The COVID-19 pandemic was not an “opportunity in crisis” or a “mixed blessing” — it was and is a tragedy for many people and nations. And yet, for some, the upheaval of the pandemic allowed for a rearranging of priorities and a shift in the ways of work. Lockdowns also seemed to dovetail with a proliferation of privately run newsletters. Many specialists had surplus time and energy to divert to a new activity, a move that requires not only knowledge but self-discipline.
In the age of social media, in a way we are all journalists. Private newsletters, blogs, and podcasts – they give us all a chance to be the media, be it specialized or news-driven. This democratization and spread of web access has its disadvantages as well: There is no certificate or degree required, everyone can be an expert on anything or everything – not only at Sunday family dinners, as before, but in the eyes of all via the internet, regardless of their actual expertise. But if you dive deep enough into the chaos, and if you know where to look, there are indeed pearls waiting to be found. There are dedicated experts that have decided to regularly share their knowledge, and often do so for free.
My experience is mostly with contemporary Indian politics and this is where I would like to make certain recommendations. Global interest in India has not yet matched that of China, and this is probably why the Indian politics newsletter scene has not reached the size and stature of the Chinese equivalent. In time, however, some India-focused blogs, podcasts, or newsletters may grow to repeat the success of, say, Bill Bishop’s Sinocism.
I will not try to judge which of those mentioned below stand the best chance of such a success as of now. What follows, instead, is my own shortlist of newsletters on Indian foreign policy and internal politics, with a caveat that it is completely subjective and that it focuses on personal newsletters, not those sent out by the media, which are plenty.
Ananth Krishnan, a journalist with the Indian daily The Hindu, has been following China for a number of years and recently wrote a book on India-China relations (“India’s China Challenge: A Journey through China’s Rise and What It Means for India”). Unsurprisingly, therefore, his India-China Newsletter focuses on Sino-Indian relations and affairs of the PRC. It launched in January this year and comes out either daily or approximately every two to three days.
Rohan Venkataramakrishnan’s Political Fix is different from other newsletters listed here in the sense that it is connected to the journalist’s medium (a portal called Scroll.in), rather than being a completely independent venture (and was established some time before the pandemic). It comes out every two to three days, mostly covers Indian politics, as well as the country’s foreign policy, and includes weekly interviews as well.
Aman Thakker’s Indialogue covers both Indian domestic and foreign politics and comes out every week. It offers a broad review of suggested readings it contains.
Adil Braar’s Asia Communique is, as its name suggests, a review of events across Asia but India and China reign supreme here as well. It comes out once a week, includes interviews as well, and used to be called the “Tea Horse Monitor.”
And finally, there is Splainer, founded by five Indian women journalists. It does not focus on India’s domestic politics alone, but the subject certainly dominates the content.