, Vajpayee helped found the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which became the main opposition group and, in 1998, rose to governmental power under him. Since 2014, the BJP governs India again under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. [New York Times]

14 August 2018

Al Qaeda present in South Asia, “ideologically inclined” to attack India

A report submitted to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee found that al Qaeda is still present in South Asia, while trying to adapt to the local environment and tighten its ties with the Taliban. The report also added that the group’s newest affiliate, Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), is “ideologically inclined” to carry out attacks inside India, though its capacity is believed to be low. [Hindustan Times]

14 August 2018

“Mature” India-China Relations

(jk) Indian officials are preparing a report on Sino-Indian Relations including Doklam and this past week, top government officials told the parliamentary standing committee on external affairs about the details of last year’s Doklam standoff. The committee heard how the standoff started and unfolded and that for India, the main concern was to prevent road construction by the PRC in the disputed southern Doklam region at the trijunction of India-Bhutan-China. In order to resolve the crisis, it took six weeks of communication and 13 rounds of diplomatic discussions to defuse the tension and reach an agreement that led to both armies stepping back on 28 August 2017. [The Print]

In an interview with the Hindustan Times, PM Modi stated that not “firing a single bullet” throughout the standoff shows how mature Sino-Indian Relations have become. “I have met President Xi Jinping a number of times over the last four years. In recent months, we have added a new dimension to our engagement in the form of the Informal Summit in Wuhan in April 2018. It allowed us to interact in a very free and candid atmosphere to understand each other’s concerns without being forced into a diplomatic straightjacket,” he said. [Hindustan Times]

14 August 2018

India remaining firmly on the fence

(jk) India has long been hedging its bets in Asia’s great power competition. On the one hand, India is part of the now revived Quad, an alliance that started out as an initiative meant to facilitate cooperation between four maritime democracies in the context of the rise of China at the side-lines of the ASEAN Regional Forum just over ten years ago.

On the other hand, India has always been the outlier amongst the four, with the US, Australia and Japan enjoying firm and stable cooperation. Most of India’s ships and war planes are Russian made and the Armed Forces remain sceptical about sharing sensitive data.  Being seen as unequivocally taking a stance against China is not something that is always favoured by the government in New Delhi. Crucially, India has excluded Australia from the multilateral naval exercises, the “Malabar Exercises” in June earlier this year which dealt a blow to the Quad and was by many seen as a concession to China.

During his recent visit by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, he laid out some of the economic aspects of the Trump administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy including an announcement that the US would invest in sectors like technology, energy, and infrastructure in the Indo-Pacific, offering an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. [The Washington Post]

The US has led a trilateral initiative that is aimed at funding projects to “build infrastructure, address development challenges, increase connectivity and promote economic growth” in the countries in the Indo-Pacific region, again together with Japan and Australia. [The Telegraph] India has decided not join this initiative, stopping some of the rhetoric about the full revival of the Quad. [The Economic Times] India of course has not joined or endorsed the Belt and Road Initiative either.

7 August 2018

India’s Jammu and Kashmir sees strikes and protests ahead of Supreme Court’s hearing on special status

(am) The Constitution of India integrated Article 35A by a 1954 Presidential Order consenting Jammu and Kashmir government to outline its ‘permanent residents’ and give them constitutional rights and civil liberties. A Supreme Court hearing asking to review its constitutional legitimacy will take place this week. As per activists, Article 35A, which acts in the Constitution as an addendum, was only thought to be a “short-term provision”. [HindustanTimes]

Before the Supreme Court enquiry on Jammu and Kashmir’s special status of Article 35 A, the state has seen protests to terminate the petition at the Supreme Court. The Jammu and Kashmir government on Saturday moved towards the apex court and requested a delay in the hearing, mentioning municipal elections in the state. []

7 August 2018

India: Supreme Court to have 3 serving female judges for the first time

 (am) The Supreme Court of India for the first time will have three serving female judges, after the central government cleared the promotion of Madras High Court Chief Justice Indira Banerjee. The other two judges are R Banumathi, selected in August 2014, and Indu Malhotra, selected in April 2018. Remarkably, Justice Geeta Mittal was selected as the Chief Justice of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, who is the first female judge in the history to take over this position. [Indian Express]

