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India Expanding Its Strategic Presence in Other Countries

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INS ViraatIndia and China, since they are being compared with each other have become more aggressive in the competition of spreading their influence in the region. While China projects itself as a world power, India continues to keep its limits within the subcontinent region. Although the world requires India to take leading role in the geopolitics diplomacy, India’s response so far has been indifferent. India kept itself away from saying any word on the issue of Syria and Libya.

Although India has been slow when compared to China to secure even regional influence, India has managed small achievements in gaining international strategic presence.

India and China play a complex diplomatic politics. Friends at global levels, but rivals in the regional level. India and China trade is worth billions of US dollars. Recently on March 29th, 2012 Indian and Chinese leaders met during BRIC summit. The leaders stressed on linking economies along with other BRIC nations, as in trading in local currencies as well as linking stock exchanges of the member countries. The leaders also stressed on setting up of an international bank on par with Asian Development Bank, IMF and World Bank. It would fund various development projects in member countries and other emerging economies and may act as a relief provider for first time buyer mortgage in case of real financial crisis and disaster. The goal of the bank will also include lending, in the long term, if there comes a global financial crises such as the Eurozone crisis and issuing convertible debt, which could be bought by the central banks of all the member nations. Hence it will be acting as a vessel for risk-sharing.

Things that irritates China is India’s sweet relations with exiled Tibetan government and Taiwan Island, which China claims as its own territory. India and China has been involved in full fledged war in 1962, after that both the countries tried to keep their differences aside and focus on the economy, although border disputes occurred many times.

India’s main concern at the moment is checking its all time arc rival Pakistan and securing its influence on the Indian Ocean region.

So far India had been taking on the invasion by the neighbouring countries on its land, but recently it has realized that its presence at the other strategic locations on the map is also necessary to showcase its military readiness, flexibility and superiority.

On Thursday, July 5th, the visiting Mauritius foreign affairs and trade minister Arvin Boolell to India made an unexpected offer of giving two Mauritius sun-drenched islands to India as part of a trade and investment deal.

He said that India can use those islands to its advantage, it could be either a military base or India can develop them as a tourist spot. However soon the Mauritian High Commission in a press release denied that such an offer was ever made.

This is not the first time when Mauritius presented such an offer. The island nation had offered India the same two of islands North and South Agalega Islands nearly 1,100KM north of the Mauritius main Island in 2006. But the country had to take back the offer due to large disagreement in the political system of the country.

If the political pressure eases down in Mauritius and Indian government accepts the offer, then situated close to an important sea lane of communication in the southern Indian Ocean, these islands can be effectively used by the Indian Navy and Air Force. North Agalega island already has an airfield and can be repaired to make it into an advanced airbase. The island also caries a huge potential of becoming a tourist destination and agricultural land, although the land area is officially mere 70 sq km and it could be smaller as suggested by the satellite images.

India shares good strategic relations with Mauritius and its Naval and Air Force personnel work closely with the Mauritian Police (Army, the country doesn’t have its own standing army), helping them in various tasks like checking illegal fishing in the maritime zones of Mauritius as well as checking pirate activities. 

The deal is still on the paper and may not even exist as denied by the Mauritian High Commission, today the only Indian presence in the foreign country is Tajikistan where India maintains two air bases Farkhor and Ayni.

Farkhor is official Indian air force base. Situated near the border of Afghanistan, the airbase is nearly only 250KM away from Pakistan. Russia has a great influence in Tajikistan and doesn’t allow any other country to form a base their. However, this base was secured by India with the assistance from Russia. in 2003, at the cost of $10 million, India repaired the base which was lying unused since 1980. The base hosts a squadron of Mig 29.

Ayni Airbase is situated much away near the border of Uzbekistan. Both India, Tajikistan and Russia deny the reports that India has been using this base for its Air Force. In January 2011, Tajik Foreign Minister, Hamrohan Zarifi, officially launched negotiations with Russia to discuss possible deployment of Russian military at Ayni. It is confusing that India has invested on this air base seven times more than what it invested in Farkhor, still there are denial from all the sides about its use as possible Indian Air Force base. Tajikistan has confirmed that India extended the length of the runway to 3,200 meters and installed state-of-the-art navigational and air defense equipment. India also maintains and operates a military hospital at the base. 

Farkhor and Ayni air base map
Farkhor and Ayni Air Base

Both the Bases gives India an advantage over China and Pakistan. Indian aircrafts stationed there can reach China and Pakistan within minutes from the backside, at the time when the enemy would be expecting Indian aircrafts to come from the conventional direction.

