(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.
(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.
(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.
(A reprint from NewsBred).
India is shouting from the rooftop it has made no transgressions across its eastern borders in neighbouring Nepal but it has made no difference to latter whose prime minister KP Oli has joined his citizens who hit the streets in protest last week.
Nepal’s bitter political rivals, Nepal Communist Party and Nepali Congress, are united in anger and so are the students on the streets who are convinced India has swallowed the long-disputed Kalapani area in its latest map which it released in the wake of reconfiguration of Jammu & Kashmir state early this month.
India, meanwhile, has stressed it’s the same map and same boundaries it has depicted all along for over half a century now, including the other disputed territory of Susta in Nepal’s south which for the time being doesn’t get Nepal’s hackles up.
Blame it on geography’s changing moods and the toxicity of colonialism that India finds itself enmeshed in border disputes with not just Nepal but many others in its neighbourhood, including China.
Kalapani, and Susta are territories around Kali and Gandak rivers. After the Anglo-Gurkha War (1814-1816), Nepal and East India Company signed a treaty in March 1816. The two rivers drew the arbitrary borders between these two long-disputed sites. Territories right of Gandak river, including Susta, belonged to Nepal; those on the left were with India. Since then Gandak river has changed course: Now Susta is on the left of Gandak river and hence with India. As for Kalapani, British kept changing the source of Kali river which has led to rival claims of today.
China: Talks after talks
India’s border disputes with China are one of the most protracted ones in the world. Since the first border talks began in 1981 to the latest, the 22nd round, which is due later this year, solutions have eluded the two Asian giants who fight the legacy of British colonialism and are afraid to upset the domestic audience in a give-and-take eventuality.
The two countries share a 3,488-km long unresolved border but two, the Western and Eastern ones, are particularly contentious. China controls 37,000-square km sized Aksai Chin in the West, a virtually uninhabited high-altitude desert; India 84,000 square km-wide populated Arunachal Pradesh in the East. The two fought for a month in 1962 but since a peace deal was struck in 1993, dialogues have been preferred over violence.
Yet, no solution is in sight. Along vast stretches of the borders between the two, there is no mutually agreed Line of Actual Control (LAC). India follows the Johnson Line in the Western sector, proposed by the British in the 1860s, which allocates Aksai Chin to them. China asserts it never agreed to the Johnson Line and thus Aksai Chin is its own. Aksai Chin is between volatile Kashmir and China’s Xinjiang province which are seen troublesome to the two nations. Then there is MacMahon Line in Eastern sector, initiated in 1913-14 between China, India and Tibet which is disputed.
Fortunately, pragmatism has brought about Border Defence Cooperation Agreement between the two Asian giants. Soldiers patrol their territory but back off when brought face-to-face with each other. Quite often military commanders at the border share a bonhomie, exchange views and sort out local issues.
Pakistan: An intractable issue
The border dispute between India and Pakistan concern Kashmir and are on since their independence in 1947. Pakistan launched a tribal militia in Kashmir on independence and the ruler of Kashmir, Maharja Hari Singh, sought India’s assistance which put a condition on Kashmir first acceding to India. Having duly secured the accession, India airlifted its troops to Srinagar and by the time cease-fire was secured after a year, India controlled two-thirds of the Kashmir while the remaining one-third was possessed by Pakistan. The status-quo has prevailed despite three wars and as many peace agreements (Tashkent, Simla, Lahore) between the two neighbours.
Bangladesh: All quiet at borders
India and East Pakistan (later Bangladesh) became free from the British empire in 1947 but the two retained thousands of citizens in hundreds of enclaves in each other’s territory. These enclave dwellers lived without any rights or papers, virtually stateless and lacking basics in education, health and security. All this changed for the good when the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi signed a historic pact with his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina in 2015. It allowed these thousands of stateless people an opportunity to choose either of the two countries as their own. Land was also swapped between the two nations. The border dispute between the two is settled for good.
Similarly, India had a small dispute with Sri Lanka over an uninhabited 235-acre island, Katchatheevu, which was satisfactorily solved after India formally gifted it to Sri Lanka in the 70s. India has extremely minor border issues with Myanmar and practically none with Bhutan.
