Beijing

As prepaid media doubles down on RCEP, they of course won’t listen to Jaishankar

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

I have long been suspicious of edits which are passionately pushed in the best of English. Much like that bank clerk who is pushing a scheme when you enter the branch. Those pesky calls for your car insurance, those greetings on WhatsApp from land sharks who have the best view in town just for you. The best of them are those who sell their cause to you as if it was your own.

So it is with RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership). I have been noticing in Times of India and Indian Express—Left-Liberals of varying shades—how India’s policy-makers are being lampooned for not signing on. I looked at Mint where economists snack. No different.

The readers are told that India itself flagged off the race nine years ago and has now stopped just short of the finishing line. That how dumb of Modi’s India to cite custom duties on manufacturing when it could benefit from the emerging global supply chain in the times of Coronavirus. That its fears on agriculture and dairy sectors are unfounded since those have been factored in for next 20 years.

And then look at India’s manners. The RCEP nations in a separate document are almost begging us to join the bloc. That China has pledged to import $22 trillion of goods and services over the next decade for its 1.4 billion people. Imagine the market it would offer us. Even China’s “enemies” like Japan and Australia are part of the deal.  Is India so dumb it can’t see that RCEP is 30 per cent of global economy and a world population of 2.2 billion people? It is also implicit that India would stay out of Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) which is sure to be revived by the US president-elect Joe Biden. Is this “Atmanirbhar Bharat”?

Economists call it protectionism. World is “free and fair”. India is insular. All Modi seeks is win in elections on the turbo-engine of “self-reliant nationalism.” And to hell with how our beloved PV Narasimha Rao and the John Stuart Mill by his side, called Manmohan Singh, took us out of choppy waters of 90s.

Why India is being so stupid? Because it has found out that all those free trades were no help all these years. And how it could be when your manufacturing base is so abysmal? How did those imports help our employment? And how we are supposed to compete when our hands are tied, legs shackled by the mantra of “free trade” even as somebody like China could abnormally subsidize its products and industries?

How come these grave economists never mention that 66 per cent of India’s GDP results from the services sector and the RCEP is heavily loaded against it in favour of merchandizing trade? What significant stuff are we supposed to sell? Are we wrong to assume that it’s a “trojan horse” set up by a Chinese club called RCEP? And that all it would bring is increased import bill and a few million more added to our unemployed?

I would let somebody as erudite as our foreign minister S Jaishankar hold the stage at this moment. Over to him:

“Those calling for increased openness and efficiency are not presenting the full picture (sic). That it’s equally a world of non-tariff barriers of subsidies and state capitalism (reference to China).

“In the name of openness, we allowed subsidized products and unfair advantages from abroad to prevail. And all this while this was justified by the mantra of an open and globalized economy.

“It was quite extraordinary that an economy as attractive as India was allowed the framework to be set by others.

“Past agreements resulted in de-industrialization of some sectors…the choice (for us) was to double down on an approach whose damaging consequences were apparent or to have the courage to think through the problem for ourselves. We chose the latter.

“It will decide if we become an industrial power with what we decide today.

“It is far from turning our back to the world. In fact, it is to enter the global arena with cards to play—not just to provide a market for others.”

Messrs economists, any rejoinder? Silence. Any thoughts why those nations calling for “free and fair trade”, having fattened themselves on protectionism are denying the same diet to India? That others probably want India as a counterweight to China? Silence.

So anyone for Atmanirbhar Bharat? Hands down.

 

 

I await Pompeo not just for India but for what the two have to say on Taiwan

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

It would be erroneous on the part of United States and India to show intent by way of meeting between their foreign and defence ministers—due in New Delhi on Tuesday—and lack purpose in ignoring the Sarajevo moment in the room.

In 1914, the first World War broke out after an Austrian prince and his wife were assassinated by a local Bosnian group in Sarajevo and it was the beginning of the new World Order. Another such moment awaits us if China, wholly unpredictable and raging mad, were to invade Taiwan.

Taiwan is small, an island, within the breath of Beijing, blocked and bullied all these years by the Mainland. It has stood alone in Covid-19 pandemic and if you thought it was the world which has made her recover, it’s the other way around. Taiwan donated 5.6 million masks to Europe which earned it the gratitude of Brussels. Yet the niceties are not enough. There has to be a resolve and an open one on the part of the World to let Taipei know: We Care.

