a) Adopting a ‘wait and watch’ approach

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit this month was a subdued affair compared to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Tehran last May. The reason is the differing preoccupations in both countries. The future of the Iran- P5+1-European Union (EU) nuclear deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA), concluded in 2015, has a Damocles’ sword hanging over it, given U.S. President Donald Trump’s visceral opposition to it. In addition, Iran is focussed on developments in Syria and Yemen. For India, dealing with China’s growing footprint in the Indo-Pacific and challenges in its immediate SAARC neighbourhood assume priority. Yet, there is a geographical dynamic that creates its compulsions for both countries.

A short-lived convergence

It was geography that created the 2,000 years of cultural and civilisational connect that Mr. Modi had sought to highlight during his visit last year. During the 1950-60s, differences persisted on account of the Shah’s pro-U.S. tilt, and after the 1979 revolution, it was the pro-Pakistan tilt. It was only during the late 1990s and the early years of the last decade that both countries achieved a degree of strategic convergence. India and Iran (together with Russia) cooperated in supporting the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan against the expanding role of the Pakistan-backed Taliban.

In 2003, President Mohammad Khatami was the chief guest at the Republic Day when the New Delhi Declaration was signed, flagging the role of Chabahar port in providing connectivity to Afghanistan and further into Central Asia. Then the times changed: The U.S. declared Iran as part of the ‘axis of evil’, as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accelerated Iran’s nuclear enrichment programme leading to progressively more sanctions, and India’s economic engagement with Iran was impacted. Simultaneously, India was pursuing its nuclear deal with the U.S. which was concluded in 2008. During this period, India’s vote against Iran in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) generated unhappiness in Tehran. This is why it has taken 15 years for another Iranian presidential visit.

With Mr. Trump, Iran’s uncertainties are increasing. The JCPOA, spearheaded by the Obama administration, eased sanctions, helping India increase its oil imports from Iran and reactivate work at Chabahar. In January, President Trump renewed the 120-day sanctions waiver but announced that this was the last time he was extending it. Therefore, when the current waiver ends on May 12, U.S. sanctions on Iran will snap back unless a new agreement is reached. This is highly unlikely.

Uncertainties of JCPOA

Speaking at a public event on February 17 in New Delhi, Mr. Rouhani declared that Iran had faithfully complied with the JCPOA (a fact certified by the IAEA), and a violation by the U.S. would be a repudiation of the sanctity of negotiated outcomes. He also warned that if it violated the JCPOA, the U.S. would “regret” it.

The JCPOA is not a bilateral deal between Iran and the U.S.; other parties are China, France, Germany, Russia, the U.K., and the EU. Further, the JCPOA was unanimously supported by the United Nations Security Council (Resolution 2231) enabling Security Council sanctions to be lifted. The problem is that the U.S. has imposed multiple and often overlapping sanctions on Iran pertaining not only to nuclear activities but also to missile testing, human rights, and terrorism. To give effect to Resolution 2231, it was obliged to lift secondary nuclear sanctions so that other countries could resume commercial activities with Iran. The threat of the U.S. snapback means that third country companies may now attract U.S. sanctions. This uncertainty has been adversely impacting the sanctions relief since Mr. Trump’s election.

The unrest that erupted in December in Mashhad and that spread to many cities in Iran claiming more than 20 lives was a reaction to rising prices amidst stories of growing corruption. Part of the reason for the economic grievances is the slower than promised sanctions relief, which would imply that Mr. Rouhani is in no position to offer any further concessions. Russia, China, and the European countries have indicated their full support for the JCPOA. However, in the absence of economic countermeasures, which is a lever that only the EU and China have, Mr. Trump is unlikely to be deterred.

Backing Mr. Trump in his anti-Iran sentiment are his allies, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Both blame Iran for aggressive behaviour — the former with regard to the growing influence of Iran and Hezbollah in Syria and the latter for the prolonged war in Yemen which was initiated as a quick operation in 2015 by the Crown Prince to restore President A.M. Hadi. While many European countries may also like to constrain Iran’s missile and regional activities, the fact is that the JCPOA is exclusively about restraints on Iran’s nuclear activities. According to them, only successful implementation of the JCPOA over a period of time can create the political space for additional negotiations; destroying the JCPOA is hardly the way to build upon it.