Located in the east, India has its own base in the Andaman and Nicobar islands, these islands joined the Indian Union in 1956 once the Royal Air Force handed the Car Nicobar airbase, once India secured the large island group, it not only had expanded India’s Exclusive Economy Zone, but also brought Indian forces to the mouth of strategic Straight of Malacca.

Situated at the vital sea lines of communication between the Middle East and East Asia, the Maldives will be the nucleus of future security order in the Indian Ocean. M P Anil Kumar, analyst and former Indian Air Force Pilot says that India should offer Maldives statehood under its union. Maldives came into everybody’s attention as it is the nation which has been experiencing the worst form of global warming. Maldives’s height above the sea level is very low, that makes it very vulnerable to floods. Due to rise in sea level because of global warming, Maldives islands are feared to be submerged first. Considering the possibility that Maldivians will have to migrate before that happens, he said that their most preferred choice will be India, because of many similarities and closeness.

“Given what could happen by the year 2100, it is imperative for India to act in good faith, and also with an eye on our national interest. India should offer Maldives statehood within our Union. This move, apart from letting the Maldivians resettle on the mainland with minimum legal fuss will help to extend India’s EEZ. A win-win prospect for both parties,” He added “Even if they decline, India can ask for the belt of waters surrounding the archipelago to be converted into mare nostrum. Yep, the EEZ pitch is a decoy.”

The possibility of Maldives joining Indian Union is very less, moreover China already has its footsteps on the island nation ans is trying its best to start the project of developing its base in Marao island of Maldives quickly. India has though tried to setup its naval and airbase in the island nation. It was in August 2009 when A.K. Anthony, visited the islands to discuss the deployment of surveillance aircraft and ships

Under the plan, India has expressed its will to renovate a former Royal Air Force base on the islands, and integrate the Maldives into its own coastguard system since the Maldivian government finds it impossible to police its own waters.
“India wants to reinforce and expand its perimeter defence and an active surveillance from a naval base will contribute to that important strategic objective,” said Dr Anupam Srivastava, director of the Asia Programme at the University of Georgia’s Centre for International Trade and Security.
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Sanskar Shrivastava is the founder of international students' journal, The World Reporter. Passionate about dynamic occurrence in geopolitics, Sanskar has been studying and analyzing geopolitcal events from early life. At present, Sanskar is a student at the Russian Centre of Science and Culture and will be moving to Duke University.

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A Historical exploration of Khajuraho

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khajuraho temple

The UNESCO world heritage temples of Khajuraho are situated in the Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh. Built by the kings of Chandela dynasty during 950 to 1050 AD, these exquisite temples were lost to the world from 13AD onwards till they were discovered by the British in 1838 under the cover of dense date palm trees.

 This collection of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain temples are Khajuraho temples are famous for art on stone. Variously described as living temples, Temple of Love and consisting of unique erotic sculptures the Khajuraho group of temples are considered by many to be the pinnacle of India’s temple art. The temple complex creates an eclectic mix of spirituality, eastern philosophy, architecture and cultural heritage.

Khajuraho is best visited during winter on account of its extreme climate. Summer months can be very hot. The famous Khajuraho Dance Festival is held in March and attracts visitors from across the world.

 Khajuraho is well connected to major cities by train and by air. The airport is 5km from the city centre and links to Delhi, Agra and Mumbai. It is best recommended to use a trusted cab service provider like Savaari, where you can make an online booking by downloading the Savaari App.

Western Group of temples.

 The Western group of temples have the largest of the temples and are richly decorated and form the main area of attraction

  • Lakshmana Temple – The temple dedicated to the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva is the oldest of the Khajuraho temples and has some the finest sculptures that can be seen in India.
  • Kandariya Mahadeo Temple – This Shiva temple is covered with beautiful carvings, sculptures and frescos that are known for their beauty, grandeur and finesse.
  • Devi Jagdamba Temple – This relatively dainty temple dedicated to Goddess Jagadamba has three bands of sculptures and the uppermost layer has some of the most erotic sculptures that Khajuraho is also famous for.
  • Chitragupta Temple – One of the rare temples of the Sun God in the country.
  • Vishwanath Temple – The temple is unique for its colossal bull statue dedicated to Nandi, the favourite companion of Lord Shiva.

