India

What does China really gain by fighting its neighbours? A lot it seems

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

No country has more land or maritime borders than China has. It has 14 neighbours around its’ 22,000 km land borders. In South China Sea, there are six (Vietnam, Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia). And if you thought it had good relations with at least one, even Russia and North Korea could disappoint you. (You could click here and know all why China is so prickly).

It doesn’t add up.

President Xi Jinping once said there’s “no gene for invasion in the Chinese people’s blood.” But then you have its media organs emitting more fire in a day than a Dragon would in its’ lifetime.

It doesn’t add up.

China claims its military preparedness—the monsters it showcases in its military parades—is defensive in nature. Its embedded media in foreign journals, its implanted professors in your OpEds all harangue how the peaceful rise of a nation—which shares its wealth with all comers, be it Africa, Latin America or Europe—is being resented by a fading superpower in the United States. That China is beefing up just in case the United States tries out its hand before the balance shifts irrevocably. But what threat China has from Myanmar, Bhutan, Singapore or Brunei? I mean Nepal?

It doesn’t add up.

As I fiddle with my scrapbook, I find President Xi uttering: “A far-off relative is not as good as a close neighbour.” Really? Then why lay trap for them as housewives do for nibbling rats on the kitchen floors. You want your Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to reach Ushuaia, the end of the world, and yet you want trouble on its very first mile. The only harmony you have is with your “far-off relatives” in Africa and Latin America.

It doesn’t add up.

The funny thing is China hasn’t added an inch to its territory for all this muscle-flexing. I mean ignore Rahul Gandhi for a moment who believes China is already inside our drawing rooms. Or Aksai Chin whose every stone and pebble is worth in gold for the Beijing. But at least for a decade, the only capture China has managed is headlines. It would appear China doesn’t want peace but it doesn’t want war either. Who exactly is sitting inside the Foreign office building of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)?

CCP is different; Chinese people are different

My theory is, to begin with, we must not confuse China with Chinese people. Before Communists took over, China had a civilisation. It had its own tradition, culture and rituals. Now to the outside world, all they have is factory labours whose backs have inclined forward an extra millimetre even as I write this. It’s not a happy society where voices are shackled and your family numbers, your working hours and daily wages are dictated by the Big Brother.

How do you make sure that it remains that way without a challenge to your authority? Well, one of course is the way of Tiananmen Square. The other is to constantly remind them that the decades of Colonial slavery is returning. That West again has a barrel pointing its nozzle towards the peaceful China. That we must make sacrifices—Ah, that essential Communist ideology of eternal struggle—for the glory of the motherland.

Secondly, Beijing has seen the benefits of flexing muscle with its neighbours. Most cower. Like Myanmar who has admitted that they are afraid of China. That if the big neighbour was to shutdown projects, it would strengthen the embedded Communist insurgents who owe their existence to Beijing. Nepal wonders why China is on its tail when it did its bidding against India? That what does Beijing really mean when it constructs 11 buildings inside their territory and then leave them unoccupied? To what end?

Well, the end is to have a still more strangulating effect on the world which already owes hundreds of trillion dollars to Beijing. To make the poor neighbours at its borders to keep prostrating. Very few react the way Modi’s India did. That move has backfired. If the intention was to weaken Modi internally, and its stooges to take over New Delhi, the recent poll wins convey a different outcome. But this exception doesn’t bend the rule of holding neighbours by throat.

When everyone is talking about how to defend the Diaoyu Islands, how to crack whip on the Philippines, how to fix the upstart Vietnam, how to pull India’s ears which is nurturing the Quad and stood up to in Doklam, the society falls in line. What appears a belligerent Beijing to the outside world is projected as besieged Beijing to its people. A handful of people who control the destiny of a billion and a half citizens are probably doing it for selves and not for the future of the motherland. What if China burns and the humanity is doomed.

 

 

 

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.

 

Anarchy has come home to roost in India: What options do BJP have?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Breakdown.

Is that what India has come to?

Most Indians are battling this conundrum.