So it’s all very well for the arriving US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to talk of “regional security in Indo-Pacific” but he needs to shout Taiwan within the earshot of China. And so does India. Taiwan is everybody’s business. For their own good if Taiwan’s democracy, technology, a thriving economy and a role-model-to-follow-on-healthcare is not enough. For all we know, Taiwan could be the first stop of China to test the world’s resolve and we all can’t be talking in circles.

Our leaders need to highlight how military sorties of Beijing are at an unprecedented level in Taiwan Strait. It’s in the same South China Sea which falls in Indo-Pacific and which China wants to make all of its own—and which has drawn world’s biggest democracies together. In 2020, People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has made 49 military aircraft sorties violating the Taiwanese space. It’s the highest ever. It’s defence minister told parliament that the Chinese military “conducted 1,710 aircraft sorties and 1,029 military vessel sorties into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) this year.”

Truth to tell though, it’s India more than the United States which needs to brush up its Taiwan game. More than media or a zealous nationalist, it’s the Indian State which needs to come out in open as Beijing does for Jammu and Kashmir as a matter of daily drill. The United States indeed had caught our eye as their health secretary and under-secretary of state for economic growth have visited Taipei in recent months. It’s the first since they broke off diplomatic relations in 1979. It was a signature transitional moment in Taiwan’s brutalized history. It has been made sweeter now that the United States has committed an arms package of almost $2 billion to Taiwan, with a promise to up it to $5 billion in coming days. The military package includes missiles, sensors and artillery.

The Modi government shouldn’t worry of the consequences of coming out in open for Taiwan. It could conduct a popular poll if that is the fire which would propel our rocket of commitment. The United States, for example, has just done that. The US Congress always was in support of Taiwan. But now the US citizens are showing a remarkable preference to come to Taiwan’s aid if Beijing was to invade it.

Two studies have caught my attention. One was by Chicago Council on Global Affairs (CCGA) which has shown 41 percent o Americans backing US intervention on behalf of Taiwan. It might not sound much but given the tepid response of US citizens since the study began conducting its poll in 1992, it’s remarkable. The other one by Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) is even more remarkable: It shows up a support of 6.69 out of 10 for Taiwan which is more than even what Australia (6.38) could muster. Japan (6.88) and South Korea (6.92) were favoured ahead of Taiwan only in decimals.

People clearing their throats for Taiwan was one thing. The other influential nodes made no less buzz. The Thought-Leaders supported Taiwan’s military cause by a whopping 7.93 out of 10. Human Rights Experts too gave an overwhelming (57%) response in Taiwan’s favour.

So buoyed as we are at the possibility of inking the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) with the US and S. Jaishankar and Rajnath Singh beaming for the Indian audience, this is as good a moment as any to pop out Taiwan in public domain. It would be a pity of China was to test us out on Taiwan and we would show our preoccupation in Ladakh to excuse ourselves from the entanglement.

The world has enough blood on its hand in pampering the wolf and ignoring the lamb. Taiwan must be returned to the global fold with forgiveness on lips.

 

I am lining up for visa outside Taiwanese “embassy”: And you jolly well do too

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Well, well, well…I am interested in Taiwan. We all should be now that we know China doesn’t like it one bit.

Sure, I would save you some embarrassment if you can’t put your finger on world map; or if you don’t know if we have anything common but for China; or whether you could get a visa to visit its glittering capital Taipei.

;Don’t be dampened that India doesn’t recognize Taiwan. Nobody does except for 14 countries you hear about only when a tornado bursts through their shores. But business is rocking by other names. The jump in trade is 20% year-on-year so much so that India does it more with Taiwan ($7 billion) than with Italy, France, Japan, Korea or Saudi Arabia (beat that)!. India counts Taiwan as its 14th largest export destination and you could again refer to the nations mentioned and more. We have students in Taipei—I mean, don’t be startled when you are not on Indian students in Islamabad. There are restaurants, cultural exchanges, business delegations etc. Why, Sachin Tendulkar could be promoting cricket and Aamir Khan the Bollywood fare only if he could pull himself out of Istanbul.

These “ties” exist since 1995 when the two countries set up their representative offices in Taipei and Delhi. Call them “embassies” if you must (Delhi address: Taipei Economic and Cultural Center, 34, Paschim Marg, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi). That’s where you go first thing once Covid-19 is over and you have that itch of a foreign travel. The little island country could be mesmerizing for it has beaches, mountains, forests and a city-life which befits its status as a “developed” country.

