a) Mr. Modi in Israel

While welcoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Tel Aviv, his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, said his country had awaited the visit for “seventy years”. Since the birth in 1948 of Israel, whose admission to the UN India subsequently opposed, Israeli leaders had always sought full diplomatic ties. And once the Narasimha Rao government established full diplomatic ties in 1992, Israel pushed for full acknowledgement of bilateral relations on the international stage. As a result, the significance of Mr. Modi’s visit to Israel, as the first Indian Prime Minister there, was the trip itself. This was reflected in the camaraderie between the two Prime Ministers, who spent practically every waking moment together. The agreements signed during the visit, on water, agriculture, space and science and technology, are important no doubt, but not path-breaking. They simply underscore ongoing cooperation in such fields — as well as in the defence sector, India being one of the biggest buyers of Israeli military equipment. Cooperation on cybersecurity issues, discussed by officials during Mr. Modi’s visit, constitutes a breakthrough of sorts, given that Israel tends to limit cooperation in this area to a few countries. A decision was announced to upgrade ties to a strategic partnership, signalling a final step to total normalisation of relations. Perhaps this is why Mr. Modi’s address to Israelis of Indian origin in Tel Aviv, with a promise to address visa issues and improve air connectivity, had an emotional pitch different from his meetings with the diaspora elsewhere in the world. However, the best friendships are judged not just by bilateral bonhomie, but by the ability to discuss uncomfortable issues. With Mr. Modi’s visit India has, for all purposes, de-hyphenated its ties with Israel and Palestine, something Israel has always wanted. In a clear repudiation of the Indian practice of keeping Palestinian leaders prominently in the loop, Mr. Modi made a point of not visiting the Occupied Territories. The departure was more prominent in the joint statement, that contained a short paragraph on the “Israel-Palestine” peace process, with no reference to UN resolutions, the two-state solution, or even the need to resume talks, that Mr. Modi had spoken of during the visit of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to India just a couple of months ago. It would have been more in keeping with India’s stature on the international stage, and its particular leverage with all players in West Asia especially on Palestine, had Mr. Modi made a visible attempt to extract from Israel a commitment to the peace process. India’s evolving ties with Israel no doubt are based on pragmatism and the desire to eschew hypocrisy — but Mr. Modi has infused his visit with a symbolism and substance that could well mark a point of departure in India’s moral support to the Palestinian cause. By way of comparison, U.S. President Donald Trump visited Palestine too when he went to Israel in May.

b) Déjà vu in Brazil

Brazil, Latin America’s largest economy, has been coasting along comfortably with record low inflation for a decade and healthy foreign direct investment to sustain the path of recovery from a recent recession. But the “Lava Jato” anti-corruption movement that rocked it three years back seems to be a long way from delivering on the promise of democratic and transparent governance. Inquiries into public fraud by politicians and captains of business have brought skeletons tumbling out of the cupboard. When Dilma Rousseff, then President, was impeached last year, it had appeared that the worst was over. But now the incumbent President, Michel Temer, has been indicted by Brazil’s top prosecutor. The script is sickeningly familiar. Ms. Rousseff was implicated over a scandal in the state-owned oil giant and its construction arm. The accusation against Mr. Temer is complicity in the authorisation of heavily subsidised public loans for a private corporation in return for political patronage. He has vehemently denied the charges, and termed the Lava Jato campaign, which he had once sympathised with, a witch hunt against political representatives. The course of the investigation against Mr. Temer is as yet uncertain. But his position appears far less precarious than that of his predecessor. The requisite vote in the lower House of Congress to authorise a criminal trial may not materialise eventually, as most members are themselves facing investigations. Representatives from his centre-right Brazilian Democratic Movement Party and Ms. Rousseff’s Workers’ Party have called for the resignation of Mr. Temer. But indications are that few have the appetite to precipitate the situation further. Moreover, upon Ms. Rousseff’s downfall, Mr. Temer, who was Vice-President then, had been catapulted to the country’s highest office. With the next presidential election scheduled for 2018, the search for a successor may not be easy. This continuing turmoil puts at risk assurances of reforms to Brazil’s labour laws and generous pension system. The controversial raising of the retirement age was seen as a major push to overhaul what was one of the world’s most envied social security programmes. Arguably, the Brazilian Left leaned too much towards an unsustainable populist agenda in the heady years of the commodities boom. But its counterparts on the Right appear ill-equipped to position themselves as a realistic alternative despite attempts to attract overseas investment. Like other nations in the region, Brazil badly needs a strong centre that is not tempted to tilt at the windmills of populism. That is the best chance of ensuring accountability to the people and engagement with the rest of the world.

