a) In South Asia, be the Un-China           

As the stand-off between the Indian and Chinese militaries enters its third month at Doklam, it is not just Bhutan that is keenly anticipating the potential fallout. The entire neighbourhood is watching. There is obvious interest in how the situation plays out and the consequent change in the balance of power between India and China in South Asia. India’s other neighbours are likely to take away their own lessons about dealing with their respective “tri-junctions” both real and imagined, on land and in the sea. A Chinese defence official was hoping to press that nerve with India’s neighbours when he told a visiting delegation of Indian journalists this week that China could well “enter Kalapani” — an area near Pithoragarh in Uttarakhand that lies along an undefined India-Nepal boundary and a tri-junction with China — or “even Kashmir” with a notional IndiaChina-Pakistan trijunction. Perhaps, it is for this reason that governments in the region have refused to show their hand in the Doklam conflict. “Nepal will not get dragged into this or that side in the border dispute,” Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara said ahead of a meeting with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who had travelled to Kathmandu for the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) regional summit. Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang will be in Kathmandu next week, and Nepal’s Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba in Delhi the week after. Making a similar point while speaking at a conference on public relations this week, a Sri Lankan Minister in Colombo contended that India and China are “both important” to Sri Lanka. Bhutan’s Foreign Ministry has stuck to its line, blaming China for violating agreements at Doklam, but not mentioning India. Columnists in the country too are increasingly advocating that Bhutan distance itself from both Indian and Chinese positions. A policy of ‘equidistance’ for our closest neighbours is a far cry from India’s past primacy in the region and something South Block can hardly be sanguine about. Yet, it is a slow path each of the neighbours (minus Bhutan) has taken in the past few years. When the Maldives first turfed private infrastructure group GMR out of its contract to develop Male airport in 2012, few could have imagined the situation today with Chinese companies having bagged contracts to most infrastructure projects. This includes development of a key new island and its link to the capital Male and a 50-year lease to another island for a tourism project. Similarly, when the then Prime Minister of Nepal K.P. Sharma Oli signed a transit trade treaty and agreement on infrastructure linkages with China in late 2015-2016, Ministry of External Affairs mandarins had brushed it off as a “bluff”. Today, China is building a railway to Nepal, opening up Lhasa-Kathmandu road links, and has approved a soft loan of over $200 million to construct an airport at Pokhara. According to the Investment Board Nepal, at a two-day investment summit in March this year, Chinese investors contributed $8.2 billion, more than 60% of the foreign direct investment commitments made by the seven countries present. Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port construction project went to the Chinese in 2007 only after India rejected it. Today, China doesn’t just own 80% of the port; it has also won practically every infrastructure contract from Hambantota to Colombo. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Bangladesh last October was another such overture, with $24 billion committed in infrastructure and energy projects. Earlier this year, the largely state-owned Chinese consortium, Himalaya Energy, won a bid for three gas fields in Bangladesh’s northeast shoulder from the American company Chevron, which together account for more than half of the country’s total gas output. Even if Pakistan is not counted in this list, it is not hard to see which way India’s immediate neighbours, which are each a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), are headed in the next few years. More pointedly, once the investment flows in, it will be that much harder for them to stave off a more strategic presence which China is now more unabashed about. If one of the aims of the action in Doklam is to save Bhutan from the same fate, then what else must India do to ensure that China doesn’t succeed in creating similar space for itself in a country that stood by India in its objections to BRI, and bring its other neighbours back? To begin with, India must regain its role as a prime mover of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the organisation it abandoned a year ago over its problems with Pakistan. Despite sneers all around, SAARC has survived three decades in spite of its biggest challenge, India-Pakistan tensions. That New Delhi would cancel its attendance at the summit to be held in Pakistan in the wake of the Uri attack, winning support from other countries similarly affected by terrorism such as Bangladesh and Afghanistan, is understandable. But a year later, the fact that there have been no steps taken to restore the SAARC process is unfortunate. This will hurt the South Asian construct and further loosen the bonds that tie all the countries together, thereby making it easier for China to make inroads. It should be remembered that despite China’s repeated requests, SAARC was one club it never gained admittance to. For all the Narendra Modi government’s promotion of alternate groupings such as South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC), BIMSTEC, the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) Initiative and Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR), none will come close to SAARC’s comprehensive cogency. Second, India must recognise that picking sides in the politics of its neighbours makes little difference to China’s success there. In Sri Lanka, the Sirisena government hasn’t changed course when it comes to China, and despite its protestations that it was saddled with debt by the Rajapaksa regime, it has made no moves to clear that debt while signing up for more. The United Progressive Alliance government made a similar mistake when President Mohamed Nasheed was ousted in the Maldives, only to find that subsequent governments did little to veer away from Chinese influence. India made its concerns about the then Prime Minister Oli very clear, and was even accused of helping Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ to replace him in 2016, yet Nepal’s eager embrace of Chinese infrastructure and trade to develop its difficult terrain has not eased. In Bangladesh too, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who has overseen the closest ties with New Delhi over the past decade, has also forged ahead on ties with China. Should her Awami League lose next year’s election, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party will most certainly strengthen the shift towards China. In Bhutan’s election, also next year, it is necessary that India picks no side, for nothing could be worse than if the Doklam stand-off becomes an India-versus-China China election issue. Above all, India must recognise that doing better with its neighbours is not about investing more or undue favours. It is about following a policy of mutual interests and of respect, which India is more culturally attuned to than its large rival is. Each of India’s neighbours shares more than a geographical context with India. They share history, language, tradition and even cuisine. With the exception of Pakistan, none of them sees itself as a rival to India, or India as inimical to its sovereignty. As an Indian diplomat put it, when dealing with Beijing bilaterally, New Delhi must match China’s aggression, and counter its moves with its own. When dealing with China in South Asia, however, India must do exactly the opposite, and not allow itself to be outpaced. In short, India must “be the Un-China”

