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India needs to be the catalyst for Quad formalisation

Joyeeta Basu

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Much is being made of the in-person meeting of the foreign ministers of India, United States, Australia and Japan in the second edition of the Quadrilateral dialogue, better known as Quad, in Tokyo. And rightly so, considering video conferencing is the norm at a time when there is a pandemic raging across the globe, courtesy the Chinese virus. A threat of Chinese proportions requires in-person meetings, apart from conveying the message to Beijing that the Quad means business. In an interesting departure from “norms”, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar used the word Quad in one of his tweets about the meeting— a departure because such is our love for “non alignment” that we do not even utter the word Quad, lest it be seen by Beijing as New Delhi becoming a part of an anti-China bloc. The problem is, India’s response to anything concerning China is generally so subtle that more often than not China takes it as a sign of India’s weakness. And now the all-important question: what was the outcome of the Quad meeting? The statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) was anodyne at best, talking about the four ministers having “reaffirmed their collective vision of maintaining a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific”—possibly the closest MEA can get to talking about China in public! But then to be fair to India, the foreign ministers of Japan and Australia too did not mention China even once, in contrast to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was sharp in his denunciation of the authoritarian Chinese regime. So in tangible terms, what was the outcome of the meeting, apart from the decision to meet “regularly”?

Pompeo’s statement, “Once we’ve institutionalized what we’re doing—the four of us together—we can begin to build a true security framework,” begs the obvious question: “when?” Is there a time frame to such an exercise? More importantly, what will be India’s role in it? Considering its record of sitting on the fence in the name of “non alignment”/“non alliance”, will India drag the Quad down to sloth-speed, by being somewhat of a “reluctant” partner? Or will it be one of the main catalysts in the formalisation of the Quad—and possibly Quad Plus countries—into a security alliance, somewhat similar to Nato? The fundamental principle behind such an alliance is, “an attack on one of the alliance partners is an attack on the others”. This step will have reverberations not just in the Indo-Pacific, but globally, for it will be the single biggest strategic move to force China to ratchet down its aggression against its neighbours and others. If there is anything that scares China, it is a united world standing up to it. The longer India takes to help formalise such an alliance, greater will be China’s aggression against India. With China, it is not a question of if, but when it will impose a conflict on India—at its convenience. India may be capable of fighting a war against China, but India needs a strategy to contain China, and formalisation of the Quad is one such strategy. Moreover, as the world’s most populous democracy, it is incumbent on India’s part to join hands with like-minded powers to ensure that an imperialist rogue country such as China does not get to control the reins of the world. As Mike Pompeo said in Japan, the Quad is “for the soul of the world—whether this will be a world that operates (as) a rules-based international order system, or one that’s dominated by a coercive totalitarian regime like the one in China”. India needs to be the catalyst towards this process. The determination India has shown in banning Chinese apps, or in standing up to China in Ladakh, should be carried forward to its Quad policy as well.

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GOVERNMENT ACTS SWIFTLY, MOVES ERRANT IAS OFFICERS OUT OF DELHI

Pankaj Vohra

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The Centre on Thursday night acted swiftly against two IAS officers, Sanjeev Khirwar and his wife, Rinku Dugga by moving them out from Delhi to Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh respectively. The action came after the Indian Express published a report which stated that the IAS couple had misused their position to get the Thyagraj Stadium vacated every evening so that they could do their daily walking on the tracks meant for training athletes. How this was happening should also be a subject of an inquiry since there could be involvement of some more officials in this glaring dereliction of duty. The stadiums are meant for sportspersons and the top priority should always be given to their training and preparedness. However, this particular IAS couple, perhaps intoxicated by the immense power they wielded used it to intimidate everyone so that they could follow their walking regimen on a daily basis. There could be numerous other examples of senior civil servants abusing their positions to show their clout to their peers and others. There was an example of a Delhi police official who was known for getting the petrol from his official car transferred to his personal car.

He would many times get police recruits to line up outside his house and chant Zindabad with his name. The government at that time had taken a lenient view of his deviant behaviour and allowed him to continue in his position in the national capital till he was routinely transferred out to another post. There are stories of how so many IAS officers manage to write books when they should be serving the people at that time. Instead of clearing their files, many of the bureaucrats have secretarial assistance available to them and use that help to dictate the drafts of books which later get published by willing publishers who get these books picked up by various agencies of the government itself. The government of the day has on earlier occasions too acted against civil servants who have been overstepping their boundaries to assert their positions.

