a) Warm in Washington

Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first meeting with President Donald Trump, concern had grown about the future course of the bilateral relationship, particularly whether Mr. Trump would maintain his predecessors’ commitment to its strengthening. These worries rested on Mr. Trump’s rewriting the equation with Europe, reversing the American stand on China and in West Asia. They were also fuelled by his harsh words on trade tariffs, immigrants and climate change, an issue on which he specifically targeted India. Mr. Modi and Mr. Trump have put many fears to rest, their meeting marked by personal bonhomie. This was reflected in Mr. Modi’s attempt to engage Mr. Trump’s family, perceived to be an important power centre in the White House. He invited his daughter Ivanka Trump to an entrepreneurship summit in India. Her husband Jared Kushner was a part of the delegation-level talks. Importantly, the India-U.S. joint statement has exceeded expectations, with an emphasis on the need for Pakistan to stop attacks on India launched from its soil, and for China to forge its Belt and Road Initiative taking into account India’s concerns on territorial and sovereignty issues. Equally important has been the continuity in the India-U.S. strategic partnership goals, albeit with a softening of the tone on China’s actions in the South China Sea. Mentioning North Korea, West Asia and Afghanistan, the statement talks of a “growing strategic convergence” between the two countries and a shared vision on world affairs. That neither side brought up the phrase “shared values” or took questions from the media may be seen as a departure from past meetings, but it is not a divergence from the views and preferences of both leaders. It may even indicate further convergence between them. However, while the two leaders were able to establish a common understanding of global issues, the joint statement indicates that many bilateral issues are yet to be resolved. The insertion of an entire section titled “Increasing Free and Fair Trade” is a veiled attempt at putting the Trump administration’s concerns on bilateral trade on the front burner — for example, with references to “balancing the trade deficit”, “protecting innovation”, and “increasing market access” in areas where American industry has been most critical of Indian policy. While these bilateral issues were articulated, others were not brought up, including India’s concerns on the immigration process and H1B visa curbs, and Mr. Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, which will leave India’s climate change financing handicapped. It is to be hoped that these will be raised in the near future. All things considered, a good beginning appears to have been made during Mr. Modi’s maiden meeting with Mr. Trump. It is now for them to tackle the more substantive bilateral issues.

b) The Marawi siege

The city of Marawi in the south of the Philippines has been engulfed by a deadly, ongoing siege since late May, when government forces began to take on heavily armed militants linked to the Islamic State. Local media estimate the death toll to be above 300. Over 200,000 residents have fled what has effectively become an urban battlefield. While Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte quickly declared martial law across the island for 60 days, some say the blame rests with the political leadership for ignoring the rise of the IS, and especially Mr. Duterte’s decision last year to reject a ceasefire offer from the Maute group. Now this group is on the front lines in the fight against the Philippine military in Marawi. Marawi is on Mindanao, the country’s second largest island, rocked by armed insurgency for years. At the heart of the conflict is Mr. Duterte’s mission to capture or kill Isnilon Hapilon, the leader of the Abu Sayyaf Islamist group who was named emir of the “Caliphate” in Southeast Asia by IS boss Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2016. The situation in Marawi does not inspire confidence: rebels still control key areas, they have set up checkpoints on bridges and their snipers have occupied local minarets. When the army fires mortars or RPGs, battle-hardened militants, reportedly including foreign fighters from Indonesia and Malaysia, are responding with similar armaments. Worse still, many civilians remain in the area, complicating the calculus of any planned government assault. While the siege of Marawi will draw Mr. Duterte’s attention beyond the brutal drug war that his government has waged, its political significance has echoed throughout the region and beyond. IS jihadist publications and videos have painted Singapore as a target, with two attacks against the city-state reportedly foiled. Similarly, Malaysia faced its first IS attack last June when a grenade injured eight people at a nightclub near Kuala Lumpur. As the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, Indonesia is concerned that IS members could easily traverse the poorly policed waters between itself and the southern Philippines. While the U.S. no longer has military bases in the Philippines, its military advisers and intelligence analysts have been deployed to aid the efforts of Mr. Duterte, notwithstanding his anti-American jibes. U.S. President Donald Trump may have found common cause with Mr. Duterte in fighting Islamic extremism, yet the nature of the beast is quite different in the two countries. For Mr. Duterte the priority is to bring the battle to a quick, decisive end, and if necessary, to resume negotiations with some groups that had earlier held out the promise of ending hostilities. Tackling the humanitarian crisis created by this conflict depends as much on these negotiations and on relief efforts as it does on ending the long neglect of Mindanao.


1) Predecessors’

Meaning: Someone who had a job or a position before someone else, or something that comes before another thing in time or in a series.

Example: My predecessor worked in this job for twelve years.

Synonyms: Former, Antecedent

Antonyms: Successor

2) Bonhomie

Meaning: Cheerful friendliness; geniality.

Example: He exuded good humour and bonhomie.

Synonyms: Good nature, Friendliness

Antonyms: Coldness

3) Perceived

Meaning: Become aware or conscious of (something); come to realize or understand.

Example: His mouth fell open as he perceived the truth.

Synonyms: Discern, Recognize

4) Emphasis

Meaning: Special importance, value, or prominence given to something.

Example: They placed great emphasis on the individual’s freedom.

Synonyms: Prominence, Importance

Antonyms: Unimportant

5) Sovereignty

Meaning: Supreme power or authority.

Example: The sovereignty of Parliament.

Synonyms: Power, Supremacy, Authority

Antonyms: Subjection, Subservience

6) Albeit

Meaning: Though (Conjunction).

Example: He was making progress, albeit rather slowly.

7) Convergence

Meaning: The process or state of converging.

Example: The convergence of lines in the distance.

Synonyms: Junction, Connection

Antonyms: Divergence

8) Divergence

Meaning: The process or state of diverging.

Example: The divergence between primates and other groups.

Synonyms: Separation, Parting

Antonyms: Convergence

9) Articulated

Meaning: Having two or more sections connected by a flexible joint.

Example: An articulated lorry.

Synonyms: Segmented, Attached

Antonyms: Hesitant, Unintelligible

10) Substantive

Meaning: Having a firm basis in reality and so important, meaningful, or considerable.

Example: There is no substantive evidence for the efficacy of these drugs.

Synonyms: Nominal

11) Engulfed

Meaning: Of a natural force) sweep over (something) so as to surround or cover it completely.

Example: The cafe was engulfed in flames.

Synonyms: Deluge, Immerse

12) Ceasefire

Meaning: A temporary suspension of fighting; a truce.

Example: The latest ceasefire seems to be holding.

Synonyms: Truce, Suspension of

Antonyms: Fight, War

13) Insurgency

Meaning: An active revolt or uprising.

Example: Rebels are waging an armed insurgency to topple the monarchy.

Synonyms: Dissent, Revolt

Antonyms: Calm, Peace

14) Snipers

Meaning: A person who shoots from a hiding place, especially accurately and at long range.

Example: He was killed by a sniper’s bullet in the Great War.

Synonyms: Shooter, Rifleman

15) Armaments

Meaning: Military weapons and equipment.

Example: National armaments could be kept to a minimum.

Synonyms: Arms, Weaponry

16) Grenade

Meaning: A small bomb thrown by hand or launched mechanically.

Example: Bombs & missiles.

Synonyms: Missile

17) Jibe

Meaning: An insulting or mocking remark; a taunt.

Example: A jibe at his old rivals.

Synonyms: Taunt, Insult

18) Extremism

Meaning: The holding of extreme political or religious views; fanaticism.

Example: The dangers of religious extremism.

Synonyms: Fanaticism, Radicalism

Antonyms: Moderation