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Worldview with Suhasini Haidar | Top 10 stories of 2022 | What should India watch out for in 2023?

Top 10 stories of 2022 | What should India watch out for in 2023?
Worldview with Suhasini Haidar

As we end this season of WorldView, we do a review of the top ten stories of 2022 that we discussed here, with a view to what will make the headlines and what Indian diplomacy will be watching out for in 2023

December 17, 2022 04:30 pm | Updated January 25, 2023 03:05 pm IST

1. Ukraine War

February 24 marked a gamechanger in Geopolitics- after Russian President Putin decided to invade Ukraine- bomb civilian and military targets, hold referendums seen as a sham, annex 4 regions of Donetsk Lughansk Zaporizhiya and Kherson, sending near 8 million refugees to other parts of Europe.

Russia has taken many military losses, and more importantly, a big economic loss with the US, EU, and a total of about 40 countries joining sanctions against Russian oil, banks, military hardware and other businesses.

So what should India expect in 2023?

1. More Western pressure to reduce oil imports from Russia, given India has this year increased its intake 21 times from 43,000 bpd to 960,000bpd, something Ukrainian FM Kuleba has criticised. The US may remove sanctions from Venezuelan oil, and India should really reconsider restarting Iranian oil imports

2. Not so much pressure on votes and resolutions as India leaves the UN Security Council this year.

3. PM Modi is expected to visit Moscow, as he has been unable to schedule a meeting in December- and also President Putin is invited to the SCO summit in India mid-year and G20 in September- more on those in just a bit. PM also has possible visits to US and UK planned early in the year.

4. French President Macron and German Chancellor Scholz are both expected to visit around March -April next year, and progress in the India-UK and India-EU FTA talks as well

2. China India Tensions

If India-Russia friendship is one driver of- FP next year, tensions with China look to be another major driver- the clashes in Tawang after PLA soldiers attempted to take over an Indian post seem to be the latest provocation in the nearly 2 year military standoff along the Line of Actual Control. While 2022 saw some disengagement at points- atleast 3 points remain unresolved- without which any forward movement diplomatically seems difficult. Economically however, both countries have taken bilateral trade to new heights of $115 billion- 34% higher than the previous year

So what should India look expect in 2023?

1. More attacks by the PLA- and that could change India’s engagement with a post party congress strengthened Xi Jinping

2. Opportunities for bilateral talks ahead of a possible visit by Xi Jinping for either the SCO or the G20 to India, or neither or perhaps even both- much will depend on the next few months

3. With US Secretary of State visiting Beijing soon- US China ties may improve, but this would only be tactical peace, not strategic security

3. Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Terror Threat

As Afghans prepare for another winter under the Taliban rule, that has not kept a single promise on government, women or minorities, India must decide how much to improve its engagement with the Taliban regime in Kabul. While Taliban-Pakistan tensions may be positive from India’s threat perception POV, the burgeoning number of terror groups in Afghanistan is not.

So what should India expect in 2023?

1. Closer coordination with Central Asian countries and Iran on dealing with Afghanistan- especially with the SCO summit mid-year- where all their leaders will attend

2. Pakistan’s leadership is also invited- in March 2022, Bilawal Bhutto is expected at the Foreign Minister’s meeting, and then PM Sharif a few months later are expected to visit India

3. With Pakistan now off the FATF, India should brace for more threats- India will begin its FATF scrutiny in March 2022

4. As the Taliban steps up its regulations against women’s work, girls education and other restrictions, expect the Afghan non-Taliban opposition both inside and outside the country to organise itself, as we saw at a conference in Tajikistan recently

4. Covid Ends?

While the rest of the world has more or less dealt with the Covid pandemic, and WHO hopes it will no longer be an emergency in 2023, China is experiencing a new wave, which could eventually circle back to the rest of the world. Since 2020, the world has seen a total of 646 million cases of Covid19 and more than 6.6 million deaths

So what should India expect in 2023?

1. At the G20, WTO and WHO’s annual assembly, India is likely to raise the issues of intellectual property rights on medical supplies and equitable distribution of vaccines

2. India could also raise the issue of the origins of the virus, particularly given tensions with China at the LAC growing.

3. Covid recovery could speed up this year if there are no more variants and lockdowns, but pre-pandemic level growth is still out of the world’s reach

5. Climate Change and Justice

At a last minute deal reached at the COP27 in Egypt this month, countries agreed to a “Loss and Damage clause”, and the next COP28, in the UAE is hoping to work on more clarity for which countries will pay and how much and which countries stand to benefit from measures for climate victims.

So what should India expect in 2023?

1. With global warming impacts and pollution growing, expect more pressure on India and developing countries to cut coal usage, move to renewable energy

2. According to a new World Bank report, 60% of South Asian populations suffer from exposure to high air pollution, which calls for India Pakistan Bangladesh and other regional countries to begin a dialogue

3. The new fusion project breakthrough made in the US, could, if it is successful prove a turning point in alternative energy sources

4. Climate change and justice expected to be on G20 agenda for India

6. Iran Protests

Few expected the protests in Iran against the death of Mahsa Amini in September this year to last as long as they did- but they have galvanised hundreds of thousands on to the street demanding an end to mandatory hijabs and calling for the Islamic Regime leaders to step down. While some leniency by the Iranian government is seen as an attempt to bring the protests under control, dozens have been killed or executed for protesting, and the unrest is the biggest such problem for the Iranian government in a decade.

