Sir — Smiling can be contagious. But so can the coronavirus. People were thus forced to cover their faces with masks during the pandemic, disrupting the usual exchange of pleasantries through smiles. But with mask mandates having been withdrawn, people have gone back to flashing their pearly whites. Sadly, this is not the case in Japan, where people confess to having forgotten how to smile after three years of masking up. Many have even hired ‘smile instructors’ to remedy the situation. However, this can be a blessing in disguise for the reticent Japanese who are famous for their frowns.
Sir — The prime minister, Narendra Modi, co-chaired the third summit of the Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation during his recent visit to Papua New Guinea. This is significant. Groupings such as the Fipic and the Quad are viewed by China as strategic alliances against it in the crucial Indo-Pacific region. The fact that New Delhi is taking an interest in expanding its influence in the region through development initiatives and partnerships with the island countries may not go down well with Beijing.
This is key at a time when India and China are engaged in border disputes. India needs a stronger defence infrastructure not only to counter China’s adventurism in the Indo-Pacific region but also to inspire confidence among its island partners.
Sir — India’s effort to reach out to the Pacific island countries should be welcomed. Narendra Modi recently became the first Indian prime minister to visit Papua New Guinea. He highlighted the fact that small island nations are large oceanic states, underlining their strategic importance. This marks a paradigm shift in India’s foreign policy with respect to the Indo-Pacific region.
China has been trying to increase its clout in the Indo-Pacific region in order to counter Western influence. By stepping up diplomatic connections with the Pacific island countries, India will successfully be able to keep China under check and also reap economic dividends.
D.V.G. Sankararao,Andhra Pradesh
Sir — The withdrawal of 2000 rupee notes from circulation by the Reserve Bank of India has been creating panic among the people (“Glow off the rupee in Gulf”, May 24). In spite of the currency note continuing to be legal tender, several banks, shopkeepers, vendors and others have been unwilling to accept the denomination from customers. It is unfortunate that the government and the RBI have not taken any pre-emptive steps to alleviate such hardships even though the horrors of the demonetisation of 2016 are still fresh in public memory.
M.C. Vijay Shankar,Chennai
Sir — In his column, “A bigger script” ( May 25), Swapan Dasgupta writes that “the challenge for the BJP is to project nationalist themes that consolidate Hindus without necessarily invoking Muslim fears.” But the reality is that no matter which line of campaigning the Bharatiya Janata Party chooses, the perception that it is by and large anti-Muslim will never change. A campaign based on nationalist themes might only help the party blunt that perception somewhat.
The BJP lost the Karnataka election mainly due to the corrupt practices of the Basavaraj Bommai government and its blatantly Hindutva agenda. The suggestion made by Dasgupta should thus be taken seriously by the saffron party.
Sir — Hearteningly, the top four ranks in the Union Public Service Commission examination have been claimed by women. Ishita Kishore has topped the examination. This is significant in a country where most professions continue to be dominated by men. While there has been an increase in the representation of women over the past few years, it is not enough.
It is also regrettable that the women’s reservation bill, which promises a 33% quota to women in the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies, has still not been passed by Parliament.
Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee,Faridabad
Sir — The fact that the top three ranks in the UPSC examination have been bagged by women for the second time in a row is inspiring. This will empower other women to persevere in various male-dominated spheres. It is hoped that the newly-selected women administrators will take up the cause of women’s empowerment to ensure every woman in the country is given her due.
M. Jeyaram,Sholavandan, Tamil Nadu
Sir — The Olympic gold medalist, Neeraj Chopra, has added another feather to his cap by claiming pole position in men’s javelin throw in the World Athletics rankings. Chopra has been eyeing to cross the coveted 90-meter mark. His strong determination will help him achieve this feat soon.