Logbook of an Ambassador
When India meets China in Bhutan: the Doklam standoff
For a few weeks, India and China were engaged in a standoff in a remote Himalayan Valley on the border of China and Bhutan, the Doklam plateau claimed by Bhutan and China. Indian forces went there to prevent the Chinese from going on building a road on Bhutanese territory, as Indians and Bhutanese see it, while the Chinese claim to be building the road on Chinese territory. The least one has to acknowledge is that sovereign rights over that Himalayan corner are contested.
Does China’s new “Silk Road” matter for India?
China’s deep sea ports in Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Gwadar in Pakistan have been considered by international strategists as expression of China’s desire to protect its international trade routes through the Indian Ocean. Among Indian strategists those ports are seen as elements of scaring “strings of pearls” encircling India. Eminent Indian Government Officials, however, deny the existence of such Chinese threats to Indian strategic interests. Nevertheless, India has sought a new partnership with Iran and concluded an agreement to develop the port of Chabahar in Iran’s South-East, in order to build its own trade route through Iran to Central Asia and thus bypassing Pakistan.
Prime Minister Modi’s policies of “Indianness”: the case of internationalising Ayurveda
Narendra Modi was elected, three years ago, against his anti-Muslim bias. His promise was to develop India’s economy by continuing the transformation from the old socialism to more market economy and against old bureaucracy and corruption associated with decade-old rule by the Gandhi family. It implied unchanged secularism. So, there was hope that Modi’s reputation of being a Hindu nationalist with strong Hindu-religious inclinations, would become part of the past. Modi’s first steps in foreign relations went in the right direction: a fresh and sober view on India’s authentic strategic interests and moves towards new international alliances.
The new US-Administration, Mexico, China and … India
The new US-President won the presidential campaign with anti-Mexico and anti-China rhetoric. By cancelling NAFTA, the free trade treaty among North American nations, he has started to redefine America’s neighbourhood policies. Mexico and Canada have good reasons to expect a rather unfriendly, if not hostile future for their continental relationships. The emblematic “beautiful wall” to be built by the United States against illegal immigration from Mexico will, once built, certainly make trans-border migration more difficult.
China, India: Who is bigger? A statistical experiment
It is common knowledge that China with its 1,35 billion inhabitants has the largest population in the world, while India ranks second with some 1,25 billion. It is also often stated, especially in India, that India with its higher population growth will overtake China by the year 2023. All figures and dates are approximate. It is a well-known sphere of competition between the two Asian giants, who are, with this respect, also global giants.
India and the Persian Gulf: a region of growing competition with Pakistan
The Persian Gulf has become a key priority of Prime Minister Modi’s active outreach in the country’s foreign relations. With that, India joins its arch-enemy Pakistan as competitor in a region of growing importance for both. The competition is strategic and economic and will, in the long run, change the power equation between the countries of the region, in particular the fundamental antagonism between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Terrorism: Whom does India fear?
According to international media headlines, terrorism seems to hit everywhere and every day. In some places, the threat is new, in other places terrorism has been around for decades. India, too, is not spared of terrorism. India has been plagued for years, and still is, by domestic terrorism, the Maoist Naxalites, initially possibly inspired by China, continuously sustained by domestically grown social injustices. In certain areas, local unrest against state authorities is seen and treated by authorities as terrorism.
Brexit and India: a light summer fantasy
The United Kingdom is leaving the European Union. But is it the UK? Isn’t it rather the English, taking with them the Scots and Northern Ireland? Scotland and Northern Ireland voted “No” to the question of leaving. That is a fact. A not too speculative guess predicts that Scotland will vote again on leaving Britain. A more speculative dream for some or a nightmare for others sees Scotland and possibly Northern Ireland leaving the United Kingdom and joining the EU on their own.
India and the European Union: a stagnating relationship
The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has finally made it to Brussels two months ago. With the EU-India Summit of 30th March, Modi remains loyal to his policy of a more ascertained outreach to the world. Since coming into office, he has given the world, especially the wider regional neighbourhood, a clear signal that India wishes to engage again and more forcefully in international affairs, but no longer along the traditional lines of the Non-Aligned and Third World solidarity, as developed by Nehru and his Congress Party successors.
The Indian Ocean and the Mughal Empire: a lesson for today
The North Indian Mughal Empire ascended during the 16th century, deployed its splendour and might during the 17th century, descended during the 18th century and disappeared in the 19th century. It never ruled over the whole Indian Subcontinent but was, for some three centuries, the dominant empire of its region. Indian history over those three centuries was a history of competing land powers.