This perceived breakdown, internal, is largely at two levels: (a) harmony between Hindus-Muslims; (b) Centre and state relations.

Both are interlinked. A power seemingly in perpetuity loses an election. And another. Both by a landslide. The winners are identified with majority. The losers with minority. The turfs have exchanged hands. It’s an existential moment for losers; like those countless in history where Czars and Caliphs came to rest in tomes and tombs.

Losers now rally their forces. It joins hands with those it was in fight with all these years. All the parts must matter in sum. It doesn’t. Those who made a meal out of caste politics in India’s heartland are uprooted; those who swore by Maratha identity sound like a hag’s croon; elsewhere in volatile Bengal, the monster-slayer Didi stomps ground, flashes eyes and fingers, yet barely keeps her head above the surging water.

The Winners are surer after second win. They know they have come to stay. They won on planks of development and incorruptibility. On keeping India First. So out goes Jammu and Kashmir and its armour of special status. Minority wakes up to post-Shah Bano world in Triple Talaq Act; Ram Janmabhoomi arrived at an opportune time; and then the long-standing Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is approved by India’s chosen representatives.

So Losers can’t win people’s confidence. The judiciary too doesn’t fall to their mechanisms. Prepaid media is doing its best but little is changing on the ground. Their Samaritans in movies, culture, academics have little traction. The echo-chamber in West is drowning in its own noise.

Anarchy thus is the last resort. It’s always two-faced: One is led by the system. The other by the people. As I mentioned at the start: Break it down at (a) people; and (b) governance level.

Anarchy at the people’s level is your anti-CAA protests, Hathras, Farms Bills, Reservation stirs etc, etc. Anarchy at the governance level is passing resolutions against the Central Acts in your State’s assemblies; refusing CBI a peek into your vice-dens; protecting your favourite police officers even against the judiciary’s strictures; and ridiculing Governors every alternate day.

Uddhav’s Maharashtra is taking it to the next level. Mamata’s police was bad on cartoons on their leader (Uddhav’s too as ex-navy officer Madan Sharma would testify); it would land on doors at different States;  a journalist here and there; but Uddhav’s is booking the entire Republic TV network—claimed 1000 of them ! Kangana Ranaut was just a teaser it would seem. What next?

Some fundamental issues are stake in India. How far could this anarchy be allowed? The ruling BJP apparently has two choices. Let the masses know who are their enemies. It would teach them a lesson in due course. The other option is to exercise the power that the Constitution empowers it with: Dismiss state governments. The long rope which BJP has extended to Mamata Banerjee in the last six years conveys they would rather not do it and leave it in people’s hands.

BJP also knows what is noise and what’s substance. The noise is the ant-Farm Acts stir in Punjab led by its Congress chief minister Capt. Amarinder Singh. It could pass assembly resolutions but nothing would come out of it. The Punjab government is saddled with enormous debts and in the era of GST, you can’t trot your own horse when the whip is with someone else. You need Centre at every stage: Disasters and finances are one thing; telecommunications and security is another. More so in a border State.

It doesn’t mean that BJP ought to be at peace with anarchy. Mandate comes with responsibility. Anti-CAA protests led to Delhi Riots. They didn’t see Shaheen Bagh become what it did in the end. It made even Supreme Court helpless. The State must never be seen soft. India can’t afford it. All societies run on larger good. Those sloganeering “freedom”, “democracy” and “Constitution” don’t mean a bit of it. This chimera must yield to rule of law. Or it would persist in our lifetimes; and in our children’s. To horrific consequences if a malleable power was to come to Centre.

(Meanwhile, don’t fret on the welfare of Republic TV. Nothing would come out of it. Indians don’t like or even see somebody being browbeaten. More so by Powers. Brazenly. Mumbai Police has taken a bigger bite than it could chew. So, enjoy the drama but don’t miss your routine. The Karma would catch up with Mumbai Police and the rulers in Maharashtra).

 

 

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.

