Phalgun Krishna 1, Vik.Samvat 2074, Yugabda 5119

1. festivals: chhatrapati Shivaji maharaj Jayanti

2. BHARAT marks 69th ganatantra diwas with all Asean leaders in attendance



5. Their courageous and fearless deeds made the nation Proud: 18 Kids awarded with bravery awards

6. GANATANTRA DIWAS celebrated world wide

7. Identity of Bharat is our ancient culture - Dr. Mohan Bhagwat

8. Hindus must unite - Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi

9. Sanchalana is a showcase of our strength and discipline

10. DRIVER WHO Saved Amarnath pilgrims gets 2nd highest award

11.  Martyred Corporal Jyoti Prakash Nirala awarded ASHOK CHAKRA Posthumously

12. Padma Awards: P Parameswaran, a scholar revered even by opponents

13. Bharatiya American Professor Among 85 People Honored With Padma Award

14. Ekal Leader Wins Padma Shri


16. Three bharatiya-American professors named 2018 Fellows of the AAAI



Article & Editorial:



1. festivals: chhatrapati Shivaji maharaj Jayanti: Shivaji was born on Phalgun Vadya Tritiya corresponding to March 4 this year. The day is celebrated with great pomp and fervor in traditional style by Maharashtrians. Shivaji is known for his bravery and tactics with which he won wars. Shivaji captured the first fort 'Torna' when he was just 16-years-old. Shivaji is known for his famous guerilla tactics which are taught in all the military schools of the world. His combat with Afzal Khan is very popular. He defeated the veteran with a single strike when they met at Pratapgarh in a hut where they were allowed to carry a single sword. Shivaji is best known for escaping from the highly guarded home-prison of Aurangzeb. He is accredited for reviving Hindu traditions and promoting usage of Marathi and Sanskrit. His legacy increased with the emergence of Bharatiya independence movement with people hailing him as a nationalist. Maharashtra Government has officially fixed February 19 as Shivaji Jayanti.-GoTop


2. BHARAT marks 69th ganatantra diwas with all Asean leaders in attendance: Bharat on January 26 celebrated its 69th Ganatantra Diwas with its customary display of military might and cultural diversity in a parade that saw the rare attendance by heads of state and government from 10 Southeast Asian countries Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore, Myanmar, Thailand, Brunei, the Philippines and Malaysia. Leaders of countries representing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) took the stage along with their host, Pradhan Mantri Narendra Modi, as Rashtrapati Ram Nath Kovind took the salute in New Delhi.

Pradhan Mantri Modi hosted all 10 ASEAN leaders at a commemorative summit with the theme Shared Values, Common Destiny during which the two sides agreed to scale up maritime cooperation and outlined a road map for future partnership that included an enhancement of physical and digital connectivity besides increased economic linkages.

In an article-published in 27 newspapers on January 26 in 10 languages across the ASEAN bloc, Modi said that the "strength and resilience" of the Bharat-ASEAN partnership comes "not just from arithmetic of numbers, but also from the underpinnings of the relationship".

"Bharat and ASEAN nations have relations free from contests and claims. We have a common vision for the future, built on commitment to inclusion and integration, belief in sovereign equality of all nations irrespective of size, and support for free and open pathways of commerce and engagement," he said.

"This is an age of change, disruptions and shifts that come only rarely in history," said Modi, in the article posted on the Bharatiya government website. "ASEAN and Bharat have immense opportunities-indeed, enormous responsibility-to chart a steady course through the uncertainty and turbulence of our times to a stable and peaceful future for our region and the world."