Now you lazy bums might be wondering why we still don’t call Taiwan a country. Well that was out of deference to China (People”s Republic of China) who refused to recognize Taiwan (Republic of China) for its fallout in 1949 after the colonialists left and civil war ensued. Initially Taiwan claimed control over mainland China but Mao changed all that and now the shoe is in the other foot.

So China doesn’t recognize Taiwan, rather won’t let anyone do it too. Beijing calls it “One-China Policy.” India doesn’t recognize One-China nonsense (bravo) but saw no reason to stir up the hornet’s nest too when business-by-other-names with Taiwan was booming. It might change and it should, and we all could play a role in it. Trust me, Galwan or Tik-Tok won’t hurt China as much as if India was to recognize Taiwan! Imagine India doing so when United Nations doesn’t. I know it’s wishful but the sheer word-of-mouth would get the Dragon hopping mad.

Just recount last few days. First China issues guidelines to India media (phew) how to refer to Taiwan ahead of its October 10 National Day. I mean how stupid for this tribe, we call Indian media, doesn’t give even the State a damn. Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu belled the cat with his tweet: “Taiwan’s Indian friends will have one reply: GET LOST!”

Sure enough, Indians smarted at this diktat. #TaiwanNationalDay began trending on twitter. Bharatiya Janata Party, nationalist that they are, didn’t miss the moment: Its’ national secretary (Y. Satya Kumar) greeted his “Taiwanese brothers and sisters” and its spokesperson (Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga) wished Taiwan a happy national day with a poster outside the Chinese embassy in the Capital.

Suddenly, Indian netizens were falling over each other in following Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen’s twitter account, leading for her to tweet several photos from her trip to India from 2012, including Taj Mahal. She didn’t forget to mention a “vibrant culture” and “kind people” of India. Next were Indian restaurants in Taiwan which found mention in her tweets. “How about sharing your favourite Indian dishes” gushed Tsai Ing-wen. Some PR maverick sure was at work.

Now the latest is that India Today TV has done an interview with the Taiwanese foreign minister which has got Beijing raging (see video section). I tell you what our TV stations: Forget about manipulating TRP ratings; just bring on Taiwanese biggies on your shows and you would not only have numbers but goodwill of the masses too.

India, Hong Kong and Taiwan have reasons to feel outraged on Beijing. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sure are spoilt by the success of measures it employs against its own people, no less on Uighurs. The era of bullies is over.

How about lining up in front of Taiwanese “embassy” and posting your pictures on Instagram? Don’t forget to send the link please. And do make sure you shout near anything Chinese: Be it embassy, cultural centre, Mandarin classes or China bazaars.

 

Why China is not bothered at the world screaming in its ears?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

There is a reason why China doesn’t give a damn to retaliatory measures by the United States, Europe, India or anyone else for that matter.

Individuals or nations don’t turn their back on overflowing coffers and even if they make noise, there is little by way of action on the ground—or ocean if you have South China Sea in mind.

The world today is a buyers’ market and China is stuffing yuan in mouths which open up with the honest intention of registering their protests against the Beijing.

The latest trade figures of China in June are breathtaking. When the world is said to be angry at Coronavirus pandemic and neighbours are traumatized by the Middle Kingdom’s bullying, China’s exports have picked up. The biggest shock though is that its imports have risen by 2.7 per cent too, implying that more money is reaching the pockets of distressed economies of the world.

This is not Cold War II—as analysts are fond of saying these days.  Soviet Union was an empire cut off by the liberal or western world. China, in contrast, doesn’t have an empire. It just has found a way to every central bank and command structure of the nations.

This is more than geopolitics. This is geo-economics.

We all had thought that it’s payback time for a boorish China, induced by the pandemic. Well, it imported $167.15 billion worth of goods in June 2020 and made a nonsense of the Bloomberg prediction of a 10 per cent slump. China meanwhile exported $213.6 billion which is a hike of 0.5 per cent.

If China could import as much as it exports—presently some $46.2 billion adrift—it could scoff at punitive actions by the rest of the world as not just economies but the global industrial chain and trade won’t move without its consent.

China’s imports have taken off since their domestic market today is worth 41.2 trillion yuan. It has grown at a breakneck speed in last six years, contributing 57.8 percent to GDP growth during this spell.

Interestingly, its trade surplus hasn’t dropped by much against the United States. In June, it was $29.41 billion compared to $29.91 a year ago at the same stage.

