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C. Uday Bhaskar
C. Uday Bhaskar
Commodore C. Uday Bhaskar is director of the Society for Policy Studies (SPS), an independent think tank based in New Delhi. He was formerly head of two other major Indian institutions: the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) and the National Maritime Foundation (NMF).

White supremacists and extremism remain a powder keg that could be ignited in the next presidential election. Also, if someone like Trump could be placed in charge of the ‘nuclear button’, are US nuclear codes secure enough?

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Recent summits suggest the US and its allies will be in an extended tussle soon with the China-Russia partnership – an impasse that will hit geo-economic agendas across the world and doom the climate fight.

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As the US marks out India as a major defence partner in the Indo-Pacific and China shows increasing resolve on maintaining its territorial integrity amid its border dispute with India, New Delhi is struggling to maintain its strategic autonomy.

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The India-US relationship has grown from estrangement to one of engagement and is touted as one between partners and friends, but all is not well. New Delhi’s anger over Washington’s upgrades to Pakistan’s jet fighters is another example of US foreign policy clashing with India’s security interests.

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The summit drew interest over a rare trip outside China for Xi Jinping, bringing him, Vladimir Putin and Narendra Modi together. However, the expressions of concern over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the lack of a Xi-Modi handshake show a petulance that augurs poorly for the SCO.

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The docking of a Chinese ‘spy ship’ in Sri Lanka put India on its guard amid tense bilateral relations. Both nations depend on maritime security for economic growth, making the Indian Ocean a key arena for contests of power.

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The NPT Review Conference should address concerns over the failure of nuclear weapon states to make progress on disarmament. A new treaty, which aims at the complete elimination of nuclear weapons, adds to the pressure on NPT signatories to act more decisively in the right direction.

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From marine pollution and harmful fishing practices to biodiversity loss and increasing acidification, our oceans are in trouble but such long-term issues tend to get short shrift from leaders. Political squabbles over the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea is a case in point.

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In highlighting Chinese territorial aggressiveness and singling out India for closer ties, the US is seizing on India’s swing-state status in the post-Cold-War strategic hexagon. The troubled Sino-Indian relationship may be the critical determinant in shaping Asian security.

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While the Biden administration tries to bolster US alliances and partnerships in the region, internal differences threaten to undercut cohesion. Divergent positions on Russia, China, trade and Asean centrality will plague efforts to create a united front against regional concerns.

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The sinking of the Ukraine-built Russian warship Moskva highlights the fratricidal nature of the conflict and its historical underpinnings. While Asia is being projected as the engine of the future, its principal stakeholders have inherited security dissonances they must work hard to resolve.

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Even as border disputes and other issues remain unresolved, China and India – Asia’s two major powers – have an opportunity to play an effective role in bringing about a ceasefire and help remove the nuclear threat from the Ukraine war.

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War has shaken convictions in the stability of Europe and its borders, while Putin’s threat of nuclear force casts doubt on the strength of modern treaties. The reverberations of this conflict will be felt in the coming decades as global security systems are debated and restructured.

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Counterterrorism, development and other concerns have sparked renewed political interest in Central Asia. While India’s influence in the region is limited by a lack of direct access and China’s heft, it can still be an attractive alternative to Beijing.

The global response to Covid-19 and climate change illustrates how the profit motive has blunted the human imperative. Instead of joining forces against existential threats, leaders are focused on geopolitical competition and securing political power.

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Amid the US-China schism, contemporary geopolitics is rife with contradictions. This picture is in stark contrast to the optimism that all boats would rise together in the wake of the Cold War.

After excluding Myanmar from its latest summit, Asean announced a strategic partnership with China and a similar deal with Australia, the US’ security partner. Clearly, the bloc continues to walk a tightrope between the US and China.

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The latest Quad summit can be seen as a preliminary effort by the US and its partners to rewire the discourse on Indo-Pacific security. However, following the strong signalling of Aukus, the Quad has steadfastly avoided finger-wagging.

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The messy withdrawal, capped by a bomb attack at Kabul airport that killed dozens, is a sorry end to 20 years of America’s war in Afghanistan. A commission should be set up to bring to light the reasons for this debacle.

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Geopolitics and geoeconomics have dominated the discourse on maritime security for 500 years. But the latest UN report on global warming and irreversible ocean damage shows where true priorities lie.

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Xi painted a benign image of China as a ‘peace-loving’ nation, but he also delivered an unambiguous warning to its adversaries. While India and contemporary Russia were not mentioned, they will affect Beijing’s options in managing the hegemony of the US and its allies.

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While China and Asean have pledged in their recent meeting to take their partnership to ‘new heights’, given China’s actions in the region, Asean’s wariness is understandable.

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America’s abiding strategic objectives have been relatively consistent since the Cold War’s end. While China remains a top priority, expect Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea, Taiwan and the South China Sea to also feature prominently.

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India is vaccinating at top speed and approving more vaccines but is still struggling with the challenge of its massive population – and is also letting large crowds gather. With hospitals already overwhelmed, experts expect the wave of infections to peak in May or later.

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Domestic sociopolitical imperatives will blunt the Quad’s larger strategic choices in dealing with the China challenge. Engagement with China in certain domains while offering resistance in others calls for policy suppleness that might prove elusive.

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That the US conducted a two-carrier naval exercise in the South China Sea shortly after Biden pledged to be open to ‘result-oriented engagement’ with China signals continuity rather than radical change. However, to build on its edge against China, the US would have to engage with Beijing in the economic and trade domain.

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A more collective US approach to dealing with China will force India and Russia to rebalance power relations, especially in a post-pandemic world requiring greater cooperation. India will increasingly be caught between the tug and pull, as closer ties with US fray relations with Russia.

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We are heading for a ‘contra-polar’ world, where contradictory policy pursuits and contrarian impulses are the norm. China’s ability to avoid becoming the glue that provides cohesion to the US-India partnership will shape the next decade’s geopolitics.

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The joint statement released after the Chinese and Indian foreign ministers met in Moscow reiterates old formulations, and the divergence in media reports on it only highlights the bitterness that has built up since May.

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