CUTS Washington Monthly Brief
#30, September 2020
Polylateralism as the way forward for resurrecting multilateralism
As multilateral institutions struggle to manage the Covid-19 pandemic, health of human beings, economies and planet remains in jeopardy unless multilateralism is resurrected with reforms. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted this urgency by questioning the role of the United Nations in the fight against Covid-19 during his virtual address to the UN General Assembly on September 26. Similarly in a meeting among their foreign ministers on September 23, Brazil, Germany, India and Japan (known as G4) have committed to push for reforms of the UN Security Council, decisively.
Indeed, we need collective measures particularly to strengthen and not to undermine multilateral institutions and intrinsic rules-based order. The U.S. withdrawal from the World Health Organisation, including funding restrictions, during these critical times could have been avoided.  Similarly by disparaging the Paris Agreement earlier in 2017, the U.S. had then dispirited global efforts to mitigate climate change.
Likewise, China has stifled its role as a trusted and reliable power by first hiding the seriousness of the pandemic and later exploiting the exacerbated global public health situation to make extra-territorial assertions in the Indo-Pacific region. With that, it seems that global posture of major powers is getting more and more antagonistic. As a result, there is a visible anachronistic performance of the key international organisations. Moreover, the seventy five years of existence of the United Nations itself is being questioned.
In that context, it is important for nations to join hands to rejuvenate multilateralism with reforms in the greater global public interest. Other than the G4 countries, the P-5 and at the G-20, countries must play a greater role in stirring that.
Similarly newer approaches, as proposed by several speakers in the recently held CUTS webinars on multilateralism, can help to restore multilateralism. Several speakers, including Pascal Lamy, have proposed that we should look at Polylateralism as the way forward, because nation states get lost in diplomacy and politics. That means that if nation states should not be reluctant in sharing their sovereign rights with other actors such as businesses, non-governmental organisations, think tanks, academic institutions and mega cities. They have to be included and provided with an opportunity to help international institutions in a manner that States can work together in the right spirit for the sake of humanity.

Pradeep S. Mehta

PS: What bearings will China’s offer of a “package solution” have over possible UN Security Council reforms?

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U.S.-China Trade War: Success Or Failure? The Optics From 5 Metrics
Now well into its second year, there is no indication the trade war will end anytime soon, even if Biden wins election and certainly not if Trump wins re-election. Keep in mind that many of President Trump’s positions on trade are those previously supported by the Democratic rather than Republican Party.
Where Trump and Biden stand on trade
Donald Trump’s election in 2016 led to the biggest shift in U.S. trade policy since World War II, as he piled on tariffs and eschewed alliance-building. A win by Joe Biden could reverse direction again. The former vice president and Democratic challenger says he will woo allies battered by Trump trade sanctions, rethink the use of tariffs and try to create a united front to confront China.

IT firms likely to send more work to India as US proposes H-1B visa changes
Indian IT services companies are likely to step up offshoring and local hiring in the US as wages paid to visa holders are expected to go up owing to a fresh proposal by the Donald Trump administration. A proposal in this regard was submitted by the Department of Labour (DoL) to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (under Office of Management and Budget) last week.

Indo-US trade deal unlikely in next 4 years: Former White House economic adviser
Despite India being an important partner for the US geopolitically, a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) is unlikely in the next four years regardless of who wins the upcoming presidential elections, a former White House economic adviser said on September 24, 2020. Both US President Donald Trump and his opponent Joe Biden look at India amenably but have their own compulsions not to proceed with such a far-reaching deal, said Todd Buchholz, who served as the director of economic policy at the White House under president George H W Bush.


Strategic Energy Partnership emerged as cornerstone of expanding India-US ties
Strategic Energy Partnership has emerged as a cornerstone of expanding the US-India ties as the bilateral hydrocarbon trade has increased by 93 per cent in the last two years, a top official has said. India’s Ambassador to the US Taranjit Singh Sandhu, in an op-ed in The Houston Chronicle, wrote that numbers speak for themselves. There has been an increase of 93 per cent in the hydrocarbon trade between India and the United States in the last two years; it has reached USD 9.2 billion in 2019, he said.
Trump’s Promise to Revive Coal Thwarted by Falling Demand, Cheaper Alternatives
U.S. coal output and consumption are declining at an accelerating pace despite President Trump’s promise to bring back “beautiful, clean coal,” the WSJ’s Rebecca Elliott and Jonathan Randles report, raising questions about the survival of companies in a sector that’s been battered by the upheaval in global energy markets.