Words/ Vocabulary

1) Diplomatic

Meaning: Acting in a way that does not cause offence.

Example: Diplomatic relations with Britain were broken.

Synonyms: Ambassadorial, Consular, Foreign-Policy

Antonyms: Indiscreet, Tactless

2) Camaraderie

Meaning: Mutual trust and friendship among people who spend a lot of time together.

Example: He enjoyed the camaraderie of army life.

Synonyms: Friendship, Comradeship, Fellowship

3) Diaspora

Meaning: The spreading of people from one original country to other countries.

Example: The diaspora of boat people from Asia.

Synonyms: Relocation, Resettling

4) Bonhomie

Meaning: Cheerful friendliness; geniality.

Example: He exuded good humour and bonhomie.

Synonyms: Geniality, Congeniality, Conviviality

Antonyms: Coldness

5) Repudiation

Meaning: To refuse to accept something or someone as true, good, or reasonable.

Example: He repudiated the allegation that he had tried to deceive them.

Synonyms: Rejection, Renunciation

Antonyms: Confirmation, Acknowledgement

6) Leverage

Meaning: The power to influence a person or situation.

Example: The right wing had lost much of its political leverage in the Assembly.

Synonyms: Influence, Power, Authority

7) Eschew

Meaning: To avoid something intentionally, or to give something up.

Example: We won’t have discussions with this group unless they eschew violence.

Synonyms: Abstain From, Refrain From

Antonyms: Indulge in

8) Hypocrisy

Meaning: The practice of claiming to have higher standards or more noble beliefs than is the case.

Example: His target was the hypocrisy of suburban life.

Synonyms: Sanctimony, Pietism

Antonyms: Honesty, Sincerity

9) Infused

Meaning: To fill someone or something with an emotion or quality.

Example: The pulling down of the Berlin Wall infused the world with optimism.

Synonyms: Fill, Pervade, Permeate

10) Inflation

Meaning: A general, continuous increase in prices.

Example: The control of inflation is a key component of the government’s economic policy.

Synonyms: Exaggeration, Overemphasis, Magnification

11) Tumbling

Meaning: To fall a lot in value in a short time.

Example: Share prices tumbled yesterday.

Synonyms: Fall Sharply, Fall Steeply, Plummet

Antonyms: Rise, Soar

12) Impeached

Meaning: Call into question the integrity or validity of (a practice).

Example: There is no desire to impeach the privileges of the House of Commons.

Synonyms: Indict, Charge, Accuse

Antonyms: Acquit, Confirm

13) Incumbent

Meaning: Officially having the named position.

Example: The incumbent president faces problems which began many years before he took office.

Synonyms: Binding, Obligatory, Mandatory

Antonyms: Optional

14) Accusation

Meaning: To say that someone has done something morally wrong, illegal, or unkind.

Example: The man’s lawyer said the accusation was groundless.

Synonyms: allegation, charge, claim

15) Vehemently

Meaning: In a forceful, passionate, or intense manner; with great feeling.

Example: He vehemently denied any suggestion of improper conduct.

Synonyms: Passionate, Forceful, Ardent

Antonyms: Mild, Apathetic

16) Precarious

Meaning: Not securely held or in position; dangerously likely to fall or collapse.

Example: Many borrowers now find themselves caught in a precarious financial position.

Synonyms: Uncertain, Insecure, Unreliable

Antonyms: Safe, Secure

17) Patronage

Meaning: The support given to an organization by someone.

Example: The charity enjoys the patronage of many prominent local business people.

Synonyms: Sponsorship, Backing, Funding

18) Requisite

Meaning: Necessary or needed for a particular purpose.

Example: He lacked the requisite skills for the job.

Synonyms: Necessary, Required, Prerequisite

Antonyms: Optional, Unnecessary, Non-Essential

19) Precipitate

Meaning: To make something happen suddenly or sooner than expected.

Example: An invasion would certainly precipitate a political crisis.

Synonyms: Bring About, Hasty, Sudden

20) Catapulted

Meaning: To throw someone with great force/ To suddenly experience a particular state, such as being famous.

Example: The award for best actress meant that almost overnight she was catapulted into the limelight.

Synonyms: Propel, Launch, Hurl

21) Overhaul

Meaning: to repair or improve something so that every part of it works as it should.

Example: The government has recently overhauled the healthcare system.

Synonyms: Service, Maintain, Repair

22) Envied

Meaning: To wish that you had something that another person has.

Example: I envy her ability to talk to people she’s never met before.

Synonyms: Resentment, Best, Finest

Antonyms: Generosity