Pausha Shukla 3, Vik. Samvat 2073.Yugabda 5118: January 1, 2017


Pausha Shukla 3, Vik. Samvat 2073.Yugabda 5118: January 1, 2017

1. FESTIVALS: Saraswati Puja -Vasant Panchami

2. Hanukkah at Gateway of India

3.  bharat on cusp of a change : RASHTRAPATIJI

4. PM Modi Inaugurates Shiv Smarak

5.  RSS not a remote control, wants strong Bharat with Hindutva at its core: Bhagwat

6. Dharma Sanskriti Mahakumbh

7. Soldiers protect nation's borders, saints secure moral borders: dr Bhagwat

8. Vedic hymns are scientific equations: Veda Ravishankar


10.  BHARAT test-fires nuclear-capable Agni 5 ballistic missile

11. Cambodian Scholar Becomes Country's First 'Sanskritist'


13. 'We Did Great With The Hindus', Says Trump

14. First time, Church says: Dalit Christians face untouchability


16.  Dr. B. B. Lal Honored by Indian Council of Historical Research

17. Collectors can give citizenship to Pakistan Hindu migrants



20. PIO Elected as mayor of key Californian City







II. Pivot to the east

1. FESTIVALS: O, Wind! If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind? - Percy Bysshe Shelley. All over the world, spring denotes end of winter season. According to Bharatiya Panchang, Vasant Panchami falls on the fifth day of Magha Shukla Paksha, corresponding to February 1 this year. Yellow fields of Sarson visible upto far off have made the yellow colour synonymous with Vasant. People wear yellow clothes and colour their food yellow. Saraswati is worshipped in a yellow dress, and sweet saffron rice and yellow sweets are consumed within the families. In Nepal, Bihar and eastern Bharat, the festival is known as Saraswati Puja. Saraswati is the Goddess of knowledge, music, arts, science and technology. Maharaja Ranjit Singh introduced the tradition of kite flying on this day over two hundred years ago. The festival is celebrated by the Bharatiya diaspora in all parts of the world. -GoTop


2. Hanukkah at Gateway of India: Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights for the Jews, with an aim to spread light and love. This year's public celebration of lighting of the Menorah (candle stand) took place at the Gateway of India in Mumbai lead by Rabbi Israel Kozlovsky, the rabbi of Chabad in Mumbai. Speaking on the occasion, Kozlovsky said, "The festival of Hanukkah goes on for eight days with we adding a light everyday to the Menorah. We are here to spread a clear message of love and goodness as the world needs it the most today. Every candle we light is meaningful and powerful. We all need to spread the light and pray for world peace." The first light on the Menorah was lit by Gilad hassidwho lives and works in Surat in the diamond technology trade. The following lights were lit by Ilan Divon, commercial attaché at the consulate of Israel in Mumbai. -GoTop


3.  bharat on cusp of a change - RASHTRAPATIJI: While many global economies are yet to recover fully from the blow dealt by the 2008 financial crisis, Bharat seems to have weathered the storm effectively and is marching ahead with strong economic indicators, Rashtrapati Pranab Mukherjee said in Hyderabad on December 23 while addressing an industry gathering. "It is fortunate that even after almost a decade, when many other economies are still limping ..the Bharatiya economy is still moving ahead. Bharat has emerged as the largest economy among the fastest growing nations," he said, adding that Bharat is at the cusp of a change and can claim its rightful place provided it addresses human development issues. -GoTop


4. PM Modi Inaugurates Shiv Smarak: Pradhan Mantri Narendra Modi along with Rajyapal C Vidyasagar Rao, Mukhya Mantri Devendra Fadnavis and other dignitaries, the descendants of the great Maratha warrior, Udayan Raje Bhosale and Sambhaji Raje Bhosale vroomed off from Girgaum Chowpatty in a large Indian Coast Guard hovercraft in the afternoon of December 24 to perform a symbolic 'jalpujan' for the proposed Rs 3,600 crore memorial of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. At the designated spot in the Arabian Sea finalised for the project, where a makeshift floating mini-replica of the proposed memorial was created for the event, Modi poured water from a bronze vessel and threw some earth at the site to perform the 'jalpujan'. On return, he performed another brief 'bhoomipooja' at Girgaum Chowpatty for the memorial amidst sounding of bugles and 'tutaris'.

