🌍 How India sees the world (and vice versa)

Plus: China and the South China Sea

Hi there Intriguer. Before our break, we promised to keep working - and work we did! We’re excited to announce we’ll be on the ground in NYC to cover all the intrigue at the UN General Assembly later this month. More info below!

Today’s briefing is a 5 min read:

  • 🇮🇳 How India sees the world (and vice versa).

  • 🇨🇳 What’s China doing in the South China Sea?

  • Plus: A shiny new Aussie embassy, how the papers are covering the indictment of a Colombian general, and sunsets from space.

⏱️ Around the world in sixty seconds

  1. 🇨🇳 China: President Xi Jinping will reportedly skip next week’s G20 summit in India, with Premier Li Qiang taking his place. Russian President Vladimir Putin will also miss the summit.

  2. 🇻🇦 Vatican City: Pope Francis lands in Mongolia today (Friday) for engagements with the country’s political leaders plus its 1,450 Catholics. It’s the first ever papal visit to Mongolia, after Guyuk Khan and Pope Innocent IV made initial contact in the 13th century.

  3. 🇮🇩 Indonesia: Six countries are participating in annual Indonesia-US military exercises which kicked off in Indonesia's East Java province yesterday (Thursday). The drills will run for two weeks and involve more participants this year, as tensions rise in the region.

  4. 🇨🇦 Canada: Droughts and bad weather in Canada are set to push pasta prices beyond current peaks. Retail pasta prices have already increased by 12% in Europe and 8% in the US so far this year.

  5. 🇷🇼 Rwanda: President Paul Kagame has retired hundreds of military personnel after Wednesday’s military coup in Gabon. Cameroon’s leader took similar steps, updating key appointments in the country’s defence ministry.

🇮🇳 India | Geopolitics

How does India see the world?

We’re a week out from this year’s G20 summit in India, the world’s most populous country and one of the fastest-growing major economies.

So it’s pretty good timing for Pew Research Center to drop a major new survey on India, based on interviews with 30,861 people in 24 countries. According to Pew’s findings…

🇮🇳 👉 🌏 Here’s how India sees itself and the world:

  • 💪 68% of Indians think their country has become more influential recently (a view on India shared by 28% of folks elsewhere)

  • 🇨🇳 26% of Indians like China, and 31% say it’s getting weaker (more Indians hold this latter view on China than on anywhere else)

  • 🇷🇺 India is the survey’s only country with majority-favourable (57%) views towards Russia (only 14% of folks elsewhere feel the same)

🌏 👉 🇮🇳 And how the world sees India:

  • 🤔 46% (median) of folks around the world hold favourable views towards India, though the number has declined in several countries

  • 🇮🇱 India is particularly popular in Israel (71% favourability), likely reflecting the two countries’ close tourism, tech, and security ties

  • 🇺🇸 Delhi is often still unknown abroad: 40% of US folks haven’t heard of Prime Minister Modi (so invite your friends to read Intrigue 😀)

Intrigue's take: These results paint a picture that broadly matches what we know of India’s evolving approach to the world: charting its own course, and becoming what Foreign Minister Jaishankar once described as more of a “shaper”, and less of an “abstainer”.

It’s also a reminder that it’s a delicate balance to hit the gas without spooking the neighbours.

Also worth noting:

  • Modi has pledged to be an inclusive G20 host, and has proposed that the African Union become a permanent G20 member.

  • The Pew survey says 65% of folks in India have a favourable view of the United States. India has the highest percentage (20%) of people who consider American movies, TV, and music to be below average.

📰 How newspapers covered…

The indictment of Colombian General Mario Montoya on charges he ordered the killing of civilians in the early 2000s

Washington DC, US

“Former head of Colombian army charged in killings of 130 civilians”

Madrid, Spain

“Former Army Commander Mario Montoya charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity”

Bogotá, Colombia

“Colombian General Montoya indicted by JEP* for 130 ‘false positives’”

*The JEP is Colombia’s Special Jurisdiction for Peace, established in 2017 to investigate crimes committed during the country’s armed conflict.

Intrigue at UNGA 2023

Our co-founder and CEO John Fowler will be on the ground in New York with the Intrigue team later this month, covering the 2023 United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

While in town, we’ll produce a bonus pop-up newsletter (Intrigue at UNGA 2023) covering all the action with our trademark flair.

  • The extra newsletter will cover ‘high-level week’ at the UN from 18-22 September, when world leaders descend on NYC.

🇨🇳 China | Geopolitics

From hot air to hot war over Second Thomas Shoal?

A guest piece by Collin Koh, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

China’s recent water cannon use against a Filipino resupply mission in Second Thomas Shoal was hardly new; China did the same thing back in 2021.

This time around, Manila succeeded in getting supplies through to its outpost, with American help in the form of aerial assets circling above. But this US assistance wasn’t new either; it helped Manila breach a similar blockade back in 2014.

So the specific actions in the South China Sea (SCS) might not have changed, but the context has changed. Manila’s Marcos Jr. administration, backed by strong domestic support, is keen to challenge China’s stranglehold on its SCS interests.

As for Beijing, it’s possible it was seeking to protest the deepening Philippine-U.S. defence ties, and perhaps distract domestic attention from its post-pandemic economic woes.

But China’s decision to again stick with the non-lethal water cannon shouldn’t allow any illusion of sort. If anything, the incident demonstrates China’s staying power in the SCS.

Beijing understands it can play the long game: it has over the years established a growing physical presence in the SCS, further widening its power asymmetry in the region. In parallel, it’s maintained a narrative that outsiders like the Americans are the real troublemakers.

In this context, it’s hard to imagine China firing the opening shots of armed hostilities in the SCS right now, especially given its reinvigorated negotiations over a regional Code of Conduct in the SCS. Rather, China still prefers grey zone actions (like the water cannon) to provoke its rivals into firing the first shot, enabling China to preserve that moral high ground.

So the posturing and counter-posturing between China and its SCS rivals will continue unabated, and the situation will remain tenuous. But a hot war seems unlikely for now.

Intrigue’s take: Collin is a deep thinker on naval affairs in the Indo-Pacific, and we’re chuffed he shared his perspectives with us. For more insights on the South China Sea and beyond, be sure to follow Collin’s work on Twitter/X.

🎧 Today on Intrigue Outloud

Credits: Reuters

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Extra Intrigue

We’re back with some weekend suggestions from Team Intrigue! If you have:

🏡 Embassy of the day

Renderings courtesy of the building’s architect, Bates Smart.

The new Australian Embassy in Washington, DC is a stunner. We love the flood of natural light into the building, which has an expansive footprint along one of the busiest avenues in the city (just north of the White House!). Our very own Ethan lives nearby (not in the White House), and is pictured above.

🗳️ Quiz time!

In honour of India’s successful moon landing last week, a quiz on space missions!

1) How many countries have successfully landed a mission (manned or unmanned) to the moon?

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2) Each day, the crew on board the International Space Station sees how many sunsets?

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3) Astronauts representing how many countries have visited the International Space Station?

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Answers: 1-b, 2-a, 3-b

 

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