a) Buoyant again: on India’s GDP growth

The latest economic data from the Central Statistics Office reveal that India’s GDP expanded at a brisk 7.2% pace in the three months ended December, an acceleration from the 6.5% posted in the second quarter. On the face of it, the numbers are cause for cheer and optimism, with gross fixed capital formation, a key measure of investment demand, showing a healthy improvement. Sectoral gross value added (GVA) figures also reflect a broad-based pickup in activity from the preceding quarter. The only three laggards last quarter were mining; utility services (including electricity, gas, and water supply); and trade, hotels, transport and communication services. The contraction in mining is of particular concern. The October-December quarter in 2016 was, however, the period when the Centre implemented the widely disruptive demonetisation of high-value currency notes, and so one has to bear in mind the base effect on the latest third-quarter data. Also, the CSO’s second advance estimates of national income for the full financial year are a lot more sobering. Both GDP and GVA growth estimates for 2017-18 have been revised upwards from the first-cut projections made in early January — GDP growth to 6.6% from 6.5% earlier as a result of GVA expansion being lifted to 6.4% from January’s 6.1%. But the assumption for increase in net taxes has been pared, reflecting the struggle to ensure buoyancy in GST revenue collections. A study of the full-year projections reveals the pressure points. The same sectoral GVA data that at a quarterly level appeared to give promise of a more enduring recovery show momentum in five of the eight sectors decelerating. Of particular concern are the farm sector, where growth is set to slow to 3% from 6.3% in the previous fiscal; and manufacturing where the pace is expected to ease to 5.1% from 7.9% in the revised estimate for 2016-17. The latest Index of Industrial Production numbers that show manufacturing in April-December still significantly lagging behind the previous nine-month period, as also the Nikkei India Manufacturing Purchasing Manager’s Index that shows growth in the sector slowed to a four-month low in February, add to concerns about manufacturing. With private final consumption expenditure, a crucial driver of economic momentum, still to gain traction over the full financial year, it is increased government spending that has undergirded the expansion. Here lies the rub. The leeway for more pump priming is restricted as fiscal deficit at the end of January has already exceeded 113% of the revised estimate for the full year. Any more profligacy by the government risks threatening price stability. With the banking sector beset by bad loans and increased scrutiny on lending in the wake of frauds, and exporters still to make the most of the revival in global trade demand, the economy is not yet out of the woods.

b) Mapping the Chinese century

Each succeeding week brings fresh evidence of how the international global order has become. Quite a few nations, including anarchic many of the newer ones, are seeking a new salience in the affairs of their region, aiming to establish their dominance. This is one cause for many of today’s turmoil. The unfortunate aspect is that while there is greater clarity on the new challenges that nations face, the international system is unable to come up with sustainable solutions to deal with these multiple challenges. For instance, currently the U.S. is seen to be incapable of playing a balancing role in Asian affairs, and to have ceded ground to China. China appears unrivalled in Asia at present given its military might and economic power. The only opposition to China today comes from India. India and China both adhere to a rules-based international order, but a wide gap separates their perceptions of what constitutes the international order. This has more than ordinary significance today even as global powers are beginning to shift their stance, and a ‘balance of power’ approach is no longer the norm. For Asia, this is proving to be a destabilising development, affecting peace in the region as the U.S. is no longer willing to take on responsibilities for peace.

Setting the rules

It is China that is now beginning to set the rules in accordance with its interests and values. China is enlarging the scope of its ambitions, being aware that no country in the Asian region, with the exception of India, can possibly stand in the way of it fulfilling its ambitions. The Belt and Road Initiative is only one manifestation of its growing ambitions. All signs point to China seeking avenues for global dominance, exploiting the weaknesses and inequalities that currently plague the international system.

A Himalayan balancing act

There is, thus, almost a surreal quality in the statements and announcements put forward by other Asian nations on how to limit China’s vaulting ambitions. The Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and the seeking of an early conclusion of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea at the ASEAN Summit in New Delhi fall into this category. It may have been intended to buttress ASEAN’s position on their dispute with China, but is unlikely to have any impact. China, for its part, is busy turning the South China Sea into its ‘military outpost’. It is setting up several military installations despite opposition from other claimants to rights over the South China Sea. The Spratly Islands have been transformed into a major stage for military manoeuvres, with the transformation of previously barren reefs into military installations. None of the other claimants — or for that matter even the U.S. — is in a position to check China’s activities. This reflects the measure of Chinese ascendance over the region. The recently concluded Chinese 19th Communist Party Congress (October 2017) and the developments that immediately preceded it should hence be of special significance for countries in the Asian region, especially India. If the Party Congress marked a return to the Mao era, what should be of even greater importance is that it made little secret of China’s intention to achieve global leadership. Accompanying this was a declaration of intent to make its military ‘world class’, one that is capable of ‘winning wars’. At the Party Congress, Xi Jinping, now the undisputed and unquestioned leader of both the party and the state, declared many times the dawn of a “new era” — an era of socialism with Chinese characteristics. Mr. Xi further talked of China’s pre-eminence in the east and described its rising “comprehensive national power” as leading on to global status. Not explicitly stated, but intrinsic to China’s belief, is that it is a big country with extensive economic, military and political might, and that it expects other smaller countries to accept its leadership.