The Shiv Smarak will be a memorial, in the form of a giant mid-sea statue, for the Maratha warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji. It is set to come up on a rocky islet one km off the shores of South Mumbai on the Arabian Sea overlooking Marine Drive, with the Malabar Hill on one end and Nariman Point at the other. Slated to be 309ft tall, the statue along with a pedestal and foundation would be taller than New York's Statue of Liberty. The memorial complex on the islet will house a library on the warrior king, an amphitheatre, an aquarium, an IMAX cinema hall to screen films on the Chhatrapati, guest rooms and a helipad. There will also be replicas of the entrance arch of the historic Raigad Fort, of the Tulja Bhavani temple, forecourts designed after his palaces and wadas of the Maratha era. It will be accessible by boats to arrive and depart from jetties, which will come up at Radio Club in Colaba, Nariman Point and at Sagar Sangam in Navi Mumbai. -GoTop


5.  RSS not a remote control, wants strong Bharat with Hindutva at its core: Bhagwat: "The Sangh's aim is to build a strong Bharatvarsha with the right leader and with Hindutva at its core," said Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Sarasanghachalak Dr Mohan Bhagwat addressing the concluding function of a four-day-long meeting of RSS pracharaks from Gujarat, Maharashtra and Goa in Vadodara on December 21. "There is a need to bring the right kind of change in the society based on the ideology of Hindutva," he said. "RSS is not a remote control," he added in an apparent reference to the allegation of opposition parties that it dictates terms to the BJP-led NDA government.  "It is wrong to look at Hindutva as an ideology of a particular religion or community. Sangh does not ask anybody his caste or creed when he joins us after believing in our ideology," he said. -GoTop


6. Dharma Sanskriti Mahakumbh held at Nagpur from December 24 to 26 witnessed the participation of 1,118 saints from all over the country. The inspirational speeches delivered by the saints and Shankaracharyas and leaders impressed upon the gathering to think "Bharat is my home, sanskriti is my identity, adhyatma is my power, social service is my devotion, freedom is my expression, equality is my goal, universal brotherhood is my condition, government is our policy, santvachan is tradition and good conduct is action." The speakers reverberated with these thoughts and appealed the audience to follow these principles to achieve the aims and objectives of the Mahakumbh to make Bharat "Vishwa Guru" and "Guide of Humanity".

RSS Sarsanghchalak Dr Mohanrao Bhagwat reiterated that Hindutva ensured welfare of all and appealed to the people to adhere to the standard parameters of Hindu culture and tradition based on the concept of "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam" (World as one family), and "Vishwa Bandhutva" (Universal Brotherhood), and "Sanghatitshakti" (organised strength). Maharashtra Mukhyamantri Devendra Fadanvis, Assam Rajyapal Banwarilal Purohit, VHP International Working President Dr Pravin Togadia, Jagadguru Shankaracharya of Jyotishpeeth Swami Vasudevananda Saraswati, Jagadguru Shankaracharya of Kashi Sumeru Peeth Narendrananada Saraswati, Karveer Peeth Shankaracharya Vidya Nrisimha Bharati, Rashtra Sevika Samiti Pramukh Sanchalika Shantakka and Shrimant Mudhoji Raje Bhosale also addressed the concluding session. -GoTop


7. Soldiers protect nation's borders, saints secure moral borders: dr Bhagwat: The soldiers risk their own lives to protect us from foreign aggressions. We must remember them not only at the time of war but always as we remember the god from the bottom of our hearts in our daily life, appealed RSS Sarsanghchalak Dr Mohanrao Bhagwat. He was addressing the unique "Prerana Sangam" on Dec 24, organised as part of the ongoing "Dharma Sanskriti Maha Kumbh". The union of saints and soldiers sharing a common platform is a historic event. Jagatguru Shankaracharya of Jyotishpeeth Vasudevananda Saraswati presided over the function. -GoTop


