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Indo-Madagascar Connection

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by Aurosikha Priyadarshini

We all have come across the name Madagascar either in movies, school textbooks. And who does not know about the famous Madagascar movie. Everyone does, but is that the only identity? Do we really know what is its origin and from where it has come from? The most amazing fact about this country is that it has geographical, economic and social-cultural relations with India.

Let me discuss it in fragments.

Discovery: The original name of Madagascar is the Republic of Madagascar. It is the fourth-largest island in the world. Besides, it is the poorest countries of the world with diverse flora and fauna. As per the current estimation, its population is over 20 million. Madagascar along with India split from Africa and South America and then from Australia and Antarctica. This was the result of the movement of the Earth’s crust. India crashed into Asia and Madagascar has been on its own for the past million years. Madagascar remained maroon in the Indian Ocean. The country’s diversity is a result of its geographic lineage.

Location: Madagascar is situated in the south-western Indian Ocean and spanning the Mozambique Channel, covering an area of 587,041 sq.km. It is one of the beautiful islands of the world with unique and diverse species of flora and fauna.

Political Relation: The devastation in Madagascar caused due to tropical cyclone ‘Haruna’ in 2013 was not looked away by India. The government of India provided financial assistance of US $ 100,000 as a disaster relief.

Economic Relation: As earlier mentioned, Madagascar has total population of over 20 million; half of the population consists of people of Indian origin. Some of the Indian people have permanently settled there and some are temporary citizens. The Indian community in Madagascar plays a significant role in economic development of the country. The Indians by and large trade there and their contribution to the GDP growth of the country is significant. The trade relation between India and Madagascar has been growing. Madagascar is rich in mineral resources like Graphite, Nickel, Gold, Oil and other precious and semi-precious stones and hardwood. The country’s export of its minerals contributes to the growth. There is a steady growth in the import of sugar, pharmaceuticals, petroleum products, steel, and textile from India by Madagascar. The give and take relation between the two countries has benefitted both the countries economically. The important product that India imports from Madagascar includes coffee, cinnamon, shellfish, and cloves and so on. The maritime link between India and Madagascar has led to the growth of trade.

Social and Cultural Relation: The Indian Diaspora plays a major role in promoting Indian culture and traditions in a Foreign land. The Indian Community celebrates Indian festivals in Madagascar. The Indian people even enjoy watching Indian channels. It shows that the people of the two nations respect each other’s cultural and social values. The Embassy also organizes cultural programmes that are well attended by both Indians and Malagasies.

The students of Madagascar look forward to India as a destination for higher education.

Food Habits: Like the people of India, the people of Madagascar love to eat Rice. Rice is their staple food served with an addition of a curry that tastes luscious. The curry is either made out of vegetables or chicken, sea food. The food customs are almost similar between the two countries. The food eaten replicates the influence of Indian migrants that have settled in Madagascar.

The two countries share a very genial relationship. Even in the past, there were cordial cultural and political visits by high officials of the two nations. The Indo-Madagascar connection has been since ages and will continue. The people of the two countries play a major role in setting up the relation.

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  • I can say in my home town of Mahajanga there is a large Indian community and they work close with the Malagasy, helping the poor with bags of rice.

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Conflict and Diplomacy exercise on the South China Sea

Many nations have urged Beijing to abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which sets maritime zones of control based on coastlines.

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Chinese territory
China, whose contentious claims to more than 95 percent of the region—first espoused by the nationalist government in 1947
One-third of global maritime traffic. An estimated $5 trillion in annual trade. Six claimant nations. One body of water. And that’s just on the surface.

Welcome to the South China Sea, the geographic commons of Southeast Asia’s navigable rimland. Its 3.5 million square kilometers of underlying bedrock contain oil and natural gas deposits that, by official U.S. estimates, are at least equal to Mexico’s and, by some contested Chinese estimates, might be second only to Saudi Arabia’s. Also, home to lucrative fisheries and supply routes that carry 80 percent of China’s crude imports, the territorially disputed region may be the most strategically important waterway of the 21st century.

Tracing shorelines of sprawling, hard-to-govern archipelago nation-states to the south, the sea is bound to the north by China, whose contentious claims to more than 95 percent of the region—first espoused by the nationalist government in 1947—cite ancient maritime records.

For centuries, these waters also have been vital to the economic survival of neighboring Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines.

The waters are also prized by regional non-claimants. For U.S.-allied Japan and South Korea, situated far to the north, South China Sea shipping lanes provide access to trade-intensive waters of the Indian Ocean, via which more than half of their respective energy needs are met. For non-claimant Indonesia, Natuna Sea fishing grounds along the southern fringe of the contested region hold vital natural gas reserves.

Many nations have urged Beijing to abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which sets maritime zones of control based on coastlines. The United States, which has signed onto UNCLOS without ratifying it, often relies on the international agreement to settle territorial disputes.

China has refrained, invoking intertemporal laws based on the deep historical record, such as archaeological findings on disputed reefs and islands. At best, China views U.N.-backed codes of maritime governance as incompatible with domestic laws; at worst, it sees them as instruments of Western hegemony designed to undercut its expanding influence as a world power.

China
Even after the global pressure, China has been adamant on its stand on South China Sea. Wikimedia Commons

On the horizon

If Asia’s astonishing economic growth of the past two decades continues, however, regional stability will remain a matter of global consequence. Beyond China’s increasingly assertive land grabs and island-building campaigns—some 1,300 hectares of tiny islets have been landfilled to sustain mostly military infrastructure, including runways long enough to accommodate bombers—low-level skirmishes between Chinese naval patrols and civilian fishing fleets from neighboring countries could spark international conflict.

In July, a five-judge panel in The Hague unanimously rejected the legal basis of nearly all of China’s maritime claims. Within weeks, China’s Supreme People’s Court issued a regulation stating a “clear legal basis for China to safeguard maritime order,” in which Beijing vowed to prosecute any foreigners found fishing or prospecting in disputed waters.

Other means of settling complex territorial disputes also appear ineffective. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ long-delayed code of conduct for the South China Sea, which Beijing officials said they would finalize in 2017, would do little to resolve conflicting claims of sovereignty. Much like the Hague-based tribunal’s ruling, any legally binding ASEAN declaration would lack meaningful mechanisms of enforcement.

While the United States has long said it does not take an official position on South China Sea disputes, it steadily criticizes China’s behavior there and plans to expand defense alliances with countries that have overlapping claims. By 2021, U.S. Navy officials plan to expand the Pacific Fleet’s overseas assigned forces by approximately 30 percent.

As President Donald Trump assumed office, some observers speculated that, like his immediate predecessors, he might be called upon quickly to handle another South China Sea crisis. Just months into his first term, former President George W. Bush faced an international dispute triggered by a midair collision between a U.S. spy plane and a Chinese fighter jet near Hainan Island.

Less than seven weeks after former President Barack Obama took office, Chinese ships and planes confronted the USNS Impeccable, a surveillance ship in waters south of Hainan, and ordered it to leave. The U.S. said that it had the right to be there and that the ship was harassed, while Beijing defended its actions. Obama responded by sending a guided-missile destroyer to protect the Impeccable.

Such incidents, engineered or otherwise, are likely to continue defining the dispute as it unfolds in real time. Until broader questions of maritime sovereignty are resolved, the waterway promises to remain a fulcrum upon which the geopolitics of international trade, and thus the global economy, pivots. We’ll keep close tabs on developments here as they occur. VOA