India looking to store oil overseas in US, other commercially viable locations: Pradhan
India, the world's third-biggest oil importer, is exploring storing crude oil in the US and other commercially viable locations to hedge its supply risks, Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said on Tuesday. Also, the country has tied up long-term crude oil supplies from the US, Russia and Angola to diversify its import basket beyond its traditional suppliers in the volatile Middle-East.
PM urges all members of UN to join International Solar Alliance
All members of the United Nations should join the India-France led International Solar Alliance said, Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In a letter addressed to the First World Solar Technology Summit, Modi said, "The membership of International Solar Alliance has now been opened for all the member countries of United Nations.


India tweaks defence offsets policy, opens up leasing of military equipment
India’s new defence acquisition procedure (DAP) abolishes offsets in government-to-government and single-vendor deals, enables leasing of military equipment, lays emphasis on framing realistic technical parameters for weapon systems and simplifies cumbersome trial procedures.

New MEA division to focus on Indo-Pacific
The Indian foreign ministry is being recast to align with its new policy priority of the Indo-Pacific region. The ministry has created a new division, the Oceania division, headed by additional secretary Reenat Sandhu, which will focus on South-East Asian nations, Pacific Island states and the larger Indo-Pacific in a clear sign of the importance that the government accords to the region.
India, Australia, Japan, US discuss digital connectivity, security, supply chain in ‘Quad’ meeting
Senior officials from India, Australia, Japan and the US exchanged views on cooperation in the areas of connectivity and infrastructure development and security matters, including counter-terrorism, on Friday (September 25) looking at promoting peace, security, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.

Big Picture: India And The US-Maldives Defense Agreement
On 10 September 2020, Washington and Malé signed the “Framework for U.S. Department of Defense-Maldives Ministry of Defence Defense and Security Relationship.” This agreement ostensibly intends to deepen bilateral efforts towards maintaining peace and security in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Maldives’ defence minister claimed that the framework reiterated mutual commitment towards a free and open Indo-Pacific.


US partners with Mekong nations to counter China's growing influence in SE Asia
The Trump administration has announced the ambitious Mekong-US partnership which aims to curb China's growing influence in Southeast Asia and promote economic independence of partner nations.

US-India-Sri Lanka triad will be beneficial for IOR and Indo-Pacific
The relationship and the formulation of US foreign policy with the South Asian nations have gone through a metamorphic change, considering the continuing focus on the Indian Ocean region. Renaming Asia-Pacific as Indo-Pacific has been a significant change that reshapes the interests and the interdependency of the US with India and other South Asian democracies. India is one of the significant beneficiaries of the new thrust of US foreign policy. Sri Lanka's geographic location in the Indian Ocean makes it vital to propel India's strategic interests.
The US Versus Chinese Investment In Africa
The United States recently launched negotiations with Kenya for a free trade agreement. The talks are quite a turnaround. From its onset, Africa has not been a top priority with the Trump Administration for establishing new commerce initiatives. In addition, its approach has been more reactive, striving to counter China’s commercial, security, and geopolitical influence in Africa, rather than proactive, seeking to fully implement the “Prosper Africa” and “US Africa Strategy.”
Debates on the India-U.S. relations in the U.S. election year
With the U.S. being India’s trusted partner in shaping the development aspirations of 1.3 billion Indians, expanding cooperation beyond defence and energy is critical. India’s expectation from the forthcoming U.S. administration is high, including for the relaxation in VISA restrictions as well as with regard to a deal on improving the two-way trade. However, taking into consideration the unprecedented churn of events in the U.S. domestic politics, it will be prudent for India to expect a mark of unpredictability in America’s external postures in the coming years. (This item contains an Occasional New Wrap containing various news items and articles from August 11 to September 29 on the topic).