"Bharatiyas have always looked East to see the nurturing sunrise and the light of opportunities. Now, as before, the East, or the Indo-Pacific region, will be indispensable to Bharat's future and our common destiny. The ASEAN-Bharat partnership will play a defining role in both. And, in Delhi, ASEAN and Bharat renewed their pledge for the journey ahead," he added. -GoTop


3.  PROMISE OF A DEVELOPED BHARAT BECKONS: RASHTRAPATI RAM NATH KOVIND in his address to the nation on the eve of the 69th Ganatantra Diwas said that the "promise of a developed Bharat" beckons and that the youth of the country will take this vision forward. In the speech broadcast on 25thJanuary evening, Kovind spoke of the need to empower the youth, deliver justice to women, upgrade and enlarge education systems, nutrition for children and equal rights for girls, among other issues.

"The promise of a developed Bharat beckons us. This is the new stage of our nation-building project on which we have embarked. This is the republic that our young people need to take forward and enhance-in keeping with their vision, their ambition and their ideals," Kovind said.

Bharat's $2.6 trillion economy, growing at an estimated 6.5% in 2017-18, is now weathering the disruptions caused by massive structural reforms such as the rollout of goods and services tax. Although this estimated growth rate is the slowest in four years, Bharat is still one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Rashtrapatiji also said that citizens need to respect the "space, privacy and rights" of their next-door neighbours and stressed on how a civic-minded nation is built by civic-minded neighbourhoods. "Where one can disagree with another viewpoint-or even with a historical context-without mocking a fellow citizen's dignity and personal space. This is fraternity in action," he said.

Talking about the girl education, Kovind said, a happy and equal-opportunity nation is built by happy and equal-opportunity families, where girls have the same rights and the same access to education and health-care as boys.

Kovind also spoke about the need to address issues related to those from a "less privileged socio-economic background" and eliminate poverty. "Above all, our republic cannot rest and cannot be satisfied without meeting the basic needs and essential dignity of our less well-off brothers and sisters.. It is our sacred obligation to eliminate the curse of poverty in the shortest possible time. This is non-negotiable for the republic," he added. -GoTop


4. RAMAYANA PLAYING AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN BHARAT's OUTREACH TO ASEAN COUNTRIES: As a run-up to the Commemorative Summit of the ASEAN countries a five-day Ramayan Festival was held in Delhi from January 20-24 which had troupes from all the ten ASEAN nations - including Muslim majority Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei - taking part in the plays and musicals based on the epic. The event was organized by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR). "Ramayana is a joint heritage of the eastern world in a way. This is the signature epic of this part of the world and its influence is not confined to Bharat boundaries", ICCR head Vinay Sahasrabuddhe said.

ASEAN leaders of all the ten nations and Pradhan Mantri Narendra Modi also inaugurated a postage stamp based on Ramayana. Pradhan Mantri Modi said that Ramayana, the ancient Bharatiya epic continues to be a valuable shared legacy in ASEAN & Bharatiya subcontinent. Buddhism also binds us closely. Islam in many parts of South East Asia has distinctive Bharatiya connection going back several centuries. Further adding Pradhan Mantri Modi mentioned the friendship between the nations has nurtured and they share cultural and civilization linkages. -GoTop


5. Their courageous and fearless deeds made the nation Proud: 18 Kids awarded with bravery awards: Pradhan Mantri Narendra Modi on January 25, presented the National Bravery awards to 18 brave children, who kept ‘Humanity’ alive by showcasing their courage and saved many lives. The awardees included seven girls. Three of the awards were given posthumously. Interacting with the awardees, PM Modi remarked that most of the awardees are from rural and humble backgrounds. He said that perhaps their daily struggles had helped instill resilience in them, to deal courageously in adverse situations. They inspire other children, and often engender a sense of self-confidence among other children. Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi was present on the occasion. The brave children also participated in the Ganatantra Diwas parade. Rashtrapati Ram Nath Kovind hosted a reception in their honour. -GoTop


6. GANATANTRA DIWAS celebrated world wide: In a special and "unprecedented" gesture, Japan's foreign minister Taro Kono attended Bharatiya embassy's Ganatantra Diwas celebrations in Tokyo. Speaking on the occasion, Kono emphasized that Japan and Bharat were strategic partners that shared values such as democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Kono described Bharat as one of the most important partners for promoting Japan's Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy. He added that 2017 had witnessed many positive developments in the bilateral relationship

