Friend in need: On India-Sri Lanka ties

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s virtual meeting with Sri Lanka’s Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa on Saturday, with an assurance that India will support Sri Lanka “in all possible ways for overcoming the economic and other challenges posed by COVID-19 pandemic”, was significant and timely. A crucial week lies ahead for the Sri Lankan economy, when President Gotabaya Rajapaksa must make a decision on whether to service debts to bonds with an instalment of $500 million due on January 18, or to default for the first time ever, given the island’s precarious finances. Mr. Gotabaya is expected to address Parliament this week on how he will deal with the economic crisis. This includes a credit crunch, a slump in GDP spurred by COVID-19 losses to tourism, exports and remittances, foreign reserves that dwindled from $7.5 bn in 2019 to $1.6 bn in November 2021, and pending debt repayments of more than $7 bn expected in 2022. The most immediate problems come from rising unrest. In the

Unconquered: On India’s Test series loss to South Africa

Sport throws up surprises and cricket is not immune to it. The latest twist transpired at Cape Town’s Newlands where South Africa registered a seven-wicket victory in the third Test and won the series 2-1 against India. In recent cricketing history, this was a script-altering moment. India was the fancied team even if it missed the injured duo of Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja. Virat Kohli’s men had a swagger gained from defeating Australia in its backyard and leading 2-1 over England in an unfinished series at the Old Blighty. The loss to New Zealand in the World Test Championship final was deemed an aberration. This squad had quality batters, fearsome pacers, Rishabh Pant’s x-factor and R. Ashwin’s guile. In contrast, South Africa was in transition and after the first Test loss at Centurion, Quinton de Kock prematurely retired. Leading 1-0, India was expected to twist the knife in and win the series, an accomplishment that eluded it since the maiden tour of South Africa in 1992-93.

A welcome probe: On PM security breach and propaganda

An impartial inquiry into a politically contested incident is always welcome. Earlier this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s convoy was stranded on a flyover near Ferozepur in Punjab for about 20 minutes. Treating this as a serious security lapse, and taking note of the potential for partisan inquiries, the Supreme Court has appointed its former judge, Justice Indu Malhotra, to lead an inquiry. Other members of the probe committee comprise the DGP of Chandigarh, a senior officer of the National Investigation Agency, the additional DGP (security) of Punjab, and the Registrar-General of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The court official has already secured the records related to the Prime Minister’s tour programme on that day. One hopes the probe, which has been constituted only to avoid one-sided inquiries at the instance of either the Union government or the State government, will give a quietus to the raging political controversy. None will disagree that once the matter was


Space for dreams: On ISRO’s new chief

This year, the harvest festival brings a change at the helm for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), with S. Somanath who heads the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) at Thiruvananthapuram taking over as its chairperson. He succeeds K. Sivan, who also came to head ISRO after having led the efforts at VSSC. Mr. Somanath is the third consecutive chairperson of ISRO to have a master’s degree in engineering from the Indian Institute of Science. The organisation thus sees a continuation of the recent trend of being led by engineers. It is to be seen if Mr. Somanath’s specific expertise in leading innovations in rocket engines, the cryogenic engine, for instance, will shape future developments at ISRO. If earlier the Mars Orbiter Mission, which broke the records for expense by costing just ₹7 per kilometre, and Chandrayaan 2, had kept anticipation high, the new chairperson will oversee the unfurling of the human space flight programme — Gaganyaan. Another long-awaited mission is


Trust deficit: On tech platforms and news publishers

The decision of India’s competition watchdog to order investigations into Google, following allegations by the country’s digital news publishers that it has broken antitrust laws, marks a significant moment in a country where the fortunes of the news media industry have been on a downward path. The development is not a total surprise. For, governments in many countries such as Australia and France have used their political capital in recent years to try and correct the enormous imbalance that exists between big technology companies that control news in the digital sphere today and the traditional journalism industry that keeps the wheels of news running, thereby also creating the basis for the conversations that are so important in a democracy. The investigations have been ordered on the basis of a complaint by India’s Digital News Publishers Association, which has alleged that Google not only dominates the market for information but also abuses this dominance. It does so, the

Talking to Russia: On Putin and NATO

Straws in the wind: On defections from BJP ahead of U.P. polls

Young knights: On Indian chess

Growth concerns: On economic forecasts amid Omicron surge

Unchanged: On EWS quota income norm

On the boil: On Kazakhstan unrest

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