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Regional Political Turmoil Reflects India-China Rivalry

Recent differences between President Sirisena and his sacked prime minister over whether a container terminal at Colombo’s port should be developed with Indian investment also strained their ties.

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Maldives' new President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, center right, receives Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the President's office in Male, Maldives. VOA
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Political developments in two tiny countries in the Indian Ocean region, Maldives and Sri Lanka, reflect the growing rivalry between India and China in the strategic region. A new government, which is resetting frayed ties with India, has taken over in the Maldives from the previous administration seen as pro-China. But political turmoil has engulfed Sri Lanka following the controversial reemergence of a pro-China leader on the political center stage of the island nation on India’s southern tip.

Optimistic of regaining ground lost to China in the Maldives in recent years, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew in to the Maldivian capital, Male for the swearing-in of Ibrahim Mohamed Solih as president, who won a surprise victory in September. Modi was the highest-ranking foreign leader at the ceremony held on Saturday.

Shifting ties

New Delhi was not disappointed. Solih signaled an end to the country’s pro-China stance as both countries expressed confidence in the “renewal” of their close bonds. The new Maldivian leader mentioned a “dire economic situation” facing the country due to the country’s growing debt with Beijing incurred as his predecessor signed onto a host of China-funded projects. “The damage done due to projects conducted only for political reasons, and at a loss, are huge,” he said.

Maldives. political
Ibrahim Mohamed Solih (C), the president-elect of the Maldives, interacts with his supporters during a gathering in Male, Maldives. VOA

Meanwhile the head of the Maldivian National Party that leads the ruling alliance, Mohammad Nasheed, has said that the new government would pull out of a free-trade agreement signed last year with China.

The statements were positive for India, which saw its influence in the Maldives decline under Solih’s predecessor, and worried that a spate of infrastructure projects by Beijing could pave the way for it to establish a strategic base on the islands chain.

Modi assured the Maldives that New Delhi would help get it through its economic difficulties.

But even as New Delhi looks to rebuild bridges with the Maldives, observers caution that India will struggle to maintain its once predominant influence in its neighborhood amid growing Chinese presence in South Asian countries.

Chinese state companies already have large investments in the Maldives and thousands of well-heeled Chinese tourists pour into the country every year.

“As China pushes itself into the Indian Ocean region, one of the key drivers that all these countries are now pursuing is trying to maximize benefits from both India and China,” says K. Yhome at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi.

Sri Lanka, parliament, political
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena waves to supporters during a rally outside the parliamentary complex in Colombo, Sri Lanka. VOA

Sri Lanka

Observers point to developments in another Indian Ocean country, Sri Lanka, where in 2015 the defeat of a pro-China leader Mahinda Rajapaksa brought into power a new administration friendlier to India under President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

But in a hugely controversial development, Sirisena last month sacked Wickremesinghe, seen as more pro-India, and appointed Rajapaksa as his prime minister. Rajapaksa has twice failed to prove his majority in parliament and the move has attracted criticism from Western countries amid fears that it violates the constitution and is a setback to democracy in Sri Lanka.

Although the political tussle in Sri Lanka was largely triggered by deep differences between President Sirisena and Wickemesinghe, who led a fragile coalition, observers say the shadow of India and China is not far away.

Pointing out that a domestic crisis presents an “opportune moment” for big powers, Harinda Vidanage, director of the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies in Colombo says that “the larger context of the current political situation is clearly the intensifying India-China rivalry in countries like Sri Lanka.”

Others also point to the reemergence of Rajapaksa, who took the country closer to China during his ten-year rule.

Sri Lanka, political
A photo taken Feb. 10, 2015, shows a general view of Sri Lanka’s deep sea harbor port facilities at Hambantota. VOA

“The assumption is that whatever Rajapaksa does, the financial bill as it were will be met in some way by the Chinese,” says Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, head of the Center for Policy Alternatives in Colombo, “The consequences of that of course is that it will push us further into the Chinese arms as it were.”

Rajapaksa had awarded a string of projects to Beijing including building a strategic port at Hambantota. In a bid to counter China’s growing presence, New Delhi also began bidding for infrastructure projects.

Also Read: Parliament In Sri Lanka Get Dissolved, President Calls For Election

However recent differences between President Sirisena and his sacked prime minister over whether a container terminal at Colombo’s port should be developed with Indian investment also strained their ties. Wickremesinghe, according to reports, wanted the project to go to India, President Sirisena did not.