8. Vedic hymns are scientific equations: Veda Ravishankar: Emphasising that the Vedic hymns are basically scientific equations and the rituals are their applications, Veda Ravishankar, Scientific Advisor from the Vedic and Scientific Research Foundation (VSRF) claimed on December 25 that sound health, pure environment and prosperity of the nation could be achieved by performing these applications in standard conditions. He was attending "Dharma Sanskriti Mahakumbh" in Nagpur and monitoring the effects of chanting of hymns like the "Shiv Mahimna Stotram" and "Hanuman Chalisa" on the environment. Ravishankar is the direct disciple of Swami Ramakrishnanda Saraswathy Swamigal, Atharva Veda Sankaracharya of Sri Vidya Peetham who had founded the VSRF to explore the scientific knowledge hidden in ancient Bharatiya Vedas. -GoTop


9. 'CENTRE FOLLOWING PATH OF DEEN DAYAL UPADHYAYA': BJP national president Amit Shah said that the Narendra Modi Government in the Centre was working on the principles of 'Untodaya' by implementing policies meant for the welfare of poor as path shown by Deen Dayal Upadhyaya. "Deen Dayal Upadhyaya was a staunch advocate of building a country based on holistic development which includes poor and rich. Modi's government is working on these principles and is trying to implement those in letter and in spirit," Shah said while addressing a function where a book on different facets of Deen Dayal's life was launched in Lucknow on December 29. -GoTop


10.  BHARAT test-fires nuclear-capable Agni 5 ballistic missile: Bharat successfully test-fired on December 26 its nuclear-capable, inter-continental ballistic missile Agni 5, which has a range of over 5,000 km covering whole of China, from Abdul Kalam island off Odisha coast. The three-stage, solid propellant surface-to-surface missile was test-fired from a mobile launcher of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at about 1105 hours, DRDO sources said. About 17-metre long and weighing over 50 tonnes, the surface-to-surface missile majestically rose from the confines of its canister flawlessly and achieved all targets, sources in Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) said. It is the fourth developmental and second canisterised trial of the missile. -GoTop


11. Cambodian Scholar Becomes Country's First 'Sanskritist': Chhom Kunthea became Cambodia's first "Sanskritist" on December 16 after receiving a doctorate for her research on the impact the ancient Bharatiya language - now used almost exclusively by Hindu priests during religious ceremonies - on the Khmer language. Sanskrit was used for written records during the Khmer Empire for more than 1,000 years, researchers believe. With her doctorate in the language, Ms. Kunthea could become one of the country's only native historians of ancient Cambodia, an area normally occupied by foreigners, said Chhem Rethy, the executive director of the Cambodia Development Research Institute. After obtaining a master's degree in Sanskrit from Magadha University in Bharat in 2008, Ms. Kunthea did her doctoral studies at the French research institute Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, where she wrote her dissertation on "the role of Sanskrit in the development of the Khmer language: an epigraphic study from the 6th to the 14th century." -GoTop


12.  OVER 3 LAKH VISIT HSSF-2016 IN BENGALURU:  Showcasing the service activities of various Karnataka based socio-religious organisations, the 5-day mega Hindu Spiritual and Service Fair-2016 concluded on December 18.

