The U.K. is out of the EU, and re-positioning itself into the idea of Global Britain, seeking partnerships into diverse groupings and regions. India was an early strategic, defence and digital outreach, but a serious pivot has been made to broader Asia for trade and investment linkages, with vigorous follow-up. The re-entry and acceptance of Britain in Asia, has implications.
Ambassador Gurjit Singh
Vietnam had a busy 2020, starting with its chairmanship of ASEAN and ending with the signing of RCEP, and a free trade agreement with the EU. All were completed successfully despite the pandemic, which it also handled well. It has revealed Vietnam’s dexterity and confidence, good management and societal control and raised the country’s global profile.
The recently concluded ASEAN and EAS Summit saw Prime Minister Modi highlighting the Indo-Pacific region. That’s because a cohesive, responsive and prosperous ASEAN is seen as vital to India's Indo-Pacific Vision and to Security And Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR). India’s decision to opt out of RCEP, even when all ASEAN member countries are signatories to that agreement, will mark a shift in how India enhances bilateral engagements with ASEAN nations with greater strategic intent.
The India-Italy bilateral is looking up again, after a hiatus. A digital summit of the two leaders was held on 6 November 2020, and assumes greater significance in light of the pandemic, and Italy’s upcoming presidency of the G20. The most promising outcome of this energetic diplomacy and summiteering, is that Italy is slowly being weaned away from its close economic embrace with China. Its trade and investment are unlikely to decouple soon, but Italy is now more in line with the EU initiatives on 5G and quality infrastructure - the right time for Italy and India to derive advantage from it.
Japan's new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga belongs to the Ganesha Group – an amorphous but important group of short time Members of Parliament without political hereditary. Ganesha or Kangiten in Japanese is the symbol of good fortune in business and also a solver of problems. This is certainly an appropriate mascot for the Suga administration, which will need to resolve pending global issues and develop good business partnerships in the coming years.
Under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, India and Japan shared a live and confident partnership. The engagement with India is one of his legacies, with Japan a steadfast partner and the strategic dimension being qualitatively different. Dealing with a new Japanese leader will be a challenge for India, and that new equation will determine the pace at which Japan's partnership with India will deepen.
The recent 15th India-European Union (EU) summit held virtually in July 2020 reflects a bilateral that is gearing for a boost, with both sides trying to move closer in a variety of ways. A serious effort will be required to properly reconcile strategic, trade and investment interests.
Germany has taken over from China as the new president of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Will it be the one to put Pakistan on the black list – or will realpolitik and national agendas prevail, with terrorism financing continuing to flourish?
The jubilation displayed by many ASEAN countries on account of the Vietnam’s statement as chair of the 36th ASEAN Summit, referencing events in the South China Sea is belied by a sense of realism and caution. But the fact that more nations are speaking up is a good sign.
In July 2020, Germany takes over as President of the European Union. It’s a fraught time to lead the union which has been slow to react to COVID-19 and needs a new direction. With the pandemic, the U.S.- China stand-off, and a global economic crisis – Chancellor, Angela Merkel has her work cut out.