China’s imports of copper concentrate from the United States is its highest in nearly two years. It’s purchase of iron ore has jumped to 35.3 per cent since October 2017. The arrival of soybeans has climbed by 71 per cent. It has imported record meat, including offal, which is nearly 74 per cent up to the same period a year ago.

And this is cutting across all ideologies, without distinction between friends and rivals. For instance, China is about to open its money reserves for beleaguered Iran. Yet, the arch rivals of the Islamic Republic—Saudi Arabia—is the biggest exporter of oil to Beijing. China’s crude oil imports from the Saudi kingdom has risen by 15% in June. This record import is in the shadow of price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, the world’s top oil exporters. This is when Moscow, as we know, is said to be the blood-brother of Beijing these days. On top of it, China has also boosted its inflows from Brazil, Norway and Angola.

India of course is a very minor trading partner for China since it imports a mere 3% of China’s overall exports. New Delhi could hurt mega business houses of China, especially the digital kind, but it’s not to say it is bringing beads of sweat on Beijing’s forehead.

India could feel that it has favourable neighbouring relations with the governments in Afghanistan and Bangladesh but China, against it, has brought Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Nepal in its fold. It’s planning to invest $50 billion in Bangladesh over the next couple of years.

China, further, has deployed its military infrastructure around Indian Ocean. It already has eight naval ships in these waters. It has sold 10 submarines to India’s neighbours—8 to Pakistan and 2 to Bangladesh. It has a naval base in Djibouti and a military surveillance capability on Myanmar’s Coco island. It’s offering land exchange to Myanmar.

So even though one keeps hearing the angst of world against China, in effect little is changing on the ground. It would take more than mere rhetoric to keep China honest. So far there is little to suggest that the world is walking the talk.

 

Why China is fighting the world? What’s the method behind this madness?

(This is a reprint from the NewsBred).

Why is China so reckless, why it doesn’t mind that the world is beginning to array itself against Beijing politically, economically and militarily?

It has pushed India to a point where India is doing navy drills with the United States in Andaman and Nicobar, right at the mouth of Malacca Strait which, if it was to be blocked, would finish China. Eighty-percent of China’s energy and trade is conducted through these waters. This is the strait which joins Indian Ocean with Pacific Ocean.

China has torched the informal summits between its leader Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi, all those moments at swing in Ahmedabad, those hugs at BRICS and SCOs, after it killed 20 Indian soldiers and buried billions of Chinese investments now, and for decades, in India. It has created an enemy in India when an enduring friendship was in the front lawns.

It has angered the United States, The European Union and a host of other democratic nations with its revamped security laws on Hong Kong to the extent that Washington would offload its officials at airports; England is offering citizenship to Hong Kong residents, tearing the extradition treaty and EU is vowing to stand by the “citizens of Hong Kong.”

It has annoyed most of its neighbours in Indo-Pacific–Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Japan etc—with its aggressive claims on reefs and islands; patrolling and sinking their assets with impunity. Most of them it shares seats with in ASEAN and RCEP.  Besides, nations such as Vietnam, Japan and Indonesia—and many others—are de facto NATO bases which could cripple the supply lines of China.

It has spat on one of its largest partners, Australia, by raising a prohibitive 80% tariffs on exports by Canberra. All this for Australia voicing their concern on Hong Kong.

Leave aside Tibet or Taiwan, China is also making partners such as Kazakhstan fume with claims on its sovereignty. They recently had a report in its servile media where Kazakhstan was said to belong to China since ages and that Kazakhs would have no problem if they were to merge with China.

Isn’t China mindful that Hong Kong, as a global financial hub, is their interface with the capitalist world?

This is a country which has a debt that is 300 percent of its GDP. Its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is staring at a financial catastrophe in the Covid-19 world. It has lent $1.5 trillion to more than 150 countries. Several of these countries would soon be defaulting on loans.

Most of us know that China is world’s largest exporter. Very few realize that it’s also world’s second largest importer. It imports minerals and oil to run its industries which feed its exports. Why is it endangering these imports?

It’s telecom giant Huawei, with over $100 billion of revenue every year, has gone on a “survival mode” as said by its own president, Guo Ping since US has shut its door. So would do India, England and the Western world.

Isn’t China mindful that the world is seething in anger against them? That actions against Beijing are already shifting gears? Why is it shooting itself in the foot? Why is it willing to lose in seconds all that it had gained in decades?