 

It’s in China’s interest to keep India in good humour and here’s why

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

We could all look at clues emanating from a two-hour meeting between India’s foreign minister S. Jaishankar with Wang Yi, his Chinese counterpart, in Moscow on Thursday. Or trust the redoubtable Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov to have hefted his weight in making them shake hands. But frankly, it’s in China’s interests to keep India in good humour.

As the two troops square up within a punch’s distance in Ladakh, where even a guttural breath could spark off World War III, analysts have a meltdown that India could be facing a multi-pronged war on its borders, none more so than on its eastern, northern and western ones from two heavily nuclear-armed enemies—China and Pakistan. Most are failing to connect the dots that it’s China which presently is more encircled and it’s India which is the centrepiece in the coordinated move.

Agreed, India hosting the QUAD (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue) later this year doesn’t sound menacing at first glance. But the enormity of the moment won’t be lost on pros who know that India now has military logistical agreement with all three other members of the grouping: the United States, Australia and Japan. The one with the US (LEMOA) has been operational since 2016. The one with Australia was signed in June. Now, on Thursday, India and Japan, riding on the visible warmth between Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and his outgoing Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe, have inked a similar military logistical deal. Who said nothing moved during the Corona?

Even as I write this, French defence minister Florence Parly would’ve left Indian shores after overseeing the official induction of 5 Rafale jets in the Indian Air Force in Ambala on Thursday. Don’t go by the innocent press releases marking the moment. In geopolitical and military sense, it carried a grave message for Beijing.

Quietly in the background, India and France have grown akin to blood brothers. It hasn’t happened overnight. As soon as the Cold War ended last century, India and France had signed a “strategic partnership.” Everyone talks of 36 Rafale jets but it isn’t much in public domain that Indian navy has already commissioned 2 of 6 Scorpene submarines being build in our own Malegaon dockyards. The third one is undergoing sea trials. India had signed a military logistics pact with France in 2018 itself. France was one of the few countries which had backed India’s decision to nuclear-test in 1998.

And this is all because like other members of QUAD, France too needs India badly for its considerable stakes in the Indian Ocean. The two countries could sign a secure communications agreement too which would allow the two navies to share maritime domain awareness. Even before Parly arrived in India, the two countries, along with Australia, had held their a trilateral foreign-secretary level dialogue on Wednesday. Surely, India-France are welcoming the likeminded in fold.

The domino effect of this all must not be lost on observers. LEMOA with the US has extended Indian navy’s reach in southwestern Indian Ocean due to French bases in Reunion island near Madagascar and Djibouti on the Horn of Africa. The logistical arrangement with Australia has bolstered Indian warships in southern Indian Ocean and the western Pacific.

There are two other logistical pacts—besides the US, Australia, Japan and France—which India has firmly secured under its belt. One is with South Korea, the other one is with Singapore. Now Indian officials are openly touting two more in near future—with the UK and Russia, the latter one possibly by the end of this year itself. Yes, Russia—you have heard it right.

And now comes something which completely has rattled the command of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). India, Japan and Australia have launched a “Resilient Supply Chain Initiative” amongst themselves. In simpler terms, it means the three countries are looking for alternatives to China in terms of relocating industries and supply chains in Indo-Pacific.

Japan, which has considerable industrial presence in China, unlike India or Australia, is even incentivizing its companies to relocate to, say India and Bangladesh. It has taken badly the recent moves by China to intensify dispute in East China Sea. Australia is badly stung by the trade spats with China. The repatriation of Australian journalists by Beijing hasn’t helped matters. India of course has a war at door.

In essence, there is an attempt to disengage supply chains in strategic areas such as telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, automobiles, semiconductors etc from China. This has potential to fundamentally alter the geographical shape of cross-border industrial network in the region. It would hurt China where it hurts most.

India and China could point fingers at each other, and not just Finger 3 or 4, for the downturn of ties between two of world’s most populous nations. China could claim that it has had enough of India’s “running with the hare and hunting with the hound” attitude. India could do likewise. After all, China backs Pakistan both on its terrorism and hostility in Kashmir. But these are no better than academic discourse. The truth is India has moved firmly on its Act East Policy. And China has to look after its back. Like Doklam, this face-off ftoo is likely to end with a loss of face for the Dragon.

