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Competing shades of saffron in Indian politics

The Indian city Ayodhya recently once again turned into a saffron fortress. The BJP seems set to fight the 2019 elections by rallying its factions and allies to assert the Hindutva agenda and further politicising Hindu-Muslim relations. More than 50,000 supporters of the Hindu Right, particularly

How Australia should deepen ties with India

Ties between India and Australia have always been a little constrained – and unsurprisingly so, as traditionally there has been little to connect the two countries. For its part, Australia has for decades sought to have a better relationship with India, one that extends beyond shared democracy,

Taking the air in north India

Could there be a silver lining to India’s choking air pollution? A recent report from the World Health Organisation showed India with 9 of the 10 worst cities in the world for atmospheric pollution. Even more breathtaking was the fact that New Delhi, most often in the news for its abysmal air

The growing attention on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands

You don’t hear much about India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands aside from tourism or tribes. The islands, which make up one of India’s seven union territories, are a remote archipelago in the Bay of Bengal, about halfway between Thailand and India. They have traditionally been highly protected

Modi and Abe: judgement waits on India-Japan ties

India and Japan have forged a special strategic and global partnership over the years, and Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Shinzo Abe have developed a personal and special relationship, propelling the relationship between the two nations to greater heights. Last month, Abe invited Modi to his

India’s Arctic energy partnership with Russia

When people discuss Indo-Russian relations, they generally focus on Russia’s arms sales to India. However, India’s energy relations with Moscow also possess considerable and, arguably, growing significance. This was revealed at the latest bilateral summit this month during Vladimir Putin

India’s airlines take off and hit turbulence

Some years ago, I took a domestic flight in India on one of the many new airlines that had cropped up over the preceding decade. The flight was on time and smooth, the food was good, the flight attendants friendly, attentive and courteous, their designer uniforms gleaming. All was fine with the

The other Rohingya crisis

As the world’s eyes are focused on the unfolding Rohingya refugee crisis Bangladesh, to the east in India another danger may be brewing for the Rohingya Muslim community. Over the past year since the latest wave of state-backed violence and displacement began in northern Myanmar, almost a million

India’s navy: between carriers and patrol boats

Last month, the Indian Navy conducted the largest ever disaster relief and rescue operation under its Southern Naval Command, part of an effort to rescue thousands of people affected by the devastating floods that ravaged the coastal state of Kerala. Known as Operation Madad, the navy led a

China’s trans-Himalayan tango with Nepal

Crossing the China-Nepal border via Tibet and the Himalayas is as formidable as it has been for centuries. To drive from Tibet’s capital city Lhasa to the Gyirong checkpoint bordering Nepal’s Rasuwa takes at least 15 hours – if weather condition allows. That is why, during my meeting with

India-US: two plus two equals hopes and troubles

After talks had been delayed previously owing to domestic developments in the US, causing much disappointment in India, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis finally arrived in New Delhi last week for meetings with their counterparts in India – Foreign

India: the north-south disparity

In India, a recently-released report ranking the states by their governance levels has once again highlighted the great disparities between north and south. The Public Affairs Index 2018, released last month by the Bengaluru-based think tank Public Affairs Centre, ranked states by how well

India: don’t blame WhatsApp for the lynch mobs

On 17 July, the Supreme Court of India was moved to condemn the recent spate of lynchings across the country as “horrendous acts of mobocracy … which cannot be allowed to become ‘the new normal’”. The justices had gone straight to the heart of the matter. The loss of so many innocent lives

Against female genital mutilation in India

Campaigners in India fighting against female genital mutilation prevalent among members of the Muslim Dawoodi Bohra community are growing more optimistic for a ban against the inhumane practice.  The long-term health effects of FGM include pain during menstruation and sexual intercourse,

India: a “major power” still below its potential

India is ranked a “major power” in the Lowy Institute’s new Asia Power Index. The Index sifts through more than 100 indicators across eight different measures to create a unique ranking of the relative power of 25 Asian countries. And for New Delhi, the analysis by and large looks

The US shadow over India’s Iran policy

At a recent event in New Delhi, Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the United Nations, called Iran “the next North Korea” and urged India to rethink its relationship with the Islamic Republic. This was followed shortly afterwards by an American delegation, led by Assistant Secretary for Terrorist

A blueprint for India–Australia economic relations

Few people are as qualified as Peter Varghese to draw up a timely, sound, and realistic blueprint to build a dynamic yet sustainable economic partnership between India and Australia. Unlike the case with China, an expanded trade and investment relationship with India will enhance Australia’s room

India’s demographic timebomb

In India, it’s all about the age of 25: that’s the median age of the entire country, and there are 600 million Indians, more than half the population, who are aged 25 or younger. Young people are everywhere you look: on the streets, in offices, in shops, on campuses, and bring with

