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Wednesday, 9 May 2018

The Hindu Editorial:Reviving ‘Neighbourhood First’

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The Hindu Editorial:Reviving ‘Neighbourhood First’

Title: Reviving ‘Neighbourhood First’ 

(India’s regional reset won’t be complete without a change in its Pakistan policy) 

Context:- Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s critics acknowledge his uncanny ability to take bold decisions and this reflects in his foreign policy initiatives. Interestingly, he is also demonstrating an ability to undertake course corrections. 

The informal summit at Wuhan, China, last month and a visit to Nepal this month reflect a change aimed at reviving the ‘neighbourhood first’ policy announced in 2014. 

The China outreach 

Mr. Modi had received Chinese President Xi Jinping in September 2014 in Gujarat reflecting his personalised diplomacy. 

The personalised diplomacy was reciprocated the following year when Mr. Modi visited China and Mr. Xi received him in Xian. 

In mid-2016, China blocked India’s bit to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) despite a meeting between the two leaders in Tashkent on the margins of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit. 

This was followed by China vetoing Masood Azhar’s listing as a terrorist in the UN Security Council even though the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) is a banned entity. 

China’s veto continued even after the Uri Army camp attack by JeM cadres later that year, adding to India’s growing annoyance. 

Hydrological data sharing stopped amid reports of diversion of Brahmaputra river waters. 

The 73-day stand-off at Doklam last year and accompanying rhetoric reflected a marked downturn. India responded through all this by voicing scepticism regarding Mr. Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), stepping up maritime engagement with the U.S. and Japan and reviving the Quad (with Australia) in Manila (Philippines)last year. 

The Wuhan summit was projected as ‘informal’ (something the Chinese have engaged in with U.S. Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump), without an agenda. 

Instead of a customary Joint Statement, there were separate briefings. 

With three more meetings likely during the SCO, G-20 and BRICS summits later this year, it is clear that there is an effort to bring the relationship on track. 

Rebuilding trust with Nepal 

A similar exercise appears to be under way with Nepal. Mr. Modi’s visit in 2014 had generated considerable goodwill but subsequent decisions queered the pitch. 

India’s public display of unhappiness with Nepal’s new Constitution and support for the Madhesi cause created ill-will. The economic impact caused by the disruption of supplies of essential items such as liquefied petroleum gas, petroleum products and medicines fed the anti-Indian sentiment which K.P. Oli effectively exploited to score a decisive electoral victory late last year. 

A return visit by Mr. Modi to Nepal within a month (on May 11-12) indicates that both sides are keen to show positive movement. Expectations are being kept low key but the optics of positive messaging are evident. 

The Pakistan challenge 

With Pakistan, after the opening when the then Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, visited Delhi in 2014 and Mr. Modi dropped in to have tea with him in Lahore in December 2015, relations stalled in 2016 following the Pathankot and Uri attacks. 

Firing across the Line of Control (LoC) has intensified leading to higher casualties on both sides, both civilian and military. In September 2016, India launched ‘surgical strikes’ as retaliation for the Uri attack but this has not reduced infiltration. 

Elections are likely in July and the Army would prefer to keep Mr. Sharif’s PML(N) out of power. Mr. Sharif’s dismissal and disqualification for life from politics by the Supreme Court makes it clear that the Army is determined to control the political transition. Pakistan Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa has, on more than one occasion, emphasised the need for improving relations with both India and Afghanistan. 

Final Words 

A change in the Pakistan policy may well be the reset to enable Mr. Modi to reclaim his ‘neighbourhood first’ policy. 

Idioms & Phrases 

1) The acid test = A situation or event which finally proves whether something is good or bad, true or false, etc. 

2) Aid and Abet = Help someone to commit a crime 

One word Substitution 

1) Something no longer in use = Obsolete 

2) Words written on a tomb = Epitaph 

Title: The age of Putin 

(The Russian President begins a new term with huge economic and foreign policy challenges) 

Context:- Vladimir Putin, who has maintained a tight grip on power in Russia for almost two decades, begins his fourth term as President at a time when the country is going through a difficult period, economically and diplomatically. 

Widely credited with stabilising post-Soviet Russia during his first two terms after the chaos of the Boris Yeltsin years, Mr. Putin presents himself as a strongman seeking to restore Russia’s lost glory. This image has helped him bolster his popularity. 

In the March presidential election he won 77% of the popular vote, the largest margin for any post-Soviet leader. 

Russia’s most prominent opposition figure, Alexei Navalny, was barred from contesting the election, which rendered the presidential race a formality for the re-coronation of Mr. Putin. 

One of his biggest promises is stability, both political and economic. 

Mr. Putin’s muscular foreign policy is a more solid source of public support for him. 

In 2008 he sent troops to Georgia, and in 2014 he annexed Crimea — actions that have contributed to Russia’s deteriorating(worse) ties with the West. 

In 2015, Russia’s intervention in Syria not only dragged the country deeper into a complex civil war but also put ties with the U.S. under greater strain. The allegations that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election have increased the hostility between the one-time Cold War rivals. 

In the short term, Mr. Putin succeeded in creating the impression that Russia is back on the global stage. 

Final Words 

As he begins another term, Mr. Putin’s Russia looks increasingly like a managed dictatorship with a troubled economy and dwindling influence. It is to be seen where he takes the country in the next six years. 

Phrasal Verb 

Call for = To require 

Close up = Close temporarily

Vocabulary words: 

Uncanny (adj) = Strange or mysterious, unnatural (अलौकिक) 

Reciprocate (verb) = Do the same in return (प्रतिफल चुकाना) 

Stand-off (phrasal verb) = Deadlock (गतिरोध) 

Rhetoric (noun) = The art of effective speaking or writing (भाषण कला) 

Scepticism (noun) = Doubt as to truth of something (संदेहवाद) 

Commemorate (verb) = Recall and show respect for someone or something (स्मरण करना) 

Queer (verb) = Spoil or ruin (विचित्र) 

Itinerary (noun) = A planned route or journey 

Retaliation (noun) = Counter attack (प्रतिशोध) 

Coterie (noun) = A small group of people with shared interests or tastes 

Coronation (noun) = The ceremony of crowning a sovereign (राज्याभिषेक) 

Daunting (adj) = Seeming difficult to deal with in prospect (कठिन) 

Annex (verb) = Add as an extra or subordinate part (पूरक अंश) 

Dwindle (verb) = Diminish gradually (क्षीण होना) 


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