Basavamurthy Madara Chennayya Swamiji, Ma Ni Pra Basavananda Swamiji, RSS Akhil Bharatiya Sah Sewa Pramukh Gunwant Singh Kothari, eminent orator and columnist Chakravarti Sulibele addressed the concluding ceremony. The fair was visited by nearly three lakh visitors. Impressive Yoga performance was held by Isha Foundation. In Kutumba Vandana, about 1,000 people from undivided families gathered and the elder most member of the family was offered special respects. Sugunendra Swamiji of Puttige Math Udupi, former Additional Director, Department of Education, Government of Karnataka TN Prabhakar stressed on the value of family in one’s life. The fair was inaugurated on December 14 by former ISRO chief Dr Kasturirangan. -GoTop


13. 'We Did Great With The Hindus', Says Trump: US President-elect Donald Trump acknowledged on December 16 the contribution of Bharatiya-Americans in his electoral triumph. "We have a lot of people here tonight from the Indian community, Hindus. We did great with the Hindus," Trump said during a "Thank You'' rally in Florida, the key battleground state where he emerged victorious. "Where are they? We have a big group. There they are. I want to thank you. They were amazing and voted and they were fantastic," Trump said, pointing his fingers to the Bharatiya-American community at the rally. Trump pledged to work for betterment of the Bharat-US relationship and said that he would be the best friend of Bharat in the White House. He praised Pradhan Mantri Narendra Modi for his economic reforms and steps that he has taken to remove bureaucratic red tape. -GoTop


14. First time, Church says: Dalit Christians face untouchability: The Bharatiya Catholic Church has officially accepted that Dalit Christians face untouchability and discrimination, and that "their participation at the level of leadership is almost nil". These admissions are contained in a policy document prepared and released on December 19 by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), the apex decision-making body of the community, which seeks to abolish all forms of exclusion of the socially backward sections and empower them. The 44-page document, titled 'Policy of Dalit Empowerment in the Catholic Church in India', asks the 171 dioceses to submit long and short-term plans within a year to end all kinds of discrimination against Dalit Christians. -GoTop


15. HSS VISHWA SANGH SHIKSHA VARG-2016 CONCLUDES AT NAIROBI: Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) organised a 21-day cadre training camp Vishwa Sangh Shiksha Varg-2016 which concluded at Nairobi, Kenya. RSS Sarakaryavah Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi addressed the valedictory ceremony. He said that such camps are needed to produce men of character who would work for the cause of humanity and also expressed hope that Hindu society outside Bharat will act as a torch bearer for the universal peace and harmony based on age old Hindu values. Impressive physical demonstrations were presented to the 300 odd spectators from Nairobi which included Hon High Commissioner of Bharat Smt Suchitra and many prominent leaders from Hindu society.

The camp was attended by 33 shiksharthis from 10 countries and 22 sevikas from 4 countries. On December 25, 2016 a spectacular Path Sanchalan Route March was organised at HCK Ground, Nairobi. -GoTop


16.  Dr. B. B. Lal Honored by Indian Council of Historical Research: Professor Braj Basi Lal, the renowned archaeologist and author of the book "Rama, His Historicity, Mandir and Setu," has been awarded the first Gurukul Fellowship by the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR). The ICHR's two-year fellowship has been introduced with the aim of promoting the traditional "Guru-Sishya-parampara," or teacher-disciple tradition. Prof. Lal's 2008 book had created anuproar of sorts, where he had made the argument for the presence of a temple-like structure beneath the now-demolished Babri Masjid. In his book, he had written: "Attached to the piers of the Babri Masjid, there were twelve stone pillars, which carried not only typical Hindu motifs and mouldings, but also figures of Hindu deities. It was self-evident that these pillars were not an integral part of the Masjid, but were foreign to it." -GoTop


17. Collectors can give citizenship to Pakistan Hindu migrants: The Pak citizens eligible for citizenship in three districts, including Jaipur, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, will now have their citizenship permission granted by the district magistrates. Besides this, the application fee for citizenship has also been decreased to Rs 100 per application, which will enable many those poor migrants, who had been finding it difficult to apply for the citizenship in absence of required money to be paid as fee. Hindu Singh Sodha, chairman of the Seemant Lok Sangthan, a voluntary organization fighting for the rights of these migrants, said that this decision has come as a huge relief to these people and would expedite the process of citizenship. -GoTop