The Ganatantra Diwas was celebrated in South Africa with Bharatiya Mission vowing to build a stronger relationship with the African country. Bharatiya High Commissioner Ruchira Kamboj addressing the audience said, “South Africa is very close to our heart,” and the two countries share a "very special" relationship. Consul General K J Srinivasa said 2018 marks a "wonderful year" for Bharat and South Africa. "It commemorates the 125th anniversary of the incident at Pietermaritzburg when Mahatma Gandhi was evicted from the train that led to his involvement in the struggle against discrimination and which in turn led to the independence of Bharat and many other nations," he said.

A new portal of an interactive digital timeline of images celebrating Bharatiyas in Britain was launched as part of celebrations to mark Bharat's 69th Ganatantra Diwas by Bharatiya high commissioner to the UK, Y K Sinha alongside UK Foreign Office minister for Asia Mark Field. "We have had a historic and eventful year in our bilateral relationship with the UK India Year of Culture and I am certain 2018 will not be barren as far as culture goes," said Sinha. "India and the UK are firmly looking to a very bright future based on not just our shared culture and values but also shared interests. I am very excited about the work we can do together in the decades ahead," noted Field, the chief guest of the reception. The new portal, born out of the photographic exhibition which toured the UK last year, marks collaboration between the Open University, the University of Exeter, the High Commission of Bharat and Nehru Centre in London. -GoTop


7. Identity of Bharat is our ancient culture - Dr. Mohan Bhagwat: Whatever we are accumulating for our comforts must be shared with the deprived ones, said Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Sarsanghchalak Dr Mohan Bhagwat in Makar Sankranti function in a college in Raipur on January 14. The identity of Bharat, he said, was not with a particular caste or creed, but it was with our ancient culture. For more than 40,000 years Bharat's identity has lied in its culture and ancestors. He said even tribals are an integral part of our society. We must take them along and ensure their all-round development. He said the DNA of people from Afghanistan to Burma, from the Tibet to Sri Lanka clearly depicts that they had common ancestors. This should unite us. Mohan Singh Tekam, vice-president, Sarv Aadivasi Samaj recalled Rani Durgawati and asserted that the tribals had always sacrificed their lives in the interest of the nation. -GoTop


8. Hindus must unite - Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi: RSS Sarkaryavah Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi, on 15 January participated in Pongal Vizhaa organized by Desamuthu Mariyamman Temple at Hasthinapuram, Chennai. He took part in the Gau Pooja in the temple, delivered a keynote address and distributed prizes to winners of various competitions. Speaking on the occasion, Bhaiyyaji Joshi wished that "Lives of people should become more prosperous and shine as bright as the Sun. He called for unity among all Hindus. He stressed that people should forget all differences, including those of Caste and Language. He emphasized that we must remove hatred, if any, against others and consider all of us as one family and children of Bharat Mata". He said that  "The Hindus can gain strength only if they remain united. This strength should be put to use to help the needy, protect our dharma and uplift our Nation." -GoTop


9. Sanchalana is a showcase of our strength and discipline: Volunteers (Sevikas) of the Rashtra Sevika Samiti, participated in the Sankranti utsava and pathasanchalana held at four places in Bengaluru. Over 700 Sevikas in the Ganavesha of the Samiti; 1000s of people participated in the utsava. Started 82 years ago by Vandaniya LakshmiBai Kelkar, the Samiti believes that women have the qualities of Matrutva, Netrutva, Kartrutvai.e., motherhood, leadership and efficiency and the Samiti was started with the intention of the utilization of these ideals for the betterment of society as well as empowering women around. Sanchalana by Samiti Sevikas during Vijayadashami, and current one during Sankranti Utsava were special. 'Sanchalana is a showcase of our strength and discipline' opined Smt Padmakshi Vaidya, Samiti's Banashankari Bhag Bauddhik Pramukh. -GoTop