An incident during the lockdown perhaps holds an answer to China’s present recklessness. People of Hubei and Ziangxi clashed with the police as they were refrained from crossing the bridge over the Yangtze River. All they wanted was to get back to work. China’s big firms, which engage 30 crore migrants, were opening up. Millions today need work to survive.

It’s all about population

China has always worried about its population. Even way back in 1820, every third person in the world was Chinese. It could feed its people due to its fertile floodlands around two major rivers: the Yellow river and Yangtze River. That of course was the agricultural era. But food is food in any era. That was the reason it annexed Tibet since both these rivers originated there. What if India, a neighbour, poisons those rivers? What if a puny like Tibet, without any army, could choke it to its death? China thus staked its claim on Tibet and cooked up historical evidence when Tibetans are no Han Chinese.

It’s thus inevitable that people’s anger would burst forth if world begins to pull out its manufacturing units out of mainland.  The population is already ageing, Covid-19 hasn’t been a help in an already falling birth rate. What happens if “Tiananmen Square” erupts in every province?

This is the reason why China is taking on the world. It wants to stoke the feeling of nationalism in its 1.40 billion population. It has insurmountable problems since the world is hostile and views them as villain of this Coronavirus catastrophe. Their best bet is to tell its people that they need to get behind since Capitalist forces of the world want to break them up like they did during the Opium Wars of the 19th century.

It would give Communist Party of China (CCP) the handle to retain its control over the people and even over its own comrades. It could further tighten its surveillance over its own citizens in the name of national security. In China, a mobile SIM subscription links a person to his health, finances and recognition details. In the name of controlling health, Beijing is making it mandatory for all its citizens to register to its Apps now.

There is no getting away that more its “sheep”—a term for its citizens—try to breakaway from the fold, more are the chances that China would indulge in some reckless political or military gamble. It explains why the Dragon is more like a mad elephant gone berserk these days.

 

 

Indian Muslims, next time you hold aloft anti-CAA banner, remember this for your own good

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

I guess there is little avoiding the anti-CAA protests once Corona pandemic goes as unannounced as it came in 2020.

A Shaheen Bagh here, a state assembly in ferment there, Jamia and JNU on boil, Cars and buses in leaping flames, narrowed eyes looking for that saffron or skullcap which could comfort or disorient in equal measure.

One morning, European Union is making front page in Muzaffarnagar. The other dawn would acquaint Ferozabad how human rights warriors in the august US Congress are brothers in spirit. Someday Turkey’s strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan would talk of “massacres of Muslims in India.” The other would’ve Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) warning of “serious implications” if India doesn’t look after its Muslims.

And there would always be an Imran Khan, Asaduddin Owaisi, Sitaram Yechury or a Rahul Gandhi who would recall Godse in prime minister Narendra Modi, their bloodied hearts in front of camera an act worthy of Oscars.

Such solidarity aligns a Muslim from Kashmir to Kuwait, Moradabad to Morocco, Shahjahanpur to Saudi Arabia, Lucknow to Lebanon, Hyderabad to Hamedan. Islam binds them; a pact of faith and piety; a soldiering spirit which revisits the pages of history and underlines how Jihad never loses.

It stops them from recoiling when illustrators are gunned down in Paris on seeing a cartoon in Prophet Muhammad; a Salman Rushdie driven to the end of the world on Satanic Verses. Islam pervades the world, overrides governments, the rod of God which spares no one.

But what happens to this global brotherhood when a million Muslims are locked up, their women sterilized, their children snatched from parents and made strangers to Islam in their growing years. What explains the silence of 57 Islamic nations which make up OIC, or EUs and US Congress, the Erdogans and Mahatirs and Imran Khans; the Owaisis and Yechuris who are a Muslim-Left global pact in miniature. Why in this case MuslimLivesDon’tMatter?

I of course am referring to China and its repression of Uighur Muslims in its Xinjiang province which is one of history’s most evil, heinous, barbaric pogrom a State has carried on its citizens ever. For over a decade, the Uighurs are being kept in suffocating controls, their neighbourhood infested with the influx of Han Chinese and their religion and culture systematically wiped out.

Internal Chinese government documents leaked in late 2019 have revealed that such is the fate of a million Muslims detained without charges or legal access; and 11 million Muslims outside who are made to renounce Islam, learn Mandarin and sing the virtues of Communism. Satellite imagery show that these detention camps are roughly the size of 140 soccer fields.

