Since his first election as Prime Minister in 2014, and again in 2019, India under Prime Minister Modi has seen the increasing adoption of prominent demonstrations of cultural nationalism and discrimination in favour of Hindu India and the enactment of populist policies that have damaged minorities, with protesters from across the spectrum painted as being “anti-national”.
Despite their mutual concerns over US activities, Sino-Russian co-operation in the region is a matter of convenience and necessity rather than a desire for closer relations. Central Asia, particularly Kyrgyzstan, readily demonstrates their mutually-exclusive interests and, thus, the potential for greater competition between the two countries should the unifying factor – the United States – be removed from the picture.
The Indian Supreme Court, its judgement guided by Article 142 of the Indian Constitution, has resolved the lengthy dispute over the Hindu claim to prior occupation by a Ram Temple on the Babri Masjid Mosque site at Ayodhya. It has found in favour of worship by Hindus in the mosque’s outer courtyard prior to the mid-19th century, justifying their claim. The ruling that a temple may now be built where the mosque stood until its destruction in 1992 meets the intention to build on that site expressed in the BJP’s 2019 Election Manifesto, demonstrating the Government’s commitment towards Hinduisation.
China and India both rely on foreign sources of energy, which are imported via the Indian Ocean, for their development. To safeguard those imports (and their exports), the two countries have enlarged and modernised their navies, leading to the perception of the Indian Ocean as a contested space. But is that perception justified, or, to improve their economies and address their internal challenges, do China and India have more to gain in a convergence of their interests than they stand to lose through competition in the Indian Ocean Region?
US and Indian national and strategic interests play out across a range of issues and areas of potential engagement. The anticipated resolution of their tariff war did not occur during the events of Howdy Modi week, despite the leaders’ personal rapport. Uncertainties emanating from the “America First” and “Make in India” policies, together with the H-1B visa issue and India’s ongoing relationship with Iran all add further complexity to Trump’s immediate strategic objective of coaxing Modi away from India’s strategic autonomy and towards an alliance with the US.
It remains difficult to predict how President Trump might respond to Iran, which Washington believes was behind the 14 September attack on two Saudi oil facilities. If the US does decide to launch military action, Iran will retaliate with counterstrikes against its neighbours’ oil infrastructure and other strategic targets. The ensuing conflict will have negative consequences for the entire region.
The update of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), part of the “One India” policies set out in Prime Minister Modi’s 2019 Election Manifesto, has been completed in Assam and reveals a diversity of “illegal migrants” denied citizenship and who may now face detention or deportation. The government will be frustrated, however, by the inability of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill to achieve passage through the Upper House and which may yet be deemed unconstitutional.
In the emotionally-charged atmosphere following the change in status of the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir, the South Asian subcontinent has been brought to the brink of a serious crisis. Whether matters escalate will depend upon how India and Pakistan choose to handle the highly-volatile situation.
The motives behind the recent moves in Kashmir lie less in the reasons professed – governance and development – than they do in the ideological direction in which the Modi-led BJP Government wishes to take India. The BJP would not be averse to a deterioration in the security situation because that would enable it to continue the policies of “Othering” that are part of its wider project of embedding the Hindutva ideology into India’s polity.
The 2018 Maritime Boundary Treaty between Australia and Timor-Leste is a testament to the way in which international law reinforces stability and allows countries to peacefully resolve disputes. It is an example of the rules-based order in action. While Australia and Timor-Leste will continue to work together on their shared interests in the Arafura and Timor Seas, the arrangements for the development of the Greater Sunrise hydrocarbon field and the unresolved boundaries between Indonesia and Timor-Leste will present new uncertainties.