10. DRIVER WHO Saved Amarnath pilgrims gets 2nd highest award: Gujarati bus driver Sheikh Salim Gafur, who defied terrorists' bullets and saved 52 Amarnath pilgrims, has been awarded the 'Uttam Jeevan Raksha Padak', the second highest honour given to civilians for gallantry. Sarvottam Jeevan Raksha Padak is the highest honour given to civilians for gallantry. Gafur has been selected for the honour as he displayed some rare grit and bravery and continued to drive the bus of the Amarnath pilgrims, which came under attack by the terrorists on July 10, 2017, in Jammu and Kashmir, a home ministry official said. Seven Amarnath pilgrims were killed and 14 others injured when terrorists opened fire on the bus Gafur was driving near Batengoo in Anantnag district of Jammu and Kashmir while around 52 other bus passengers escaped unharmed due to the presence of mind and bravery of the driver. -GoTop


11.  Martyred Corporal Jyoti Prakash Nirala awarded ASHOK CHAKRA Posthumously: Rashtrapati Ram Nath Kovind presented Ashok Chakra, Bharat's highest peacetime military decoration, posthumously to Corporal Jyoti Prakash Nirala, a Garud Commando of the Indian Air Force (IAF) who died fighting terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir. Corporal Nirala, a commando of the elite special force of the IAF, was part of an offensive launched jointly by the Garud detachment and Rashtriya Rifles Battalion in Chanderger village of Bandipora district on November 18, 2017. The Garud detachment laid a close quarter ambush around the house where the terrorists were tipped to be hiding. Nirala positioned himself close to the approach of the hideout to block the escape way for the terrorists.

While the detachment lay in wait, six terrorists rushed out, shooting and lobbing grenades at the soldiers. Nirala retaliated, gunning down two top Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists and injuring two others. He also received gunshot wounds in the fierce gun battle. While being critically injured, Nirala continued retaliatory fire and, subsequently, succumbed to his injuries. All six terrorists were killed. Ashok Chakra, the highest peacetime gallantry award, is equivalent to war-time award of Param Vir Chakra. -GoTop


12. Padma Awards: P Parameswaran, a scholar revered even by opponents: PadmaVibhushan, the second highest civilian award, is yet another major recognition for P Parameswaran, the founder director of Bharatheeya Vichara Kendra, who has contributed greatly in the fields of politics and social thought. The senior-most pracharak of RSS from Kerala, Parameswaran, is a scholar and visionary held in high esteem even by political opponents for his fight for freedom of speech, especially during the Emergency, and for his insights and clarity of expression. One of the founder members of the International Forum for Indias Heritage (IFIH), he is considered as an authority in ancient Bharatiya wisdom.

Considering his enthusiasm and efforts to reconstruct Bharat based on the traditional wisdom, the country honoured him with Padma Shri in 2004. Born in Cherthala village, Alappuzha, in the year 1927, Parameswaran came into contact with RSS during his student days. He became an RSS pracharak in 1950, as per the direction of M S Golwalkar who was the then sarsanghchalak. He served as organizing secretary of Bharatiya Jana Sangh in 1957 and in 1968, became all-Bharat general secretary and later vice-president of the Jan Sangh. He was jailed during the Emergency.

Parameswaran moved from politics to the sphere of social thought and development and worked as the director of New Delhi-based Deendayal Research Institute for four years. A bachelor, who doesn’t have a house of his own, Parameswaran is residing in the Vichara Kendram headquarters in Thiruvananthapuram. -GoTop


13. Bharatiya American Professor Among 85 People Honored With Padma Award: Bharatiya American Ved Prakash Nanda is among 85 people to be honored with one of Bharat's highest civilian honors, the Padma Award, which recognizes distinguished service. Nanda, a professor at the University of Denver since 1965, is a legal scholar and expert in international law. He is the founding director and director emeritus of the International Legal Studies Program; director of the Ved Nanda Center for International and Comparative Law; and was previously a United States Delegate to the World Federation of the United Nations. Prof  Nanada is also America zone sanghachalak for Hindu swayamsevak Sangh.

