US Elections: Are Indian foreign policy pundits missing the bigger picture?

India has reached a stage where there exists a bipartisan agreement in the US for a strong bilateral strategic partnership with India. Nevertheless, foreign policy dynamics are much more complex and it will be naïve for India to take comfort in these statements alone.

By Dr Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan 

The US elections are less than two months away and the campaign is reaching its pinnacle. Going by some polls, Republican candidate Donald Trump may enjoy a small lead over the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in some of the swing states. With the numbers running neck to neck within the possible margin of error, the only thing that can be predicted is that it will be a tight race.

Even as we are close to the election, little is known about the foreign policy positions of the two candidates. Hillary Clinton, having been the Secretary of State during the first term of the Obama administration, is a relatively known entity on foreign policy. Trump’s views are a lot less known and therefore it is important to analyse what his foreign policy might look like.

Recently, Newsweek magazine did a story on how Trump’s business dealings in foreign countries could upset US national security. The story is clearly to take a dig at Trump who has made a big issue of the Clinton Foundation. It was alleged that those who made donations to the Clinton Foundation benefited from special influence when Hillary Clinton was the Secretary of State. It is difficult to prove this one way or the other.

The Newsweek story spoke about the Trump Organisation’s investments in Maharashtra and elsewhere and reported that the organisation has engaged in shady deals in Mumbai, Pune and Gurgaon. The article suggests that a Trump presidency, in order to advance his financial interests, could try to please the Indian government by taking decisions that may hurt US national interests. It raised a pointed question, “If Trump takes a hard line with Pakistan, will it be for America’s strategic interests or to appease Indian government officials who might jeopardise his profits from Trump Towers Pune?”

The merit of this argument is hard to accept, to say the least. But generally, many foreign policy pundits in India seem happy that Trump has kept a positive tone on India. For instance, the Republican Platform talked of India as a ‘geopolitical ally and a strategic trade partner’ whereas the reference to Pakistan was in terms of securing its nuclear arsenal and in the context of the war on terror. In the larger strategic context, the Grand Old Party (GOP) looks to India to play a larger role in Asian and global affairs. The 58-page Republican platform went on to say that ‘the dynamism of its (Indian) people and the endurance of their democratic institutions are earning their country a position of leadership not only in Asia but throughout the world.’

It is almost certain that China is not excited about what Trump had to say about Beijing. The GOP platform, for instance, talked about the complacency of the Obama administration and how that has emboldened China to engage in a series of provocative actions such as issuing “threats of intimidation through the South China Sea” and “parading their new missile ‘the Guam Killer’.”
In addition, the platform drew attention to the continuing cultural genocide in Tibet and Xinjiang as well as how the promised autonomy of Hong Kong is stripped off. China as a currency manipulator and its offences against intellectual property rights were also highlighted. And the list goes on.

Taiwan also figured prominently, with the platform talking about the shared ‘values of democracy, human rights, a free market economy and the rule of law.’ The platform went on to say that the bilateral relations with Taipei will continue to be guided by the provisions of the Taiwan Relations Act, while noting opposition to either side trying to change the status quo. It further added that if China were to use means other than dialogue to force upon a situation on Taiwan, ‘the United States, in accord with the Taiwan Relations Act, will help Taiwan defend itself.’ The manifesto also mentioned the need to pursue ‘timely sale of defensive arms including technology to build diesel submarines.’ This categorical statement must be reassuring to Taipei in the wake of a strong and mighty China that has unilaterally tried to change the status quo in South China Sea and elsewhere.

Indian foreign policy pundits are excited that the mention of India, though limited, is in a positive light and that New Delhi is seen as an actor that should play a greater role in the Asian strategic framework, something former President George W Bush also talked about in his campaign. The fact that China and Pakistan do not stand to benefit a special relationship with the US if Trump were to be elected must be particularly soothing to Indian ears.

