THE HINDU EDITORIAL : JANUARY 9, 2018
THE HINDU EDITORIAL : JANUARY 9, 2018
- a) Dark clouds across Asia
What awaits the Asia-Pacific in 2018? Prospects appear, if anything, bleaker than was the case in 2017. More disorder, coming with increasing signs of a breakdown in inter and intra-state relations, is perhaps on the horizon. The Asian region is nowhere near achieving the kind of equilibrium that the Concert of Europe brought to 19th century Europe.
Between the two giants
The region is today an area of intense geostrategic and geo-economic competition. China is the rising economic and military power in Asia today — the second most important economic power after the U.S. and having the second or third most powerful military. In seeking dominance over Asia, however, it not only has to contend with a strong military and economic U.S. presence in the region, but it also cannot afford to ignore the competition from Japan and India. In mid-2017 in Doklam, India had demonstrated that it was more than capable of standing up to China’s bullying tactics. Much of the speculation about the extent of China’s rise is based on the common presumption that the U.S. under President Donald Trump had surrendered its global leadership role. The reluctance of the U.S. to embark on ‘new wars’, especially in Asia, does not, however, undermine its geopolitical, geostrategic and geo-economic pre-eminence. It is not China’s rise, but the breakdown of the institution of the state, as is evident in Afghanistan and Syria, that poses far more pressing problems for Asia. Undoubtedly, East Asia will remain a troubled region for much of 2018, with the leadership of North Korea intent on playing increasingly dangerous games and engaging in nuclear sabre-rattling. It is unpredictable at this point whether this would lead to a major destabilisation of the region, with far-reaching consequences for Asia and the world. The future of the rest of the Asia in 2018 is again dependent on how the strategic triangle of state relations between China, Pakistan and India plays out, as also the extent to which events in West Asia deteriorate. The situation has become more complicated as China and Pakistan have further strengthened their axis, which is inimically disposed towards India. Fragmentation of already difficult relationships does not hold out much hope for any improvement in 2018. As it is, options for an improvement in relations in 2018 between China and India appear limited. The 19th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (October 2017) essentially highlighted China’s quest for global leadership and the means to achieve it, including making China’s military ‘world class’, one capable of ‘winning wars’. It contained few hints that signified a possible thaw in India-China relations.
Shots across India’s bow
In 2017, India-China relations had steadily deteriorated. China is clearly peeved that India refuses to participate in its Belt and Road Initiative that straddles Asia and Europe. The stand-off at Doklam in mid-2017 was possibly intended by China to be a ‘shot across India’s bow’, to send a message to India. More such situations will, in all likelihood, be repeated in 2018. China can also be expected in 2018 to resort to other pressure tactics against India. Backing Pakistani intransigence in ‘needling’ India is certain to be one. Additionally, China can be expected to intensify its moves to displace India as the major partner in relations with many of India’s neighbours — 2017 had already seen China moving in this direction vis-à-vis Nepal, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar. As it is, China has succeeded to some extent in denting India’s long-standing relationship with Russia, having established a strategic congruence with that country. India would again need to be on its guard in 2018 as China consolidates its takeover of Gwadar (Pakistan) and Hambantota (Sri Lanka) ports. Together with China’s establishment of a base in Djibouti (on the Horn of Africa), India could find itself at the receiving end of China’s ‘Wei-Qi tactics’. As India grows closer to the U.S. in 2018, the India-China equation could further worsen. The most recent National Security Strategy of the U.S. refers to China as a ‘rival’, while welcoming India’s emergence as a ‘strategic and defence partner’. This is certain to ratchet up the rivalry between India and China in the Asia-Pacific region, likely to be further compounded by India’s association with the Quadrilateral (of U.S., India, Japan and Australia).
Looking at Pakistan
Again, 2018 holds out little prospect of an improvement in India-Pakistan relations. The last year ended with a serious ceasefire violation along the Line of Control in the Rajouri Sector, in which army men, including a Major, were killed. In 2017 there was an over 200% increase in ceasefire violations, with infiltration touching a four-year high. This year began with a major terrorist attack by Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) elements on a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) camp in Avantipur (Pulwama district) in which five CRPF men were killed. The treatment meted out to the family of Kulbhushan Jadhav (currently incarcerated in a Pakistani prison) and the fake news that followed their visit provides an index of Pakistan’s cold, calculated and consistent hostility towards India. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) continues to remain in cold storage. Pakistan has also not refrained from persisting with its proxies like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the JeM in its war with India. In its neighbourhood, India must be prepared during 2018 for a further deterioration of the situation in already disturbed Afghanistan. The Afghan state is in real danger of imploding, and this situation could worsen. The latest attack by Mr. Trump on Pakistan’s duplicity in dealing with terrorism could well result in Pakistan adopting a still more perverse and disruptive role here, and providing further encouragement to the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network. The current peace talks may well collapse as a result. Any possibility of exerting greater military pressure by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and allied forces may prove futile.