The primary task of the bureaucracy is to assist the elected representatives in discharging their duties based on the stipulated policies of the government. The bureaucrats cannot be bossing their political bosses which is very often happening, primarily because a large number of politicians are totally at sea when it comes to understanding the nuances of the administration and are heavily dependent on civil servants. Gone are the days when integrity and civil service were synonymous with each other. Unless and until the political will is strong, the bureaucrats shall always continue to exploit the situation. Delhi has always attracted a lot of attention and therefore, those who get posted here must be carefully selected.

The new Lt. Governor has recently been appointed and shall now have to ensure that the postings and transfers are done carefully and by going through proper background checks. Many IAS officers are back in the city and are awaiting postings. They would obviously get their new assignments shortly. So far as the two deviant IAS officers are concerned, they should be strictly dealt with in accordance with the service rules applicable to the civil servants

Editorial Director: Prof. M.D. Nalapat; Managing Editor: Pankaj Vohra; Editor: Joyeeta Basu; Executive Editor: Bikash C Paul; Printed and Published by Rakesh Sharma for and on behalf of Good Morning India Media Pvt. Ltd.; Printed at: Good Morning India Media Pvt. Ltd, Khasra No. 39, Village Basai Brahuddin Nagar, Gautam Buddha Nagar, Noida, Uttar Pradesh, (U.P.-201301); Published at: S-I, 2nd Floor, Green Park, Opp Canara Bank, New Delhi-110016; The Editorial offices: 275 Captain Gaur Marg Sriniwaspuri Okhla, New Delhi – 110065; Mumbai Office: Juhu Hotel, Juhu Tara Road, Santa Cruz-West, Mumbai-400049; Chandigarh Office: SCO-7, Sector 17-E, Chandigarh- 160017; RNI Registration No: Applied For; Title Code No: DELENG19869; For Subscriptions and Circulation Complaints Contact: Delhi: Mahesh Chandra Saxena Mobile:+ 91 9911825289, CISN 0976 – 0008

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IDEA OF INDIA: FACILE BAD-MOUTHING OR MUCH MORE

Nitin Mehta

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Around 500 delegates, 50 of whom were from abroad, took part in the conference. The conference was called ‘The Idea of India’ and took place in London from 18 to 20 May 2022. It was organised by Bridge India Foundation which registered as a charity in the UK in 2019. It describes itself as a ‘progressive non-profit think tank which will help India watchers to understand India better’. The conference was ostensibly to deliberate on issues like investment, education and green technology. Pushpraj Deshpande, one of the sponsors of the event and founder of the Samruddha Bharat Foundation, said, “the conference was organised to change the narrative in India which was not casteist or communalist.” He further said, “the West is very worried, the UK especially, about racism and communalism in their societies. No UK political party would want to be seen to endorse the systematic targeting of minorities, so how can the West sit silently on what is happening in India? They expect India to be a regional antidote to China. Are they really expecting us to be a regional antidote when we are going the China and Russian way?” Deshpande is a supporter of the Congress Party and his organisation was actually launched by Rahul Gandhi.

Amongst those present at the conference were Gandhi, Communist leader Sitaram Yechury, Congress leader Salman Kurshid, and Mohua Moitra of the Trinamool Congress. Sam Pitroda and Amitabh Behar, CEO of Oxfam India were amongst the speakers. Gandhi, in his address to the conference, said, “India was not in a good place and PM Modi does not listen. There is kerosene all over the country and all it needs is one spark.” Gandhi continued that mass action is required to free India from ‘deep state’ organisations like RSS and even CBI! He also remarked that some European bureaucrats complained that the Indian Foreign Service has completely changed and the officers are arrogant! Gandhi also spoke at an event organised by Dr Shruti Kapila, assistant professor of History at Cambridge and Fellow of Corpus Christi College. Dr Kapila is a Congress supporter and has stated that Veer Savarkar (Vinayak Damodar Savarkar) is the Father of new India, presumably under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In her speech, Moitra emphasised, “India needs a multicultural Indian government, not a uni-dimensional narrow one. I do not have to prove my patriotism every time I open my mouth.”