7 August 2018

US passes bill to waive sanctions on India over Russian arms

 (am) The US Senate approved a bill relinquishing sanctions against India for procuring Russian weaponry. The bill, known as National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) 2019, has now been referred for President Donald Trump’s endorsement. Previously, Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said India will procure the Russian S-400 air defence systems in spite of US sanctions on military trades with Russia. [HindustanTimes]

7 August 2018

Indian Army takes part in Chinese Army’s 91st foundation day

 (am) A Special Border Personnel get-together was held in Sikkim’s Nathu La last Wednesday among the armies of India and China as part of celebrations to honour the 91st centenary of the foundation of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The Indian Army attended the celebration following an invitation by the PLA. The countries participated in several cultural programs.[HindustanTimes]

31 July 2018

India’s Upper House passes anti-human trafficking bill

(am) India’s Upper House Lok Sabha approved the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018. The regulation calls for strict penalty extending from 10 years of detention and a fine of not less than around 1.500 USD  to lawbreakers. “The bill isn’t envisioned to annoy those willingly in the occupation…it has a kind-hearted outlook of sex racket sufferers,” said Union Minister Maneka Gandhi. [Hindustan Times]

31 July 2018

India: Bishop body urges PM to reject proposal to ban confessions

(am) In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council has insisted on discarding the National Commission for Women’s recommendation to prohibit confession in churches. The council called the suggestion “outrageous” and an “immature” act done with hidden motivations. The suggestion came after numerous priests were indicted of blackmailing women into sexual favours after their confessions. []

31 July 2018

India: Government seeking law to seize property of Non Resident Indians abandoning wives

(am) Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj has said the Indian government is considering to structure a law for online serving of orders and warrants against Non Resident Indians (NRIs) who desert their wives and unlawfully get married in a foreign country. Those who don’t answer back will be pronounced as grave lawbreakers and their assets would detained, she said. Their assets could be traded to give monetary aid to their wives, she added. [The New Indian Express]

31 July 2018

India needs 1023 special courts to try cases of rape and child rape

(am) The Department of Justice in the Law Ministry has projected that 1023 ‘fast track special courts’ need to be established throughout India as part of a fresh scheme to crack cases related to rape of children and women. The fresh scheme is part of a decree recently publicised to permit courts to grant death penalty to those found guilty of raping children aged up to 12 years. [Hindustan Times]

24 July 2018

China-Nepal relations: Second joint military drill to take place in September

(ot) Nepal and China armies will have a joint military exercise, Sagarmatha Friendship-2, for the second time in September in China. The military drill aims at sharing expertise and skills in disaster management and fighting terrorism. The Nepal Army, which has long been holding military exercises with India and the U.S., has been increasingly extending military diplomacy and engagement with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. [The Hindu]

24 July 2018

Japan-India relations: Deepening security cooperation

(dql) According to Kyodo News, citing Japanese government sources, Japan and India are expected to agree to conduct the first-ever military drill involving both country’s ground forces when both defense minister will meet in August in India. The exercise is believed to be scheduled for end of the year. [The Diplomat]

The news comes after U.S. Navy mine countermeasure units, Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) MCM units, and Indian Navy Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) units began the joint mine countermeasure exercise 2018 near Ominato, Japan [Stars and Stripes] and India and Japan held the fourth round of Maritime Affairs Dialogue in New Delhi last week to discuss core issues related to the Indo-Pacific region and maritime security. [The Times of India]

24 July 2018

China-Buthan relations: Border talks resumed

(dql/am) A year after the Doklam standoff between China and India, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou made a three-days visit to Bhutan to resume discussions on border issues centred on the Doklam plateau claimed by both China and Bhutan. In 1996 China proposed a deal under which Bhutan would obtain approximately 764 square kilometers of land in the middle and western sector of the border in exchange of 100 square kilometers land in the strategically important Doklam plateau, which serves as a tri-junction of China, Bhutan and India. [Sputnik News]

Meanwhile, India’s Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has finished the construction of a strategically important road in Bhutan, connecting one of Bhutan’s border towns with its capital Thimphu. The 30-km long road is one of several India-funded infrastructure projects in Bhutan, which is strategically important for India due to its location and border with China. [The Times of India]

24 July 2018

WhatsApp to limit message forwarding to 5 chats at once in India

(am) International messaging app WhatsApp has said that it is working to put a limit on forwarding messages to five chats at the same time in India. It also assumed that the app will get rid of the quick forward option which is available beside the media messages. The change came due to a rise in brutal incidents prompted by the spread of fake news on the messaging platform in the country. [WhatsApp Blog]

