News & Events
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1.World Test Championship represents Indian cricket’s finest hour
Almost 144 years after the first-ever cricket test match was played in Australia, in a few hours the inaugural World Test Championship between India and New Zealand will begin. Regardless of the outcome, this is Indian cricket’s finest hour.
To put the WTC in perspective, consider the path to the final. The WTC began in August 2019 to provide a larger context to contests between two countries. Therefore, the WTC cycle encompassed nine teams competing in 71 test matches over 27 bilateral series over a two-year period. At the end of the cycle, the two top teams in terms of points were to play the final.
India topped the table in terms of points.
Why does this make it Indian cricket’s finest hour? Test cricket is unique among sports. It’s played over five days with 15 sessions if the match goes the full distance. The duration limits the element of luck in the outcome because comebacks are possible. Skill takes precedence over a stroke of luck in the final outcome.
It’s in this backdrop, India topped the table over a two-year cycle, itself unique in contemporary sports. This is what really counts. If it took five decades for Indian cricket to announce itself through the 1983 limited overs World Cup victory, the WTC cycle has showcased the scarcely noticed depth and character in contemporary Indian cricket. That should be what fans need to keep in mind. It’s been an unforgettable two-year run.
2.New Delhi’s trilemma: How India manages its interests in the US-China-Russia game will be one of its toughest challenges
The first summit between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin provided a context for what is and will be one of India’s toughest foreign policy challenges. Here’s why. First, US-Russia relations are, at best, bad. Second, Russia is getting close to China, in response to West’s pushback for Moscow’s military ‘muscle flexing’ in Europe. Third, with the West anointing China as the geopolitical rival, the relationship between Washington and Beijing-Moscow may considerably worsen. That presents to India the challenge of managing its interests in a complex US-China-Russia game. A foreign policy trilemma, as it were.
India is potentially a significant ally of the West in any move to contain China. The Quad is a good, if still-evolving, example of this. But it is also doubtful India can fully depend on the US in the event of any serious hostility with China. Therefore, unlike traditional US allies India will need to develop a sharp China policy itself. The Galwan clash showed India is capable of this, despite the huge power asymmetry between the two countries.
In this context, arms and defence knowhow from Russia are very useful for India. But Moscow has not been thrilled with what it sees as New Delhi’s increasing strategic ties with Washington. The Russian leadership hasn’t minced words criticising the Quad and is even reportedly looking to expand the scope of its defence ties with Pakistan. If America-led West and Beijing-Moscow become two clear geostrategic poles, India’s space for manoeuvre may shrink, and China won’t at all mind exploiting that.
There are other worries in this trilemma. India-US economic relations won’t be on a solid footing till there is a trade pact, on which there is little movement. Plus, there’s the impact of America’s military withdrawal from Afghanistan. Will New Delhi need Moscow if Af-Pak hots up?
India’s best case scenario is that America and Russia feel better about each other, so that Moscow has less reason to court Beijing. Indeed, for Washington, too, a Beijing-Moscow combo is something to be avoided. It makes sense for America to keep its strategic focus squarely on China. Russia isn’t strong enough to be a global disruptor, China is. But India may not get what it wants – US-Russia and US-China jousting may sharpen the trilemma for it. The best, maybe the only, way out is to seriously expand India’s economy. If India can grow at 8% annually over the next 10 years, the trilemma will wither away.
3. The real spoiler in Kabul
Pakistan exports terror and props up Taliban. Its accusations against India are baseless. It has no business in deciding, or even having a view on, what is an acceptable degree of Indian presence in Afghanistan. This is between Delhi and Kabul
At a time when Afghanistan’s future is at stake, Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, in an interview to Tolo News, has made a series of baseless and unacceptable remarks. First, he sought to absolve Taliban for the increasing violence in Afghanistan, at a time when Taliban has stepped up its offensive to take advantage of a weak Kabul government and the hurried withdrawal of United States (US) forces. There was an over two-and-a-half times increase in terror fatalities in May 2021 compared to April. Afghan security forces have faced a three-fold surge in fatalities in this period. And 26 Afghan military outposts surrendered to Taliban in May. Mr Qureshi has proven, again, that Pakistan remains Taliban’s patron and doesn’t care about Afghan lives or institutions.
Mr Qureshi then claimed India’s presence in Afghanistan was “larger than it ought to be”, and accused India of “carrying out terrorist activities” from Afghan soil. Pakistan has no business in deciding, or even having a view on, what is an acceptable degree of Indian presence in Afghanistan. This is between Delhi and Kabul.