According to The Times of India, meetings were held behind closed doors with senior left-wing politicians and shadow ministers in the UK as well as business leaders, activists, and academics. Amongst the trustees of Bridge India are Suprio Chaudhuri, Chief Learning Officer, ATMC; Ashwin Kumara Swamy, Investment Director Mercia Management; and Raquib Islam, a British civil servant. Author Salil Tripathi and Santosh Bhanot of the Asian Circle are amongst the advisers. The Bridge Foundation is a sponsor of the Asian Achievements Awards. For an organisation which professes to encourage exchange of ideas, there was no one from the BJP among the speakers. No one remotely sympathetic to the ruling party, which has won two elections, was among the speakers. It is obvious that this conference was a coming together of failed left-wing politicians, academics, and evangelical groups. These groups have paid lip service to disadvantaged groups for decades and the overwhelming numbers of people in India have seen through their fake stomach thumping!

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Transforming slums via upgradation and delisting: Odisha’s approach

The model for slum upgradation by Government of Odisha, utilising public resources during the ongoing pandemic and ensuring better preparedness against similar health crises in the future, has the potential to be scaled up to other states within the country.

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By Shubhagato Dasgupta, Anindita Mukherjee, Baisakhi Sarkar Dhar

Slums are not a new phenomenon. They have been concomitant to increasing urbanisation and industrialisation as populations boomed . These pockets of informal settlements are characterised by overcrowding, insanitary, unhealthy, and dehumanising living conditions, insecure land tenure, lack of access to basic civic services, education, and health care, among others. While the challenges faced at the slum level are not new, the ongoing pandemic has exacerbated their substandard living conditions while preventing them from practicing seemingly simple preventive measures such as frequent handwashing and maintaining social distancing, threatening more than one billion people worldwide in slums as well as in the non-slum urban areas at large. Those living in slums and informal settlements are also most vulnerable to the economic consequences of a widespread lockdown. The COVID-19 pandemic, through its various peaks, has further heightened the need for a more robust and immediate solution for improving living condition and access to service in slums. Integrating slums within city fabric by slum upgradation has the potential to be one of the crucial interventions that can foster inclusive and resilient cities as we ‘build back better’.

The approach to slum upgrading has changed considerably from the 1950s to the 2000s. Beginning in 1972, the World Bank launched urban upgrading projects to improve services, infrastructure, and housing in hopes of reducing poverty and meeting basic needs (Corburn & Sverdlik, 2017). In the 2000s, the slum upgradation programmes became more comprehensive, calling for an enabling approach combining good policies, community participation, engagement of the private sector and strategies to prevent future proliferation of slums. Through the years, slum upgrading initiatives in countries across the world like Bandung, Indonesia, and Vietnam, among others, have been considered relatively successful; however, upscaling projects from small neighbourhoods to the city and to the state scales remained a challenge.

Slum upgrading is a complex phenomenon as several interrelated components requires to be addressed to implement it successfully. It is not simply about providing basic infrastructures or housing but also about integrating the economic, social, institutional, and community activities that are needed to turn around downward trends in an area . The two most important factors for a slum upgrading programme to be successful are strong political will on behalf of the government and a strong buy-in from communities. However, in most cases, achieving some coherence in the community, finding solutions for a wide range of needs and sustaining political will across government terms remain primary challenges.

Odisha’s approach to the challenge

Although one of the least urbanised states in India, Odisha grew at a rate double that of its overall population during the 2001-2011 period. Moreover, one in every four urban dwellers in Odisha was living in slums (Census 2011) and lacked access to basic infrastructure while occupying only 2- 4% of the urban land . Against this background, Odisha embarked on its journey of providing land rights to slum dwellers and enacted the Odisha Land Rights to Slum Dwellers Act in September 2017, followed by launch of Jaga Mission or the Odisha Liveable Habitat Mission in 2018. By 2021, the GoO distributed more than 70,000 Land Rights Certificate (LRC) across 109 small and medium urban local bodies (ULBs) while according more than 99,000 Land Entitlement Certificate (LEC).

