Movement. It’s essential, Satish Kumar tells me as we stroll along the North Devon coast, sea air swirling, waves smashing the rocks, wildflowers quivering in the breeze. “Only by moving can things change and transform. And walking is movement of the body. When you’re walking, you’re transformed. Your mindset, your health, your ideas. You get new, fresh thinking.” Now 84 years old, Satish has moved more than most. Born in Rajasthan, northern India, he started walking as a child (“My mother was a great walker. If somebody offered her a horse, she’d say, how would you like it if a horse rode you?”). Then, aged nine, he became a Jain monk: “For nine years, no bicycle, no train, no car, no nothing,” he recalls.
The 18th G20 summit is set to open in the Indian capital New Delhi on Saturday, September 9. The two-day summit of the grouping would be the first to be held in India and is being keenly watched due to disagreements among member states on several economic and geopolitical issues. The G20 consists of some of the world’s 20 largest economies, including 19 countries and the European Union (EU). Apart from the members, 11 more countries have been invited as guests, including Bangladesh, Egypt, Nigeria, and the UAE. The meeting will also be attended by representatives of different international organizations — from the UN to ASEAN.
India’s Modi government is not perplexed by the decisions of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping not to attend the G20 Summit in New Delhi on Sept. 9-10. Its intuitive cognition helps to be stoical. India’s high-calibre diplomats would have divined some time ago that an event conceived in the world of yesterday, before the new cold war came roaring in, wouldn’t have the same scale and significance today. Yet, Delhi must feel disappointed, as the compulsions of Putin or Xi Jinping have nothing to do with their countries’ relations with India.
Reuters carried a speculative report earlier this month (reversed the next day) that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi might not attend the BRICS summit in Johannesburg in person and furthermore that India disfavoured an expansion of the grouping. Reuters’ long history of cold war skulduggery notwithstanding, the gullible Indian media fell for the rumour mongering. It created some confusion, but only momentarily. South Africa is conscious that, with the state of play in its bilateral ties with the U.S. being what it is, President Cyril Rampaphosa’s excellent personal relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, BRICS’ sojourn on the ‘de-dollarisation’ pathway and its expansion plans, there are high expectations of Modi’s constructive role.
On June 22, the White House held a “welcoming ceremony” for visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the South Lawn of the White House, where members of the public could register to attend. I signed up, along with my friends Keya and Apoorva. Our goal was not to welcome Modi, but rather to be a visible presence as dissenting voices. We wore t-shirts with the hand-painted message “Modi=Fascist” under our outer garments and smuggled in printed signs denouncing the Modi government’s human rights violations and persecution of religious minorities. An overwhelming majority of the crowd of more than 1,000 were Indian American, and judging by their chants and their visible symbols, many were Modi supporters.
The New Delhi Declaration was adopted on Tuesday, July 4, after a virtual meeting of the leaders of the nine-member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The declaration underlined the need for stronger and more effective international regimes and vowed to work for a more “just, democratic and multipolar world order.” The 23rd meeting of the Council of Head of States was hosted by India virtually. Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi participated in the meeting along with leaders from Central Asian countries.
“For the first time in recent history, the White House is hosting a state dinner that’s entirely plant-based: no meat, no dairy and no eggs,” the reliably supercilious NPR reported as it curtain-raised the Biden White House’s state dinner for Narendra Modi last Thursday. The Indian prime minister, our corporate-sponsored national radio broadcaster explained, is a strict vegetarian. The headline on this shattering piece of reportage was, “For Modi’s state dinner, the White House is elevating the mushroom.” This is big, to state the obvious. “While there are no specifically Indian dishes on the menu, many Indian spices and flavors are incorporated into the courses,” NPR’s Deepa Shivaram wasted our time informing us.
India’s far-right Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a historic trip to the United States this June. President Joe Biden rolled out the proverbial red carpet for Modi, touting a “new era” to “strengthen our partnership for decades to come”, as the US seeks to recruit India for its new cold war on China. The two leaders released a joint statement implicitly criticizing China and Russia. Reuters made it clear that “Washington wants Delhi to be a strategic counterweight to China”, and that the two leaders signed “deals on defense and commerce aimed at countering China’s global influence”.
Little more than a century ago, British and Indian archaeologists began excavating the remains of what they soon realized was a previously unknown civilization in the Indus Valley. Straddling parts of Pakistan and India and reaching into Afghanistan, the culture these explorers unearthed had existed at the same time as those of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, and covered a much larger area. It was also astonishingly advanced: sophisticated and complex, boasting large, carefully laid out cities, a relatively affluent population, writing, plumbing and baths, wide trade connections, and even standardized weights and measures.
A new mood of defiance in the Global South has generated bewilderment in the capitals of the Triad (the United States, Europe, and Japan), where officials are struggling to answer why governments in the Global South have not accepted the Western view of the conflict in Ukraine or universally supported the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in its efforts to ‘weaken Russia’. Governments that had long been pliant to the Triad’s wishes, such as the administrations of Narendra Modi in India and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Türkiye (despite the toxicity of their own regimes), are no longer as reliable.
The BRICS bloc of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa is expanding, as its members grow in economic and political influence. Together, the five BRICS members represent more than 40% of the global population, and their share of the world economy (when measured in purchasing power parity) is larger than that of the G7. The foreign ministers of the BRICS states met in South Africa on June 1 and 2. There, they discussed a series of issues, including plans to create a new global reserve currency to challenge the dominance of the US dollar. Also present at the meeting in South Africa was a group of top diplomats from countries described as “friends of BRICS”, including Egypt, Iran, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
The global de-dollarisation trend is not totally a bed of roses, or at least there are thorns in the roses that have to be taken into account. While de-dollarisation seems to be an irreversible trend on the global scale, at regional levels it is running into bilateral or regional political tensions. In this regard, one of the most prominent cases is in Asia: the India-China border dispute. In April 2023, the Chinese national currency, yuan, ranked third in international trade settlements made through the US-dominated SWIFT system. According to data from the system itself, yuan’s share in April was “record high,” although that share was only 4.72%, after euro’s 6.54%.
25 years ago, in May 1998, the Left Democratic Front government of the Indian state of Kerala started the Kudumbashree program as part of the State Poverty Eradication Mission. The program aimed to socially and financially emancipate women by providing them employment opportunities and space to enter decision making bodies. Today, 25 years on, the program has been a massive success with a notable rise in women’s presence in legislative bodies, as well as a large number of women working in various micro enterprises and agricultural projects. TN Seema, a former member of parliament from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) talks about the journey of the program and where it stands today.
In anticipation of next month’s United Nations Security Council talks on reforming the inherently archaic and dysfunctional political body, China’s foreign policy chief, Yang Yi, stated his country’s demands. “The reform of the Security Council should uphold fairness and justice, increase the representation and voice of developing countries, allowing more small and medium-sized countries to have more opportunities to participate in the decision-making of the Council,” Wang Yi said in a statement on April 29. More specifically, the new UNSC must “redress historical injustices against Africa”.
During the first year of the Obama administration, I spent months in the summer and fall of 2009 reporting about the Pakistani nuclear arsenal from here in Washington; from Islamabad, the Pakistani capital; from New Delhi, the Indian capital; and from London, where Pervez Musharraf, the former president of Pakistan as well a former army chief was living in exile. The story I eventually published in the New Yorker was edited slightly in accordance with a White House request that I did not contest. The issues then and today are the same: Pakistan is a nuclear-armed nation. So is India, its rival, an on-and-off ally of both Russia and America that rarely, if ever, discusses its own nuclear capability.