Balance of Power: A Victory for Women Rattles India

A victory for India’s women is sparking fears about religious nationalism in one of tomorrow’s economic superpowers.

India’s top court ruled this week that Muslim men can no longer instantly dump their wives by simply saying the word "talaq" -- which means divorce -- three times in a row.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist party has long pushed to end the practice, and wants a uniform civil code governing issues like marriage, property and inheritance. Muslims worry that such a change would allow India’s Hindu majority to impose its own values on them.

Hindu nationalism has been on the rise since Modi came to power three years ago and with elections approaching in 2019, his BJP party may be tempted to appeal to its Hindu base in a bid to secure power for decades to come.

But given the often bloody history between both communities in India, much will depend on Modi’s ability to tame those urges within his party. Otherwise his drive to reform the world’s second-most populous economy may well become bogged down by bitterness and division.

Indian Muslim brides pose at a mass wedding in 2010. 
Photographer: SAM PANTHAKY/AFP

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Global Headlines

Trump tirade | The president delivered an angry and wide-ranging speech in Arizona yesterday, accusing the media of misrepresenting his response to the recent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and raising the odds of a government shutdown over his proposed border barrier. “If we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall,” Trump said. Senate Democrats, whose support will be needed to pass legislation to keep the government running past Sept. 30, staunchly oppose funding the construction.

Mueller's playbook | Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into the Trump team’s alleged ties to Russia is relying on tactics federal prosecutors have used for decades: follow the money. Start small and work up. See who’ll cave and testify against higher-ups by pursuing charges including tax evasion, money laundering, conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

Trump backers miss out | The president’s opponents often criticize him for governing on behalf of the rich, but his wealthiest supporters haven’t benefited as much as the stock market since his election. Twenty-four donors on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index have seen their fortunes rise just 0.6 percent since the Nov. 8 vote. That compares with 14.6 percent for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

A North Korean opening?| Trump told supporters that Kim Jong Un was “starting to respect” the U.S., and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Pyongyang’s recent restraint could open a way to dialogue “in the near future.” Such optimism may be misplaced. Kim’s state media published photos today that appeared to show new, more dangerous missile designs.

Mexico warning | With Mexico’s murder rate set to rise to its highest this century, the U.S. State Department has warned Americans about traveling to popular spots including Cancun and Playa del Carmen. The alert hits at the heart of a $20 billion tourism industry ahead of next year’s presidential elections, with violence high on Mexican voters’ minds.

Brexit climbdown | Five months into divorce talks, Prime Minister Theresa May has crossed one of her own red lines: ending the jurisdiction of the EU Court of Justice. While her government today announced that EU law will no longer take precedence over British law, it conceded that European courts will influence the U.K. for years to come. May is walking a tightrope: “taking back control” was a key driver of the Brexit vote, but she also needs to make compromises to accelerate talks to long-term trade as the clock ticks down to March 2019.

Angola’s historic vote | President José Eduardo dos Santos, who led Africa’s second-biggest oil producer from civil war to economic boom, will step down after 38 years following elections today. The favorite to replace him, Defense Minister Joao Lourenco, must revive an economy poleaxed by the collapse in crude prices. He’ll also have to contend with the enduring influence of dos Santos, who remains head of the ruling party and whose daughter, Isabel, is Africa’s richest woman and runs the state oil company.

And finally... Angela Merkel’s attendance at the Gamescom video games convention in Cologne achieved what two weeks of election rallies have failed to do: make it onto the front pages. Taking her place alongside Little Big Planet’s Sackboy and Roxas from Kingdom Hearts, the chancellor was showing that video games aren’t just big business; they're an inroad to the youth vote her party struggles to capture.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel at Gamescom in Germany yesterday. 
Photographer: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg
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