However, as mentioned above, mere according land rights do not improve the living quality in these urban informal settings. The continuum of land rights, from de-jure to de-facto presented a range of opportunities to incrementally transform urban slums and the lives of the people who live there. Accordingly, a ‘Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for Slum Upgrading and Delisting in Odisha’ designed to integrate the urban poor settlements into the mainstream city fabric and transform the slums into liveable habitats called Biju Adarsh Colonies (BACs). It was launched on 28th September 2020 amidst the pandemic, and the work was initiated immediately. It intended to benefit the slum dwellers by jointly identifying with the communities the key infrastructure gaps and subsequently filling those gaps by process of upgradation. It focused on improving access to six civic infrastructures i.e. i) in-house water supply, ii) paver roads, iii) pucca stormwater drainage, iv) street lights, v) individual household toilets (IHHL), vi) in-house electricity, and common social infrastructures i.e. vii) Parichaya, signature community centres viii) Open space development including ix) development of childrens’ play areas. The state government’s effort through asset creation and improved service delivery aimed to address the demands of urbanisation and bridge the gap between developmental outcomes and the growing needs of people in the state. This, in turn, translated into increased infrastructure resilience and reduced vulnerability towards health risks like the ones posed by the ongoing pandemic.

Community engagement has been one of the key features of the programme. By stimulating and fostering the capacity of community-based organisations namely the Slum Dwellers’ Association (SDA) and Self-Help Groups (SHGs), the government ensured that not only they become the beneficiaries of the development but also becomes the partner in the process of development instilling a sense of ownership of the process. Moreover, the projects supported climate-sensitive infrastructure development by mandating paver blocks for new roads, LED bulbs for Street Lighting, construction of toilet with Septic Tank, and encouraging the use of solar-powered street lights. These technologies are expected to result in positive environmental impact by subsoil percolation & groundwater recharge, energy conservation, reduction in carbon footprint, groundwater contamination, waterbody contamination, and eventual decline in health hazards.

Complementarity of other infrastructure programmes

Convergence with other ongoing state and central government schemes has been another key constituent of the program. Various government schemes like Urban Wage Employment Initiative (UWEI)/ Mukhyamantri Karma Tatapara Abhiyan Yojana (MUKTA), Buxi Jagabandhu Assured Water Supply to Habitations (BASUDHA), Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), and UNNATI funded the public works component of the slum upgradation under JAGA Mission, covering all parts of the project. While the water supply component is complemented by Mission BASUDHA, which seeks to provide piped drinking water supply to all households in Odisha, Swachh Bharat Mission was leveraged for individual toilets and CT/PTs. It also went ahead to integrate community participation and wage employment scheme with the slum upgradation process to reduce social, economic, and infrastructural vulnerability among the urban poor. The participation was further bolstered by the UWEI scheme launched initially for six months as a COVID-19 response to provide livelihood opportunities to around 450,000 urban poor families. The scheme was converged with JAGA Mission to provide employment to the urban poor by engaging them in creating urban infrastructure for slum upgradation. It not only provided gainful livelihood opportunities to urban poor families during the ongoing pandemic but also created community assets, strengthened community institutions, enhanced ecological resilience, and applied innovative technologies to enhance the sustainability of welfare schemes and measures.

Way Forward

While slum upgrading benefits a city by fostering inclusion, promoting economic development, addressing overall city issues, and improving the quality of life of the urban poor, there remain other challenges with mainstreaming. The upgraded slums, most often than not, remains unaccounted for in the city planning exercise and the upgradation wears off with time perpetuating the slum like situation. Odisha’s slum upgradation program is uniquely designed to tackle this challenge as well. The slums, once upgraded, are delisted and are integrated into the city fabric, thus bringing them within the purview of the statutory planning exercises. This is a step towards making the program sustainable in the long term. Another major challenge is the sustained flow of funds, which the Odisha government also addresses by amending its Odisha Municipal Act-1950 and Odisha Municipal Corporation Act-2003 to provide for internal earmarking of 25 percent fund for urban poor under the head of capital expenditure in all ULBs of the State. This allocation of sum for delivering basic services and infrastructure to slums in the ULB budgets aims at providing for the fiscal requirements and planning needs for the urban poor in the state. Internal resource earmarking aimed to channelize the municipal spending to become inclusive and pro-poor in their approach and functioning.

Informal settlements typically suffer from a lack of access to basic civic and social amenities and remain characterized by dilapidated built structures – increasing their vulnerability considerably. Hence, building forward better from this pandemic will necessitate integrating slums within the city fabric, further fostering inclusive and resilient cities envisioned in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the New Urban Agenda (NUA). With access to all basic infrastructures backed by a strong local body, communities can be more cohesive, more resilient, and better placed to confront economic and social challenges. The model for slum upgradation by GoO utilising public resources during the ongoing pandemic and ensuring better preparedness against similar health crises in the future has the potential to be scaled up to other states within the country. Partnership between government and community along with a demand driven approach is the key to success of programs like JAGA Mission. The only key to this up scaling is to build continued complementarity with other state and national level urban development programmes and develop community partnerships.