Outcomes of the visit

Meanwhile, Iran has also increased its role in Iraq, and activated links with the Taliban in Afghanistan, adding to the U.S.’s growing impatience and unhappiness. With these developments, it is hardly surprising that Mr. Modi’s characteristic ‘diplohugs’ were missing and the outcome has been modest, even compared to last year. India conveyed its support for the full and effective implementation of the JCPOA, the need for strengthening consultations on Afghanistan, and enhancing regional connectivity by building on the Chabahar. Nine MoUs were signed relating to avoidance of double taxation, visa simplification, cooperation in diverse fields including agriculture, traditional systems of medicine, health and medicine, postal cooperation, trade remedial measures, and a lease contract for an interim period of 18 months for Phase 1 of Chabahar. The last is a move forward after the inauguration of the first phase of the Chabahar port in December by Mr. Rouhani. Earlier in October, Iran had allowed a wheat shipment of 15,000 tonnes for Afghanistan through Chahbahar.

However, there has been little forward movement on the big projects that were highlighted when Mr. Modi visited Tehran last year. The negotiations on the Farzad-B gas field remain stuck, with both sides blaming the other for shifting the goalposts. Understanding on it was reached during the sanction period but remained on paper because of Iranian unhappiness over India’s stand in the IAEA. These were reopened after sanctions relief kicked in post-JCPOA when more countries showed interest.

There was talk about an aluminium smelter plant and a urea plant to build up Indian investments in the Chabahar free trade zone which in turn would catalyse port activity and justify railway connectivity out of Chabahar. The railway link has been mentioned in the context of connectivity to Afghanistan but the economic rationale for the $2 billion investment has been missing. One positive thing is the exploration of a rupee-rial arrangement which could provide an alternative channel for economic and commercial transactions in case U.S. sanctions do kick in, making dollar denominated transactions impossible. However, the sanctity of this will need to be tested before private parties on both sides begin to use it. So far, trade between the two countries has hovered around $10 billion, with two-thirds of it accounted for in terms of oil imports from Iran.

It is clear, therefore, that both countries approached the visit with modest expectations. The near-term developments in its neighbourhood are a priority for Tehran even as Mr. Modi tries to find a balance with his stated preference to develop closer ties with both the U.S. and Israel. The uncertainties surrounding the JCPOA provide the justification for adopting a ‘wait and watch’ approach.

b) Virtue of reticence: on Bipin Rawat’s comment about illegal immigration in Northeast

Army chief General Bipin Rawat’s comments about an “inversion in demographics” and a “planned migration” from Bangladesh into the Northeast are unusual by any standards. India’s service chiefs have a long and healthy tradition of keeping away from political subjects in their public comments. But at a seminar in Delhi this week, General Rawat strayed into political commentary when he talked about issues of religious identity, demographics, and India’s relations with its neighbours. He said that migration from Bangladesh into India is driven by two factors. The first is the acute pressure on land in Bangladesh. “The other issue,” he said, “is planned immigration which is taking place because of our western neighbour… It is the proxy dimension of warfare.” This strategy, he went on, is supported by “our northern neighbour”. The references were clearly to Pakistan and China. Such departures from a tradition of being reticent, if not totally silent, are rare. But it is exactly this self-restraint that has served both Indian democracy and the military well. India’s success in keeping the Army out of politics, compared to most other countries that gained independence from colonial rule in the mid-20th century, has in fact been the subject of scholarly research.

