Latin America

In case of war, would US rush to India’s defence?

(This is  reprint from NewsBred).

Behind their pandemic-induced masks, Indians have a floating question on their lips: What if China was to pour into India and spank us like it did in 1962.

Columns on military match-ups are box-office hits.  In today’s Mint, weighing scales have measured India and China on nuclear, submarines, armoured vehicles, boots-on-the- ground, everything. It assures readers we are better in inhospitable terrains, fighter jets and in shape thanks to our periodic pounding of Pakistan. It doesn’t look at the weight Pakistan could bring into equation but that’s okay. Indian soldiers are world’s envy for over a century for a reason.

Indians are also hopeful on the United States. That Trump and Modi would look after each other’s backs. This lack-in-self isn’t mindful that India’s nuclear arsenal is deterrent enough. We won’t be rolled over in a conventional war too.  Besides, still don’t have a formal military pact with the United States.

Sure, in last decade and a half, the US administration across presidents, and Indians between their Manmohan and Modi, have resembled two lost brothers who couldn’t have enough of each other. It began with access to military sheets (GSOMIA) but ramped up startingly under the Modi regime. An important threshold crossed was reciprocal logistical support (LEMOA) in 2016; and greater Indian access to US military technology (COMCASA) in 2018. The next stage is a deal for 2021 when US could share advanced satellite, intelligence and topographical information (BECA) with India. It would be huge, but not now.

The United States, as it is, has more military pacts than one could count. In the Indo-Pacific waters itself, it’s committed to come to aid of Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Australia and, a little beyond, New Zealand. Western Europe of course is a Biblical commitment in the form of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). It’s extremely possessive about Central and Latin America and if in doubt, ask a Cuban.  In the Middle East, Israel and Saudi Arabia have the blank cheque of security. Since the Second World War, the United States has committed itself to defend a quarter of the world’s population. All are not cut-and-dried military pacts. But de facto, some 69 countries which is worth 75 per cent of world’s economic output, could claim a security umbrella festooned by Washington D.C.

Formal military pacts are dying trends. It forces counter alliances and the world is lit up in smoke as it happened during the First World War. Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire were committed to each other against France and Russia and Great Britain was forging secret alliances of its own in a skullduggery which remarkably has been kept hidden by the historians of Oxford who make up the history narrative of English-speaking schools.

So, sorry folks, a military pact between India and the United States isn’t happening all too soon. If the United States enters the Indian Ocean, be sure that China and Russia would commit themselves in equal measure. The US would have its military cooperation, sea drills and logistical shares with India. It designated India as a major defense partner in 2016 itself. The satellite and intelligence sharing under BECA (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement) would be big on its own. It would be a game-changer in communications, navigational and threat assessment. India’s defence exports from the United States are second only to Russia. But don’t mistake it for a joint resistancce against an invader.

We’re in a fluid state. We are not at war with China.  Hotheads could spin it out of control for both, and Pakistan. Looking for the United States or Russia isn’t on the charts spread at military commands of the two Asian giants. Treat the two Cold War antagonists as proteins or steroids in a gym. The heavy-lifting is still left to us. Hopefully the worst is behind us. For the time being.

The lessons for India though are unmistakable. China doesn’t have our good in mind. We would know of the United States too if Russia holds firm and delivers us S400 missile system in 2021. Closer home, we need to free up our armed forces from stifling civil bureaucracy. If they want Rafale, that’s what they get. We have a huge lag and delay is not an option.

 

Soldiers have done their bit with lives; what are we doing for our India

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

All of us are grieved for our dead soldiers in Ladakh. That all of us want a retribution. That the government is literally closing doors on Chinese telecom equipment which enjoys one-fourth of Indian market. That the Confederation of All-India Traders (CAIT), claiming to represent 7 crore traders, has called for a boycott of Chinese products. That the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Foreign Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar have used the language the nation wanted to hear.

Most of us have also resolved to boycott Chinese goods. It’s also dawning on us though that it’s easier said than done. I mean our mobile phones run on parts supplied by China. Our consumer goods, electronics, toys, furnishings, textiles, luggage, watches, kitchen items, footwear and frozen food etc bear Chinese imprints. We are also heavily reliant on China in pharmaceuticals and automobile sectors. There are thousands—yes, THOUSANDS– of products we import from China. Our supply chains rely on China. Where do we start and where do we end?

If this is unnerving, you could forward the argument that the Chinese entrenchment in our system is creating millions of jobs in trade, kirana shops and logistics. That there is much ado about nothing since our exports matter only two per cent to overall China’s buying. That India’s loss would matter little to China which has economy five times ours size. Besides, how do I throw out my “Ganesha” and “agarbattis”?

This implies that we need a serious introspection. We want our government to hit China hard; we want our soldiers to spill their blood in inhospitable terrains; we appeal for funds to be raised for the martyrs’ families; we dominate hashtags on social media with our outrage but we don’t—or can’t—do anything else. We could urge boycott of China’s goods but please excuse us from doing it ourselves. There is one thing we want from the nation; quite literally the other we do in practice. We want our soldiers to make the ultimate sacrifice but won’t allow that little pinch in the pocket. Can a nation survive without the cost paid by its citizens?

The Confederation of All-India Traders say there are at least 3,000 Chinese products we could easily replace with our own. If you can’t put away your mobiles, make sure you aren’t buying out-and-out Chinese brands. In case of an IPhone or a Samsung, the profits go to those companies and not to component-makers in Shenzen. Besides, what does it take to delete at least Chinese apps from your mobile phones even if you swoon over tik-tok?

China is today only doing what superpowers have done all through since the Industrial Revolution. You loan out a huge amount to a poor or developing country on very generous terms and with a long window. When the debt becomes unpayable, you extract your pound of flesh in form of a nation’s resources.

That’s what China did with Sri Lanka who now has surrendered the critical Hambantota port which is such a critical military advantage to China overlooking India. It did the same to Djibouti which was forced to allow China a military base on its land. Angola is paying through its nose with crude oil on the debt it’s unable to service as per terms. Kenya is on the verge of defaulting on China’s loan extended for a railway link between Mombasa and Nairobi. It could soon be parting with its Port of Mombasa. South Africa is fearing a similar debt trap. There are endless such instances in Latin America, Europe, Asia and rest of Africa.

I am sure none of us want India to suffer a similar loss of sovereignty. That we want this trade disadvantage of $50 billion to be reduced to a nought.  That we are virtually funding China to hurt us. That if we could boycott the Chinese goods we could, it would reduce the trade imbalance by $13 billion in 2021.

Sure, we want Modi government to stand by us with tariff and non-tariff measures. That it must call out China which subsidizes its products, under-prices it, and makes our traders and manufacturers uncompetitive. Our government does—and could do more—to cushion our exporters. That self-reliance–Atmanirbhar—would create products, supply chains and jobs in due course. After all, in this Corona pandemic, we did manage with our supply chains and various local productions did come up.

Let’s not fool ourselves that Indo-China trade is beneficial only to us. It matters hugely to China. There are any number of investments it makes in India through the back channels of Hong Kong and vessel states. That’s why India has decided to screen direct foreign investments. That’s why India has chosen not to be a part of RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Corporation) which would have only rerouted China’s gains. That’s why India has refused to grant market tag to China as neither its’ banks nor pricing is independent of this Communist state. The Modi government is showing its spine: We need to show ours.