[Paraphrased and sourced from New Delhi-based Diplomatist Magazine,


BRICS Journal TV: In Conversation With Judi Nwokedi

BRICS Journal Executive Editor, Vuyo Dlamini caught up with Tourvest (Africa’s largest Integrated Tourism company) COO, Judi Nwokedi at the BRICS Trade Fair to talk about Medical Tourism and how technology will advance the health sector.

Foreign students in India: Education Diplomacy

Written by: Dr. (Prof.) V. Shivkumar

Senator J. William Fulbright outlined his views on International Education thus:

“Our future is not in the stars but in our own minds and hearts. Creative leadership and liberal education, which in fact go together, are the first requirements for a hopeful future for humankind. Fostering leadership, learning, and empathy between culture, was and still remains the purpose of the international scholarship program…….”

Post-independence India continued with pride the ‘scientifically’ tempered Lord Macaulay’s education, thereby completely influencing our thoughts, actions, our culture and art to dance to the tunes of western civilisation. We, thus, proudly marched towards the path of dependent development of the western model. We are now globally accepted!

Western medicine and pharmacopeia was not so widely known in pre-colonial India and before the advent of the European colonisation. Today, our traditional system of Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani has become non-scientific alternative or supplementary lines of treatment. The existing dichotomy of Indian Society and Culture is one such example, viz., rural and urban Indian coexisting side by side, exerting the pulls and pressure as we move towards the path of development. Key to the understanding of our cultural heritage should not be limited to propagating just one regional language alone but to have proficiency in Sanskrit, Urdu, Tamil, Telugu and other languages and to continue to unearth our ancient knowledge.

Yoga is not and will not be the panacea for all our problems; we need to supplement yoga with other traditional approaches. As a Vice Chancellor, I hosted Sanskrit certificate course online without charging fees for anyone, whoever was willing to enrol. Similar efforts were made to spread the knowledge of astrology and the Dean of the Ayurveda College wrote books on house-hold remedies for many chronic and acute maladies caused by modern lifestyle. I gave a foreword to one of the volumes!

The stakeholders’ viz., Chancellors  VCs, Principals, teachers, students, bureaucrats and noble politicians are yet to undertake the needed reforms in the right direction which would put emphasis on our indigenous traditional knowledge along with modern approaches. Making yoga or rudimentary Sanskrit education as a compulsory part of our educational system would not suffice. The so-called experts, who form the committees to recommend reforms, feel proud to draw inspirations from Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and Stanford and institutions abroad, since many of them including the writer, had been consistently exposed to wisdom of the West! Our contemporary knowledge is, therefore, conditioned by the ideas and knowledge that is influenced by the West.

We seem to be losing our identity without us knowing it; what a pity! What we require is a very judicial revival of traditional knowledge. This would attract foreign students to come to India to learn something new along with their modern education.

International students and their expectations

Many of the foreign students come to India not only to become doctors and engineers, but they come here to seek our indigenous knowledge and culture as well. American and European students as well as students from neighbouring SAARC countries adjust themselves well, so do students coming from the West Indies. Students coming from China, Japan, South Korea and other South East nations, except those coming English-speaking countries find it difficult to cope with our teaching methods; the same is the case with non-English speaking Latin American countries too. Despite these limitations, foreign students’ enrolment has been growing steadily in our Universities. Private and deemed Universities look to foreign students as resource contributors through fees and other contributions. UGC does provide funds to State and Central Universities to cater to the needs of foreign students. Proper maintenance and periodical review are to be streamlined. UGC must fix the fees for foreign students so that they can plan their expenditures before they land in India. Institutions charging different fees for the same course needs to be rationalised. Government of India has also launched programmes such as Study in India and Study India. These are catching up. Government has to do much more if it wants to attract foreign students and scholars from abroad.

[Paraphrased and sourced from New Delhi-based Diplomatist Magazine,

IDC plows R4.5bn into youth to encourage entrepreneurship

The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) on Monday announced its decision to invest an amount of R4, 5 billion into the youth of the country over the next three years, in a bid to fight the ever-increasing unemployment rate.

Currently, youth unemployment in South Africa stands at 53.7%, down from an an-all time high of 54.50% in the first quarter of the year (according to Statistics South Africa).