In turn, the neat separation has allowed the Army to maintain its professionalism and retain public trust even as it is frequently called upon to assist the administration in times of communal strife and subregional insurgencies. This arrangement has also inhibited governments from bidding the Army to do their politically expedient tasks. It is a balance that must hold, and this is why General Rawat’s possibly off-the-cuff observations on foreign policy and domestic politics were unfortunate. There is a risk of hostile rejoinders from India’s regional rivals. It also risks reactions from home, which have already come in the form of a sharp response from the All India United Democratic Front. Its chief Maulana Badruddin Ajmal, who was reacting to General Rawat’s comment that the AIUDF in Assam was growing at a faster clip than the Bharatiya Janata Party did, charged him with straying from his constitutional remit. The head of another political party tweeted that it is not the job of the Army to comment on political matters. This is not the first time that General Rawat’s comments have evoked a response from political quarters. Last month, the Jammu and Kashmir education minister reacted when General Rawat criticised government schools in the State for mounting two maps, “one of India and the other of J&K”. Even if such remarks were made in good faith, the point is that they can result in needless controversies that do nothing to promote the Army’s strong and fully deserving image of an institution that is above politics. 


1) Subdued

Meaning: (Of a person or their manner) quiet and rather reflective or depressed.

Example: “I felt strangely subdued as I drove home”

Synonyms: Sombre, Low-spirited

Antonyms: Lively, Cheerful

2) Persisted

Meaning: Continue in an opinion or course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.

Example: “The minority of drivers who persist in drinking”

synonyms:  Persevere, Continue

Antonyms: Abandon, Stop

3) Flagging

Meaning: Become tired or less enthusiastic or dynamic.

Example: “If you begin to flag, there is an excellent cafe to revive you”

Synonyms: Tire, Become fatigued

Antonyms: Revive, Increase

4) Spearheaded

Meaning: Lead (an attack or movement).

Example: “He’s spearheading a campaign to reduce the number of accidents at work”

Synonyms: Lead, Head, Front

5) Waiver

Meaning: An act or instance of waiving a right or claim.

Example: “Their acquiescence could amount to a waiver”

Synonyms: Renunciation, Surrender

6) Snap back

Meaning: To quickly return to a previous condition.

Example: “The market snapped back last week from its free-fall”

7) Repudiation

Meaning: Refusal to fulfil or discharge an agreement, obligation, or debt.

Example: “The breach is not so serious as to amount to a repudiation of the whole contract”

Synonyms: Rejection, Renunciation

Antonyms: Confirmation, Acknowledgement

8) Sanctity

Meaning: The state or quality of being holy, sacred, or saintly.

Example: “The site of the tomb was a place of sanctity for the ancient Egyptians”

Synonyms: Holiness, Godliness

Antonyms: Wickedness

9) Unanimously

Meaning: Without opposition; with the agreement of all people involved.

Example: “A committee of MPs has unanimously agreed to back his bill”

Synonyms: Without opposition, With one accord

10) Pertaining

Meaning: Be appropriate, related, or applicable to.

Example: “Matters pertaining to the organization of government”

Synonyms: Concern, Relate to

11) Obliged

Meaning: Make (someone) legally or morally bound to do something.

Example: “Doctors are obliged by law to keep patients alive while there is a chance of recovery”

Synonyms: Require, Compel

12) Erupted

Meaning: Break out suddenly and dramatically.

Example: “Fierce fighting erupted between the army and guerrillas”

Synonyms: Break out, Flare up

Antonyms: Die down

13) Amidst

Meaning: Surrounded by; in the middle of.

Example: “Our dream home, set amid magnificent rolling countryside”

Synonyms: In the middle of, Surrounded by

Antonyms: Surrounding

14) Grievances

Meaning: A feeling of resentment over something believed to be wrong or unfair.

Example: “He was nursing a grievance”

Synonyms: Complaint, Criticism

Antonyms: Commendation

15) Lever

Meaning: A means of pressurizing someone into doing something.

Example: “Rich countries use foreign aid as a lever to promote political pluralism”

16) Deterred

Meaning: Discourage (someone) from doing something by instilling doubt or fear of the consequences.

Example: “Only a health problem would deter him from seeking re-election”

Synonyms: Put off, Discourage

Antonyms: Encourage

17) Constrain

Meaning: Compel or force (someone) to follow a particular course of action.

Example: “Children are constrained to work in the way the book dictates”

Synonyms: Compel, Force

18) Restraints

Meaning: Deprivation or restriction of personal liberty or freedom of movement.