Shubhagato Dasgupta is a Senior fellow, Anindita Mukherjee is an Associate Fellow and Baisakhi Sarkar Dhar is a Senior Research Associate at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi. Views are personal.

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UKRAINE IS NOT AFGHANISTAN, BUT…

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Ukraine-crisis is likely to be prolonged with a similar objective responsible for Afghanistan-war lasting for years. Geographically, culturally, histo rically and at numerous other levels, there is no comparison between Afghanistan-wars fought at different periods by United States as well as former Soviet Union and the ongoing Ukraine-war. Ukraine is not Afghanistan. The only similarity is that people have suffered and are suffering the most in both countries. But when superpower and/or major powers’ key interest is their own agenda, why should they be expected to be worry about grievances of common citizens in targeted countries?

Seriously, diplomatic promises, claims, assurances and so forth voiced by any power- which itself cannot claim to be above board in the same area- only sound hollow, including United States as well as Russia. Notwithstanding claims made by US and its allies about former’s aid to Ukraine, helping this country gain an upper edge against Russia, several key factors cannot be side-lined. It is astonishing, US waited for Russian strikes against Ukraine to begin and then started supplying weapons to latter. Weapons and not diplomatic cards have been (and are being) made use of. Secondly, this suggests a motive of Washington was and perhaps is continuance of Russian-Ukraine war. The limited or practically no importance being accorded to diplomatic negotiations for an end to this conflict indicates this. United States is apparently more concerned about continuance of Ukraine-crisis till Russia weakens more. It is equivalent to expecting history to repeat itself. Afghan-ploy was also responsible for collapse of Soviet Union.

Ukraine-crisis, it is feared, spells dangerous signals for other European countries. This refers to plans of Finland and Sweden to backtrack from their policies of military non-alignment and join NATO. Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that such a move “would certainly provoke our response.” Notwithstanding diplomatic legitimacy and/or credibility of this stand, what needs greater attention is the havoc that even a minor military move from Russia against these countries can lead to. Chances of American soldiers stepping in to confront Russian soldiers to check such a move may be viewed as non-existent. Those talking of Ukraine-crisis leading to third World War had probably envisaged such a situation, that of American soldiers actually helping Ukraine.

Geographically, terrain of these countries, including Ukraine is different from that of Afghanistan. Besides, spill-over of Afghanistan-war’s negative impact into Pakistan cannot be forgotten. It is difficult to assume that rest of Europe would not be affected by continuance of Ukraine-crisis and if other countries are caught in similar situation. Geographical proximity of Finland and Sweden to Russia cannot be ignored.

Diplomatically, United States is close enough to issue periodic assurances and perhaps also help with weapons. But that’s it. It is high time that European countries judged the situation as per their standing and not as laid out by other powers. Rather than risk facing any war or war-like situation and/or waiting for any external power to decide their diplomatic strategy, it may be more practical of Finland as well as Sweden to have one-to-one talk with Moscow. Waiting for third world countries to help them out may take too long a time and perhaps only worsen the situation.

NATO-diplomacy, inclusion in NATO and other similar diplomatic vibes sound great. But their limitation in spelling peace and relief as well as not permitting conflicts to take place standout by continuation of Ukraine-crisis. Yes, claims have been made by Ukrainian soldiers about having “made it to border” with “enemy state.” Their counter-offensive operations have been described as a “success”. NATO countries are going all out to boost Ukraine’s confidence by appreciating its success against Russia. These are definitely great diplomatic moves but of limited relevance when war is showing no sign of coming to an end. Chances of it spreading further stand out too markedly to be ignored.

Once a war begins between neighbouring countries, prospects of it coming to a quick end may be viewed as remote unless they mutually agree to give greater importance to diplomacy. Ukraine is caught in this trap. United States probably wants this “war,” as suggested earlier, to further weaken Russia, which would according to speculations be viewed by Washington as a major victory. But at what cost?