 

 

 

A geopolitical tsunami has hit Middle East: It’s music to Modi’s India

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

A geopolitical tsunami has hit Middle East and it has the potential to change the contours and politics of the region for decades.

Israel and United Arab Emirates signed a peace deal in early hours of Friday (Indian Standard Time) which would split open the Middle East into camps of “future” and “past.”

“Future” belongs to those Islamic states who are bound to follow the example of UAE and drop the cloak of hostility of decades against the Jewish state. “Past” is those regressive actors of the region who prefer bloodshed to keep nurturing the blood-soaked tree of hatred and enmity.

First the bare facts. The United States president Donald Trump has announced that Israel and the UAE have reached a diplomatic agreement. In exchange, Israel would suspend the annexation of occupied West Bank territory.

Israel’s embattled prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, assailed by corruption charges, had announced that he would annex 30 percent of West Bank which has Jewish settlers and leave the remaining 70% in the hands of the Palestinian authority.

This was an improvement on the previous plan drawn by Jared Kushner, a senior advisor to his father-in-law Trump, which had outlined a negotiated settlement between the two: West Bank being divided between Israel (30% annexation) and Palestinian Authority (70%) who could set up an independent state. Palestinians lost little time in rejecting the plan.

A peeved Netanyahu then announced that he would annex the 30 percent of West Bank he had in mind for the Jewish state anyway by July 1. It set off a storm of words and finger-wagging. Egypt, Jordan and a host of other Arab states warned of consequences. The Jewish settlers in West Bank were unhappy too.

What happened next was a masterstroke. Israel turned this non-starter into something magical. Netanyahu somehow convinced Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of the UAE, nudged of course by Donald Trump, to shake hands and announce a formal deal of peace and prosperity between two sworn enemies. In return, Israel suspended its plan to annex part of West Bank.

Netanyahu could thus show his people that if he hasn’t fulfilled his plans in West Bank, he has been able to strike a historic deal with a traditional enemy. Zayed could tell his people that he was able to stop the annexation of West Bank.

It’s not just a win-win situation for both these nations. Other Gulf sheikhdoms like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman would lose little time in making open what they have been doing secretly with Israel behind public glare. They would hate for the UAE to offer its financial paradise in exchange for Israel’s technological prowess—be it in agriculture, health care or in cyberspace.

The losers of course would be Iran, Turkey, Yemen, Syria and all their proxies like Hezbollah, Hamas, Houthis etc who could find themselves out in cold. The Palestinian Authority has also been dealt a body blow. It’s all Arab and Gulf allies would no longer be by its side. It is in this background that one has to view the deadly Israeli cyberattack on Iran in recent months, undeniably bolstered by its growing footprints in the enemy’s camps.

Certain expected reactions are already flowing in. The Palestinian ambassador to the UAE is being recalled over. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has described the deal as “treason.” Hamas has called it “stabbing in the back of our people.”

Netanyahu meanwhile has announced his commitment to annex parts of the occupied West Bank. This is only for the consumption of his domestic audience. It won’t happen soon. Netanyahu would hope this deal with UAE would secure his place in history, like it did for Richard Nixon, battling Watergate, by opening the doors of China for the world.

It’s a marvellous news for Indian ears. India has grown astonishingly close to Saudi Arabia and UAE during Modi government’s two tenure at the helm. It had been concerned about its deteriorating ties with Iran and has watched it with alarm that the latter has fallen into the lap of China. India has also been upset by Turkey’s hostility, its president Recep Tayyip Erdogan using his acerbic tongue like a Wild West desperado does by shooting from its hips.

Better still, this deal will hurt Pakistan big time. It would force them to come out in open, in support or against the deal. It’s given it won’t support the Israel-UAE deal. It would thus only push them into more regressive elements of Islamic world. A Sunni Pakistan in bed with a Shia Iran is a delicious prospect we shall await.