So what should India expect in 2023?

1. The Modi government has backed Iran on the international stage on the protests, abstaining on votes to censure Iran at the Human Rights Council,and on a vote to evict Iran from the UN Women’s commission, so there will be some pressure from the west

2. India is also hoping to re-energise the Chabahar project for trade to Afghanistan and Central Asia and Russia through the INSTC

3. What will be watched most closely is if India does restart oil imports from Iran that were shut down in 2018-19 under pressure from the US

7. West Asia courts China- Xi MBS meet

US-Saudi relationship have been rocky for a number of reasons- and US President Biden’s visit didn’t improve matters given his comments on the killing of journalist Khashoggi. Then, in a big surprise, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Riyadh, signed 34 agreements with PM and Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, and attended a regional summit that brought in all major gulf country leaders, (including the Qatari emir who was in the middle of the FIFA worldcup)- watch this space in 2023

1. India like the US must watch China’s growing influence in different regions, including the Gulf, Iran, Central Asia etc, especially as India tries to improve its ties there

2. Just a few weeks before welcoming Xi, MbS had cancelled a visit to Delhi at the last minute for reasons unexplained- he also cancelled a visit to Pakistan the same week.

3. India is building bilateral ties in West Asian countries, especially the UAE, with a number of bilateral visits, agreements and the I2U2 Quad with US and Israel, and will be working closely with UAE on G20 and Cop28

7.Economic Crisis in the Neighbourhood

While the news over Sri Lanka’s debt, Pakistan’s default, and Bangladesh’s economic downturn has improved slightly, India still faces severe economic crunch in its neighbourhood- with an overall 1% drop in GDP

So what should India expect in 2023?

1. Covid19, cuts in tourism, exports and remittances have all affected the region, and India will need to lead the way out of it for neighbours (minus Pakistan)

2. India Pakistan tensions continue to hold up any kind of SAARC movement, although BIMSTEC grouping has held meetings, the BBIN grouping has moved forward on electricity trade but not on the Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA)

8. G20

As host of the G20 this year, Indian diplomacy has its work cut out in building consensus for its agenda and for hosting the top 20 economic leaders at various events across the country

So what should India expect in 2023?

1. In September, all the leaders of the world will visit Delhi for the G20 summit – including P5 leaders like US President Biden, UK PM Sunak, and Chinese, Russian, French, Indonesian Japanese, Brazilian etc leaders

2. Pre-summit diplomacy will also be at top speed and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar is expected to be on his feet building consensus and ensuring the participation of all leadership

3. The thorny Russia-Ukraine issue is expected to be one of the biggest problems- in 2022 Putin attended the SCO summit but skipped the G-20

4. India is set to host about 200 meetings for G20, some of which are under way, at about 50 venues- all eyes will be on which of those meetings will be held in the Kashmir valley, Ladakh and in Arunachal pradesh given disputes with China and Pakistan

10. Non-Alignment 3.0 – India’s Balancing Act

To the final- and this is about the general direction Indian foreign policy is taking especially after the Ukraine war, and the comments that EAM Jaishankar has made affirming India’s independent foreign policy and refusal to be pulled into one camp or another.

So what should India expect in 2023?

1. More pulls and pushes from either side, as Russian economy reels from more sanctions and the US and EU demand more cooperation from countries like India

2. India will find more common cause with countries like UAE, Indonesia, and Egypt who have close ties with the US but are asserting their strategic autonomy as well

3. The invitation to Egyptian President El Sisi as the Republic Day chief guest in January 2023 is being seen as a pitch to other non-aligned countries, and comes despite several years of India rejecting the NAM world and PM Modi staying away from summits

4. A new non-alignment 3.0 may be the way forward for India- one which will be defined as an economic and strategic charter for countries unwilling to be drawn by competing global rivalries

We hope to return in 2023 to help unpack the new directions in the year of geopolitics, and in India’s choices on foreign policy. Before I go, I wanted to share books I’ve enjoyed reading this year, not necessarily in any order:

1. The Nutmeg’s Curse by Amitav Ghosh

2. Putin’s Wars by Mark Galeotti- look out for The Hindu podcast where I interview him as well

3. Nehru’s India: A history in seven myths by Taylor C Sherman- I don’t agree with much of the conclusions but it is important to engage with this outsiders view of Indian foreign policy and history

4. Spy Stories: Inside the World of the R&AW and ISI by Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott Clark- a fairly fantastical look at how they operate

5. Womansplaining: Navigating Activism, Politics and Modernity in Pakistan Edited by Sherry Rehman, who is now the Environment minister

6. Fallen Idols- History is not erased when statues are pulled down, it is made. By Alex Von Tunzelmann

7. How to Stand Up to a Dictator- by Maria Ressa

8. The Age of The Strongman: How the Cult of the Leader Threatens Democracy around the World by Gideon Rachman

9. The Power of Crisis How Three Threats – and Our Response – Will Change the World, By Ian Bremmer

10. Around the World in 80 Books- David Damrosch

Here’s to another year of reading, watching and WorldViewing to us all, from the team here, we wish you a very happy 2023!

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