24 July 2018

India’s Upper House passes bill on jail term for bribing public servants

 (am) India’s Upper House Rajya Sabha approved the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill 2013, which proposes that any person who is caught bribing government officials can be penalised with a jail term of up to seven years. The bill also proposes protection for someone who speaks out, within a fortnight of bribing the official, that he/she was intimidated into giving the bribe. [Times Now News]

24 July 2018

India cancels notorious tax on sanitary pads

(am) India has withdrawn a controversial tax on sanitary pads following a vocal movement led by women rights activists to enhance female education and empowerment. They had continuously condemned the 12 per cent tax, mentioning a lack of access and affordability for a vital sanitary product as a main obstacle to female empowerment in the country. The reform is part of the alterations to the national goods and services tax (GST), which is projected to decrease the prices of around 90 vital consumer goods. [New Straits Times]

24 July 2018

No-confidence motion against Modi voted down decisively

(am) The first no-confidence vote in Indian Parliament in 15 years was rejected after 325 out of 451 participating MPs voted against the motion. The no-confidence motion was put forward by an Telugu Desam Party (TDP) MP on the first day of the monsoon session of Parliament. [The New Indian Express]

17 July 2018

India, UK sign MoU to enhance legal cooperation

(am) India and UK have signed a MoU in the field of law and justice, aimed at strengthening shared attitudes to future challenges and opportunities for both countries. The MoU will boost engagement between the two countries by better partnership opportunities and exchange of expertise across seas, including rule of law, dispute resolution, training, and legal services regulation. [United News of India]

17 July 2018

South Korea-India relations: Increasing cooperation

(dql) At the summit between South Korean President Moon and Indian Prime Minister Modi last week, both leaders reassured each other country’s strategic importance within India’s Act East policy and South Korea’s New Southern policy respectively and agreed to elevate their countries’ special strategic partnership. In economic terms both sides agreed to raise trade volume from currently 20 billion USD to 50 billion USD by 2030. Beyond economics, Moon and Modi pledged to deepen military-military cooperation covering training, exchanges, research and development and signed an agreement for the development of artillery guns. [The Korea Herald] [The Diplomat]

17 July 2018

India’s North-eastern state appoints first transgender judge

(am) Swati Bidhan Baruah became the first transgender judge of India’s north-eastern state Assam. She is the third transgender judge to be appointed to the Indian judiciary. The judge had previously been in the news in 2012, when she had approached the Bombay High Court over her family’s disapproval to her choice of undergoing a sex reassignment surgery. [Times Now News]

Times Now News




17 July 2018

Netflix taken to court in India over portrayal of former PM

(am) An Indian politician Nikhil Bhalla, a lawyer and a member of the opposition Congress party, has taken streaming giant Netflix to court, asking it to obliterate unpleasant scenes and belittling annotations about former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in its first Indian original series Sacred Games. In one scene, Rajiv Gandhi is mentioned as a “fattu”, a Hindi slang word for a coward. The Delhi High Court adjourned the case to allow judges and respondents to critically analyze the petition. [Reuters]





17 July 2018

India: Military more trusted than government officials

(am) A study covering eight states done by Azim Premji University (APU) and Lokniti (Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) found that the military enjoys the highest level of effective trust, followed by the Supreme Court (SC) and the High Courts (HC). Political parties were at the bottom in the list.

The study was conducted in 22 assembly constituencies with 16,680 respondents. Nearly 77% respondents showed the most trust in the military, followed by 54.8% in the SC and 48% in the HCs. [Business Standard]

10 July 2018

India to take over the control of Hambantota airport in Sri Lanka

 (am) Sri Lanka is in talks with India for operating the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport in Hambantota as part of a joint undertaking that gives India an upper hand in the deal. The airport is estimated to be worth $210 million and has been labelled as the world’s emptiest airport and has incurred heavy loses. The Mattala airport was named after former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and was financed using high-interest commercial loans from China. [Scroll]






10 July 2018

Malaysia will not deport controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik to India