A total of 85 people have been selected for Padma awards this year, including three Padma Vibhushan, nine Padma Bhushan, and 73 Padma Shri awards. Fourteen awardees are women, and 16 are foreigners or non-resident Bharatiyas. Three people have been honored posthumously. -GoTop


14. Ekal Leader Wins Padma Shri: Rameshwar Lal Kabra, founding member of the Ekal movement was given the Padma Shri award, the fourth highest civilian honor given by the Bharatiya government. A leading industrialist and a true visionary, Kabra has worked hard to ensure the success of the Ekal movement. He has seen it grow into a national movement reaching over 60,000 villages. He currently serves as the chairman of the Friends of Tribal Society (FTS), an arm of the Ekal movement that raises funds in Bharat to support the Ekal movement. FTS provides funds for nearly 30,000 Ekal schools. Ekal is blessed to have the leadership, vision and support of Padma Shri Rameshwar Lal Kabra. -GoTop


15. AAM AADMI NOW PADMA AWARDEE: PM: Pradhan Mantri Narendra Modi on January 28 said his Government had transformed the process for selecting Padma award winners and common people were now being honoured because the emphasis was no longer on the name of a nominee, but on the work done. "If you look at these winners, you will feel proud that such kind of people live in society and will also naturally feel proud that they are getting this recognition without any 'sifarish' (recommendation). Now the identity of the awardee is not the deciding factor of the award, rather the importance of his work is increasing," he said. Pradhan Mantri mentioned that this year's Padma awardees include Lakshmi kutty, a tribal woman from Kerala who prepares herbal medicines, and Arvind Gupta, an IIT Kanpur alumnus who inspired generations of students to learn science from trash. Society should also go beyond these awards and make efforts to recognize people working selflessly, he said. -GoTop


16. Three bharatiya-American professors named 2018 Fellows of the AAAI: Three Bharatiya-American professors, Amit Sheth, Gaurav Sukhatme and Dinesh Manocha, are among those selected as the 2018 Fellows of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI). Sheth is a computer science and engineering professor at Wright State University and the executive director of KNO.E.SIS - Ohio Center for Excellence in knowledge-enabled computing. Sukhatme is the dean professor and chairman in the Department of Computer Science, School of Engineering in University of Southern California. He also serves as the co-director of the Robotics Research Lab and the director of the Robotic Embedded Systems Lab, which he founded in 2000. Manocha is currently Phi Delta Theta/Matthew Mason Distinguished Professor of Computer Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. -GoTop


17. NASA SHOWS INTEREST IN MADE IN BHARAT TECH FOR SPACECRAFTS: A new thermal spray coating technology used for gas turbine engine in spacecrafts developed by a Rajasthan-based researcher Dr Satish Tailor has caught the attention of James L Smialek, a scientist from NASA.

While working at MEC as a chief scientist, Research and Development,, he developed the controlled segmented Yttria Stabilised Zirconia (YSZ)-Plasma sprayed coating technology, which according to him could reduce the thermal spray coating cost by almost 50 per cent.