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.

 

 

China wants its women to stay indoors and raise children

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Where would the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) want its women citizens to be? At home, raising children rather than seeking a career for themselves.

Chinese lawmakers have passed a law—2879 in favour, two against, five abstaining—in the 2020 National People’s Congress recently where an estranged couple is required to wait for 30 days before proceeding with application for separation.

If you were to ask a member of the Rahul Gandhi’s Congress party in India, he would say: Big deal. After all, the 1955 Hindu Marriage Act in India provides for a statutory cooling period of six months. What he probably won’t tell is that the Supreme Court of India since 2017 has allowed a waiving of this cooling off period if a trial court reckons there is no hope of reconciliation between alienated partners.

Much of China’s growth has emerged out of mass participation of its labour force. But if births are low, population is ageing and women want career ahead of kids, it’s better the fairer-sex stay at home and rear children. This also explains why there are few legislations to protect women’s rights in the workplace. The totalitarian regime in China just wants to make it harder for couple to make choices in their marriage.

China has passed this law, worried as it is by its ageing population and abysmally low birth rate, despite lifting the one-child policy of 36 years in 2015.  Its birth-rate fell to its lowest point in seven decades in 2019. That’s primarily because women increasingly are joining the work stream, becoming financially independent and find raising children a problem. Despite China’s massive economy size, 600 million Chinese citizens have a monthly income of only $140, as admitted by none other than Chinese premier Li Keqiang.

The cost of raising children in China is becoming prohibitive by the day.  If both the partners are working, sparing money to have children looked after in their absence, not to forget the damning cost of education till they have a university degree, is daunting. It is more so in big cities which are now mushrooming all over China.  In all China has 160 cities with a million residents in its fold. The government also doesn’t offer support by way of family funds.

No wonder, women’s financial independence and the deterrence of expenses on children is hurting China big time.  China has a median age average of 40 years which would be increased to 65 years, or 35 percent of the population by 2050.  In comparison, the dependency ratio in India should be less than 2 per cent by 2050. Every second person in India presently is less than 25 years in age.

China is worried that women not only are increasingly in career-mode, they are seeking divorce in millions. Between 2003-2019, more than 4 million Chinese couples ended their marriages. It’s a sign of gender equality which on paper is increasingly in sync with the Chinese propaganda of “gender-neutral view” but the reality is dark.

Predictably, China’s mouthpiece media of the Communist regime, are welcoming the move. People’s Daily feels the move would deter “careless” divorces. State news agency, Xinhua, finds the new law as legal guarantee of securing a “harmonious family and society.”

There are inspirational stories such as one of real-estate magnate Zhang Xin (see image) who is worth $3 billion and is called “the woman who built Beijing.” She came up the hard way, her family struggled financially but she went on to work for Goldman Sachs in London and on return formed SOHO China with her husband. In 10 years, it was the biggest property developer in the country. But China would rather not have such tales which move its women.

Li is on record that China will not set any GDP growth target in Coronavirus year of 2020. It’s facing heat on Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang. It’s border row with India is turning into an embarrassment. It’s technological flagships such as Huawei are being kept out of door around the globe. Multinationals are beginning to pull out from China as a manufacturing outpost.

The new divorce law would come into force in 2021. Meanwhile, the same-sex marriage reform was once again postponed in National People’s Congress. It’s a sweet irony that world’s most populous nation today is seeking more and not less births. That is history’s sweet revenge on a nation on steroids.

 

India’s Coronavirus story and the million lies of New York Times

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

The New York Times today archived India’s one-million Coronavirus-infected moment with a dishonest, unsubstantiated piece, full of malice in heart.

The newspaper was only accurate on 30,000-plus cases every day and third-worst Corona-hit nation but then duped its readers by hiding that India’s cases-per-million are better than 110 other nations. Yeah, no typo here. Better than 110 other nations.

