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It was one of those weeks when foreign news headlines dominated page one of Indian newspapers. Russia’s war in Ukraine grinds on with no immediate options for de-escalation. Sri Lanka has been battered by a devastating economic crisis, which is now shaking the grip of the Rajapaksa family over the country’s politics. In Pakistan, a political tug of war has snowballed into a Constitutional crisis with the opposition accusing Prime Minister Imran Khan of high treason after their no-confidence motion was dismissed and Parliament dissolved. For India, all these crises will have a bearing on its foreign policy. It’s coming under severe pressure from the West over its neutral position in the Ukraine war, while the Russians nudge India to circumvent sanctions. A total economic collapse of Sri Lanka, its Indian Ocean neighbour with close cultural ties, is not in India’s interest. In Pakistan, India is wary of political instability, which could have security implications.
India saw high level visits from both the West and Russia last week. U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Daleep Singh said in New Delhi there will be “consequences” for any country, including India, that conducts local currency transactions through Russia’s central bank or constructs a payment mechanism to work around the U.S. sanctions against Russia. Liz Truss, the British Foreign Secretary who was also visiting India, said in an interview with The Hindu’s Suhasini Haidar that the U.K. wanted to bolster the sanctions regime against Russia, but would not ask New Delhi what it should do. Interestingly Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also visited India last week. After meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, Mr. Lavrov said Russia and India were looking at ways to bypass the sanctions imposed by the West and its allies. He also praised the Indian government for not paying heed to “western attempts” to link all international issues to the Ukraine situation.
In Sri Lanka, as the economic crisis worsened, the government of the Rajapaksas took extraordinary measures to maintain political order. A day after angry protesters gathered in front of Gotabaya Rajapksa’s residence, the President issued a state of emergency on Friday. But the emergency and a curfew that followed did not prevent mass protests. On Sunday, all cabinet ministers quit the government. Meera Srinivasan, The Hindu’s Sri Lanka correspondent, has written a series of reports on the evolving situation in the island nation. In this FAQ, she explains why Sri Lanka is under a state of emergency. She’s also written a detailed despatch from ground zero on the economic crisis that was foretold. The situation in Sri Lanka remains tense. If the government was struggling to deal with the economic crisis till last week, it now has to cope with a growing political turmoil as well, with public anger rising and political temperature rising.
In Pakistan, what’s happening is actually a replay of its own past. A civilian leader who came to power with the full backing of the military later fell out with the Generals, which opened up some space for the opposition politicians, who moved quickly to unseat him. What made Imran Khan’s position more tenuous was the worsening economic crisis in Pakistan and the position his government took on the Ukraine war. Mr. Khan claimed he took a neutral line, which was publicly dismissed by the Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa. Mr. Khan has stopped the Opposition move to oust him through a no-trust vote, which he termed a “foreign conspiracy” indirectly blaming the U.S., and got the assemblies dissolved. But the battle is far from over. The opposition has already moved the Supreme Court. And even if the country is moving towards election, Mr. Khan’s position is not so safe.
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- Playing the strategic autonomy game | India will need to keep in mind its long-term objectives even during the delicate balancing that it is doing today between the West and Russia. Ideally, India would like to have both on its side, but the balancing is becoming increasingly challenging, writes Happymon Jacob.
- Yes, a Ukraine peace plan is possible | Even if it does not fully meet the requirements of either Moscow or Kyiv, it will at least prevent a wider conflagration, writes M.K. Narayanan.
- Wagner Group: Russia’s shadowy private soldiers | The private security organisation that emerged in Ukraine in 2014 has grown into a military behemoth with presence across continents, writes Stanly Johny in The Hindu Profiles.
- Explaining Sri Lanka’s economic crisis | The current Sri Lankan economic crisis, then, is the product of the historical imbalances in the economic structure, the IMF’s loan-related conditionalities, misguided policies of authoritarian rulers and the official embrace of pseudo-science, writes R. Ramakumar.
- What is the status of India’s oil, defence purchases from Russia? | What is the status of oil purchases from Russia? How is India circumventing the sanctions route to ensure supplies are not stopped? What is in the pipeline? Dinakar Peri is answering these critical questions in The Hindu FAQ.
An effective ban by Chinese authorities on travellers from India for the past two years has strained Indian businesses in China as well as families that have in some cases been separated for as long as two years. Indian community associations in China estimate there are several thousand Indians who are waiting to return to China. This is in addition to thousands of students enrolled in Chinese universities – most in medical colleges – who have been calling on the Chinese government to facilitate their return, Ananth Krishnan reports from Hong Kong.
Nepal Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, who visited India last week, said in New Delhi that both countries discussed the Kalapani border dispute. Addressing the media after holding bilateral talks, the Prime Minister jointly with Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the first cross border rail link between the two countries.