IDC CEO, Geoffrey Qhena says that making the youth an active and integral part of the country’s economy has become the institution’s main priority, as they centre all strategies and actions around this agenda.

“What is urgently needed is a concerted, sustained effort to create an environment that produces jobs, allows young people to acquire skills and allows them to branch out on their own through entrepreneurship,” he said.

According to Qhena, who delivered an address at the IDC National Youth Enterprise Conference in Midrand last week, the IDC is in a favourable position to financially aid youth-owned enterprises that creates employment, because contrary to the positioning of the private commercial lending sector, it had ‘more appetite for risk’.

“It is no secret that access to funding is one of the major stumbling blocks for new businesses. Because of the IDC’s mandate of stimulating the economy, we are able to take a more patient approach and, within specific funding schemes, offer preferential lending rates compared with commercial banks,” he said.

– City Press; The Industrial Development Corporation

When retail meets innovation

Self-service shopping is no longer a concept of the future. Early last month, an image of a self-service check-out machine at a Pick n Pay  (the second largest supermarket retail chain store in South Africa) was circulated on social media and sparked widespread debate.

Concerns were raised by the South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union and the Congress of South African Trade Unions. They expressed that the implementation of self-service tills could lead to tremendous job cuts for South African retail workers.

According to Statistics South Africa, the current unemployment rate in South Africa is 26.6%.

Pick n Pay has however come out to dismiss these claims, saying that the self-service machines are being put to the test at a single store in Ottery, Cape Town and will operate in addition to cashier-manned check-out counters as we know it, thus not negatively impacting on employment.

Pick n Pay’s Group Executive: Retail Office at Pick n Pay, Cobus Barnard said that the trial could take up to six months to produce consumer insights worth measuring.

He said: “We’re always looking for new ways to help our customers make their shopping easier and more convenient, so yes, we’re testing it out in one of our stores to see how customers would react. Customers are time-strapped, so this is a nice way to help them when they are in hurry.”


These technological advancements are part of the many that form part of the 4th Industrial Revolution, which is extensively uncovered in the second edition of BRICS Journal.

-Bizcommunity; Primedia Podcast

The second edition of BRICS Journal is out now


The second edition of BRICS Journal was officially  launched at the BRICS Trade Fair in New Delhi last week.  Picking up from the first one, this issue promises a fair spread of content covering issues related to politics, economics and arts & culture across the BRICS member countries.

What to look out for:

The Internationalisation of Higher Education
There is a lingering perception that education development has been deferred and is lagging behind other BRICS projects. The reality, however, is that phenomenal progress is being made in accelerating educational development cooperation and strengthening relations in higher education. In the article The Internationalisation of Higher Education (page 10), writer Xanani Baloyi tracks the progress with sterling examples of success.

The Rise of Black Industrialists in South Africa 
Economic freedom and the means to attain it is a contentious issue that continues to plague South Africa, 22 years into democracy. On page 16, Zuko Godlimpi explains why the Black Industrialists Programme is necessary and what it hopes to achieve in practical terms.

What does the 4th Industrial Revolution mean for BRICS?
In developed countries, the possibilities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, heralded by 3D printing, artificial intelligence and the Internet, are unlimited. In the BRICS countries, however, it is employment that will change lives meaningfully. Monique Verduyn reports on page 18.

What’s your rating?
The power and influence that credit rating agencies exercise are formidable. Lumkile Mondi gives his take on where the BRICS countries currently rate – page 29.

BREXIT: Uncertainties and anxieties for Africa
Since June 2016, analysts have been scrambling to make sense of the phenomenon known as Brexit – Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU). BRICS Journal looks at what this decision means for the African continent on page 38.

Taking things in his stride
He went from star to superstar in a matter of 43.03 seconds. Now Wayde van Niekerk is being called the new Usain Bolt of track and field athletics. Gary Lemke spoke to him and found that his feet are firmly planted on the ground. Catch the full interview on page 62.

To read these stories and more, get a copy of the second edition of BRICS Journal – on sale now. 