The curse of colonialism has left India with border issues which are non-existent, say in a majority of Europe or even between United States and Canada even though the demarcating line between the two countries is a straight one. With strong governments in place, India and China could settle the mutual issues to a great deal. The one with Pakistan though is another matter.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Every anniversary of Emergency in India (June 25, 1975) and worn-out clichés on muzzling media, despotic Indira, state repression and the complicity of judiciary begin to do rounds. Now a senior journalist Arun Anand has done a piece in Indian Express edits which deserves everyone’s attention.
Two takeaways from Anand’s piece would bring a silent chuckle on the faces of millions who are relentlessly resisting and overthrowing the Tukde-Tukde gang inch-by-inch in the last half-a-dozen years. Those on the other side of the divide, the Congress-Left-Sickular “ecosystem”, would surely be squirming in discomfort.
Anand quotes from an article, “The Empress Reigns Supreme”, published in August 1976 in The Guardian: “…Pro-CPI (Communist Party of India) journals in India are being given some latitude by the censors because the party is in favour of even stronger measures to suppress the non-communist opposition.” Communist leader Sitaram Yechury, a savvy Twitterati who short of blaming BJP for everything but cataract in his eye, surely deserves a forward of this piece. A reaction from him though is a long shot.
The same article goes on to state that the Indira government was pressurizing King Birendra of Nepal to hand over some of the RSS members who were running the underground movement against the Emergency from Nepal. The article, quoting a source, said: “…Kathmandu will never hand over to the Indian government members of the RSS, banned by the Gandhi regime shortly after the promulgation of Emergency.” So please be easy on Rahul Gandhi, the RSSphobia is in his genes.
The article has some interesting anecdotes on the fate of foreign journalists present in India when the Emergency was declared. Anand informs us that the correspondent from The Washington Post was expelled from India within four days of the draconian imposition. The correspondents from The Times (London), Daily Telegraph, Newsweek and Far Eastern Economic Review didn’t budge and hence had to leave the Indian shores. They fell foul of the “Press Censorship Guidelines” issued by Information & Broadcasting ministry, headed by Vidya Charan Shukla. The BBC had to shut its office in 1975. Accreditations of many foreign journalists were cancelled. One, KR Sundar Rajan, was even detained under the draconian Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA).
Christopher Sweeney, a correspondent for The Guardian and The Economist, gave an account of his ordeal thus:
“…I came under obvious suspicion within days of my arrival in the country…after arranging meetings by telephone, odd characters would turn up to observe who I was seeing each morning, others would be waiting in red sarees in the entrance of the Delphi hotel. People I spoke to openly would be later stopped and questioned. At least twice my hotel room was broken into and searched…
“When I complained of the continued harassment by the Government agents and asked Mr Haksar (A.N.D Haskar was the chief government spokesperson) to explain why it had been necessary to organize breakings to my hotel rooms, he replied that unless I left the country as soon as possible, there ‘would be a further prospect of physical inconvenience’.”
Don’t you now sympathize with Lutyens Media who dug themselves deep under the soil to avoid the searchlight of The Emergency? I mean poor guys what could they have done but wag their tails? Don’t you have decency to shame them now, 40-odd years hence, for the sins of their predecessors? Isn’t there a mountain of material to shame them on their own sins?
Anand is matter-of-fact on the Emergency but unwittingly he has held forth a mirror, be it on Congress, Left or Indian media—the order of the “ecosystem” is more or less same to our day. The only difference is unlike today, the foreign press of those days was singing paeans in praise of RSS.
Sample a piece titled “Yes, there is n underground” published in The Economist:
“The shock troops of the (underground) movement largely come from Jana Sangh and its ideological affiliate, the RSS, which claim a combined membership of 10 million (of whom 80,000 including 6,000 full-time party workers are in prison).”
So, the Communists supported the Emergency and RSS resisted it tooth and nail. Delicious, isn’t it.
Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru (the title of Pandit is a little incongruous for a sworn secularist) passed away on this day (May 27), 54 years ago in 1964. His larger than life image though has only lately begun to be put in perspective. A lot of it has to do with social media for it loosened the grip of mainstream media and academics in controlling the narrative, hiding the ugly and sprucing up the good.
This revisit on Nehru’s early years, his rise in Congress echelon, manipulation at the time of independence to PM’s seat, his shaping of Hindu Civil Code etc are now being fiercely ripped out in open. I would presently concentrate on two of his actions which have put India’s eastern and western borders in permanent strife. I am of course referring to Pt. Nehru’s conduct during the incursion of Pakistani raiders in Kashmir in 1947; and the disastrous China War of 1962.