b) Slow injustice

The wholesale acquittal of all 10 persons arrested in connection with a blast at the Police Task Force office at Begumpet in Hyderabad in 2005 must occasion serious introspection on the prevailing gulf between crime and justice. While they no doubt bring relief, acquittals in such cases also carry a sense of injustice, especially when they are based on absence of evidence and not merely because there is some doubt about culpability. It may also seem unfair to those who feel the accused got away; but more often, the injustice flows from the loss suffered by the accused who might have spent years in prison, possibly in the prime of youth. There have been quite a few instances, in recent times, of those arrested for alleged involvement in terrorism incidents being released after years in prison. Examples include Nisar-ud-din Ahmad, who spent 23 years in prison in connection with several train blasts, before the Supreme Court ordered his release last year. Aligarh Muslim University research scholar Gulzar Mohammed Wani spent 16 years in jail on suspicion of being a member of the Hizbul Mujahideen before he was acquitted due to lack of evidence. Exoneration from one or two charges cannot be adequate recompense for the loss of liberty and the trauma of the trial. A key aspect of these cases is that they were serious crimes warranting credible investigation and vigorous prosecution. The outcome, often acquittal for want of evidence, reflects poorly on the investigating machinery as well as the judicial system. In December 2016, the National Investigation Agency managed to get Yasin Bhatkal, founder of the Indian Mujahideen, and four others convicted and sentenced to death in connection with the 2013 twin blasts in Hyderabad, but it is a rare instance of a successful prosecution and a relatively quick trial. Fairness in the administration of criminal justice is not secured by the final outcome alone, but must be built into the process of determining whether a person is guilty or not. Courts tend to deny bail in cases related to terrorism, but do not show a matching commitment to an Expeditious trial. Delayed trials weaken the prosecution’s case. Witnesses tend to forget crucial details or lack the resolve to depose carefully. Every person acquitted may not be innocent; equally, it cannot be said that people are going scot-free after committing grave offences. Individuals come under suspicion for their links with organisations or groups, but are exonerated by courts after the prosecution fails to link them to any particular crime. One way of addressing the problem of prolonged incarceration and perfunctory prosecution is to make it a matter of policy to have a quick and time-bound trial at least in serious cases involving acts of terrorism and those under special laws. Justice, if it has to be substantive, cannot be in slow motion.

Words/ Vocabulary

1) Anticipating

Meaning: Look forward to.

Example: Stephen was eagerly anticipating the break from the routine of business.

Synonyms: Look forward to, Await

Antonyms: Dread

2) Obvious

Meaning: Easily perceived or understood; clear, self-evident, or apparent.

Example: Unemployment has been the most obvious cost of the recession.

Synonyms: Clear, Plain

Antonyms: Imperceptible, Inconspicuous

3) Consequent

Meaning: Following as a result or effect.

Example: The social problems of pupils and their consequent educational difficulties.

Synonyms: Resulting, Consequential

4) Equidistance

Meaning: At equal distances.

Example: The line joins together all points which are equidistant from the two axes.

5) Sanguine

Meaning: Optimistic or positive, especially in an apparently bad or difficult situation.

