Topic of the day:-“A perfect storm?”

The first problem is that for various reasons other governments in the SAARC region are either not on ideal terms with New Delhi, or facing political headwinds. In the Maldives, President Yameen Abdul Gayoom has gone out of his way to challenge the Modi government, whether it is on his crackdown on the opposition, invitations to China, or even breaking with New Delhi’s effort to isolate Pakistan at SAARC. In Nepal, the K.P. Sharma Oli government is certainly not India’s first choice, and Kathmandu’s invitation to the Pakistani Prime Minister this week confirms the chill. And no matter which party is in power in Pakistan, it is difficult to see Delhi pushing for official dialogue, especially with the military on the ascendant once again. In other parts of the neighbourhood, where relations have been comparatively better for the past few years, upcoming elections could turn the tables on India. In Sri Lanka, the recent local election results that have gone the way of the Mahinda Rajapaksa-backed party could be a portent of his future re-election. In Afghanistan, Bhutan and Bangladesh, elections this year and the next could pose challenges for India.

The next problem is the impact of China’s unprecedented forays into each of these countries. Instead of telling the Nepal government to sort out issues with India, for example, as it had in the past, China opened up an array of alternative trade and connectivity options after the 2015 India-Nepal border blockade: from the highway to Lhasa, cross-border railway lines to the development of dry ports. In Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the Maldives and Pakistan, China holds strategic real estate, which could also be fortified militarily in the future. At present, it means China has a stake in the internal politics of those countries. While China’s growing presence in infrastructure and connectivity projects has been well-documented, its new interest in political mediation must be watched more carefully as a result. When China stepped in to negotiate a Rohingya refugee return agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh, or host a meeting of Afghanistan and Pakistan’s foreign ministers to help calm tensions and bring both on board with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) connection between them, or offer to mediate between the Maldivian government and the opposition, it wasn’t just breaking with its past policy of ignoring political dynamics in countries it invests in. Beijing is now taking on a role New Delhi should have been in a better position to play, and by refusing to play it Delhi is being shown up as unfeeling, partisan or, worse, ineffective in the bargain.

The third issue is that the Modi government’s decision to use hard power tactics in the neighbourhood has had a boomerang effect. Theoretically, given its central location in South Asia and being the largest geographically and economically, India should be expected to hold greater sway over each of its neighbours. However, the “surgical strikes” on Pakistan of 2016 have been followed by a greater number of ceasefire violations and cross-border infiltration on the Line of Control. The 2015 Nepal blockade and a subsequent cut in Indian aid channelled through the government did not force the Nepali government to amend its constitution as intended, and the subsequent merger of Mr. Oli’s Communist Party of Nepal (UML) with Prachanda’s CPN(Maoist) is seen as a reversal of India’s influence there.

Mr. Modi’s decision to abruptly cancel his visit to Male in 2015 did not yield the required changes in the government’s treatment of the opposition, and New Delhi’s dire warnings about Mr. Yameen’s emergency in the past month have led to the Maldives cancelling its participation in the Indian Navy’s “Milan” exercises. Even in Bangladesh, the Indian Army chief, General Bipin Rawat’s tough talking last week about immigration has drawn ire there, with Bangladesh’s Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan describing the remarks as untrue, unfounded and not helpful.

While many of these factors are hard to reverse, the fundamental facts of geography and shared cultures in South Asia are also undeniable, and India must focus its efforts to return to a more comfortable peace, and to “Making the Neighbourhood First Again”.


1) Ceremony

Meaning: An act or series of acts performed according to a traditional or prescribed form.

Example: “We found a rabbi to perform the ceremony for us”

Synonyms: Rite, Ritual

2) Adrift

Meaning: Without purpose, direction, or guidance.

Example: “She found herself cast adrift in a land full of strangers”

3) Headwinds

Meaning: A wind blowing from directly in front, opposing forward motion.

4) Ascendant

Meaning: Rising in power or influence.

Example: “The newly ascendant liberal party”

Synonyms: Growing, Increasing

Antonyms: Declining

5) Portent

Meaning: A sign or warning that a momentous or calamitous event is likely to happen.

Example: “Many birds are regarded as being portents of death”

Synonyms: Omen, Sign

6) Unprecedented

Meaning: Never done or known before.

Example: “The government took the unprecedented step of releasing confidential correspondence”

Synonyms: Unparalleled, Unequalled

Antonyms: Normal, Common

7) Forays

Meaning: A sudden attack or incursion into enemy territory, especially to obtain something; a raid.

Example: “The garrison made a foray against Richard’s camp”

Synonyms: Raid, Attack

8) Fortified

Meaning: Provide (a place) with defensive works as protection against attack.

Example: “The whole town was heavily fortified”

Synonyms: Build defences round, secure

9) Stake

Meaning: Mark an area with stakes so as to claim ownership of it.

Example: “The boundary between the two manors was properly staked out”

Synonyms: Mark off, Mark out, Demarcate

10) Negotiate

Meaning: Obtain or bring about by discussion.

Example: “He negotiated a new contract with the sellers”

Synonyms: Arrange, Work out

11) Partisan

Meaning: A strong supporter of a party, cause, or person.

Example: “Partisans of the exiled Stuarts”

Synonyms: Supporter, Follower

12) Tactics

Meaning: An action or strategy carefully planned to achieve a specific end.

Example: “The minority attempted to control the Council by a delaying tactic”

Synonyms: Strategy, Scheme

13) Boomerang effect

Meaning: The boomerang effect refers to the unintended consequences of an attempt to persuade resulting in the adoption of an opposing position instead.

14) Sway

Meaning: Control or influence (a person or course of action).

Example: “He’s easily swayed by other people”

Synonyms: Influence, Affect

15) Ceasefire

Meaning: A temporary suspension of fighting; a truce.

Example: “The latest ceasefire seems to be holding”

16) Amend

Meaning: Make minor changes to (a text, piece of legislation, etc.) in order to make it fairer or more accurate, or to reflect changing circumstances.

Example: “The rule was amended to apply only to non-members”

Synonyms: Revise, Alter

17) Abruptly

Meaning: Suddenly and unexpectedly.

Example: “The film ends rather abruptly”

18) Dire

Meaning: Extremely serious or urgent.

Example: “Misuse of drugs can have dire consequences”

Synonyms: Terrible, Dreadful

Antonyms: Good, Mild

19) Ire

Meaning: Anger.

Example: “The plans provoked the ire of conservationists”

Synonyms: Anger, Rage

20) Undeniable

Meaning: Unable to be denied or disputed.

Example: “It is an undeniable fact that some dogs are easier to train than others”

Synonyms: Indisputable, Indubitable

Antonyms: Debatable, Questionable