Pak Raiders in Kashmir in 1947
Within a month of India’s independence, Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir offered his state’s accession to India in September 1947. Nehru refused for his “blood brother” Sheikh Abdullah was in jail. It was thus a deadlock. By next month, Pakistan’s raiders from North West Frontier Province had penetrated up till the outskirts of Srinagar, looting, pillaging, killing and raping along the way. On October 26, Hari Singh had agreed to sign the Instrument of Accession to Indian Union.
On the same day, Lord Mountbatten, the governor general, called an urgent meeting in Delhi. Nehru was his typical ambivalent self. Sardar Patel, the home minister, lost his cool. Sam Manekshaw, then an army colonel, was to later recall: “As usual Nehru talked about the United Nations, Russia, Africa, God Almighty, everybody, until Sardar Patel lost his temper. He said `Jawaharlal, do you want Kashmir or do you want to give it away?’.” Nehru was thus pinned into taking an action and thanks to Sardar Patel, troops were flown to Srinagar and the airport, the only link with New Delhi, was saved.
In just a few weeks, in December 1947, Nehru had committed his grave blunder for which successive generations of India are still paying the price. He referred the matter to United Nations—there was no need for Kashmir was literally India’s “internal matter” since Maharaja Hari Singh had already acceded the state to Indian Union.
Why did Nehru go to United Nations? There are two explanations forwarded: one, he wanted Sardar Patel out of Kashmir for the latter fed up by Nehru’s antics had offered to resign just a few days before in December 1947; two, Nehru walked into a trap laid by Mountbatten who wanted UN to mediate.
(The truth is, India didn’t need Mountbatten as its Governor General. Pakistan never considered a similar option for itself. Mountbatten then maneuvered himself as head of India’s defence council).
Nehru then approached United Nations for arbitration. In the first few months of 1948, the folly had begun to hit Nehru in the face. The British stance in front of UN was completely opposite to what Mountbatten had led Nehru to believe. The Indian complaint was ignored; instead UN Security Council began adopting anti-India resolutions.
The cat was out of the bag. Despite India’s protestations, Pakistan was firmly in control of “Azad Kashmir.” India had to lose Gilgit-Baltistan region. UN and its plans for a plebiscite went kaput. India’s next generations had been condemned with the festering wound of Kashmir. Terrorism and internal security, if not secession, are everyday issues emanating from the Valley.
India’s China War of 1962
This refers to India’s political and military humiliation at the hands of China during the 1962 War. The impression successfully perpetuated all these years is that it was all China’s aggression which didn’t respond to Nehru’s brotherly overtures. The truth is more nuanced.
Britain didn’t leave India with any boundaries. India were left to settle matters with Pakistan, Nepal and China. While the first two nations didn’t cause any problem, China was a different matter altogether. They were not prepared to let Nehru get away with his “forward policy” of aggression.
India inherited the McMahon line on its eastern border with China which British had created in mid-1930s by seizing the Tibetan territory, renaming it NEFA. The Chinese government’s plea for renegotiation was turned down by Nehru who latched on to London’s fake claim of Simla Conference (1945), legitimatizing the McMahon Line. Nehru topped it with his fake claim on Aksai Chin—a claim which even the British hadn’t made on a territory China had termed its own for over a hundred years.
Then on its Western (Ladakh) border, Nehru’s “forward policy” in September 1962 tried to force the Chinese out of territory it claimed as its own. Nehru announced on October 11 that the army had been ordered to “free our territory.” That’s how the war began with China reacting to the situation.
China fought the 1962 war while in the throes of economic hardship. It’s forces were hardly elite, mostly comprising regiments of local military. Their equipment and logistics were poor. Yet they overpowered the Indians. In that short war of two weeks—China called for a unilateral ceasefire as quickly as it had gained ground—India lost 1383 of its soldiers; 1047 were wounded, 1696 were missing.
Our only clue to 1962 China War is a book by Australian journalist Neville Maxwell: India’s China War. He could pen it down by accessing the Henderson (Brooks)—(Premindra Singh) Bhagat report which had been commissioned in the wake of 1962 War disaster. Even Maxwell could copy only a part of the report which the Indian government had classified as “top secret.”
