Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian Diaspora.
Important International institutions, agencies and fora their structure, mandate.
UAE – Gulf Countries and Changing dynamics with Asia
This year’s Republic day guest is the crown prince of UAE Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The country and the region is significant to India in geopolitical, strategic and changed economics of the current day world.
He will only be the third leader in 70 years from the Middle East to grace the occasion. Delhi had hosted only two other leaders — the president of Iran, Mohammed Khatami (2003), and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia (2006).
This indeed is surprising, given the multiple factors binding India and the region and Delhi’s persistent post-independence claims on political solidarity with the Middle East.
No other region outside of the subcontinent is so critical for India’s security and prosperity than the Middle East. Yet, the region never gets sustained high-level political attention in Delhi.
The visit of Sheikh Mohammed and the signing of a strategic partnership agreement will hopefully mark a big change in Delhi’s mindset and help consolidate a more productive third phase in India’s engagement with the Middle East.
In the first phase, India’s emphasis was on anti-Western and anti-Israel solidarity with the Middle East. This was driven in part by the presumed need to prevent Pakistan from scoring a march over India by playing up its religious affinity with the region.
It also prevented India from coming to terms with the many other contradictions of the region — between republics and monarchies, conservative regimes and radical Islamists, Shia and Sunni, to name a few.
Despite expansive goodwill for India in the region, Delhi seemed to have little to offer beyond rhetorical support.
Delhi’s emphasis on self-reliance saw the dismantlement of the strong economic links that emerged between the undivided subcontinent and the Middle East through the 19th century.
The oil boom in the Gulf saw the dramatic expansion of India’s interdependence region — through labour exports and energy imports. Delhi, however, was ill-equipped in building on this interdependence in the first phase.
The second phase, which began at the turn of the 1990s, saw a more pragmatic Indian approach to the region. Delhi normalised diplomatic relations with Israel without having to sacrifice its expansive interests in the rest of the Middle East.
Changes and Responses
As the scale of India’s economic interdependence on the Gulf grew rapidly in the reform era, Delhi began to move away from mercantilism to deepening trade and investment links with the region.
The second phase also saw the renewal of military exchanges and security cooperation with the countries of the region. But the profound convulsions affecting the region seemed to prevent bolder Indian military partnerships in the Gulf.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh travelled to the region only four times during his decade-long tenure — two of those trips were to attend the non-aligned summits. To make matters worse, the first months of the NDA government seemed to suggest Prime Minister Narendra Modi might be more interested in Israel than the rest of the region.
There was a solid corrective in the last two years. Even as he brought the Israel partnership into the open, Modi has devoted much energy to engaging the Gulf states.
As he pointed out in his recent remarks at the Raisina Dialogue in Delhi, “we have redefined, in a short span of time, and despite uncertainty and conflict, our partnerships with Gulf and West Asia, including Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Iran”.
India’s current intensive engagement with the UAE is a test case for India’s credibility in the region. Amidst the shifting external and internal balance of power in the Middle East, the region is eager to see India return to its traditional role as a major economic and security partner.
On its part, the UAE has laid out a bold agenda for bilateral cooperation in areas ranging from investments in civilian infrastructure to defence production. It is ready for deeper collaboration on counter-terrorism and regional security.
The United Arab Emirates is likely to highlight its “Look East” policy with its participation in the Republic Day celebrations in India
There has been continuous Indian presence in the UAE since at least the 18th century. Today, Indians make up 30% of the country’s population — the single largest expatriate community in the UAE
The prime minister added that Delhi’s intensive engagement has helped “protect and promote our security interests, nurture strong economic and energy ties and advance the material and social welfare of around eight million Indians”.
Continuing influence of Pakistan and Islamic republics.
UAE serving home to many India’s most wanted criminals with Dawood Ibrahim topping the list.
The country reporting cases of radicalisation of Indian Muslims and hence recruitment into many terror activities
India’s Look West is now effectively complemented by the Look East Policy of Gulf countries given the changing relations with the west. This is teh right time for India to bind its relations with stable and strategic partners of the region
Increasing influence of China via its grand policies can be countered through historical ties supported by new trade and bilateral arrangements.
Connecting the dots
India’s foreign policy is an organic instrument. Examine the changing relationship with Gulf countries especially in the backdrop of Yemen and Syrian Crisis.
ART AND CULTURE – SOCIETY
TOPIC:General Studies I
Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.
Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India.
Art, Culture and impact on Society
Art and culture is always a reflection of the society and its status. Since the age of renaissance and reformation art and culture has played a crucial role in determining the critical textures of society. In India since Indus Valley times art and culture has reflected the society of erstwhile times.