18. MADRAS HC DECLARES SHARIA COURTS ILLEGAL: The Madras High Court on December 20 declared that all Sharia functioning from mosque premises are illegal and directed the Government of Tamil Nadu to get rid of such religious courts. The First Bench of the Madras Court consisting of Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M Sundar said that religious places and other places of worship were only meant for religious purposes and it was the responsibility of the State Government to get rid of Sharia courts functioning from the premises of religious places. The Court order was in response to a public interest litigation filed by Abdul Rehman, a UK based professional who was aggrieved by the acts of such a Sharia Court functioning from the premises of a mosque in Chennai's Mount Road. Rehman had approached the Makka Masjid Sharia Court Council in the hope of reuniting with his estranged wife. But the Sharia Court forced him to sign a letter of divorce. -GoTop


19. BHARAT TOP SOURCE OF INTERNATIONAL MIGRANTS: Bharat is the top country of origin of international migrants with 15.6 million Bharatiyas living abroad, according to a Pew research which said international migrants make up 3.3% of the world’s population. Ahead of the International Migrants Day, Pew Research said as of 2015, nearly 3.5 million Bharatiyas lived in the UAE, the world’s second largest migration corridor. -GoTop


20. PIO Elected as mayor of key Californian City: Savita Vaidyanathan, an MBA Bharatiya American woman, has been sworn in as the mayor of the Californian city of Cupertino, globally known for tech giant Apple's headquarters. Savita is the first Bharatiya-American mayor of Cupertino, which according to Forbes in one of the most educated small towns in the country with local public schools ranking highly. -GoTop


21. WINTER TOURISM WITNESSES 34% GROWTH: "More coustomers are travelling this time during Christmas and New Year compared to last year", revealed a 'New Year and Christmas Travel Trends' report by comprehensive travel website MakeMyTrip. Winter tourism as a concept, has picked up in Bharat with 34 per cent more customers travelling this time during Christmas and New Year with four times higher growth for domestic travel than international one, compared to last year, MakeMyTrip Chief Business Officer-Holidays Ranjeet Oak said. For holidays within Bharat, Goa remains the most preferred destination, followed by Rajasthan and Manali as the other top places witnessing heightened interests. -GoTop


22. 100 GLORIOUS YEARS OF BANARAS HINDU UNIVERSITY: Inaugurating the International BHU Alumni Meet held at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi on December 25 and 26, Union Parliamentary Affairs, Chemicals and Fertilizers Minister Anant Kumar called upon the participants to propagate life and ideals of Mahamana Malaviyaji specially amongst youth by digital books. Justice Giridhar Malaviya, National President, Mahamana Madan Mohan Malaviya Mission delivered the inaugural address. S S Ahluwalia, State Minister Parliamentary Affairs proposed the Meet to find ways for opening of outside campuses of BHU. The valedictory session was presided by Uma Bharati, Union Jalsansadhan Mantri and was also addressed by Dr Mahendra Nath Pandey, State HRD Minister. Dr Krishnagopal, RSS Sahasarakaryavaha, speaking as Chief Guest in the valedictory session, said that with various qualities Mahamana was a rare combination on the planet.   Dr S V Tattwawadi, Patron, Manaman Madan Mohan Malviya Mission, called upon to strengthen the organisation so that minimum one branch of Mission is opened in each state.   
K Chandramauli,   a BHU Alumunas who has devoted himself for works on Ganga and author of several books was awarded Malaviya Memorial Award of Rs. 51,000 and a citation. Other lumaniries honoured for distinguished BHU ALUMNI Award with shawl andcitation included Justice Dr B S Chauhan (Chairman Law Commission), P C Dandiya, DN Bhargava, Mata Prasad, P L Jaiswal and K Vikram Rastogi. 400 alumni delegates attended the Meet. -GoTop