Dr Tailor is the deputy editor-in-chief of the Journal of Materials Science and Surface Engineering, and chief editor of the Journal of Thermal Spray and Engineering. He is associated with the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Russia as a visiting young scientist. Hailing from Jaipur, Dr Tailor completed his PhD in metallurgical engineering with specialization in plasma spray coatings from the Malaviya National Institute of Technology (MNIT), Jaipur. He has published over 25 national and international research papers in reputed journals on thermal spray technology. -GoTop


18. SHRI VISHWA NIKETAN: Pravas: Saumitra Gokhale samyojak Vishwa Vibhag will be touring Singapore in second week of February. Dr Sadanand Sapre sahsamyojak will return from his pravas to Mozambique and South Africa. Visitors: Shridhar Damle, Shekhar Patel - USA, Smt and Shri Madhusudan Sukhwal - France

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: There is nothing mind can do that cannot be better done in the mind's immobility and thought-free stillness. When mind is still, then truth gets her chance to be heard in the purity of the silence. - Yogi Arvind -GoTop




Salil Tripathi

As the epic travelled from India to South-East Asia, the stories underwent nuanced changes, making the plots radically different in some cases

On Saturday (January 20), Prime Minister Narendra Modi warmly welcomed a five-day festival of Ramayan performances in Delhi. These are not ordinary performances; the festival celebrates India's friendship with the 10 countries that form the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean).

The Ramayan has been popular in South-East Asia for centuries; its spread and popularity highlight the enduring appeal of India's soft power. Modi pointed out how the festival reveals India's "deep civilizational and historic relations" with Asean, and said that it is "a fitting prelude" to the Asean-India commemorative summit beginning on Thursday. The festival then travels to five Indian cities, including Ayodhya, considered to be Ram's birthplace.

Indian audiences unfamiliar with South-East Asian interpretations of the Ramayan may be in for some surprise, though. As the epic travelled from India to those countries, the stories underwent nuanced changes, making the plots radically different in some cases.

During the eight years I lived in Singapore as a foreign correspondent, I saw several versions and manifestations of the Ramayan in the region. The temples of Prambanan in Yogyakarta and in Bangkok's temple of the emerald Buddha, Wat Phra Kaew, offer scenes from the epic that vary from the grand narrative known in India. There is the Kakawin in Java, Ramakerti in Cambodia, Ramakien in Thailand, Phra Lak Phra Ram in Laos, and Hikayat Seri Rama in Malaysia. In the wayangkulit (shadow puppetry) version in Malay, Ravan is shown in a sympathetic light; Ram appears vain. Ram and Ravan are cousins in the Laotian version. In the Javanese wayangkulit retelling, artists often make allusions about contemporary politics-recall the 1982 film, The Year Of Living Dangerously. One moonlit night in Seam Reap with the Angkor Wat in the distance, I saw the Cambodian version where Hanuman falls in love with mermaids, and is not quite the bachelor devotee of Ram. Art historian Gauri Parimoo Krishnan, who had curated a path-breaking exhibition on the many Ramayans in Singapore in the 1990s, pointed out the variety of these readings which indicated a pluralist discourse, in Ramayana: A Living Tradition. "Valmiki's Ramayana has been wrongly ascribed canonical status, giving rise to a sort of patriarchal, literate, pan-Indian elitism which in recent times has been scorned."

In the two decades since Parimoo Krishnan wrote that, such pan-Indian elitism is becoming the norm. In fact, in February 2008, students representing the Akhil BharatiyaVidyarthiParishad, the student wing of the RashtriyaSwayamsevak Sangh, stormed the history department of the Delhi University to protest students being asked to read an essay about the Ramayan. Their anger was targeted at the late A.K. Ramanujan's essay, "Three Hundred Ramayanas", which celebrated the sheer exuberance and range of interpretations of the Ramayan. Those interpretations varied from the majoritarian narratives associated with Valmiki or Tulsidas.

Alternative interpretations have existed in India too, as Paula Richman wrote in her book, Many Ramayanas: The Diversity Of A Narrative Tradition In South Asia. In the Jain Ramayan, Ram and Ravan are Jains, and it is Lakshman who kills Ravan. In another retelling, Sita is Ravan's daughter. A Jataka version shows Ram and Sita as siblings. Certain tribal versions present a bolder, feminist Sita. Indeed, Nabanita Deb Sen and Madhu Kishwar have looked at the Ramayan from Sita’s perspective, and Arshia Sattar has shown a gentler, loving, more human Ram in her essay on Sita.

