“US elects Donald Trump as President: How he handles China, Russia will be interesting”

When the history of the 21st century is written, 8 November, 2016 will be marked as a day when the worst nightmare of liberal internationalists came true with the election of the 45th President of the United States: Donald John Trump. The road from here to a global free-for-all is not far. All that would take is for Trump to carry out a small fraction of his foreign policy promises – if one can indeed call fragmentary, contradictory, stream-of-consciousness statements as such.

What President Trump means for India has already been dissected to the point where adding anything new becomes impossible, on either side of the ledger – Trump as “positive” or “negative” when it comes to India. And as umpteen commentators have already noted, the broad bipartisan support for India is something no American president can overturn overnight. Having said that the challenge for India does not lie in dealing with Trump’s India-specific policies. It lies with fire-fighting contingencies and spill-overs from his Administration’s policies elsewhere.

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“BRICS Summit: India’s hands full with Pakistan, must bide time to deal with China”

The BRICS Summit this weekend in Goa comes at a time when India-Pakistan relationship has hit a new low. Between Pakistan’s renewed intransigence in leveraging anti-India proxies to prosecute its Kashmir agenda, and India’s signal that will meet the same using limited military options, the discussions in Goa will invariably be coloured by the recent events in South Asia.

Of special interest would be the stance China takes on terrorism during the Summit and whether it will look beyond its all-weather friendship with Pakistan to accommodate India’s concerns when it comes to cross-border – and increasingly Islamist – terrorism. China’s calculations will be driven by the relative weights its puts on its geopolitical imperatives behind supporting Pakistan, its professed desire to upgrade its relationship with an increasingly assertive India, and its own vulnerabilities when it comes to Islamist terrorism in the restive region of Xinjiang.

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“The alphabet soup in Goa”

[Co-authored with Samir Saran]

This weekend will see Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his foreign policy team undertake a complex and significant manoeuvre. This comes at a time when relations with Pakistan have discovered a new trough, the SAARC grouping is gasping for breath, the Chinese continue to demonstrate obstinate determination to hurt, harm and impede India on multiple fronts and the relationship with Russia is in dire need of resuscitation.

The annual BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit in Goa on October 15-16 is undeniably the main course but hidden in the main course is a set of ingredients with an independent chemistry, the IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa), along with the plat d’accompagnement, BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation), that has as much potential as the main course. South Block will need to use this opportunity to respond to the current realities in India’s north and west, even as it consolidates India’s diplomatic push east and south, while opening new avenues for engaging its western partners in innovative ways.

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“BRICS Summit in Goa: Ahead of 8th conference, the bloc must focus on institution-building”

[Co-authored with Samir Saran]

When India hosts the 8th BRICS Summit in Goa next month, it will need to be the ‘B’ along with the ‘I” in BRICS. The ‘bright spot’ that infuses direction, ideas and momentum into a collective whose individual members have certainly seen better days. With a relatively strong economic performance and a vigorous and imaginative foreign policy (on most counts), India has the capacity to help the BRICS plurilateral discover a new ethos that will channel cooperative sentiments into concrete objectives, durable institutions and constructive internationalism.

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“BRICS, globalisms, and the return of the state”

[Co-authored with Samir Saran]

As New Delhi gets ready to host the 8th BRICS Summit in Goa in October, both the sceptics and believers are tentative in their support or criticism of the BRICS project. Commentators are also unable to comprehend or explain the nature of the grouping and the regimes it seeks to promote. In order to understand the means-ends logic of BRICS, we must situate it within the longer arc of contemporary history while seeking a better explication of the evolving relationship between liberalism, multilateralism and multipolarity.

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“Geoeconomics and geopolitics — India’s tightrope”

Two recent events have brought into sharp focus a growing divide between India’s geoeconomic and geopolitical strategies: India’s failed bid for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in June – essentially scuttled by China – and the Modi Government’s desire for closer defence ties with the US.

The NSG issue, and the signing of some kind of logistical support agreement with the US , were high on the American agenda when US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter visited India in April. But beyond these mechanics, the larger question of how to sync India’s economic priorities (which would call for a greater partnership with China) with its national-security ones (which demands accepting the US as a de-facto ally) remains to be answered.

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“Getting real about the Middle Kingdom”

Now that the dust has settled on India’s failed bid for membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) at the Seoul meeting in June — no small thanks to China — Beijing’s stance is being interpreted as a sign of its ‘contain India’ strategy at worst, and anti-India balancing (by hyphenating India’s case for NSG membership with that of Pakistan’s) at best. Failure to join the NSG has been widely interpreted as a failure of Modi’s high-profile diplomacy. Modi the pragmatist has signalled unilateral concessions to China in the past such as opening the possibility of visa-on-arrival for its nationals. His foreign office will now be forced to open new diplomatic fronts in face of growing Chinese obstructionism. The contours of this counter-offensive against China could be driven by three signals — presented here in increasing order of sharpness — and change the optics of the India-China relationship, from the current passive-power play to that of a leading power unafraid to seize diplomatic initiative.

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