Example: He is sanguine about prospects for the global economy.

Synonyms: Optimistic, Bullish


6) Turfed

Meaning: Force (someone) to leave somewhere.

Example: They were turfed off the bus.

Synonyms: Throw out, Remove

7) Mandarins

Meaning: A powerful official or senior bureaucrat, especially one perceived as reactionary and secretive.
Example: A civil service mandarin.

8) Overture

Meaning: An approach or proposal made to someone with the aim of opening negotiations or establishing a relationship.

Example: He began making overtures to British merchant banks.

Synonyms: Opening move, approach

9) Consortium

Meaning: An association, typically of several companies;

Example: A consortium of textile manufacturers.

Synonyms: Enterprises

10) Unabashed

Meaning: Not embarrassed, disconcerted, or ashamed.

Example: He was unabashed by the furore his words provoked.

Synonyms: Unashamed, Shameless

Antonyms: Ashamed, Sheepish

11) Sneers

Meaning: To talk about or look at someone or something in an unkind way that shows you do not respect or approve of him, her, or it.

Example: She’ll probably sneer at my new shoes because they’re not expensive.

12) Saddled

Meaning: Burden (someone) with an onerous responsibility or task.

Example: He’s saddled with debts of $12 million

Synonyms: Burden, Encumber

13) Ousted

Meaning: Drive out or expel (someone) from a position or place.

Example: The reformists were ousted from power.

Synonyms: Drive out, Expel

14) Embrace

Meaning: Accept (a belief, theory, or change) willingly and enthusiastically.

Example: Besides traditional methods, artists are embracing new technology.

Synonyms: Accept, Accept

15) Stand-off

Meaning: A deadlock between two equally matched opponents in a dispute or conflict.

Example: The 16-day-old stand-off was no closer to being resolved.

Synonyms: Deadlock, Stalemate

16) Inimical

Meaning: Tending to obstruct or harm.

Example: The policy was inimical to Britain’s real interests.

Synonyms: Harmful, Injurious

Antonyms: Helpful, Advantageous

17) Outpaced

Meaning: Go, rise, or improve faster than.

Example: He outpaced all six defenders.

18) Acquittal

Meaning: A judgement or verdict that a person is not guilty of the crime with which they have been charged.

Example: The trial resulted in an acquittal.

Synonyms: Absolution, Clearing

Antonyms: Conviction

19) Introspection

Meaning: The examination or observation of one’s own mental and emotional processes.

Example: Quiet introspection can be extremely valuable.

Synonyms: Brooding, Self-analysis

20) Prevailing

Meaning: Existing at a particular time; current;

Example: The unfavourable prevailing economic conditions.

21) Exoneration

Meaning: The action of officially absolving someone from blame; vindication.

Example: The defendants’ eventual exoneration.

Synonyms: Vindication, Absolution

Antonyms: Conviction, Liability

22) Recompense

Meaning: Compensation or reward given for loss or harm suffered or effort made.

Example: Adequate recompense for workers who lose their jobs.

Synonyms: Compensation, Reparation

23) Trauma        

Meaning: A deeply distressing or disturbing experience.

Example: A personal trauma like the death of a child.

Synonyms: Shock, Upheaval

24) Credible       

Meaning: Able to be believed; convincing.

Example: Few people found his story credible.

Synonyms: Acceptable, Trustworthy

Antonyms: Untrustworthy

25) Vigorous

Meaning: characterized by or involving physical strength, effort, or energy.

Example: Vigorous aerobic exercise.

Synonyms: Strenuous, Powerful

Antonyms: Weak, Feeble

26) Expeditious

Meaning: Done with speed and efficiency.

Example: An expeditious investigation.

Synonyms: Speedy, Swift

Antonyms: Slow

27) Scot-free

Meaning: Without suffering any punishment or injury.

Example: The people who kidnapped you will get off scot-free.

Synonyms: Unpunished, without punishment

28) Incarceration

Meaning: The state of being confined in prison; imprisonment.

Example: The public would not be served by her incarceration.

Synonyms: Imprisonment, Internment

Antonyms: Freedom

29) Perfunctory

Meaning: (of an action) carried out without real interest, feeling, or effort.

Example: He gave a perfunctory nod.

Synonyms: Cursory, Desultory

Antonyms: Careful, Through

30) Substantive

Meaning: (of law) defining rights and duties, as opposed to giving the procedural rules by which those rights and duties are enforced.

Example: Substantive research on the subject needs to be carried out.