West Asia in turmoil
The situation in West Asia in 2018 could well turn out to be far grimmer than in 2017. West Asia is at the crossroads today. The entire region is in turmoil. Syria has almost ceased to be a state. The war here entails major powers like the U.S. and Russia, proxies for certain West Asian countries, a medley of non-state actors, apart from terrorist outfits such as the Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda. Intrinsic to the Syrian and West Asian imbroglio is the ongoing war within Islam featuring, at one level, intense rivalry between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran, and at another, the spectre of a split down the line between the Arab and the non-Arab and the Sunni and Shiite worlds. In addition, there are other forces aggravating an already complicated situation, viz. the war in Yemen, the disruption within the Gulf Cooperation Council, the nascent upheavals in Saudi Arabia and Iran, and the spectre of de-stabilisation that hovers over much of the region. None of these issues is likely to find resolution in 2018, and could suck in more states of the region.
If the U.S. were to follow through with its announcement to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, it might well ignite new tensions across the entire Arab world. This will further inflame radical Islamist ideas and tendencies across the region, paving the way for a new round of conflict. This year could also see a resurgence in terrorism. Both the IS and al–Qaeda seem to have acquired a new salience lately. The collapse of the so-called Islamic Caliphate and its territorial demise has hardly weakened the terror potential of the IS. In much the same manner as the Afghan jihad in 1980s and 1990s exacerbated insurgencies across parts of the world, retreating IS members returning to their homeland could provide a new narrative of terrorism in 2018. Existing cells across many parts of the world could well be re-vitalised as a result. The wave of attacks seen recently in Afghanistan can be attributed to this vanguard of retreating IS fighters. Given such a scenario, it is difficult to be optimistic about a better 2018.
- b) Data theft: on UIDAI exposé
Undercover investigations or so-called sting operations occupy a complex and problematical ethical space in journalism, but it is impossible to fault The Tribune’s exposé, published after accessing Aadhaar’s database of names, numbers and addresses. To begin with, the public interest — which lay in showing how easily the database could be breached and drawing attention to the existence of an organised racket to facilitate this — far outweighed, or more than compensated for, the act of unauthorised access, in this case secured on payment of a few hundred rupees. The investigation was written up in the best journalistic tradition — it focussed on how the data were being mined for money, it did not leak any Aadhaar numbers or other details to establish this, and it sought and received a response from shocked officials of the Unique Identification Authority of India before going to print. So it would have been a travesty of justice if The Tribune and the reporter who broke the story were treated as accused in the case where the charges include cheating under impersonation. It would have amounted to more than shooting the messenger. It would have constituted a direct attack on free public-spirited journalism and dissuaded attempts to hold public authorities and institutions accountable for shortcomings and promises. As for the FIR filed against the journalist, the UIDAI has clarified it needed to provide the full details of the incident to the police and that this did not mean “everyone mentioned in the FIR is a culprit…” In response to widespread disapproval of the prospect of a case being registered against the journalist, the Delhi police have belatedly clarified that they would focus on tracing those who sold the passwords to enable access to the information. Given the noisy hubbub and the misinformation about what was breached, it is perhaps important to stress that the encrypted Aadhaar biometric database has not been compromised. The UIDAI is correct in stating that mere information such as phone numbers and addresses (much of which is already available to telemarketers and others from other databases) cannot be misused without biometric data. The suggestion that the entire Aadhaar project has been compromised is therefore richly embroidered. But even so, it is obligatory for those who collect such information — whether it is the government or a private player such as a mobile company — ought to see that it is secure and not used for purposes other than that for which it was collected. In this digital age, a growing pool of personal information that can be easily shared has become available to government and private entities. India does not have a legal definition of what constitutes personal information and lacks a robust and comprehensive data protection law. We need to have both quickly in place if the Supreme Court’s judgment according privacy the status of a fundamental right is to have any meaning.
Meaning: (of a situation) not hopeful or encouraging; unlikely to have a favourable outcome.
Example: “he paints a bleak picture of a company that has lost its way”
Synonyms: Unpromising, Unfavourable
Antonyms: Hopeful, Promising
Meaning: A state in which opposing forces or influences are balanced.
Example: “the task is the maintenance of social equilibrium”
Synonyms: Balance, Equality
Meaning: Arrange (something) by mutual agreement or coordination.
Example: “they started meeting regularly to concert their parliamentary tactics”
Synonyms: Arrange, Presentation
Meaning: Relating to the strategy required in dealing with geopolitical problems.
Meaning: Assert something as a position in an argument.
Example: “he contends that the judge was wrong”
Synonyms: Assert, Claim
Meaning: The forming of a theory or conjecture without firm evidence.
Example: “there has been widespread speculation that he plans to quit”
Synonyms: Supposition, Conjecture
Meaning: An attitude adopted in law or as a matter of policy towards an action or proposal in the absence of acceptable reasons to the contrary.
Example: “the planning policy shows a general presumption in favour of development”
Synonyms: Assumption, Judgment
Meaning: Unwillingness or disinclination to do something.