It has described India’s 25,000 deaths with a lyrical description of “long lines of bodies snake out of cremation ground in some areas” but I invite readers to look hard in Google search image and find one for me which fits the mould. Yeah Delhi had a spike in deaths for a while but there is no evidence of “long lines of bodies.” Evidence, that eternal logic, is missing in the piece.

I mean in a nation of 1.3 billion, 25,000-plus lives are lost. The lazy bums who shared the byline hopped the glaring data on the floor which informs us that India suffers 418,000 accidental deaths every year. Leave aside road accidents (150,000) or Railway crossing/accidents (131,000), more than 15,000 die each year due to heat and sun-stroke.

The report frowns up India claiming only 25,000 deaths. It attributes it to “sparse testing.” It doesn’t put forward any data, any statistics, to back its claim. It doesn’t bother to find out or tell its readers that India is testing 3.2 lakhs every day. So, 18 deaths on a daily average in four months in a nation which houses 18 percent of world’s humanity is an unfolding disaster.

There is a certain glee in quoting the researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who claim by the end of next year, India would be the worst-hit country in the world. When the smell of vaccine is beginning to hit our nostrils, from the puff of air across the world, these prophets of doom are informing us India would be buried six feet under.

There is a flourish in claiming that India has already lost 100 million jobs when 90 million are daily wage-earners and technically have no jobs. How do you lose a job which you don’t have in the first place?

It repeats the plight of migrants like a ritual of circumcision in Islam, holy chants on a dying Hindu or baptism of a new Christian. Migrants are a mandatory colouring on India’s corona canvas these days even though free ration and cash subsidy to them is a fact uncontested. To fit migrants into the mosaic of the story, the piece claims the spread of Coronavirus is because of them returning home in India’s interiors.

It quotes a Delhi professor of epidemiology, Dr Anand Krishnan, who makes the astounding claim that less Coronavirus deaths have occurred in India because citizens are young and don’t suffer from obesity and diabetes. I mean India is the diabetes capital of the world with confirmed 50 million cases. Which India is in discussion here? Who is this quack?

One could only visualize a preening Dr Anand Krishan claiming that lockdown was “premature and it did nothing.” And that really is the trajectory of the story: This is the right time to enforce “lockdown”, now that India is slipping down the rope.  Maybe, just maybe, India’s policymakers would panic and return to lockdown months and bury India’s story for good.

Journalist R. Jagannathan is a voice which deserves the ears of those in India’s power-corridors. “Jaggi” claims in a piece that (a) India’s jobs are in services sector which would be lost forever in another bout of lockdowns; (b) lockdowns could unleash desperate people as anarchist, violent forces on the street; (c) that a few lives lost is a choice every society makes when pushed to the wall.

Soldiers lose their lives protecting the nation at the border; policemen do likewise in the interior and doctors too succumb as the present pandemic has shown.  Larger good should always take precedence over lesser good. Livelihoods are more important than lives now. All we could do is to ask citizens not to drop their guards and keep beefing up the healthcare in the background.

And let arm-chair pen-pushers spin a yarn in their own junkyard.

 

 

 

How good has India been in E-education in this Summer of Corona?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Kids have numbers. I mean there are 25 crore children who visit 15 lakh schools in India—or when they last visited before March 16 shut them down.

Most liked the break. Some didn’t. For India had found an alternative to physical classes. It moved online. Government and educational bodies launched several e-learning portals and apps such as DIKSHA portal, e-Pathshala, Swayam, STEM-based games etc.

Hawks were keen to found out if much-touted India’s 4G network spread would hold up. Yes, the 4G data is very affordable, it’s said to be robust enough to cover the entire country, but India is that dark abyss for marginalized communities, those stuck in deep interiors, who don’t have smartphones, leave alone laptops and desktops.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) tells us that although 78 percent of India’s 1.3 billion population have mobile phones, the tele-density hasn’t seeped beyond 57 percent.  The rest are innocents to such advances. Then not everyone at home has access to smartphones. How could a family of three teenagers with one smartphone fall into a lockstep to study online?