An expansionist power

China is thus poised to set its compass to become an ideologically revisionist and an expansionist major power — one that aims to create more strategic space that would compel regional powers (India not excluded) to defer to, and accommodate, its wishes. The current People’s Liberation Army strategy of moving out into peripheral areas vacated by the U.S. fits in well with such intentions. China has already fired its opening salvos shifting focus from the East and South China Seas to the Indian Ocean. It is steadily enlarging its concept of ‘expanded strategic space’, viz. from land to sea. More of this is on the anvil. If continuity of policy is dependent on the vision of one individual — in this case President Xi — the party statute is set to be amended to ensure continuance of Mr. Xi as President for further terms beyond 2023, so as to ensure strong and stable leadership until the middle of the 21st century. India has every reason to feel concerned and be on its guard. China is evidently working to a set plan, and in the belief that the conduct of a nation is critical to ensure the outcome of any geo-political or geo-strategic conflict. For the present, its intentions seem to be to convince nations in the Asian region about is intrinsic superiority and exalted status, based on notions of ‘exceptionalism’ and ‘uniqueness’, paving the way for its leadership in the region.

Relations with neighbours

Simultaneously, it has consciously set about damaging India’s relations with neighbours, including most recently Nepal and the Maldives. India’s relations with some of its other neighbours have also suffered due to China’s machinations, mainly through the provision of economic incentives, promises of infrastructure development, and certain ‘unseen benefits’. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (which provides China an opening to the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean), for instance, has both an economic and a strategic imperative. Doklam (in Bhutan) during 2017, and the Maldives this year are test cases in China’s determined bid to enlarge its ‘strategic space’. The Doklam standoff, notwithstanding India’s claims, has created a degree of uncertainty about India’s ability to match China’s ambitious inroads into India’s neighbourhood. The Maldives imbroglio has led to the distancing from India of a long-term dependent ally, viz. the Maldives, which seems to be moving into China’s orbit. China already has a lookout in the southern-most archipelago of the Maldives and is currently seeking to establish a ‘joint ocean observation station’ in one of the northern atolls, giving China a vantage point overlooking the main shipping lanes in the western Indian Ocean. There are also reports of increased deployment of Chinese ships in the Indian Ocean Region, and reports of frequent underwater movements of Chinese submarines to designated ports in the Indian Ocean Region apart from the establishment of naval bases in Djibouti and Gwadar. In the meantime, China is offering ‘a new choice’ or model for developing countries to follow. This posits a direct challenge to the democratic model followed by India which emphasises a more liberal order. Alongside systematic moves made to diminish India’s image in the region, and its resort to ‘salami tactics’, China hopes to strike a blow against India without engaging in an open conflict. Consequently, India needs to urgently come up with a pre-emptive strategy to prevent China from succeeding in its efforts. India should position itself suitably, ideating an alternative model that is much less threatening to countries in the region. The attempt should be to counter China’s vision of international relations — that puts a premium on expanding and flexing its military capabilities and provides dubious economic benefits under the rubric of trade and market access — with an alternative model. It must also restrict China’s present ascendency in regard to port infrastructure and maritime commerce in the Indian Ocean that is giving China an advantage in regional affairs.

The only bulwark

India is the only bulwark in Asia to counter Chinese designs and expansionism. It alone can prevent a further expansion of China’s ‘strategic space’ and a Chinese takeover of the entire region.


1) Brisk

Meaning: Showing a wish to deal with things quickly; slightly brusque.

Example: “she adopted a brisk, businesslike tone”

Synonyms: Decisive, Abrupt

2) Pickup

Meaning: An improvement, especially in an economy.

Example: “a pickup in demand”

Synonyms: Improvement, Recovery

Antonyms: Slump, Downturn

3) Laggards

Meaning: A person who makes slow progress and falls behind others.

Example: “Staffs were under enormous pressure and there was no time for laggards”

Synonyms: Sluggard, Slug

4) Disruptive

Meaning: Causing or tending to cause disruption.

Example: “disruptive pupils”

Synonyms: Troublesome, Unruly

Antonyms: Well behaved, Manageable

5) Sobering

Meaning: Make or become more serious, sensible, and solemn.

Example: “his expression sobered her”

Synonyms: Relax, Steady

6) Buoyancy

Meaning: A high level of activity in an economy or stock market.

Example: “there is renewed buoyancy in the demand for steel”

Synonyms: Vigour, Strength

Antonyms: Depression

7) Enduring

Meaning: Lasting over a period of time; durable.

Example: “he formed a number of enduring relationships with women”

8) Decelerating

Meaning: Reduce or cause to reduce in speed.

Example: “the train began to decelerate”

Synonyms: Brake, Slow

Antonyms: Accelerate

9) Undergirded

Meaning: Provide support or a firm basis for.

Example: “that’s a philosophy that needs to undergird retailers’ business plans this year”

10) Rub

Meaning: The central problem or difficulty in a situation.