– Nilofar Suhrawardy

Editorial Director: Prof. M.D. Nalapat; Managing Editor: Pankaj Vohra; Editor: Joyeeta Basu; Executive Editor: Bikash C Paul; Printed and Published by Rakesh Sharma for and on behalf of Good Morning India Media Pvt. Ltd.; Printed at: Good Morning India Media Pvt. Ltd, Khasra No. 39, Village Basai Brahuddin Nagar, Gautam Buddha Nagar, Noida, Uttar Pradesh, (U.P.-201301); Published at: S-I, 2nd Floor, Green Park, Opp Canara Bank, New Delhi-110016; The Editorial offices: 275 Captain Gaur Marg Sriniwaspuri Okhla, New Delhi – 110065; Mumbai Office: Juhu Hotel, Juhu Tara Road, Santa Cruz-West, Mumbai-400049; Chandigarh Office: SCO-7, Sector 17-E, Chandigarh- 160017; RNI Registration No: Applied For; Title Code No: DELENG19869; For Subscriptions and Circulation Complaints Contact: Delhi: Mahesh Chandra Saxena Mobile:+ 91 9911825289, CISN 0976 – 0008

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Why India-Japan relations matter in the 21st century

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One should make good people their friends. One who keeps good friends, benefits, and lives in peace. – Rig Veda

Time, when in a span of 15 days (March –April 2022), 11 high-level delegations from foreign countries (including the Chinese foreign minister) visited India, and India is visiting Japan to strengthen the Quad, showing the rise of a new economic coalition or something more or something else?

There have been murmurs on the sidelines about Quad Plus. What about Supply Chain Resilience Initiative? What is this Quad, Quad Plus, and why have Japanese ties become so relevant in recent times under the recent geopolitical environment?

Starting from the historic perspective, relations between India and Japan have been strong for centuries on account of Buddhism which originated in India and spread through entire Japan.

In the last century, in Auust 1942, one of the greatest Indian leaders, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose formed the Indian National Army (INA) with Japanese support and the Japanese-captured Indian prisoners of war.

The offensive from this army (INA) and their grit along with Satyagraha from within led by Mahatma Gandhi, severe losses (suffered by Britishers in WW II), the huge quantum of debt (raised by the UK to fight the war), and the massive cost of maintenance of a plundered nation forced Britishers to give India Independence in 1947.

Just before the Indian Independence in Feb 1946, the soldiers, officers, and personnel who were captured by the Japanese belonging to the Royal Indian Navy (one of the bravest contingents of Indian fighting for Allied forces posing a strong opposition to the Japanese invasion in the Indian Ocean during World War II) and were eventually freed by Japanese (post-WW II) raised a revolt and organized a mutiny to overthrow British.

Indian hearts and Indians’ minds by now were aligned to India and Indian Independence and eventually, Independence came in.

Fast-forward 75 years to the present day, the official reason why the Prime Minister of India visited Japan was to be part of the second physical meeting of Quad. A group of 4 countries, the US, Japan, Australia, and India.

Initiated in 2007 and finally taking shape in 2017, Quad or the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue came into existence. Today what is perceived as “Asian NATO” the Core thought process of Quad came into existence in 2004 on account of the Boxing Day Tsunami that killed 2.28 lac people in 14 countries.

From a humble humanitarian helping hand approach Quad has turned now out to be a formidable force to contain the influence of the reign of China in the Asia Pacific region.

Over the last 2 decades with the rise of China, there has been a steep fall in allies China. All 4 founding or Core members of Quad have or continue to have challenging relations with China.

AUSTRALIA, INDIA & CHINA

Starting with Australia. Australia’s largest trading partner is China, Australia is the largest exporter to China (37%) by a mile (the second largest being Japan with 11% exports) and now Australia wishes to reduce its export dependence on China.

Why this change in mind, change in alignment, change in future strategy?

In May 2020, Australia called for an independent probe into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, which emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan, infuriating China. In April 2021, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne cancels two MOUs (Memorandum of Understanding) signed by the state of Victoria in 2018 and 2019 with China’s National Development and Reform Commission on Chinese participation in infrastructure projects under China’s Belt and Road initiatives.

In April 2022, Australian Minister for Defence Peter Dutton accused China of paying bribes to win international deals. Why this distrust, mistrust, and unease between Australia and China, When Australia’s largest output is absorbed by China?