BRICS Bank prioritises raising funds for infrastructure

SABC News reports that the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS members) New Development Bank (NDB) has its sights on raising 2.5 billion US Dollars within the next year, to put money behind infrastructure projects.

The 8th BRICS Leaders Summit took place at the Indian south west resort of Goa this past weekend (12-14 October) where President Jacob Zuma joined leaders of India (Prime Minister Narendra Modi), Brazil (President Dilma Rousseff), Russia (President Vladimir Putin) and China (President Xi Jinping) for the gathering.

The main aim behind the establishment of The BRICS New Development Bank was to assemble resources that would enable infrastructure for development projects in BRICS member countries.

The BRICS New Development Bank has been described by economists as a “game changer” in the evolution of financing, as well as a tool to “rebalance the global order with respect to development finance”.  The bank’s founding members have pledged to sow 100 billion US dollar capital base into the bank, China being the single largest contributor.

While many eyebrows have been raised about its existence, the bank believes that it is not  a substitute for the established multinational institutions, e.g the World Bank, African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank or the Development Bank of Latin America. Instead, Leslie Maasdorp, Deputy Chairperson of the New Development Bank says the NDB will work hand in hand with institutions already established.

“So we have got structured partnership with multinational banks and there is so much we can learn from these institutions. We were not set up to compete with these institutions but we can learn from them. It has been an exciting year but there are challenges ahead,” Maasdorp told SABC News.

The bank (headquartered in Shanghai, China) has already secured a rating from local rating agencies in addition to raising capital through the bond market and will also look to the private sector for resources into infrastructure development. The Chairperson of the Indian Chapter of the BRICS Business Council, Onkar Kanwar said: “Agriculture and energy are priority area of cooperation of our economies.  We should also collaborate in developing energy efficiency technologies.”

The bank’s Africa Regional Centre will be headquartered in Johannesburg within the first quarter of 2017. “Our Africa Regional Centre is expected to open this quarter and I assure President Zuma that it will work with the objectives he articulated. We are targeting lending of about 2-point-5 billion US dollars for the next year.  Providing local currency financing minimises currency risk for our members,” says President of the BRICS New Development Bank Kundapur Kamath.

All the BRICS leaders are in full support of the bank, looking at it as a reliable tool to strengthen business opportunities, build investments and promote innovation and growth.

-SABC News

Esther Mahlangu honoured at the 2016 Lilizela Tourism Awards

On Sunday evening, the 81-year old Ndebele artist was awarded with the 2016 Minister’s Award at the Lilizela Awards which was held at Sandton Convention Centre. The South African Tourism industry paid tribute to Mam’ Esther for being a tourism innovator and pioneer.

Mahlangu is no stranger to the Lilizela Awards, previously a category winner in the Roots and Culture category. Mahlangu’s bold, colourful and grasping Ndebele designs have landed her deals with global brands like BMW (contributing to the interior of the new BMW 7-Series), British Airways, Fiat and Belvedere luxury vodka.

In presenting her with the award on Sunday evening, South Africa’s Minister of Tourism, Mr Derek Hanekom said: “The Lilizela Tourism Awards give us the opportunity to celebrate trailblazers such as Mam’ Esther, as well as service excellence in the South African tourism industry in general. Tonight is an opportunity to pause and thank these individuals and businesses for their contribution to putting South Africa firmly on the global stage by ensuring their product and service offerings are of the highest standard.”

Read more about Esther’s journey and follow the story behind the pioneer in the second edition of BRICS Journal – in stores now. 

-Tourism Edition
– Images: BMW Blog

BRICS Journal TV: In Conversation With Brian Molefe

BRICS Journal Managing Editor, Vuyo Dlamini caught up with BRICS Business Council Chair of South Africa, Mr Brian Molefe to chat about the role of media within BRICS.

BRICS Journal TV: In Conversation With Onkar Kanwar

Board Member of the BRICS Business Council in India, Mr Onkar Kanwar chats to BRICS Journal TV about the first-ever trade exhibition element to the annual BRICS Summit