Example: “she sensed his reluctance to continue”
Synonyms: Unwillingness, Disinclination
Antonyms: Willingness, Eagerness
Meaning: Fame or acknowledged superiority within a particular sphere.
Example: “her eminence in cinematography”
Synonyms: Distinction, Reputation
Meaning: Become progressively worse.
Example: “relations between the countries had deteriorated sharply”
Synonyms: Worsen, Decline
Meaning: Unfriendly; hostile.
Example: “an inimical alien power”
Synonyms: Hostile, Unfriendly
Antonyms: Warm, Friendly
Meaning: An increase in friendliness or cordiality.
Example: “a thaw in relations between the USA and the USSR”
Synonyms: Hostile, Unfriendly
Meaning: Make (someone) rather annoyed; irritate.
Example: “he was peeved at being excluded from the meeting”
Meaning: Refusal to change one’s views or to agree about something.
Example: “in the face of government intransigence, he resigned in disgust”
Meaning: Agreement or harmony; compatibility.
Example: “the results show quite good congruence with recent studies”
Synonyms: Compatibility, Consistency
16) Ratchet up
Meaning: To increase something in controlled stages over a period of time
Example: The constant ratcheting up of rewards for executives means they are expanding out of all proportion to those of other staff.
17) Meted out
Meaning: To give or order a punishment or make someone receive cruel or unfair treatment.
Example: In the past, schoolteachers regularly meted out physical punishment to their pupils.
Synonyms: Treat badly
Meaning: Stop oneself from doing something.
Example: “she refrained from comment”
Synonyms: Abstain, Desist
Meaning: Collapse or cause to collapse violently inwards.
Example: “both the windows had imploded”
Meaning: Apply or bring to bear (a force, influence, or quality).
Example: “the moon exerts a force on the Earth”
Synonyms: Apply, Deploy
Meaning: Very serious or gloomy.
Example: “his grim expression”
Synonyms: Aloof, Unapproachable
Antonyms: Amiable, Pleasant
Meaning: Competition for the same objective or for superiority in the same field.
Example: “there always has been intense rivalry between the clubs”
Synonyms: Competition, Contention
Meaning: Make (a problem, injury, or offence) worse or more serious.
Example: “she found him thoroughly aggravating and unprofessional”
Synonyms: Problem, Offence
Meaning: (especially of a process or organization) just coming into existence and beginning to display signs of future potential.
Example: the nascent space industry”
Meaning: A violent or sudden change or disruption to something.
Example: “major upheavals in the financial markets”
Synonyms: Disruption, Upset
Antonyms: Stability, Tranquility
Meaning: Arouse or inflame (an emotion or situation).
Example: “the words ignited new fury in him”
Synonyms: Arouse, Trigger
Meaning: (especially of change or action) relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something; far-reaching or thorough.
Example: “a radical overhaul of the existing regulatory framework”
Synonyms: Complete, Entire
Meaning: The quality of being particularly noticeable or important; prominence.
Example: “the political salience of religion has a considerable impact”
Meaning: The rule or reign of a caliph or chief Muslim ruler.
Example: “the Umayyad caliphate in Damascus was overthrown by the Abbasids”
Meaning: make (a problem, bad situation, or negative feeling) worse.
Example: “the exorbitant cost of land in urban areas only exacerbated the problem”
Synonyms: Aggravate, Worsen
Antonyms: Calm, Reduce
Meaning: An active revolt or uprising.
Example: “rebels are waging an armed insurgency to topple the monarchy”
Meaning: A position at the forefront of new developments or ideas.
Example: “the prototype was in the vanguard of technical development”
Synonyms: Forefront, Advance
Meaning: Hopeful and confident about the future.
Example: “the optimistic mood of the Sixties”
Synonyms: Cheerful, Positive
Antonyms: Gloomy, Ominous
Meaning: Break or fail to observe (a law, agreement, or code of conduct).
Example: “these outside bodies are bootlegging albums and breaching copyright”
Synonyms: Break, Violate
Meaning: A false, absurd, or distorted representation of something.
Example: “the absurdly lenient sentence is a travesty of justice”
Synonyms: Distortion, Perversion
Meaning: An act of pretending to be another person for the purpose of entertainment or fraud.
Example: “he did an impersonation of Fred Astaire”
Synonyms: Impression, Imitation
Meaning: Persuade (someone) not to take a particular course of action.
Example: “his friends tried to dissuade him from flying”
Synonyms: Discourage, Deter
Antonyms: Persuade, Encourage
Meaning: A busy, noisy situation.
Example: “she fought through the hubbub”
Synonyms: Confusion, Chaos
Meaning: Required by a legal, moral, or other rule; compulsory.
Example: “use of seat belts in cars is now obligatory”
Synonyms: Compulsory, Mandatory
Antonyms: Voluntary, Optional
Meaning: Of large content or scope; wide-ranging.
Example: “a comprehensive collection of photographs”
Synonyms: Inclusive, Complete
Antonyms: Partial, Selective
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