A Ram who's not a strong and martial lord interferes with the Bharatiya Janata Party's project of a more muscular Hinduism. As Martha Nussbaum astutely observed in The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence And India's Future, "Hindu traditions emphasize tolerance and pluralism.. ..  But the traditions contain a wound, a locus of vulnerability, in the area of humiliated masculinity. For centuries, some Hindu males think, they were subordinated by a sequence of conquerors, and Hindus have come to identify the sexual playfulness and sensuousness of their traditions… with their own weakness. So a repudiation of the sensuous and the cultivation of the masculine came to be seen as the best way out…"

Linked with it is the deeper purpose, of remaking Hinduism. In a conversation I had with the former prime minister Morarji Desai, he had said that the idea of building a Ram temple in Ayodhya at the site of the Babri Masjid was aimed at remaking Hinduism; from being a faith with many gods and many ways of seeking spiritual salvation, towards monotheism (Ram), with a single book (Ramayan), and a single place of worship given pre-eminent position (Ayodhya), making Hinduism more like the Abrahamic religions.

Attacking Ramanujan's essay had political benefits. The then head of the department of history at Delhi University-Saiyid Zaheer Husain Jafri-and the professor who recommended the text-Upinder Singh-were both from religious minorities, and Singh happened to be the daughter of Manmohan Singh, then India's prime minister.

In 2011, the university withdrew the essay from its syllabus. Oxford University Press had discontinued publishing and selling the essay, but it reprinted it following protests from academics and free speech advocates.

As performers from South-East Asia reveal the diverse Ramayan narratives, it is time for India to embrace its former self and celebrate the nuanced richness of its traditions, so much a part of cultures abroad, so vilified at home at present.

Salil Tripathi is a writer based in London. (www.livemint,com, January 25, 2018) -GoTop



India and Asean should join to establish the world’s most dynamic economic zone

Assembling all 10 heads of state or government of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) in Delhi, as chief guests for the upcoming Republic Day parade, is undoubtedly a big push for India's Act East policy. Asean leaders will also be attending the Indo-Asean Commemorative Summit marking 25 years of their dialogue partnership. There's no denying what lends urgency to this confluence: America withdrawing from the region and China muscling in. Some parallels between Asean and the European Union (EU) are interesting in this regard. European nations chose to drop their differences and come together because of the experience of two world wars. Likewise, Asean nations were initially brought together by the fear of rising communist insurgencies in their neighbourhood in the 1960s.

A similar situation looms today, as China's meteoric economic rise is transforming into Chinese assertiveness on territorial disputes in the region, together with other ways of undermining a multilateral rules-based order. As a result, despite Asean's deep economic engagements with China, the bloc doesn't want to put all its eggs in Beijing's basket.

On India’s part, boosting ties with Asean has multiple benefits. Not only is greater connectivity with the bloc crucial to developing India's northeast region, greater Asean investments into India can result in a multiplier effect across economic sectors.

Asean nations like Vietnam are well-integrated with global value chains. India can tap into these to give its own manufacturing sector a boost. Similarly, facilitating greater Indian service sector exports to Asean as well as freer movement of people is imperative. The services-manufacturing combo can lead to a balanced trade and investment relationship by drawing on each side's inherent strengths.

There's also a case for boosting tourism cooperation. Many Indian tourists have already experienced high-quality tourism facilities in Asean nations. The same could be replicated for Asean and other tourists to India by inviting tourism and hospitality companies from the bloc to invest in popular circuits, such as the one centred on Bodh Gaya. There's also scope for enhancing security cooperation between India and Asean, all of which could be used to moot the next big idea: Indian membership in Asean, which would become one of the world's most dynamic economic zones. Aseanfavours a looser union structure than EU while India joining up would make it as potent as EU; making its chances of future success correspondingly greater.

(Editorial, Times of India, January 24, 2018) -GoTop