Friday. 10/12/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Lyndee Prickitt

Friends like these

The contrasts could not be starker. One day India’s prime minister Narendra Modi is in the dustbowl of Uttar Pradesh, one of the country’s largest and poorest electoral battlegrounds, meeting salt-of-the-earth voters. Just days later he’s shaking hands with suited international leaders in the world’s glitzy capitals of the world, giving his signature bear hug indiscriminately to the leaders of thriving democracies as well as those with more autocratic tendencies.

Modi, who leads the world’s most populous democracy but is often lumped in with the nationalists and populist strongmen, has met and greeted some 24 prime ministers and presidents since the easing of pandemic restrictions has allowed it. Just this week he met Vladimir Putin (pictured, on left, with Modi), the leader of India’s old ally and its major arms supplier, to discuss terrorism and security in the region. A few days later he’s one of 100 leaders attending Joe Biden’s virtual Summit for Democracy, which concludes today.

Critics might brand all this gladhanding as a promiscuous form of diplomacy but Modi’s foreign minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, prefers the term “plurilateralism”, as he explained in a recent book. “It is time to engage America, manage China, cultivate Europe, reassure Russia, bring Japan into play, draw neighbours in, extend the neighbourhood and expand traditional constituencies of support,” he wrote in The Indian Way.

And it’s no wonder. After last year’s clashes with China on its northern border and Afghanistan’s growing insecurity – never mind its ever-challenging relationship with Pakistan – India feels that it needs to be on a global charm offensive abroad to protect it from needing to defend its behaviour on its own doorstep.

Image: Getty Images

Elections / France

Unity of purpose

Among the crowded field of candidates in France’s presidential election in April, media attention has been dominated by the far-right and, most notably, the rise of Éric Zemmour. But what of the left and its struggle to find a contender who can take the fight into a possible run-off round? To give the left the best chance, an increasing number of its supporters are cautioning against splitting the vote. Indeed, earlier this week, Paris mayor and Socialist Party candidate Anne Hidalgo (pictured) went on TF1, the establishment TV channel, to call for a form of primary election on the left to choose one sole runner; others including former Socialist minister and now independent politician Arnaud Montebourg have seconded her opinion. How would such a primary end for Hidalgo? Not necessarily well, given that she is currently trailing both Yannick Jadot of the Greens and far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the opinion polls, at a predicted 3 to 5 per cent of the vote. Hidalgo’s willingness to propose the idea, despite her own weak prospects, marks a rare case of a politician putting ideology ahead of their personal ambitions.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / New Caledonia

Leave la France?

New Caledonia will hold a referendum this weekend on its independence from France. But the Pacific Island chain is unlikely to follow Barbados’s recent example and become a republic. A majority of voters are expected to say non to a split with Paris, which has governed the overseas territory since 1853. The French government promised New Caledonia three independence referendums in 1998 as part of an agreement to end civil unrest.

Voters have twice opted for the status quo but support for independence rose to 47 per cent in the most recent poll last year. Fears of a return to violence have been growing after campaigning for Sunday’s third and final vote was curtailed by the pandemic and France ignored calls for a postponement. Pro-independence parties have threatened a boycott and labelled the decision to proceed “a declaration of war”. While the pro-French camp may be preparing to celebrate a clean sweep at the ballot box, the issue of independence for New Caledonia looks to be far from over.

Image: PALACE

Retail / UK

Board meeting

“Iconic” is an overused term but it feels apt to describe the partners in an unexpected collaboration launching today: Harrods x Palace. Since Palace launched in 2009 producing boards and clothing by and for London skaters, it has attracted a host of mainstream collaborators, including Ralph Lauren, Adidas and Stella Artois, that have all been keen to cash in on its cachet with young consumers. The most notable aspect of this new collaboration isn’t the Palace-branded tea, wine, coffee and Christmas hampers but the news of Harrods’ first logo swap. The co-branded emblem is the first time in Harrods’ 172-year history that it has rendered another brand’s name in its distinctive typeface, which is based on the original founder’s signature. With the pop-up running for a mere two days in the Knightsbridge store’s menswear department and products available online until 17 December (if stocks last), expect the co-branded skateboards, varsity jackets, socks, beanies, baseball caps and hoodie-wearing teddy bears to quickly fetch higher prices on resale websites.

Image: Getty Images

Defence / Switzerland

Your country needs you

The idea of mandatory military service might seem outdated to many but some nations are looking at expanding the concept rather than retreating from it. A new report this week from the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zürich explores the idea of a “universal civilian service” that requires all Swiss citizens – men and women – to spend up to a year of their life in either military or voluntary service. A vote on the issue is likely in the coming years; it has the backing of many political parties and the defence ministry. Part of the motivation is to bring more women into the military but it’s also about something broader: the idea that all citizens should give back. “It goes to the very fundamentals of what makes a state or a society: how an individual can be part of that society and serve it,” says Monocle’s security correspondent Benno Zogg, who co-authored the report. It’s a question that many nations are pondering.

Hear more from Zogg and about the idea of a universal service on the latest edition of ‘The Monocle Daily’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Shutterstock

M24 / The Foreign Desk

Decarbonising industry

The decarbonisation of industry is perhaps the greatest challenge we face in the race to achieve carbon neutrality. Think of it as the invisible stuff, the ugly stuff and the boring stuff we’d probably rather not think about: shipping, construction, steel, data processing and so on. In this episode of The Foreign Desk Explainer in association with the Nordic Council of Ministers, we will hear from the Nordic companies that are attempting to achieve carbon neutrality and create a paradigm shift in their industries.

Film / Global

Designing the news

How do you unpack stories in the most engaging way while building a credible and comprehensive brand? Monocle Films showcases best design for paper and screen too.

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