Example: “He remained aggressive and required physical restraint”

Synonyms: Constraint, Check

Antonyms: Incitement

19) Negotiations

Meaning: Discussion aimed at reaching an agreement.

Example: “A worldwide ban is currently under negotiation”

Synonyms: Discussion(s), Talks, Consultation(s)

20) Lease

Meaning: A contract by which one party conveys land, property, services, etc. to another for a specified time, usually in return for a periodic payment.

Example: “A six-month lease on a shop”

Synonyms: Leasehold, Rental agreement

Antonyms: Freehold

21) Interim

Meaning: In or for the intervening period; provisional.

Example: “An interim arrangement”

Synonyms: Provisional, Temporary

Antonyms: Permanent

22) Shipment

Meaning: A quantity of goods shipped; a consignment.

Example: “Logs waiting for shipment”

23) Kick in

Meaning: Come into effect or operation.

Example: “The hospital’s emergency generators kicked in”

24) Smelter

Meaning: A factory or machine in which metal is smelted.

25) Catalyse

Meaning: Cause or accelerate (a reaction) by acting as a catalyst.

Example: “The enzyme catalyses the oxidation of acetaldehyde”

26) Rationale

Meaning: A set of reasons or a logical basis for a course of action or belief.

Example: “He explained the rationale behind the change”

Synonyms: Reason(s), Reasoning, Thinking

27) Denominated

Meaning: (Of sums of money) be expressed in a specified monetary unit.

Example: “The borrowings were denominated in US dollars”

28) Sanctity

Meaning: The state or quality of being holy, sacred, or saintly.

Example: “The site of the tomb was a place of sanctity for the ancient Egyptians”

Synonyms: Holiness, Godliness

Antonyms: Wickedness

29) Hovered

Meaning: Remain poised uncertainly in one place or between two states.

Example: “Her hand hovered over the console”

30) Acute

Meaning: (Of a physical sense or faculty) highly developed; keen.

Example: “An acute sense of smell”

Synonyms: Keen, Sharp, Good

Antonyms: Poor

31) Proxy

Meaning: The authority to represent someone else, especially in voting.

Example: “Britons overseas may register to vote by proxy”

Synonyms: Deputy, Representative

32) Reticent

Meaning: Not revealing one’s thoughts or feelings readily.

Example: “She was extremely reticent about her personal affairs”

Synonyms: Reserved, Withdrawn

Antonyms: Expansive, Garrulous

33) Bidding

Meaning: The ordering or requesting of someone to do something.

Example: “Women came running at his bidding”

Synonyms: Command, Order

34) Expedient

Meaning: (Of an action) convenient and practical although possibly improper or immoral.

Example: “Either side could break the agreement if it were expedient to do so”

Synonyms: Convenient, Advantageous

Antonyms: Inexpedient, Ill-advised

35) Hostile

Meaning: Showing or feeling opposition or dislike; unfriendly.

Example: “A hostile audience”

Synonyms: Antagonistic, Aggressive

Antonyms: Friendly, Mild

36) Rivals

Meaning: A person or thing competing with another for the same objective or for superiority in the same field of activity.

Example: “He has no serious rival for the job”

Synonyms: Competitor, Opponent

Antonyms: Partner, Ally

37) Straying

Meaning: Move away aimlessly from a group or from the right course or place.

Example: “Dog owners are urged not to allow their dogs to stray”

Synonyms: Wander off, Go astray, Drift

38) Remit

Meaning: Cancel or refrain from exacting or inflicting (a debt or punishment).

Example: “The excess of the sentence over 12 months was remitted”

Synonyms: Cancel, Set aside, Revoke

39) Evoked

Meaning: Bring or recall (a feeling, memory, or image) to the conscious mind.

Example: “The sight evoked pleasant memories of his childhood”

Synonyms: Summon, Invoke

40) Mounting

Meaning: Organize and initiate (a campaign or other course of action).

Example: “The company had successfully mounted takeover bids”

Synonyms: Organize, Stage

Check the previous edition of THE HINDU Editorial to learn more words and to ace the English section in the forthcoming exams.



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