It’s a long story in itself and it all started with espionage by Huawei – the largest manufacturer of telecom, equipment, smart devices, and consumer electronic items. On the recommendation from the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) concerned with cyber security & espionage, in 2010, Australia’s National Broadband Network quietly rejected Huawei’s bids for the creation of the national broadband network. In 2018 Huawei and ZTE (Chinese telecom equipment manufacturer) were banned from constructing Australia’s 5G network and the saga started.

Once a friend, now a foe, seeking more de-alignment. Somebody’s loss is always somebody’s gain. As Australia was looking to de-align itself from China, India emerged as a formidable, credible, ethical, all-weather partner to Australia.

Swiftly, in April 2022, India strengthened its ties & alliance with Australia by signing the Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) that aims at doubling bilateral trade in the next five years to USD 45-50 billion from USD 27 billion as of FY 22.

Presently India is Australia’s seventh-largest trading partner, Australia wants India to be top three export markets by 2035. ECTA was historic in the way that tariffs were removed on more than 85% of Australian goods exported to India. In return, Australia agreed to Indian terms of 96% of Indian goods arriving in Australia to be duty-free.

On the Oil side, India is tying deeply with UAE giving UAE companies equivalent status as compared to Indian businesses for sourcing done by the Indian government on the other hand, with Australia India is finding an ally that shares common insecurity & challenges with another Asian giant China.

Australia on an ongoing basis has backed the US, stating that there is ‘no legal basis to several Chinese claims in the disputed South China sea.

THE UNITED STATES, INDIA & CHINA

The US (United States of America), the second formidable partner in Quad wishes to control its trading partner China’s might and influence in the Asia Pacific region by Quad. Also, the US is an ally of Taiwan and in case of aggression by China to annex Taiwan which China believes is part of the People’s Republic of China will need assistance from Quad allies.

To make the geo-political situation a little more chaotic, a latest news coverage by a reputed publication suggested that the Chinese President, aged 68, is suffering from a cerebral aneurysm, a condition when a bulge forms in one of the blood vessels in the brain with a 50% probability of mortality and Chinese President publicly vowed in 2019 that Taiwan must and will be reunited with China and that China reserves the right to use the force. In such a scenario, the US finds India’s largest military as a natural ally against the largest military in the world.

INDIA

India welcomed its way into the Quad as it enabled India both in terms of economic ties as well as a forging formidable force in case of aggression. India had in the past and recently witnessed conflicts with China (in 2020) in the Galwan Valley, the Eastern region of Ladakh. For decades, India continues to fight and reclaim its rights and control over parts of Aksai Chin, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh, and Ladakh that are illegally controlled and occupied by China.

On the economic front, India had an import of 100 billion USD from China with India’s trade deficit with China clocking a whooping USD 69.38 billion in 2021. India surely wishes to replace this as quickly as it can. Quad surely can do wonders.

JAPAN, INDIA & CHINA

The next pillar of Quad, Japan has been India’s oldest ally in development, and both have deep social as well as historic links as covered in the earlier part of the note.

The Japanese investments in India touched USD 32 billion between 2000 and 2019, across all core sectors including automobile, electrical equipment, telecommunications, chemical, insurance, pharmaceutical, etc. What was done in 19 years, nearly one-third more (USD 42 billion) will be done in the next 5 years as investments by Japan in India (Intent & actions remain so)?

In 2014, India and Japan entered into a strategic global partnership, a unique and first of its kind in the world whereby it was agreed (other things as well) that in a specific period of the next 5 years Japan’s foreign direct investment and the number of Japanese companies operating in India to double and the target was met.

As India is important to Japan for its slow or DE growing economy with an aged population to rely on the huge market like India, India is dependent on Japan for its cheap capital to build infrastructure to grow its economy on a fast track and provide large scale employment to Indian Youth who need jobs to sustain the family and country.

China remains Japan’s largest trading partner but the conflict continues with China despite economic ties. The conflict started in 2012, when Japan nationalized the Senkaku islands (the Senkaku Islands are a group of uninhabited islands in the East), sparking widespread protests across China. Since then, China has affected a strategy of active non-acquiescence to Japan’s occupation of the islands.

Though Quad was largely formulated and constituted before Covid, Covid expedited the Vaccination diplomacy, Where Russia (not in the context of Quad) China, India, and the US-led the vaccine manufacturing largely.

