welcome to Foreign Police‘s South Asia Brief.
This week’s highlights: India prepares to take on the G-20 Presidency amid rising tensions, Nepal holds elections on Sunday, and Pakistan lifts a short-lived testing ban on Oscar nominee joyland.
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G-20 Opportunity for India
On Wednesday, Indonesian President Joko Widodo handed over the chairmanship of the G-20 to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi following the group’s annual summit in Bali. New Delhi is officially going assume the role on December 1, leading through much of 2023 and hosting the G-20 summit next September. India faces a difficult task to steer the world’s major economies through global financial strains amid growing tensions among G-20 members.
Before going to Bali, Modi announcement that the theme of the Indian presidency would be âOne Land, One Family, One Futureâ, emphasizing equitable growth and a shared future for all. India will have to navigate a G-20 shaped by intensifying US-China competition and Russia’s war in Ukraine. But the role will play to New Delhi’s strengths and provide a major opportunity to advance key foreign policy interests.
During its G-20 presidency, India can showcase its diplomatic skills. The group includes the world’s biggest strategic competitors, the United States and China, as well as some of its fiercest rivals: the United States and Russia, China and South Korea, and China and the Japan, to name a few. Great power competition and toxic nationalism have hampered global efforts to counter common threats such as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.
New Delhi excels at managing rival relationships, as its delicate â but so far successful â balance of relations with the United States and Russia recently showed during the latter’s war in Ukraine. India will certainly face its own diplomatic challenges within the G-20, especially with rival China. But Modi brief exchange with Chinese President Xi Jinping this week in Bali was an encouraging sign; it was the first between the two leaders since a deadly border clash in 2020. Perhaps India’s increased engagement as G-20 chair can help ease bilateral tensions.
India’s leadership in the G-20 will also allow it to shine a light on its recent economic successes on the world stage, some of which align with G-20 Priority Areas. These include advances in solar energy development, achievements in digital health, and broader economic growth. India has become the fifth economy This year. Such achievements can divert global attention from New Delhi’s domestic politics and democratic backsliding.
That said, India recently released logo as his G-20 chairmanship features the image of a lotus, the national flower that also serves as the symbol of Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Critics of Indian policy could to accuse Modi to politicize India’s leadership role in the G-20.
By showcasing its achievements from its leadership perch, India hopes to illustrate its growing global influence and push back critical that it continues to “weigh below its weight” on the world stage. To do this, India’s G-20 Presidency must deliver tangible results. Indian media report that New Delhi will use this position to advance one of its key foreign policy goals: stronger multilateralism, including changes in multilateral lending agencies to facilitate more climate finance.
Finally, India’s G-20 Presidency will make it a bridge between the developed and developing worlds. It will lead the world’s wealthiest economies, but with an opportunity to address challenges that disproportionately affect the developing world, such as poverty, climate change and pandemics. This will help advance two of India’s fundamental foreign policy goals: balancing global relations and championing the causes of developing countries.
Certainly, rising tensions among G-20 members could complicate India’s role. Paralyzed by US-China tensions, the group failed to organize a collective response to the COVID-19 pandemic in its first months. And that was before the war in Ukraine, which heightened animosity between Russia and the West. Leading the most influential, but divided, bloc in the world is a tall order. For India, a country aspiring to become a great power, this is a welcome challenge.
Elections in Nepal are approaching. Nearly 18 million Nepali voters headed to the polls on Sunday in an election that pits the ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba against an opposition coalition led by former Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli . The economy and foreign policy have been common themes during the campaign. China and India are vying for influence in Nepal, and Oli and China critic Deuba have sparred over geopolitics.
A close result is likely, with the final tally expected on December 8. Analysts have projected that despite voters’ disillusionment with the old guard, senior party officials are likely to prevail. Chances are the next prime minister will be a very familiar face: either Deuba or Oli, who have served seven terms in the role.
This week, the Chief Electoral Commissioner of Nepal, Dinesh Kumar Thapaliya, Told the Kathmandu Post final arrangements were being made to update election officials, monitor potential misinformation and ensure that voters will not encounter any obstacles.
Pakistan lifts ban on Oscar nominee. It’s been a busy week for joyland, a highly acclaimed new Pakistani film and the first to screen at the Cannes Film Festival. The film generated Oscar buzz and standing ovation around the world. But Monday, Islamabad banned theaters in Pakistan to show it, citing “highly objectionable material”. The film focuses on the romance between a young married man and a transgender dancer. Powerful religious leaders likely influenced the decision; Tellingly, a legislator from the religious Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan party had castigated the film.
On Wednesday, an adviser to Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif announcement that after a ban review, the film was cleared for release. It is now set to open in theaters on Friday. This reversal is a victory for freedom of expression in Pakistan and an encouraging sign that the state can stand up to influential hardliners.
Nevertheless, barely 24 hours after the film was cleared for national release, the provincial government of Punjab said it would not be published there. The film was shot in Lahore, the capital of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province.
India surpasses China in population. This week, the United Nations Population Division published its latest data, which reiterated previous estimates that India would become the world’s most populous country by 2023, overtaking China. By 2050, India’s population is expected to reach nearly 1.7 billion, compared to China’s 1.3 billion that year, as the latter experiences population decline.
India and Pakistan are among the only eight countries which will account for more than half of global population growth through 2050, the data shows. However, the Indians government figures published last month showed that India’s annual population growth rate has actually declined in recent years and birth rates have fallen from 3.4 in 1992-93 to 2 in 2019-21.
Several million workers from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan have long resided in the Persian Gulf region, many of whom are migrant workers working in harsh conditions. Less is known about Nepalese workers in the region, and particularly those in Qatar, where the World Cup begins on Sunday. Only India has sent more workers to Qatar over the past decade, the New York Times reports. Between July 2020 and July 2021, nearly 185,000 Nepalese workers traveled to Qatar.
Many Nepalese workers have risked their lives in Qatar. Last week the Diplomat shared the stories of Nepalese workers who died while working on World Cup construction sites in Qatar. The Diplomat a report indicates that at least 1,700 Nepalese have died in Qatar since 2010; the Time put the number to 2100. The workers featured in the Diplomat fell to their death, but the Time The report highlights other causes of death for Nepalese workers, including heat-related problems, heart attacks and suicide.
Other workers returned to Nepal only to suffer severe health problems, including kidney failure. Critics and families of workers have blame not only Qatar for its poor working conditions, but also the government of Nepal for not paying more attention to the problem.
FP’s most read articles this week
â¢ A theme park crisis destroys the South Korean bond market by S. Nathan Park
â¢ Crypto’s Boy King was dethroned overnight by David Gerard
â¢ How Eritrea could derail the Ethiopian peace deal by Mohamed Kheir Omer
In the Kathmandu Postjournalists Sangam Prasain and Krishana Prasain report that inflation in Nepal is probably preventing the economic boost that election campaigns often bring. “[E]elections are associated with spending sprees as the government pumps billions of rupees into the market. Candidates open their wallets. â¦ Spending propels economic growth whenever an election is held, but strangely this does not happen,â they write.
A Dhaka Grandstand editorial praise Bangladesh for using digital technology to make public transport more efficient. A new plan that allows people to buy bus tickets aims to “regulate bus fares and bring order to an otherwise messy system, making it easier for regular commuters to access and use,” notes the editorial.
write in Dawnretired diplomat Maleeha Lodhi warns the risk of a serious escalation of the ongoing political crisis in Pakistan. âWith neither side ready to back down, the battle lines are sharply drawn,â she wrote. “It only portends an escalation of political tensions with increasingly uncertain consequences for both a fragile democracy and a faltering economy.”