Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address on March 27, 2019 began with the declaration that India had “established itself as a global space power.” This statement was premised on the notion that an anti-satellite (ASAT) test was “necessary” to demonstrate India’s status as a space-faring nation. However, India has been internationally recognized for its space-faring prowess for decades, given its unique ability to manufacture innovative technology at economical rates, evidenced by the increasing use of Indian launch services by foreign nations.
Foreign Policy & Security
In recent decades, India has been slowly climbing up the international hierarchy, increasing its global influence en route to emerging as one of the system’s premier great powers. Along with China’s spectacular rise over the last four decades, India’s own remarkable rise further encapsulates the current global shift of economic power from Europe and North America to Asia. Together, these trends herald the true beginning of the Asian Century, whereby big Asia powers will gain the capability to dominate, dictate, and ultimately define the contours of international affairs.
Care work has been the focus of policy debates after the International Labour Organization (ILO) published a report titled “Care Work and Care Jobs for the Future of Decent Work” in 2018. The ILO observed that care work involves a range of skills that are often not formally recognized or remunerated, and involving working conditions that are not regulated. Furthermore, care work has an undisputable gender burden with two-thirds of all care workers being women who dedicate themselves to unpaid care work 3.2 times more often than men.
The visit of PM Narendra Modi to Japan for the G20 Summit in Osaka gave him an opportunity to exchange views with PM Abe of Japan for the first time in his second term. Earlier this year, Modi came back to power with a decisive mandate in the general elections which has given him and his government greater flexibility when it comes to foreign affairs. In addition, the appointment of Dr. S. Jaishankar as the Minister of External Affairs is a strong signal about the importance accorded to foreign affairs by this government.
In the last eighteen years, the situation in Afghanistan has remained as tenuous as it had been in the three decades that preceded them. In fact, things do not look any different since 2017 when the so-called “mother-of-all-bombs” was dropped in Nangarhar to deter the extremists. Or in 2001 when 25 international stakeholders came together and “determined to help the Afghan people end the tragic conflicts in their country and promote national reconciliation, lasting peace, stability and respect for human rights, (and)… put an end to the use of Afghanistan as a base for terrorism.”
Twelve days following the Ides of March, few had any inkling that March 27, 2019 would portend a watershed in India’s strategic trajectory. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a ten minute televised address in Hindi, emphatically declaring that India has become “a global space power” after a successful anti-satellite (ASAT) missile test had just propelled the country to the ranks of the US, Russia, and China.
In March 2019, India signed an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with Russia to lease another of its Akula-Class attack nuclear submarines (SSN). The nuclear submarine will join the Indian Navy in 2025, after a major refit of the hull in Russia’s Arctic port of Severodvinsk. India had earlier leased an Akula-class SSBN from Moscow in 2012. Rechristened as Chakra in the Indian fleet, it will continue to serve the Indian Navy until the commissioning of the new Akula submarine, most likely by 2025.
Over the past decade, India has marginally increased its regional trade with its neighbors, specifically Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal. Currently, India’s actual trade in South Asia accounts for $19.1 billion, which is just three percent of its total global trade at $637.4 billion and around $43 billion below the potential. It has recently been estimated that by reducing man-made trade barriers, trade within South Asia can grow three times, from $23 billion to $67 billion.
Shortly before the 2014 elections, Narendra Modi—at that time practically a novice in foreign affairs—stated in an interview that “my Hindutva face will be an asset when dealing with foreign affairs with other nations.” This statement might have been indicative of a strict ideological, assertive foreign policy posture that put India first in all her future engagements.
Amongst the many initiatives to end the Afghan conflict, the one led by the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, is critical for it has given the Taliban a direct hotline of sorts to America. In fact, the US is doing precisely what it had refused to do in 2002 when the Taliban had assured a “discussion to turn over Osama bin Laden” if America stopped bombing Afghanistan.