Recent political developments between India and South Korea have created an opening for the two countries to share mutual security interests in Asia. South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who celebrated his administration’s 100th day in office two months ago with strong public support, is taking a bold step by inviting India into South Korea’s diplomatic domain.
India in Transition
The Supreme Court of India’s recent verdict (Justice Puttaswamy v Union of India) affirming the right to privacy has been followed by a frenetic state effort to link multiple identification numbers and welfare programs with the nation’s controversial biometric program, Aadhaar. This attempt to present a fait accompli of sorts when the constitutional challenge to Aadhaar comes up for hearing is not a new development; the linking between Aadhaar and Permanent Account Numbers used for taxation purposes is a case in point.
A democracy derives its legitimacy by functioning through its elected institutions. Parliament plays a central role in India’s democracy by performing several important functions. The Prime Minister (and the cabinet) require the majority support in the directly-elected lower house, Lok Sabha, at all times. Both Lok Sabha and the indirectly-elected Rajya Sabha scrutinize the work of the government through several procedures such as asking Questions in Question Hour and debates and motions on important national issues.
In his landmark speech, “Confluence of the Two Seas,” delivered in August 2007, during his earlier stint as the Japanese PM, Shinzo Abe remarked that “the Pacific and the Indian Oceans are now bringing about a dynamic coupling as seas of freedom and of prosperity.” Over the past decade, the geniality between Japan and India has increased, a sharp contrast to the lukewarm relationship that previously existed.
China’s inroads into South Asia since the mid-2000s have eroded India’s traditional primacy in the region, from Afghanistan to Myanmar and also in the Indian Ocean. As Beijing deploys its formidable financial resources and develops its strategic clout across the subcontinent, New Delhi faces significant capacity challenges to stem Chinese offensive in its own strategic backyard.
The case of Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav, a retired (according to New Delhi) Indian naval officer under arrest in Pakistan since March 2016, has attracted tremendous public attention. Pakistan has accused Jadhav of working for the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW)—India’s premier external intelligence agency—and in April 2017, a court martial sentenced him to death for abetting “terrorism” inside Pakistan. India denies this claim and has secured a stay on Jadhav’s execution from the International Courts of Justice.
The Government of India’s Economic Survey of India this year bemoaned that India’s states are more interested in “competitive populism” (handing out goods and services) than “competitive service delivery.” As a result, India continues to suffer from weak state capacity, which means the Indian state is very inefficient at providing health care and education, or at implementing programs which are intended to support the poor.
The June summit between President Trump and Prime Minister Modi concluded with a palpable sigh of relief from policy experts in both the United States and India. Far from the awkward encounter that some had feared, the leaders’ first face-to-face engagement was strikingly positive in tone and substance. One of the key outcomes that emerged from the visit was a welcome sense of continuity in the U.S.-India defense and security relationship.
Indians care about skin color. Doctors will tell you there are two things that parents want to know about a new born: their gender and their skin tone. In 2014, people in India spent Rs. 3,695 Crores ($550 million) on fairness products; cosmetic conglomerate advertisements constantly remind consumers that success in marriage and the job market are only a fairness cream away. But can fair skin enable candidates to win elections?
In summer 2015, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered the inaugural speech for the launch of Digital India, his program to “transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy.” In the speech, Modi announced that “IT + IT = IT” or, as he elaborated, “Indian Talent + Information Technology = India Tomorrow.” Modi went on to say that technology is the most important thing India should teach its children.