Art and Society in light of recent developments
For long we have believed that the arts bring people together; that those belonging to different sides of the fence, with opposite world views, merge in the presence of beauty. We are not looking for earth-shattering, radical shifts, but cumulative subtle movements that allow for a discourse. The problem probably lies with the presumption that the art world and artists come together in wonderment of aesthetic beauty, irrespective of its originating social and cultural address.
Books being banned on protests by fringe elements
Film makers and writers facing brunt of censor and clash of ideas and ideologies.
Killing of some rationalists that included famous Kannada writer M M Kalburgi
Ban on Mathorubhagan a book of Perumal Murugan on its dialectics with society
Art and its dynamics
Art is a generic term encompassing every one of its created manifestations. But every art form is a distinctly individual, with a specific intention that drives its aesthetics, interpretations and evolution.
Beyond superficial identification signs, every art form has an interior that is uniquely precious. The soul of each art form lies in that purpose and cultural construct.
There is one thing that binds all art: the chance that a genuine art experience can reconfigure human beings and change the way we receive ourselves and life around.
The life breath of art is the challenge it poses to the status quo.
Art must make us question our strongest beliefs and redraft our coordinates.
Serious discomfort is beautiful; it unshackles our minds from predisposed mindsets.
Great pieces of art play with the way we are wired, and when that happens we receive with an openness that is rare.
This does not happen easily since every art, its artists, and the community that constitute its environment collapse on to each other, establishing an inseparable dependency, becoming a socio-cultural flagship.
Therefore, if art is to play a role in social transformation, it needs to unstrap itself from this bind, rediscover its essence from within and in relation to the outside. This can only happen if in the curation of art there is a conscious intention to break pattern-determined norms.
T M Krishna
The author is a Carnatic vocalist, author, and recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award.
What has art to do with Ramon Magsaysay – He is a public speaker and writer on human choices, dilemmas, concerns and matters musical.
He has started and is involved in organisations whose work is spread across the whole spectrum of art and culture including research, documentation, education, activism and supports artists from economically and socially marginalised communities.
The Urur Olcott Kuppam Vizha
This is one such idea that is challenging to break free of the scaffoldings that limit our perception of art, ourselves and all those we encounter.
Everyone becomes vulnerable and that is where change begins, be it cultural, social or political. The festival is situated in an unusual space, within a fishing village, on the rim of Chennai.
This shift obligates a certain class to step out of its sense of ‘normal’. Using a common public place like a park would have been one step, but to curate art in a space that the traditional middle-upper middle class is unfamiliar with, even alien to, unsettles the mind.
After initial moments of discomfort, something magical happens. The unfamiliarity of the space and the lack of known external support structures dissolve socially imbibed judgments and allows for an unhindered reception.
For those who live in the kuppam, this has been an opportunity to experience art forms that they thought were exclusive to ‘certain kinds of people’. Their own suspicions of people like ‘us’ is addressed without verbal articulation.
Learning and unlearning happens through and from the art experience. Each Pay Commission has enlarged the civil service pay packet and perquisites. You don’t have to exert yourself on the job to earn a promotion.
When an art form remains within its own fiefdom, it is permanently secure. If we strip art of this safety bracket, it is in free fall. And real art happens in free will, when rejection is also a distinct possibility.
When art and receivers are completely open, there is an aesthetic tension that exists. It is from this place that empathy and understanding evolve.
Classical artists are not used to this kind of rejection; at the Urur Olcott Kuppam Vizha, this is entirely possible.
For the marginalised art forms, this space has given cultural strength and has forced the privileged to feel beyond sympathy; it has forced them to recognise, respect and embrace.
The classical environment also needs to be stirred and shaken. Hence, this year, the non-classical and marginalised art traditions are being presented for the first time in a classically tagged space.
The process, socio-cultural positions occupied by people and art forms are once again inversed. There are new reorientations for both worlds.
Ina an age where freedom of expression is facing tough times and challenges from both state and non state actors, the concept of the event is unique.
It is similar to a literature festival which allows grind of thoughts and a healthy debate on societal dynamics from multiple perspectives.
Especially coming from Tamil Nadu the land of Dravidian Culture that has traditionally challenged the majoritarian domination it holds relevance.
It also caters to marginalised and weaker sections by giving a voice to the same.
Connecting the dots
Sangam literature was reflective of the societal culture of those times. How is contemporary art and literature challenging the thin edged socio political dynamics of the society? Illustrate with examples.