(am) The Malaysian Prime Minister has made it clear that controversial Indian Islamic preacher Zakir Naik who is wanted in his home country on charges related to terror activities and hate speech will not be deported to India. Zakir Naik had fled from India in 2016 to Malaysia where he was granted permanent residency. India is trying to negotiate with Malaysia to deport him back as both countries have an extradition treaty. [News 18]

News 18





10 July 2018

Pakistan raises serious concern over continued killings by Indian forces in Kashmir

(ot/am) Pakistani Foreign Office spokesperson has expressed serious concern over relentless extrajudicial killings, unlawful arrests, and torture of civilians by the Indian forces in occupied Kashmir. He said 33 people have already been killed in June alone. He also reiterated the demand for the immediate establishment of a Commission of Inquiry to assess the human rights violations in the region as recommended by the United Nations. [Pakistan Today]

At the same time, Indian media outlets report of protests in Kashmir due to Pakistan’s alleged support and financing of terror activities in the region. It is reported that the locals went to the streets dissenting against decades of forceful occupation, mismanagement, discrimination and oppression by the Pakistan establishment. [NDTV]

10 July 2018

India: Top political parties stay away from law panel consultations on simultaneous elections

(am) The current ruling party BJP and the main opposition party Congress have distanced themselves from the consultations of law commission on the viability of holding national and state elections together as regional parties have also registered their grievances that coinciding elections would give national parties an upper hand and issues to take over the polls putting smaller parties in detriment position. Taking cognizance of the current government’s concept of “One Nation One Election”, the law commission’s internal working paper has endorsed holding the national and state elections concurrently but in two segments starting from 2019. [The Times of India]

10 July 2018

Muslim Law Board plans to open Sharia law courts in all districts of India

(am) The All India Muslim Personal Law Board, the highest decision-making body on Muslim affairs, has decided to establish Darul-Qaza (Sharia courts) in all districts of India to resolve matters in line with Islamic laws instead of going to other courts. The bid will come up for dialogue at a congregation of the Muslim Law Board in Delhi next week. [The Times of India]

Top political leaders of India have rejected the concept as the country is secular and democratic and not “Islamic Republic of India”. Issues on religious affairs is always taken in the Supreme Court and High Court and therefore any other court is not desirable. [The New Indian Express]

10 July 2018

India aims to introduce law that treats every future child marriage as null and void

(am) In a major step towards ensuring child rights, India is gearing up to bring a new law which will consider every marriage in future involving children to be null and void. The legislation is anticipated to come up in a few days for approval by the union cabinet led by Prime Minister Modi. [NDTV]





3 July 2018

Seychelles: India offers $ 100 million line of credit for defense, infrastructure

 (jm) India aims to increase military cooperation with the Seychelles and signed six agreements to that purpose with the Island nation’s President Danny Faure which offer a line of credit of $100 million dollars for defense and maritime security cooperation. Moreover, the two governments started to talk again about a military base on Assumption island, despite the fact that the project was considered to be “dead” since it faced strong opposition from Seychelles’ population and lawmakers. [Seychelles News Agency] 

3 July 2018

US postpones high level dialogue with India

 (am) For the second time this year, the US has informed India that it has delayed the ‘2+2 dialogue’, a high level bilateral meeting, initially scheduled to be held in the first week of July. The dialogue was anticipated to be centred on bolstering strategic, security and defence partnership. [NDTV, The Times of India].

3 July 2018

India’s Tamil Nadu state appoints first transgender lawyer

 (am) The Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry enrolled a 36-year old as the first transgender lawyer of the state. [Hindustan Times] The lawyer was involved in several assignments with a NGO, and also worked for the transgender community. NALSA (National Legal Services vs Union of India and Others, 2014) had given approval to register transgenders as third gender in all government jobs. [DNA]

3 July 2018

India: Rape of seven year old girl sparks protests

(am) Thousands of people marched on the streets in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, demanding capital punishment for the rapists who raped a seven year old girl after luring her away from school while she was waiting for her parents. Two men have been taken into custody. [The Times of India] [India Today]

3 July 2018

India ranked world’s most dangerous country for women

 (am) Thomson Reuters Foundation recently named India as the most dangerous country for women in a survey. The aspects covered in the survey included healthcare, economic discrimination, cultural practices, sexual and non-sexual violence and human trafficking. [First Post] India’s National Commission of Women rejected the survey, terming it as a biased report and argued that countries that were ranked below India included women who are not even allowed to speak in public. [Daily Excelsior]