Contents

  1. Infinite crisis: The Afghanistan Conundrum
  2. India’s defence jigsaw puzzle: The missing piece
  3. Why trade with the US matters to India?

INFINITE CRISIS: THE AFGHANISTAN CONUNDRUM

  • The Afghan Independent Election Commission’s  much ­delayed announcement that Ashraf Ghani is the winner of the September 28 President Presidential election is expected to deepen the political crisis in the war-torn country
  • Mr. Abdullah has called the results fraudulent and vowed to form a parallel government.
  • If he does so, it would undermine the already feeble Afghan administration whose writ does not stretch beyond the main urban centres
  • While the Taliban steadily expanded across the country’s hinterlands and stepped up attacks on its city centres, these two leaders kept fighting amongst each other
  • Worse, the infighting comes at a time when the U.S. is near a Taliban agreement
  • The deal would see the U.S.’s Afghan troop pullback, winding down America’s longest war and leaving the Taliban and the Afghan government to start direct talks for a final settlement
  • The U.S. excluded the government from its direct talks with the Taliban as the insurgents do not see the government as Afghanistan’s legitimate rulers.
  • U.S. withdrawal would invariably weaken the government, aiding the Taliban even before the talks start.
  • What is lost in these narrow, self-interest ­driven moves is the collective quest for defeating the extremists and rebuilding Afghanistan.

INDIA’S DEFENCE JIGSAW PUZZLE: THE MISSING PIECE

  • According to 2018 data, India occupies the fourth place in military expenditure across the world, behind the U.S., China, and Saudi Arabia.
  • However, sober reflection and a cost ­benefit analysis is the need of hour, to ensure that the amounts expended are in tune with our strategic requirements.
  • Given India’s rising global profile, and with two major adversaries on its borders, India needs to be fully prepared.
  • What is lacking in the defence jigsaw puzzle, however, is a well-considered and clearly articulated white paper on India’s defence needs, that sets out its strategic concerns, how it is positioning itself to meet these challenges, and the putative costs of meeting the country’s defence needs
  • In India, exercises of this kind are sometimes undertaken, but they suffer from a lack of clarity and are restricted in scope.
  • They contain vague references to the threat posed by China and Pakistan, but there is clearly more to India’s defence needs than exercises in military hagiography.
  • Meeting the military, strategic and economic challenge from China is an entirely different matter.
  • China is not Pakistan, and while China and Pakistan may have established an axis to keep India in check, explaining the nature of the threat posed by China to India is a complex task that needs to be undertaken with care and caution
  • The country needs a clearly articulated white paper on its defence needs which sets out its strategic concerns
  • The defence white paper needs to underscore that a country’s domestic politics are an Important pointer to a stable foreign policy.
  • There could be different schools of thoughts within a nation, but equilibrium needs to be maintained if it is not to adversely impact a nation’s foreign policy imperatives.
  • An impression that the country is facing internal strains could encourage an adversary, to exploit our weaknesses.
  • This is a critical point that the defence white paper needs to lay stress on.

WHY TRADE WITH US MATTERS TO INDIA?

  • Attempts at working out a short-term agreement have fallen apart in the past, and tensions have risen over tariffs
  • India’s existing and stalled bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) started to receive attention from the government last year, even as the country worked to conclude the seven-year negotiations to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)
  • In the backdrop of the global economic slowdown, where India’s global exports have fallen consistently, it is important for the country to diversify and strengthen bilateral relations with other markets.
  • It has set its sights on “large developed markets”, improved access to which would help its industry and services sectors.
  • These include the US, which has, over the last two decades, become a crucial trading partner in terms of both goods and services.
  • India was among the countries that exported more to the United States than it imported, and the latter was left with a trade deficit of over $21 billion in 2017-18.
  • Negotiations on an India-US trade deal have been ongoing since 2018, but have been slowed by “fundamental” disagreements over tariffs (taxes or duties on imports), subsidies, intellectual property, data protection, and access for agricultural and dairy produce.
  • The office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) has underlined India’s measures to restrict companies from sending personal data of its citizens outside the country as a “key” barrier to digital trade.
  • The US wants India to strengthen patent regulations, and to ease the limitations American companies investing in India face.
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