[Editorial Analysis] Stormy weather awaits India in 2019

Mains Paper 2: International Relations

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: India and its neighbourhood relations

Context

• As we enter 2019, the world outlook looks gloomy. Global disorder is the dominant imperative.

• A global leadership vacuum is leading to chaos concerning rules governing the international order. U.S. President Donald Trump’s utterances and actions are provoking strong counter-reactions, especially from China and Russia. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s attack on China.

• In October 2018, has signalled, according to many world leaders, the beginning of a new Cold War.

• Mr. Trump has threatened to pull out of a major arms control treaty with Russia. Russia has also been talking of building stronger deterrence. Cold War 2 seems for real now.

On different trajectories

• Nations are today working at cross-purposes across the globe.

• Russia is vigorously pursuing its pivot to Asia and for greater influence in Eurasia. It has deepened its partnership with China, and enhanced relations with Japan and South Korea. Growing tensions in the Sea of Azov (following Russia’s seizure of Ukraine’s ships) could well lead to a major conflagration between Russia and the West.

• Economic portents during 2018 for most of the world proved highly daunting. The most challenging was the spectre of an all embracing U.S.-China trade war.

• This had triggered highly unsettled conditions, and the situation was further aggravated by signs of a weakening Chinese economy.

• At the beginning of 2019, it is amply evident that politics is conflicting with business across the world. Hence, normal economic calculations are getting disrupted.

Ties with Russia, Japan

• Coming to India’s foreign policy concerns, relations with Russia and Japan could see a reset.

• The strengthening of the Russia-China strategic relationship and the recent warmth in China-Japan relations could impact India’s relations with both countries.

• The warmth displayed in public by the leaders of India and Russia, and India and Japan, the character of our relations with these two countries could undergo a change.

• What is evident, however, is that India will need to expend a great deal of its diplomatic capital to ensure that relations do not decline to any considerable extent.

• Managing relations with China will be India’s top priority.

• India-China relations are marked by a surface calm, but this masks an intrinsic struggle for influence in Asia and even beyond.

• The Wuhan Spirit, notwithstanding, little has changed as far as India-China relations are concerned, except that there has not been any
major Chinese incursion across the disputed India-China border.

China’s outreach

• In 2018, China had initiated certain moves to create a China-Myanmar Economic Corridor on the lines of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

• The Chinese Navy is also poised to challenge India’s position in the Indian Ocean. Chinese submarines already outnumber India’s here.

• China is preparing to outflank India by seeking control of the Kyaukpyu Port on the Arakan Coast in Myanmar, and planning a canal (the Kra canal), connecting the Andaman Sea with the Gulf of Thailand.

• Together with China’s existing control over the Gwadar (Pakistan) and Hambantota (Sri Lanka) Ports, if China were to succeed in its attempts, it could give it a stranglehold across the Indian Ocean Region.

• India’s capacity to counter such moves in 2019 appears extremely limited.

Mixed challenges for India

• The outlook for India in the rest of South Asia is also mixed. Towards the end of 2018, India could retrieve its position in the Maldives.

• It also succeeded in re-establishing its influence in Bhutan.

• The return of Sheikh Hasina as Prime Minister after the general elections in Bangladesh has been a welcome relief.

• India will need to work harder in 2019 to check China from weaning away its neighbours, including Nepal as also Bangladesh, with offers of economic and military aid.

• India will also need to use all its resources to assist Bangladesh to limit the influence of radical Islamist groups there.

Major internal security challenges faced by India

• The more challenging internal security problems will be Kashmir and the Northeast. In 2018, the situation in Kashmir sharply deteriorated, and the year witnessed some of the highest levels of violence since 1989.

• There was again a sharp spurt in the number of security forces personnel being killed, alongside targeting of their families.

• The deadlock between the Jammu and Kashmir administration and militants is unlikely to be resolved.

• President’s rule has made little headway in sorting out the conflict-prone situation. Militant outfits, the JeM and the Hizbul Mujahideen, appear energised by the turn of events and can be expected to become still more active.

• More educated locals are joining militant ranks. The presence of the Islamic State is also in evidence.

• The consequences of this as far as 2019 is concerned could be considerable.

• The other major internal security threat that India faces in 2019 is the resurgence of ethnic sub-nationalism in the Northeast.

• This has been simmering for some time, but now threatens to boil over, following the enactment of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

• The Bill has given rise to fears that it would drastically alter the status quo in the region.

• The Amendment has helped unite vast segments of people across the entire Northeast.

• The divisive potential of the recently enacted Act, will have special resonance in an election year. It will demand sensitive and careful handling in 2019.

Conclusion

• Considering the difficult external and internal situation, peace in 2019 may prove elusive.

• On the diplomatic front, India will need to be more dexterous.

• The internal situation will require to be dealt with far greater understanding.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) What is Feihong-98, recently in the news?

A. Electric plane tested by NASA

B. Solar-powered two-seater aircraft designed by Japan

C. Unmanned transport drone launched by China

D. Reusable rocket designed by ISRO

Correct Answer: C

Mains Questions:

Q.1) What are the major internal security challenges faced by India in 2019? How it need to be addressed?

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