Dhaka, Bangladesh
Stormy weather awaits India in 2019

Stormy weather awaits India in 2019

As India prepares for the general election this year, all signs point to 2019 being a difficult year whether this would directly impact the poll outcome is uncertain, but the country needs to remain alert to unexpected developments. 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. China is consolidating its position in Asia. In addition to its strategic partnership with Russia, China has mended fences with Japan. Its Belt and Road Initiative has become the most potent weapon in China's armoury, with Vietnam and Japan endorsing this concept. India finds itself increasingly isolated in Asia as a result. 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. A decline in Britain's financial assets and of the pound sterling following Brexit as well as signs of increasing fragility of China's economy, are newer concerns. The likelihood of the U.S. moving into a period of slower long-term growth, one that is likely to continue for a fairly long time, is aggravating this situation. India cannot hope to remain insulated from these trends. 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. Notwithstanding 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. To what extent, is yet to be seen. 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. (To be continued)

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