In a couple of meetings virtually in 2020, South Korea, Vietnam, New Zealand, Brazil, and Israel, most of which are allies of the US took part and there have been murmurs of having these other nations, which share common anxiety against China can be brought in the group known as Quad Plus.

Covid was handled by all countries differently as per their capacity and wisdom and unique amongst it was and are China, where one witnessed zero-tolerance policy on something which is beyond human control.

Thus world which is largely dependent on China across most goods & services found India as a strong ally and thus came China + 1 policy for the world.

Witnessing the disruptions in the Supply chain caused by Covid and to handle any other equivalent situation better and reduce vulnerability and dependence on China, thus came the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI) is a trilateral agreement that was led by Japan, Australia, and India. The core idea of this initiative was to create a “virtuous cycle” of strong, sustainable, balanced, and inclusive growth throughout the Indo-Pacific region by sharing best practices, investment promotion, and buyer-seller matching events for supply chain diversification.

Quad, Quad Plus, SCRI are some of the reasons why India visited Japan, but more importantly, to, strengthen ties to fast-track cheap capital flows into India from Japan so that India can continue to remain the Engine of growth for the World, clocking CAGR of 8% real GDP growth.

Interestingly Japan chose India from thousands of miles away as a partner for growth and a friend, and India relied upon a nation far away instead of its neighbours.

As one says, one cannot choose neighbours but surely can choose whom one remains friends with.

Siddhartha Rastogi, Managing Director & COO, Asset Management Vertical of a leading full-service Investment Bank. (The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official view or position of any company or sister concerns or Group company where the Author is presently employed.)

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RED LINES IN THE AGE OF TECH

Priya Sahgal

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Last week the India Foundation held a conclave on the MetaVerse. Speaking at the event which had a robot as a co-compere, Jyotiraditya Scindia, the Minister of Civil Aviation quipped that soon they would not be needing him to come and address the gathering, as there will come a time when a robot could come and deliver his speech. Taking up this train of thought, RSS leader Ram Madhav commented that since we are heading towards a world of Artificial General Intelligence there is a cause for worry as there is one crucial difference between robots and humans and this is intelligence with a heart. He commented that already there are cases of AI outguessing human intelligence, citing the example of Alpha Zero a chess engine developed by Deep Mind & Google search engines, that claims to defeat any chess player that ever lived. Hence there is a need to put checks and balances in place and draw some red lines. Madhav is right otherwise we could well be living in a world where we are shaped by tech instead of the other way around. (In fact, some would say, we are already halfway there).

Also speaking at the India Foundation conclave K Ananth Krishnan (TCS) pointed out that there are more smartphone owners in India than toothbrush owners. We are already in a dependent and needy (toxic is a better word) relationship with technology. In their book, The Art of Bitfulness, Nandan Nilekani and Tanuj Bhojwani, quote a December 2020 survey of 2000 smartphone users revealed that on an average users spent 6.9 hours on their phones every day; and most (46 %) pick up their phones at least five times in an hour-long conversation with friends. 84 % say they check their phones within 15 minutes of waking up.

It would be fair to state that the digital world has our undivided attention. And beckoning from the horizon is the Metaverse, a collective virtual shared space that we can inhabit by creating avatars or our virtual counterparts. By inhabit, they mean everything, from socialising to attending business meetings to even shopping. You can even experience the physical intimacy of a virtual hug or a handshake. You can also buy land and space on this metaverse that is being cultivated by tech giants such as FaceBook and Microsoft (only the latter calls its metaverse Mesh).

All this is very well but where does that leave our human avatars? What kind of discourse will we have where all our conversation will be governed by algorithms. Already with twitter replacing the physical townhall as the preferred forum for debate, we are in the danger of living in an algorithm bubble where we are shown only those posts that match our ideological beliefs. Facebook and Twitter have us wrapped in a bubble where we are shown only those posts that the algorithm thinks are best suited for us. We have already outsourced our search engine to them. Any further dependence will only be detrimental to our capacity for independent and free-thinking.

Digital platforms can also be misused to propagate a certain kind of narrative. If Facebook doesn’t want you to read a particular article it will simply set its algorithm in a way that will make the article harder to find on its search engine. Ditto for YouTube. Twitter can simply ban your account. So for better or (meta) worse, one must approach technology with all the trepidation and enthusiasm of handling a two-edged sword. 

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