Observers also say that although China has faced criticism that many of its investments under its ambitious Belt and Road initiative are driving smaller nations like Sri Lanka and the Maldives into debt, the Chinese offers of gleaming infrastructure continue to be an allure for smaller countries. (VOA)

 

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Here’s A List of Top 5 Gadgets of India in 2018

Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 for Rs 57,900 is packed with rich features -- both for the workaholic and the lazy soul

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Top 5 gadgets that grabbed eyeballs in India in 2018. (IANS)

From high-end tablets to powerful cameras, the year 2018 saw some cool gadgets arriving in India. Here are the top 5 picks from the lot.

1. Apple Watch Series 4

Call it guardian of your health. If you are constantly worried about an elderly person in your family suffering a fall in the bathroom or in the garden, the Apple Watch Series 4 is what you need.

The device houses a feature called “Fall Detection” that will alert emergency contacts saved in your iPhone in case you meet with a hard fall.

The new Watch has an electrical heart sensor with two new features — low heart rate notifications and faster heart rate reading. The moment you get furious, Watch Series 4 sends you an immediate notification about your heart rate going through the roof, requiring you to cool down.

In the US, Apple Watch Series 4 will now help users take an electrocardiogram (ECG) right from their wrist and check irregular heart rhythms (hope these features come to India soon).

Apple Watch Series 4 is now available in India — the GPS+Cellular variant starts from Rs 49,900 and GPS-only model from Rs 40,900.

Apple Watch
Apple watch series 4.

2. Samsung Galaxy Tab S4

Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 for Rs 57,900 is packed with rich features — both for the workaholic and the lazy soul.

The 2-in-1 comes equipped with Samsung “DeX” (docking station) and S Pen, making it a perfect device for those who are always on the go and seek entertainment on the side.

The redesigned S Pen offers services like navigate, translate and organise notes — and even to send personalised texts via Samsung “Live Message”.

The device has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, runs Android 8.1 Oreo, has 4GB RAM in two 64GB and 256GB internal memory with microSD variants. There is a 13MP rear and 8MP front camera.

If you are a Samsung smartphone user, especially Note 9, and want the same experience on a bigger display, Galaxy Tab S4 is your default choice. Invest in a Book Cover Keyboard to give the tab a laptop-like form factor.

3. OnePlus 6T

Undoubtedly the flagship killer of the year in the Rs 30,000 – Rs 40,000 segment.

The company’s latest addition packs in all the goodness of OnePlus 6 along with meaningful upgrades such as the much-anticipated under-display fingerprint sensor, a smaller waterdrop-style notch and a bigger battery.

The 6T is OnePlus’ costliest smartphone so far with a price tag of Rs 37,999 (for the 6GB RAM and 128GB internal storage base variant). It is also available in a configuration of 8GB RAM+128GB storage and 8GB RAM+256GB storage for Rs 41,999 and Rs 45,999, respectively.

OnePlus has brought a slew of meaningful upgrades to the 6T and the phone definitely looks and feels better this time. Topped with a bigger battery and some hardware improvements, OnePlus 6T makes for a highly desirable smartphone in the premium category.

4. Amazon Echo Plus (2nd Gen)

The Rs 14,999 All-New Echo Plus (2nd Gen) with a smarter Alexa comes with a built-in smart hub that helps you set up compatible Zigbee-enabled smart home devices directly, just using your voice.

Just ask Alexa to discover your devices and begin controlling compatible lights, plugs, locks, thermostats, sensors and in-wall switches.

With seven microphones, beam-forming technology and noise cancellation, Echo Plus will hear you from all directions.

One feature that is worth mentioning is the equaliser (EQ) feature that allows users to personalise sounds by adjusting the bass, mid-range and treble.

Just ask Alexa to increase or decrease a specific band like “turn up the bass” or “decrease the treble” and she does it for you.

The second-generation Echo Plus with a far more intelligent Alexa is a real upgrade if you have experienced the first generation Echo.

Google , US, Alexa
With seven microphones, beam-forming technology and noise cancellation, Echo Plus will hear you from all directions. Pixabay

5. Canon EOS R

The first full-frame mirrorless camera from Japanese camera maker Canon, the 30.3MP EOS R is the show stopper.

With the new EOS R, four types of RF mount adapters have been introduced to complete the EOS R ecosystem.

The EOS R features an electronic viewfinder. The camera is equipped with features like advanced Dual pixel CMOS AF, Digic 8 imaging processor, High density AF points positions, Multi-function slider bar, Flexible AE Mode and High speed data communication RF mount.

Also Read- Account Removal, Information Requests up From India: Twitter

The RF lens mount is a balance of optical, mechanical and electronic engineering excellence, enabling innovative full-frame lens designs, faster auto focus and high-speed communication between the camera and lens.

The 54mm diameter RF mount is what makes EOS R unique with its short back-focus of 20mm and 12-pin contact points for enhanced communication between the lens and body.

The camera costs Rs 189,950 and with the EOS R kit (RF24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens), the price is Rs 278,945. (IANS)