Example: “that was the rub—she had not cared enough”

Synonyms: Problem, Difficulty

11) Leeway

Meaning: The amount of freedom to move or act that is available.

Example: “the government had greater leeway to introduce reforms”

Synonyms: Freedom, Scope

Antonyms: Constraint, Restriction

12) Profligacy

Meaning: Reckless extravagance or wastefulness in the use of resources.

Example: “the government returned to fiscal profligacy”

13) Anarchic

Meaning: With no controlling rules or principles to give order.

Example: “an anarchic and bitter civil war”

Synonyms: Lawless, Turbulent

14) Salience

Meaning: The quality of being particularly noticeable or important; prominence.

Example: “the political salience of religion has a considerable impact”

15) Ceded

Meaning: Give up (power or territory).

Example: “in 1874, the islands were ceded to Britain”

Synonyms: Surrender, Concede

Antonyms: Keep, Gain

16) Unrivalled

Meaning: Better than everyone or everything of the same type.

Example: “the paper’s coverage of foreign news is unrivalled”

Synonyms: Unequalled, Unparallel

Antonyms: Average

17) Perceptions

Meaning: Intuitive understanding and insight; awareness of something through the senses.

Example: “‘He wouldn’t have accepted,’ said my mother with unusual perception”

Synonyms: Insight, Percipience

18) Stance

Meaning: The attitude of a person or organization towards something; a standpoint.

Example: “the party is changing its stance on Europe”

Synonyms: Attitude, Viewpoint

19) Accordance

Meaning: In a manner conforming with.

Example: “the ballot was held in accordance with trade union rules”

Synonyms: Following

20) Manifestation

Meaning: The action or fact of showing something.

Example: “the manifestation of anxiety over disease”

Synonyms: Display, Showing

21) Exploiting

Meaning: Make use of (a situation) in a way considered unfair or underhand.

Example: “the company was exploiting a legal loophole”

22) Plague

Meaning: A thing causing trouble or irritation.

Example: “staff theft is usually the plague of restaurants”

Synonyms: Bane, Scourge

23) Surreal

Meaning: Having the qualities of surrealism; bizarre.

Example: “a surreal mix of fact and fantasy”

24) Buttress

Meaning: A source of defence or support.

Example: “the political police were the main buttress of the regime”

25) Claimants

Meaning: A person making a claim, especially in a lawsuit or for a state benefit.

Example: “one in four eligible claimants failed to register for a rebate”

Synonyms: Applicant, Candidate

26) Barren

Meaning: Showing no results or achievements; unproductive.

Example: “he scored yesterday to end his barren spell”

27) Ascendance

Meaning: Occupation of a position of dominant power or influence.

Example: “the ascendancy of good over evil”

Synonyms: Dominance, Supremacy

Antonyms: Subordination

28) Pre-eminence

Meaning: Surpassing all others; very distinguished in some way.

Example: “the world’s pre-eminent expert on asbestos”

Synonyms: Leading, Foremost

Antonyms: Unknown, Inferior

29) Compass

Meaning: The range or scope of something.

Example: “the event had political repercussions which are beyond the compass of this book”

Synonyms: Scope, Range

30) Revisionist

Meaning: A supporter of a policy of revision or modification.

Example: “the revisionists who sought to replace it were long denied”

31) Expansionist

Meaning: A follower or advocate of a policy of territorial or economic expansion.

Example: “he was an aggressive expansionist”

32) Salvos

Meaning: A simultaneous discharge of artillery or other guns in a battle.

Example: “a deafening salvo of shots rang out”

33) Exalted

Meaning: (of a person or their rank or status) at a high or powerful level.

Example: “it had taken her years of infighting to reach her present exalted rank”

Synonyms: High, Elevated

Antonyms: Low

34) Consciously

Meaning: In a deliberate and intentional way.

Example: “she consciously chose to ignore him”

35) Imperative

Meaning: An essential or urgent thing.

Example: “free movement of labour was an economic imperative”

Synonyms: Essential, Important

36) Imbroglio

Meaning: An extremely confused, complicated, or embarrassing situation.

Example: “the abdication imbroglio of 1936”

Synonyms: Complication, Trouble

37) Archipelago

Meaning: An extensive group of islands.

Example: “the Indonesian archipelago”

38) Dubious

Meaning: Not to be relied upon; suspect.

Example: “extremely dubious assumptions”

Synonyms: Suspicious, Questionable

Antonyms: Trustworthy, Decisive

39) Ascendency

Meaning: Occupation of a position of dominant power or influence.

Example: “the ascendancy of good over evil”

Synonyms: Dominance, Supremacy

Antonyms: Subordination

40) Bulwark

Meaning: A person or thing that acts as a defence.

Example: “the security forces are a bulwark against the breakdown of society”

Synonyms: Protector, Protection

Wish to learn more , then you should definitely read the previous editions of THE HINDU EDITORIAL and extend your preparations.


Aspirants can also check the previous month THE HINDU EDITORIAL and can improve the vocabulary list & can ace the exams. Learning the language is easy and this will make the process simple.