Well, some did. There is a Kumar family in Ghaziabad, in Delhi NCR itself, where three teenagers worked out a schedule to use their solitary smartphone to good use. Nidhi, 15, begins the day with an hour’s coaching on a WhatsApp video call; the younger brother gets hold of the phone next, and finally the older brother pushes his applications to colleges.

At the other end of the spectrum is Ishan Khandelwal from a privileged background who isn’t able to come to terms with the final XII paper he missed due to Corona suspension of exams. He still has emerged with a grade to envy, booked his berth in a premier US educational institution and hopes Donald Trump would smile one of these days.

There is no end to such stirring tales of defiance. Pravinsinh Jadeja, a primary school teacher in Gujarat’s tribal district of Dahod, has turned an open space into an e-learning school of his own. The kids in their two-room school, now shut, don’t have internet or access to TV. So Jadeja, all of 43, has done his own smart bit.

Every morning, Jadeja, armed with his 5.5 inch Android smartphone holds a live session on DD Girnar’s YouTube channel. The students sit on cots while the winds blow and cows moo in the background. Jadeja is not alone. There are 30 other teachers across 10 villages in Dahod who do similarly and hold a shining light on the community of teachers. In Chennai, class 10 students in corporation schools have been temporarily provided with Android phones.

Similarly, at least 20 percent students don’t have e-access to the All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) online classes even though 8 million others do. The body has now arranged for 500 colleges to provide access of internet to any student living nearby, even if he or she is not a student of that institution.

Pakistan a disturbing contrast

Sometime, we don’t realize how good India has been with education in this distressing spell of Corona Virus pandemic. Lakhs and lakhs of students are being taught at home. Contrast this with Pakistan where students are being put in jail for demonstrating against the e-learning diktat even as they don’t have access to internet.

Quetta is one of the largest and most impoverished districts in Pakistan. Nine out of 32 districts are completely devoid of mobile internet services due to security reasons. Schools in Pakistan are closed since March 13. Students are holding demonstrations, sitting on hunger strikes, and subjected to violence, for demanding e-access to studies. Some have gone to High Court.

Quetta isn’t a stand-alone district in Pakistan. Much of the country doesn’t have internet infrastructure. Where it’s available, the network quality is poor. Only 35 percent of population have access to internet. Mostly it’s 3G connections. According to The Inclusive Internet Index 2020, Pakistan is 76th ranked country out of 100 nations. It’s the lowest among all Asian countries.

India, despite its multiple challenges, is among the top 50 countries on quality internet access. It’s only 13 rungs below China, now that a comparison between the two is regularly sought.  India has massively bridged the gap vis-à-vis China in recent years.

At the time of independence of the two countries in late 1940s, the two population-behemoths suffered from massive illiteracy. India’s rulers lacked resources, if not the will, to put education as priority. Thus, just a generation ago in 1982, China’s literacy rate was almost double at 64 percent to India’s 37. Today, in 2020, India’s literacy rate has jumped to 81.3 percent compared to China’s 96.84 percent. India is in a hurry to make up the lost years.

So when Corona pandemic threatened this march, India was up to the task. Not just the government or commercial ventures but even NGOs like Pratham are pushing their digital, radio and SMS-based programmes via village administration in 10 Indian states. The Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) is busy disseminating lessons through radio and television. State education departments are innovating new models to reach their local populace.

There is also intense involvement at the school, parents and the government level. In Karnataka, the state government stopped online classes for children below six, citing an advice by NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences), a premier Bengaluru-based mental health institution, that it could affect the mental health of kids.

The furious schools—goaded by parents–though would’ve none of it. After the state government banned online classes up to Class 5 on June 15, they challenged the decision in the Karnataka High Court. The court has quietly asked the state government to take a walk as its act is a violation of students’ fundamental rights to life and education.

The syllabus for next year has been reduced by 30 percent. The HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal “Nishank” has tentatively put the reopening of schools after August 15. But India is undeterred by the delay. If the present pandemic is any guide, India could make virtual education a norm, and not an exception, in the next five years.