23. BHARAT'S ECONOMY SURPASSES THAT OF UNITED KINGDOM: Owing to Britain's recent Brexit-related problems and thanks to Bharat's rapid economic growth, Bharat has managed to overtake its erstwhile colonial master United Kingdom in terms of the size of the economy - the first time after nearly 150 years. This dramatic shift has been driven by Bharat's rapid economic growth over the past 25 years as well downslide in the value of the pound over the last 12 months, a report published in Forbes magazine said. Interestingly, economic think-tank Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) had, in December 2011, forecasted that Bharat would become the "fifth largest by 2020" but Bharat has crossed this significant milestone much sooner. Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju while celebrating Bharat's landmark, said, "Bharat overtakes UK & becomes 5th largest GDP after USA, China, Japan & Germany." -GoTop


24. SHRI VISHWA NIKETAN: PRAVAS: RSS Sarkaryavah Bhaiyyaji Joshi will tour South Africa. Saumitra Gokhale samyojak Vishwa Vibhag will tour Mauritius, Botswana and South Africa. Ravi Kumar Vishwa Vibhag Sahsamyojak reached Bharat and Anil Oke AB Vyavastha Pramukh will reach Bharat after visiting Vishwa Sangh Shiksha Varg held in Kenya. VISITOR: Dr. Rajeev Bhatiya - USA. 

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: It is my duty to guard my homeland. An invader of these lands, whosoever he may be, has never succeeded. - Shivaji Maharaj in a letter to the Mughal officials. -GoTop




Not Indians, but globalisation taking US jobs

The United States' recent concerns that Indians are chasing jobs of the country's middle class, are not entirely true. During the US presidential poll campaign, Republican candidate Donald Trump tried hard to assuage the country's working class population that he would bring back jobs to all of them. However, it has been generally observed that skilled Indians, those who are armed with top class engineering, management and medical degrees, either from home or from the US, normally stake claim to really high-profile jobs.

Thus, ordinary graduates passing out with science, technology, engineering and mathematics degrees from middle-and-working-class families in America, hardly come in competition with the highly skilled Indians, migrating to that country. It is a fact that the lower and the middle class Americans have been losing jobs in the last two decades as a result of massive waves of globalisation. This was mainly because of outsourcing of back-end jobs of major industries in the field of manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, automobiles and a host of financial services, to developing nations like India, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka etc. These and many less developing countries, offer the giant US multi-national corporations (MNCs) readily available cheap labour, low maintenance and operational costs; and opportunities to reach out to new markets. Therefore, the net margin of profit, earned by the MNCs, are certainly huge. To that extent, the cause of concern displayed by middle class Americans is valid.

The promise Trump made to his countrymen, assuring more jobs to the middle class, is absolutely fine. But the kind of perceptions that floated in some pockets of that country, about Indians driving deep into the job markets, must be judged cautiously. Over the years, the size of the American middle class has shrunk from 71 per cent in 1971 to 49 per cent today, as revealed by Pew Research Centre recently. But what is less commonly known is that more people are moving up the ladder than down in the US. Worryingly, those most likely to fall to the lower ladder in society, are with only a high school degree or dropouts from schools. Some economists in America say that manufacturing was once a field from which the middle class could aspire to climb the social ladder.

But, today it is not so. At the centre of the debate are not the Indians or any other migrant group,  that are stealing the jobs from the Americans. It is globalised trade that has made many locals lose their livelihood around the world. But the mounting rise of international trade has also contributed to the creation of millions of jobs which, in turn, has lifted many from poverty. What Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential contender, and Trump, agreed during the election campaign, was that trade was killing the 'American Dream'. Even the revolution in technological change, is another potential factor. Not the Indians. -- The Pioneer, Editorial, 16 December 2016. -GoTop


Pivot to the east

To be relevant in the 21st century, India must establish its presence in the Indian Ocean

Ram Madhav

"Nations have no permanent friends or allies; they have only permanent interests," said English statesman Lord Palmerston. What that implies is diplomacy is dynamic. Nations need to constantly evaluate and re-evaluate their preferences in the international arena and strategise. There is no place for romanticism in diplomacy. It has to be cold-blooded and utterly pragmatics.

Pragmatism demands that we talk about the Indian Ocean region more. India's foreign policy has long been tilted westward. Time we turned eastward.

