The Hindu EDITORIAL  – June 24, 2017

A) A foregone conclusion

It may have the trappings of an ideological battle, but the 2017 presidential election has become a platform for political messaging. With the Bharatiya Janata Party fielding an old party hand from the Dalit community, the opposition parties led by the Congress felt constrained to follow suit. While the candidature of Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind on behalf of the ruling party was a surprise, the response from the opposition in naming former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar was anything but that. This lent the unfortunate impression that the Congress and other parties had no clear choice of their own, and were only waiting to react. They may have hoped that the BJP would field someone from its old guard, in order to set the stage for a contest between a candidate ‘swathed in saffron’ and one with a secular report card. However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah chose someone less known but from a disadvantaged community, with the clear intent of garnering the support of those outside the fold of the National Democratic Alliance, who cannot afford to be seen to be opposing a Dalit. As it happened, the Bahujan Samaj Party leader, Mayawati, felt obliged to extend her support to Mr. Kovind, until the Congress and its allies came up with the name of Ms. Kumar, daughter of the late leader of the depressed classes, Babu Jagjivan Ram. It is clear that the opposition’s tactic of waiting for the ruling party to name its candidate did not exactly help its cause. It only gave an opportunity to the BJP leadership to set the tone and agenda for the contest. The election result is a foregone conclusion. On the strength of its majority in the Lok Sabha and several legislatures, especially its huge presence in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly, the BJP’s nominee is well ahead. His position is bolstered by the support of a clutch of regional parties in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha and Tamil Nadu, but the most important coup that the BJP has pulled of by fielding the Bihar Governor is the backing of Janata Dal (United) leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. The only political point of interest in the current election lies in the possibility that it may result in realignment in Bihar. Mr. Kumar may be weighing the fallout of being seen in the company of the Rashtriya Janata Dal leader, Lalu Prasad, whose family is now embroiled in allegations of benami property transactions. There also appears to be a competition among regional parties such as the Telugu Desam Party, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, the YSR Congress and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam factions to support the Narendra Modi regime. The normally restive Shiv Sena too has chosen to back Mr. Kovind. Even with 17 parties in the opposition ranks, there may be only a symbolic contest.

B) Engaging Pyongyang

The tragic death of Otto Warmbier, the 22-year-old American student who was imprisoned and later released while in a state of coma by North Korea, is a huge setback to hopes for dialling down tensions between Washington and Pyongyang. The Korean crisis has worsened since President Donald Trump took office early this year. North Korea test-fired a number of missiles in defiance of international pressure, while the United States issued repeated warnings. Mr. Trump had put pressure on Beijing to rein Pyongyang in, and even praised it for its efforts. But the pressure does not seem to be working, with North Korea continuing with its nuclear missile programme. This was the backdrop to the release of Warmbier. He was arrested in Pyongyang in January 2016 while visiting as part of a tour group and later sentenced to 15 years of hard labour for the “hostile act” of trying to steal a propaganda poster. Within a few days of his release he died. The fallout in the U.S. is predictably charged. The Trump administration has layed the North Korean regime for Warmbier’s death, but stopped short of calling for more sanctions or issuing new threats. This may be because three other Americans are still imprisoned in North Korea, and Washington’s priority for now is to secure their release. On the face of it, this may not seem like the ideal time to advocate diplomacy. But it is worthwhile for Washington to ask whether its hostile policy towards North Korea has produced any positive result. The sanctions only approach has not helped change Pyongyang’s behaviour. In fact, the longstanding hostility and Washington’s repeated threats have turned the Kim dynastic regime so paranoid that it doesn’t spare even American tourists visiting North Korea. Attempts to put pressure on Pyongyang through Beijing have also failed — either because China is not completely on board or it is simply reluctant to use its leverage over North Korea. Using force or attempting a regime change, a strategy that has not worked for the U.S. elsewhere, will be far more dangerous in the Korean Peninsula given that the North is an unpredictable nuclear power. This situation leaves Mr. Trump with only one viable option: to take the lead in a new diplomatic offensive with both carrots and sticks. Officials from Washington and Pyongyang had already established low-level contact for the release of Warmbier and the other three Americans who are still in North Korean custody. Mr. Trump could use the crisis as an opportunity to expand the engagement, get the Americans freed and then gradually start discussing more complex issues. The new South Korean President, Moon Jae-in, is an advocate of talks and has vowed to roll back the hostile foreign policy of his predecessor. If China also backs such an effort wholeheartedly, Mr. Kim would have to unequivocally demonstrate whether he is interested in peace or not.

Words/ Vocabulary

1) Trappings

Meaning: all the things that is part of or typical of a particular job, situation, or event.

Synonym: Adornment, Equipment, Stuff

2) Swathed

Meaning: a long strip or large area especially of land.

Synonym: Wrap, Wind, Bind

Antonym: Uncover

3) Garnering

Meaning: to collect something, usually after much work or with difficulty.

Synonym: Gather, Accumulate, Assemble

Antonym: Spend, Disperse, Separate

4) Obliged

Meaning: to be forced to do something or feel that you must do something.

Synonym: Require, Compel, Force

Antonym: Delay, Release

5) Bolstered

Meaning: to support or improve something or make it stronger.

Synonym: Support or strengthen

Antonym: Undermine

6) Clutch

Meaning: to take or try to take hold of something tightly, usually in fear, worry, or pain.

Synonym: Grip, Hold

Antonym: Misconception, Misunderstanding

7) Coup

Meaning: an unexpectedly successful achievement.

Synonym: Takeover, Overthrow

Antonym: Election

8) Embroiled

Meaning: to cause someone to become involved in an argument or a difficult situation.

Synonym: Involve, Entangle

Antonym: Exclude, Order, Clarify

9) Allegations

Meaning: a statement, made without giving proof, that someone has done something wrong or illegal.

Synonym: Claim, Argument, Intimation

Antonym: Exculpation, denial

10) Regime

Meaning: a particular government or a system or method of government.

Synonym: Rule, Government, Control

11) Defiance

Meaning: behaviour in which you refuse to obey someone or something.

Synonym: Resistance, Opposition

Antonym: Submission, Obedience

12) Rein

Meaning: keep under control.

Synonym: Restrain, Restrict

Antonym: Release

13) Advocate

Meaning: to publicly support or suggest an idea, development, or way of doing something.

Synonym: Supporter, Exponent

Antonym: Critic, Reject

14) Hostility

Meaning: an occasion when someone is unfriendly or shows that they do not like something.

Synonym: Bitterness, Anger

Antonym: Friendliness, Peace

15) Paranoid

Meaning: feeling extremely nervous and worried because you believe that other people do not like you or are trying to harm you.

Synonym: Over-suspicious, Insecure

16) Reluctant

Meaning: not willing to do something and therefore slow to do it.

Synonym: Unwilling, Resistant

Antonym: Eager, Ready

17) Leverage

Meaning: the action or advantage of using a lever.

Synonym: Grip, Hold, Power

18) Viable

Meaning: able to work as intended or able to succeed.

Synonym: Feasible, Sensible

Antonym: Impracticable

19) Hostile

Meaning: unfriendly and not liking something.

Synonym: Confrontational, Aggressive

Antonym: Friendly, Mild

20) Unequivocally

Meaning: total, or expressed in a clear and certain way.

Synonym: Unambiguous, Indisputable

Antonym: Vague