It goes without saying that if even a millionth of this was to happen in India, the nation would go deaf by noise at home and abroad. It could even be kept hungry or wounded by economic and military actions. Yet not a word comes China’s way by way of criticism on its Uighar pogrom. Not those champions of Islam who sit in Riyadh and Tehran. Who are the Iraq and Egypt of our world. The Islamic State (IS) who are torching the European capitals. Muslim lives suddenly don’t matter to them. Moolah over Mullah zips their lips courtesy the riches which flow through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) by the totalitarian China.

The hypocrisy of these champions would become stark to Indian Muslim in coming weeks. It so happens that on Monday, two Uighur exiles groups have gone to International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate Beijing’s genocide and crimes against humanity.

This is first-ever global attempt to hold China accountable for its merciless crackdown on Muslim minority of Xinjiang. A team of London-based lawyers are representing East Turkistan Government in Exile and the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement. Since China is not a signatory of ICC, these activists have opted for a roundabout way to bring China to heels.

In 2018, ICC had censored Myanmar, even though the latter wasn’t its member, by citing the instance of its member-state Bangladesh who was reeling due to Myanmar’s “deportation” and “crimes” against Rohingya Muslims.

Likewise, in the present case, Beijing is being drawn in ICC ambit through its unlawful actions in Cambodia and Tajikistan who are members of this international body. The petition states that thousands of Uighurs are being unlawfully arrested and deported from Cambodia and Tajikistan. The complaint against Beijing includes evidence of forced deportations and extraterritorial arrests by the Chinese agents.

It may take months before the ICC makes a formal move. But it would be interesting for Indian citizens, more so its Muslim minority, to watch how the developments are hidden from their views by India’s Leftist media. You won’t hear a word in solidarity from Owaisis and Yechurys. Their heart won’t bleed at the plight of Muslims. But once Corona pandemic passes, you would see them clearing their throats and exhorting the protestors on-their-bums. An Arundhati Roy would emerge from her closet.

So use your judgment, my Muslim brethren. Pay heed to what Supreme Court rules on the CAA matter. Modi’s Centre has time and again invited a meeting across the table to clear your doubts and anxieties. Your cause is a contortion by the voices which din in your ears ceaselessly. This is your country, it’s future is your concern. When you don’t come on the negotiating table, you are holding the country to ransom. Sooner or later, the Centre or majority, or both, would push back. You not only are burying the future of your children but are also alienating the majority who view this petulance as inimical to India’s wellbeing.

 

 

 

A muscular India gives its army a “free hand” to knock sense in China

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

It would be a grave misjudgement to believe that China has walked over India in a physical showdown in Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh on Monday.

If nothing, ask the Chinese who made moves in lockstep over the last few weeks to test India’s nerves and found a nation mature in diplomacy and dare in equal measure.

India has used velvet gloves against a petulant Nepal which thumbed its nose on borders but didn’t elicit a raging anger from New Delhi that would’ve played into the hands of its puppeteer, China. India knows, as does Nepal, that the latter can’t survive without India’s open borders. Simply, the land-locked nation would run out of essential supplies. A manufactured border dispute has no future but for headlines and talk shows.

China meanwhile had crossed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) at four different points in Ladakh, agreed for de-escalation but then stayed put when the two armies were to pull themselves back by a few kilometres. India would have none of an enemy’s forward-post left standing inside the Galwan Valley which belongs to India. It didn’t backdown from a physical combat either since arms and ammunitions are avoided by the two neighbours in sensitive stretches of border running into thousands of kilometres.

Now has come the news that Indian Army has been empowered to act as per the ground situation without looking for directions from New Delhi. In other words, the Indian Army has been freed from political constraints. It’s an unambiguous message to Beijing that they are now in the wilds. That your superior nuclear stockpiles, defence spending or armaments wouldn’t be of much aid if it’s bare knuckle fight. So, if it’s to fists, stones and clubs now, may the best man win. There is no referee.

Indian Express has quoted an army source thus: “Army has been given emergency powers for deployment there as per needs and new situations without looking towards Delhi…We have to demonstrate our strength on the ground…there is no need to show aggression, only our strength.”

This would put China in a spot. Either they shove the conventions and turn it into an armed combat. Or they pull themselves back as they did in Doklam in 2017. Or they escalate which wouldn’t go unnoticed to a concerned world. It’s a massive show of intent from Modi’s India which is largely consistent in its zero-tolerance approach on nation’s sovereignty and integrity.