21st century politics is going to be markedly different from the previous century. The global power axis has today shifted away from the Pacific-Atlantic region to the Indo-Pacific region. That brings tectonic shifts in world politics.

Many institutions will become irrelevant. 20th century power alliances like the NAM, Commonwealth, etc have become redundant. The European Union is imploding. Nato is more or less dead, waiting for the last rites to be performed jointly by Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

In their place new power alliances are emerging. The epicentre of these new alliances is going to be the Indo-Pacific region. Asia is today home to some of the world's leading and fast growing economies. 45% of the world's population lives here. Half of world's container traffic and one-third of bulk cargo traverses the Indian Ocean. Around 40% of the world’s offshore oil production comes from the Indian Ocean. Nearly half of the world's energy supplies pass through this region.

Half of the world's submarines will be roaming around in the Indo-Pacific region in the next two decades. This region will witness power play between three major powers. India and China are the two fast growing economies in the region. Both nurture big power ambitions. Both compete for the same resources. Hence competition is imminent between the two.

China, with its bigger financial and military muscle, is seemingly ahead today. It is in the driver's seat of many new transnational trade alliances like AIIB, Brics and RCEP. It is aggressively pursuing ambitious infrastructure projects like Belt and Road. Its efforts to emerge as the leading naval power in the region seem to be coming to fruition. In no time it has built a formidable navy with over 300 vessels of various sizes.

The future of America's role in the region is uncertain. President-elect Trump doesn’t share the vision of his predecessors in this matter. President Obama launched an ambitious alliance of nations of the Indo-Pacific region, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). But Trump is not enthusiastic about it at all. At the Halifax security conference PASCOM chief Admiral Harris described TPP as "more or less dead". This signals diminishing US influence in the region.

India has great power ambitions. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has openly talked about India's "ambition to rise as an influential and responsible global power". In order to realise them India has to change gears and proactively engage in the region.

One of its first measures should be to bring the required nomenclature into vogue. Asia-Pacific is a phrase coined during the 1960s and 70s, when Asian powers like Japan and Singapore raised it and it suited America to bond with them. But today it is India and other Indian Ocean neighbourhoods that are emerging as powerhouses. Some Western scholars have started using the phrase 'Indo-Asia Pacific'. We need to call it 'Indo-Pacific', implying the centrality of the Indian Ocean to the region.

Modi has started many initiatives in the direction of asserting India's proactive role in the region. Greater bilateral engagement with countries in the region, enhanced interface with regional groupings like Asean, South Pacific Island Nations group, etc and keenness to play a role in regional disputes by shedding trademark reticence are some of the visible actions that Modi has taken.

De-hyphenation of bilateral relations is another major step taken by Modi in this direction. Our engagements with countries like America, Russia and China are based on standalone bilateral interest, without conflicting with our relations with any other country.

India has to strengthen its naval power if it really wants to play a bigger role in the region. Towards that end steps have been taken by the new government. A target of securing 200 vessels for our navy has been set for 2030. We have expanded Malabar Exercise to include Japan as the third member besides India and US.

But we have to go a long way. We live in an unstable neighbourhood, the challenge of which needs to be handled diligently. Technology - digital and cyber - is going to play a big role. India, with its vast tech manpower and demographic dividend, can take advantage of this.

India is going to face a new challenge in the form of changed US priorities. Certain actions undertaken by Trump could affect the regional balance in Asia. His future relationship or rivalry especially with countries like Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan is going to change the power dynamic in the region drastically. We need to be alert to these challenges.

Hillary Clinton, during her visit to India in 2011, has called for India to assume a greater role in its region. "We encourage India not just to look east, but to engage east and act east as well," she said. "India's greater role on the world stage will enhance peace and security," she added in an essay in Foreign Policy magazine.

The stage is set for playing that role in the Indian Ocean region. (Excerpted from an address delivered at Symbiosis International University, Pune). -- The Times of India, December 23, 2016 -GoTop