Eastern Group of Temples

  • Parsvanath Temple – The Jain temple shows an eclectic mixture of Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim influences in its three roof architecture.
  • Ghantai Temple – This Digambar Jain temple has a beautiful frieze inscribed on stone depicting the 16 dreams as seen by the Mother of Lord Mahavira. The temple though gets its name from the remarkable pillars, carved with chains and bells.
  • Brahma Temple – Among the oldest temples in Khajuraho, the temple is built entirely using granite and sandstone and dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

 Southern Group of Temples

  • Chattarbhuj Temple – Situated 3 km from the main city, the temple is the only one in Khajuraho without any erotic sculpture and faces west. Best visited during the sunset, the temple is known for the intricate and beautifully detailed four-armed idol of Lord Vishnu.

Do remember to attend the Light and Sound Show conducted in the Western group of temples that describes the horary past of these beautiful monuments.

Khajuraho is surrounded by other places of interest, such as the Panna National Park and the Ranneh Falls. Do plan your visit and hire outstation or local cabs from the airport to visit these temple complexes.

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Explore the royal city of Mysore

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Call it the Heritage City or the City of Palaces, the city of Mysore still emanates a feeling of au royale even in a 21st century India. A place of heritage for royal families, sultans, and legendary names in history, every corner of Mysore is steeped in stories of victory, power, and grandeur. A tour of this majestic city is only justified when you explore the royal heritage of the City of Palaces.

Getting there

Conveniently located on the southern edge of the Karnataka State, Mysore is easily accessible from major cities. It takes about three hours to travel the 152 KM distance from Bangalore to Mysore.

History and Heritage

The city of Mysore served as the capital for the Kingdom of Mysore between the 1300s until 1956. These six centuries saw the kingdom change hands of rulers and kings, from the Wadiyar Dynasty, Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. But the common element of all the rulers was their penchant for art and culture. Under their patronage, they contributed to the city’s visual and cultural glory which earned Mysore the fame of Karnataka’s cultural capital.

A royal tour

If you want to experience the regal side of Mysore, you cannot but miss these structures of historical and architectural significance. You can join a heritage walking tour to explore the city on foot, or head from Bangalore to Mysore by car and stop by at monuments, palaces, and museums and learn about the legends that made Mysore. You can start your walk from the Town Hall, built in 1884, as a tribute to the first Dewan of the city.

mysore-palace-598472_1280

Mysore Palace- The official residence of the royal family of Wadiyars, the palace itself is a work of marvel. An overwhelming blend of   Indo-Saracenic, neoclassical, Indo-Islamic and Gothic architectural works, the Mysore Palace is a breathtaking sight. Built in 1912, the palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and boasts delicate works of mirrors, stained glass, mosaic and more. On any given day, you will find more tourists here than even at the Taj Mahal. Every Sunday, the palace comes alive with 97000 light bulbs bedazzling its façade and the premises.

Lalitha Palace– Yet another heritage building, the two-storied Lalitha Mahal sits on a ridge at the foothills of the Chamundi Hills, which makes for a great vantage point. The palace was transformed into a hotel and offers a royal stay. If you truly want a feeling of royalty, then a stay here would be an experience.

Jaganmohan Palace– One of the seven prominent palaces of Mysore city, is a stunning work of ancient Indian architecture with intricate interiors and exteriors. The palace, transformed into a royal art gallery since 1915, houses paintings of the royal family, art by Raja Ravi Varma and an array of rare and antique musical instruments.

Museums- Stop by the Rail Museum to explore the archaic steam engines, the Maharani’s saloon, and other railway souvenirs. There’s also the Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion showcasing more than 6500 folk artifacts from all parts of Karnataka. The Folk Art Museum, one of the most visited in the city, is also known for its collection of toys, models, and figurines.

Crawford Hall- Built in 1947, this is a must visit historic structure in Mysore. The royal palace is now known as the Mysore University but still renders a rich heritage to its ambiance.

Small, medium or large-scale, every historical building and monument of Mysore has a majestic touch to it. And such architecture speaks of its glorious past, which has left traces for the modern civilization to explore.

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India’s Victory at the International Court of Justice is the World’s Challenge to the Status Quo

Manak Suri

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For the past week, both the Indian and British media have rigorously covered the story of the re-election of India’s justice Dalveer Bhandari to the bench of judges in the International Court of Justice on Tuesday, November 21. That the Indian judge retained his position on the bench was not the sole reason for the story’s extensive coverage; his reappointment combined with the fact that it happened at the expense of the United Kingdom’s spot on the bench is why the story is making so many rounds… and no, that many Indians may see it as some sort of a comeback against Britain’s 200 years of colonial rule over the country is not the reason why it matters. It matters because this is the first time since 1946 that the UK has no judge on the ICJ bench, and that signals possible changes in the way international bodies govern and are governed. So what does this mean for India, for the UK and for the world at large?