It’s not like South China Sea where the Middle Kingdom has usurped islands, sea tolls, reefs and banks overriding neighbours protests. China could not only carry through the bluff but were assured of its efficacy by the mumbled response of the affected. India seems determined to call out the bully. It’s not the semi-autonomous Hong Kong, a cowering Taiwan or a Vietnamese fishing boat you could sink to the floor of the South China Sea.

China clearly is upset at India’s assertions in recent months. India has signed a pact with Australia in the middle of the pandemic which would give teeth to QUAD (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue) between four democracies of Indo-Pacific: the United States, Japan, Australia and India itself. It has openly given a call to multinationals to shift their operations to India, a blow to China where it hurts the most. It has decided to screen the foreign investments beyond the FDI regulations. It now heads World Health Organization (WHO) which is to take call if China was complicit in hiding the truth on Corona Virus pandemic. It hasn’t helped the matter that Taiwan, which Beijing is paranoid about, could have “observer” status at WHO on pandemic deliberations. Then we have an expanded G-7 group of nations where India is to be included but no invitation has gone out to China

India has an uncontested control of Galwan Valley, between Ladakh and Chinese-occupied Aksai Chin, since 1962. It suffers from poor infrastructure in a hilly terrain unlike China which makes use of the flat Tibetan plateau to carry its road and highway network unhindered. India in contrast has to cross several mountains to access the LAC. It’s only natural that India wants to secure its borders. China would either have to give up the encroachments or face consequences, no less economic. There is a groundswell of consensus to boycott Chinese goods. The little matter of Huawei 5G also hangs in the balance.

There is little doubt China faces uncommon heat across continents. Pushback against its over-arching reach has already begun in Africa and Southeast Asia. Unemployment is unprecedented. Economic woes are spiralling. The world is a hostile theatre after China’s machinations on pandemic which has set the world back by a generation in economic terms. Its present misadventure in Ladakh is an undisguised diversionary tactics.

There is little doubt Indo-China relations would freeze in near future. It would bring Pakistan in closer ambit of China. India, on its part, would have the United States in its drawing room. Distrust between the two main powers of Asia would now run deep. Russia is a common friend which could find its loyalty divided.

India & Russia seek trade in gold

Sberbank, Russia’s largest state-owned bank, is looking to finance the direct import of gold to India.

Aleksei Kechko, managing director of the bank’s Indian subsidiary, has made an announcement to this effect which is no surprise to those who have followed the gold-buying spree of BRICS nations, especially China and Russia.

India imports a lot of gold. Indeed, it’s the second largest importer of gold in the world. India imported $35 billion worth of gold in 2015. The direct gold trade between India and Russia would help both nations.

“We hope to sign the transaction by September or October this year,” said Kechko “We are also exploring the possibility of entering the gold loans sector as well.”

Russia has been keen of late to conduct business with BRICS nations in gold. Russia now has a yuan-clearing bank in Moscow and it’s Central Bank has opened a branch in Beijing to make for better communication between the financial authorities of the two countries.

The effort by BRICS nations is to work towards bypassing the dollar while also using gold for transaction commodity between member nations.

BRICS nations actively are moving towards creating a new financial architecture to tackle the dominance of the US dollar in global finance.

The initiative was taken in the eighth summit of BRICS in India last year. The new institutions set up by the BRICS include the New Development Bank (NDB), the BRICS-led Contingency Reserve Fund (CBF) and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

Russia is world’s third largest gold producer behind China and Australia, as per the 2016 data. Still, it has been on a massive gold-buying spree in recent years. Hit by economic sanctions by West, Russia’s ruble is the most gold-backed currency in the world. Moscow sees it as a safeguard against western attempts to destabilize Russia’s economy.

The same is the case with China who wants to be ready for economic warfare by the West. Both China and Russia have added almost 50 million ounces of gold to their central banks while selling off more than $267 billion of treasuries.

As for India, it simply loves gold leading to its constant demand. Be it newly-wed brides or trinklets with peasants in countryside, Indians simply love gold.

However, importing gold is relatively a new phenomenon. Until 1990, gold imports were virtually banned. Bullion was smuggled and cost 50 per cent more at home than abroad. However, deregulation set off an explosion. Now most gold legally comes to India through banks.