It’s been over a half century yet the Henderson-Bhagat report as well as various correspondences of Nehru are out of reach—being treated as “private property’ of Nehru Library, a private trust. The papers of India’s first prime minister belongs to his family and not to the state!!! The classified secret clause of “30 years” is long over yet the report isn’t being made public.
That’s how truth in this country is treated. Everyone tries to muzzle changes in school text books and academia in light of new findings so that their narrative remains perpetuated. Doesn’t the history of this country deserve a revision when important annals of this country are being kept locked in the form of documents inside safety vaults?
The Indo-US agreement on sharing military logistics to counter China’s assertiveness in Indian Ocean could have wider ramifications. The two can use each other’s land, air and naval bases for supplies and repair. A piece on the essentials of this conflict:
India and China have been engaged in a Cold War since the beginning of 2015.
New Delhi feels a certain hegemony over Indian Ocean. China, which views it as vital to its survival as a trade route, won’t let it happen. The trade deficit between the two doesn’t help the cause. Both are wary of each other. It’s a real bad news for the future of BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)—much to the delight of western powers.
India has made a few moves in recent past which shows its anxiety. Modi visited Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka in March last year but ignored China-friendly Maldives as an apparent snub. Also a conference of “Indian Ocean: Renewing the Maritime Trade and Civilisational Linkages” was held in Bhubaneswar. India wants its own Cotton Route to challenge China’s New Silk Road. The Grand Prize of East Africa doesn’t lessen their friction.
China has its own “String of Pearls” strategy. The Gwadar port in Pakistan; naval bases in Myanmar, intelligence facility in Bay of Bengal, a canal-in-construct across the Kra Isthmus in Thailand, a military tie-up with Cambodia and building military bases in the South China Sea. The “String of Pearls” is meant to secure the sea lanes from the Middle East to the South China Sea for its energy and security concerns.
With the Strait of Malacca enabling almost 80 percent of passage to China’s energy needs, it has looked to build its naval power at choke points along the sea routes from the Persian Gulf to the South China Sea.
A look at the two Asian powers’ position vis-à-vis critical nations/islands strewn across the Indian Ocean:
This Southeast Asian state was close to China for two decades. But in 2012, it began a “pro-democratization” process—most likely under US pressure—and is now seen close to India. The two together plan to extend Myanmar-Thailand Highway into a trilateral deal.
India’s “Cotton Road” strategy is meant to counter China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) plan. India wishes to integrate with its ASEAN counterparts and block china from dominating these states.
In a surprise result last year, the pro-China leadership in Sri Lanka, under Rajapksa was ousted and pro-India Sirisena came to power. The first thing Sirisena did was to suspend China’s $1.4 billion investment in port infrastructure.
With Sri Lanka back under India’s influence, for the moment, the link between Maldives and Myanmar for China has been “cut,” so to speak.
Pakistan has decisively moved into China’s arms and there’s no going back on it. The $46 billion Pakistan-China Economic Corridor is well and truly underway. From an Indian perspective, it’s a bad news.
In order to counter China-Pakistan alliance, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi went to Bangladesh and paved way for resolving the 40-year old border disagreement. It can also have a vital impact on India’s control of its northeast region. India can also now directly use Bangladesh’s ports, instead of relying on vulnerable Siliguri Corridor. Till Modi visited Bangladesh, the latter had been cuddling up to China.
Nepal has been a clear loss to India. New Delhi reacted badly to Nepal’s new federative constitution, as did the pro-India Madhesi ethnic group that occupies the Terai border. Subsequent riots and Indian trucks refusing to cross the border into Nepal worsened the situation. Kathmandu sees the hand of New Delhi in this unrest.
China moved in swiftly, providing 1.3 million litres of petrol and signing a deal to fill in Nepal’s demand in the face of India’s monopoly. In one swift action, Nepal has pivoted itself on China’s axis. China surely eyes the control of strategic Karnali and Koshi rivers that sustains 200 million Indians who live at the southern border.
The ouster of former head Nauseed and his Maldivian Democratic Party is a big blow to India’s plans for this little island nation. The current president Yameen is well-disposed towards China which gives it a proxy control on this island chain. There have been multiple attempts on Yameen’s life and India has found itself drawn into the scandal.