The International Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice or the ICJ was established in 1945 by the United Nations as its principal judicial branch and is located in The Hague, Netherlands. Its job is to settle legal disputes between states that are submitted to it and give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it. The court comprises of a total of 15 judges that are elected to 9 year terms by way of voting from both the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) separately. One third of the court is re-elected every three years, and no two judges of the same nationality may assume positions on the bench simultaneously. However, the rule that led to the deadlock between the candidates from India and UK is that a candidate must obtain an absolute majority in both the UNGA and the UNSC in order to be elected to the bench.

UN General Assembly vs UN Security Council: The Race in Numbers

On November 9 and November 13, in seven rounds of voting justice Bhandari secured between 110 and 121 votes from a total of 193 in the UNGA against figures between 68 and 79 secured by his British counterpart Sir Christopher Greenwood. However, among the UNSC, justice Bhandari lost out by 5 votes to 9 in favour of Sir Greenwood. In the face of uncertainty, the UK then pushed for a ‘joint conference’ under the rules of the court between the UNSC and the UNGA. Under the ‘joint conference’ three countries from each side then determine the name for the court. However, the rules do not mention the procedure to select these countries and understandably so, since the option was last invoked in 1921. Fearing not enough support from the council, criticism for invoking the charter, and harming its friendly as well as economic relations with India, the UK eventually chose to not follow through with the process and withdrew its candidature for the post. In the end, India secured the seat with a total of 183 votes out of 193 at the UNGA and all 15 at the UNSC.

There is More to the Victory than Meets the Eye

The result means different things for the parties involved and also for the balance of power and influence between countries. For the UK, there are hardly any positives to take away from this result amid already turbulent times. Many in the British media have viewed this loss as ‘a blow to British international prestige’ and the country’s acceptance of a diminishing role in global affairs. This was the UK’s second major defeat at the ICJ after it lost a vote by a margin of 94 to 15 countries in June when the UNGA voted in favour of referring the question of decolonisation and self-determination of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean to the ICJ, which is currently under its control. Many within and outside the country have also been quick to blame Brexit for the situation in which they find themselves today, arguing that the other states, especially the ones within the European Union would have been less willing to snub the UK had the UK chosen not to leave the alliance. In the face of defeat, British diplomats have continued to maintain that they are happy that their close friend India has won, but have also not been shy of hiding their natural disappointment at their own loss.

For India, their victory in having a judge win the contest in getting elected to the ICJ bench against a permanent member of the UNSC is more symbolic than anything else. It reinforces India’s image at the highest stage as a major emerging global player and its ability to bring in greater reforms that push for more involvement from developing countries and emerging economies. Also, having a judge on the ICJ bench gives India an edge over Pakistan in the case involving former Indian Navy Officer Kulbhushan Jadhav who has been sentenced to death by a Pakistan military court on the charges of espionage. True, a judge on the ICJ does not represent his/her country or their interests. However, as suggested by repeated criticism the court receives for being biased in favour of the states who appoint the judges, having a judge on the panel is certainly an asset for any country, no matter what the rules dictate on paper.

The most important takeaway from the whole episode far exceeds the ambitions of just the two countries and a race for a seat at the ICJ. India’s victory at the court reinforces the belief that power does not necessarily reside or has to reside with the ‘few global elite’, a sentiment which was expressed clearly when most member states of the UNGA backed India’s justice Bhandari to be re-elected against the choice of the permanent members or P5 of the UNSC. There seems to be an acknowledgment among the member states of the UN of the beginning of a change which sees an increasing shift in the balance of power away from the traditional powers of the world or the P5 – Britain, China, United States, Russia, and France. Of these countries, China was the only member to not have a judge on the ICJ between 1967 and 1985 till the final decision last week, when they were joined by the UK in the list. Last year, Russia was voted off the United Nations Human Rights Council. In the 2016 elections, France lost out on securing a position in the International Law Commission. While diplomats at the UN continue to maintain that there are no winners and losers here, that it is all part of a bigger picture, these developments undoubtedly mark diplomatic victories for the Group of 77 or the G77, a coalition of developing nations at the UN that have constantly pushed for an enhanced negotiating capacity. What remains to be seen is just to what extent they bring about a change in the status quo.

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