Dreaming big doesn’t necessarily mean acting big. Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s maiden Budget speech captures New Delhi’s $5 trillion aspiration by 2025 (that’s one year’s postponement) and delivers some of the minute needed to get there. If you’re looking for ‘big bang reforms’, don’t look for it in Budget 2019.
“India wins yet again!” Narendra Modi announced in May 2019, just after securing a second term as Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy in a landslide general elections victory. When Modi was elected for a first term five years ago, he promised that India would win back its place at the high table of leading world powers. Indeed, after decades of sustained growth, India today is at a tipping point in terms of socio-economic prospects for its 1.35 billion citizens.
India is gripped by an election fever. All elections carry elements of unpredictability but in India’s seventy year history, the 2019 elections are critical. Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014 and is seeking another term. The opposition parties are concerned about Modi’s polarising influence and are determined to prevent a BJP victory though they have been unable to put up a united front on account of internal differences.
The pledge to have a “partnership for peace” has fast emerged as a key threshold in India-Japan security relations in recent years. Under the rubric of promoting a “free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific” region, a new assurance of engagement seems to be unfolding with frequent bilateral naval exercises, including dialogues and training between the Coast Guards of the two sides.
The Asia-Pacific has become the Indo-Pacific region as the US, Japan, Australia and India have decided to join forces and scale-up their political, economic and security cooperation. The message coming from Washington, Tokyo, Canberra and New Delhi is clear: China’s Belt and Road Initiative is no longer the only game in town and Beijing’s policymakers better get ready for fierce competition.
Despite the several conflicts that were taking place in and around India, Tamil Nadu in South India has been distantly associated with the threat of jihadism and the global threat of terrorism emanating from contemporary jihadist groups. This has changed over the last twenty-four months or so. The attraction that the on-going civil war in Syria holds for foreign fighters has altered this landscape of relative peace.
In 2011 a now infamous policy paper by the same author labelled the EU-India relationship as “A Loveless Arranged Marriage”. Seven years later, the EU-India strategic partnership has turned into one of the well most functioning of the EU’s strategic partnerships, even far ahead of the faltering EU-US strategic partnership under US President Trump.
"Indo-Pacific", originally a geographic concept that spans two regions of the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, is not a new concept in itself. 10 years ago, Gurpreet s. Khurana, who used the word" Indo-Pacific Strategy" for the first time, was a marine strategist and executive director of the New Delhi National Marine Foundation. Recently, he wrote in the Washington Post that the new term has changed the new strategic mind map since China’s “reform and opening up” in the 1980s. “Asia Pacific” has shaped the image of a community of interests linking the United States and East Asia.
What were the big ideas of 2017? Some, inevitably, are the product of technological developments: blockchain (a distributed ledger to ensure secure transactions) and deep learning by machines (a more sophisticated form of artificial intelligence) have been around for some time as applied concepts, but have only recently become a part of popular consciousness. Other notions that have gained salience are political in nature, such as 'fake news'. Some are purely linguistic.
Australian policy makers and strategists have recently embraced the so-called "Indo-Pacific" as a geopolitical construct to guide foreign and security policy (sometimes referred to as "Indo-Pacific strategy" - IPS). The concept was outlined in both the 2016 Defence White Paper and 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper and has prominently featured in the speeches of policy makers and the accompanying think tank/academic discourse.