Australia and India: different worlds

Peter Varghese’s independent report on Australia’s economic strategy for India, released by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last week, sounds a confident note for the future of the relationship. Although the focus of the report is trade, geopolitical alignments are one of three

The “unsinkable” island is no substitute

In a recent Interpreter article (Glug, glug, glug: India’s interest in unsinkable aircraft carriers), David Brewster poses an interesting question: is there a cheaper and less risky way for India to project power in the neighborhood than by continuing to rely on its aircraft carriers? By

Modi plays by the “rules” at Shangri-La

Sometimes what politicians don’t say is as important as what they do say. So it was with Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi’s keenly anticipated keynote at the Shangri-La Dialogue this year. The speech could have been fiery, as Modi’s rhetoric often is in front of a domestic audience. But

India: guiltless children in prison

More than 1800 children aged between one month and six years old languish in Indian jails, growing up with their imprisoned mothers. The plight of these guiltless children has long been known in India, but recent investigations by a human rights lawyer in the state of Odisha, on

The India–China summit in Wuhan was no reset

The “informal summit” in Wuhan, China, between India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China’s President Xi Jinping last month generated a wave of commentary in India, China, and further afield. The Chinese media played it up, heralding a major breakthrough in

India’s struggle for the soul of the Indo-Pacific

In 2017, the “Indo-Pacific” emerged as a defining geopolitical construct tying the future of states from East Africa to East Asia together with big powers, such as the US, China, India, and Japan. While Beijing has grabbed headlines in its quest to dominate the eastern part of this

Star wars: Tamil actors enter India’s political fray

Two famous Tamil actors are aiming to use their fan clubs as the basis for new political parties.  “First, we must integrate the registered and unregistered fans associations and bring them under one umbrella,” declared Tamil film star Rajinikanth at the launch of his new political party

Sexual violence back to the fore in India

The brutalisation of women in India has increased alarmingly in recent times. Rape, molestation, and abuse have spiralled out of control, with the incidents  of violence becoming uglier and more frightening. Violence against women happens everywhere. While its causes vary in different

Indian Ocean base race: India responds

It seems that we are in the middle of a base race across the Indian Ocean. The latest move, reported on Tuesday, involves an agreement to give India access to naval facilities in Oman, close to the Strait of Hormuz. This may be the first step towards a greater Indian naval presence in the

India’s intolerance is hurting the country

In January the ugly face of an intolerant India was again on display with protests and violence in several parts of the country against Indian film director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s extravagant medieval epic Padmaavat. Caste groups, especially the Rajputs, predominantly from the northern

Myanmar: A test case for India’s regional ambition

India has scored a string of recent geopolitical victories in Asia: the alleged sale of the Brahmos supersonic cruise missile to Vietnam; a further deepening of the strategic relationship with Japan, marked by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to India; and the recent de-escalation of tensions

India feeling the heat on Belt and Road

In May, when China organised a major summit in Beijing around its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, also known as 'One Belt, One Road', or OBOR), one invited country was completely absent: India. In response to queries, New Delhi issued only a short statement that underscored the benefits of

Doklam: Paths ahead for India and China

As the India-China standoff at the Doklam tri-junction area enters its second month, it is clear this is the most serious crisis between the two countries in 30 years. There are several ways in which it might develop. Unilateral concessions and Chinese escalation are unlikely, with the local

Countering China’s submarine operations in South Asia

As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Sri Lanka earlier this month, reports emerged that the Sri Lankan government had turned down China's request for a submarine docking in Colombo harbor. Beijing, apparently, wanted one of its submarines (ostensibly on its way to the Gulf of Aden for '

Where India fits in an activist Australian foreign policy

There can be little doubt that Prime Minister Turnbull’s recent visit to New Delhi has started to close the gap between where that country sits in the Australian strategic imagination and the current pace of India’s economic and strategic development. Turnbull’s very enthusiasm throughout the

Modi strengthens his hand in India and abroad

On 11 March, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won an overwhelming victory in state elections in Uttar Pradesh. In India, there are few more significant political prizes. Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state, home to over 200 million people, and the original

Australia-India relations: Poised for take off

Relations between India and the United States before the redefining changes of the past two decades were possibly best summarised in the title of a book by the American diplomat Dennis Kux: Estranged Democracies. But that phrase could just as easily have applied, more recently, to India and

What Donald Trump means for India

Like all American envoys, the US Ambassador to India Rich Verma has had a difficult job in the past forty-eight hours, as New Delhi gets to grips with the election of Donald Trump. US-India ties, he argued, transcended the ‘friendship of the American President and the Indian Prime Minister’,

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