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The grand strategy of Xi Jinping

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China spent much of 2014 seeking to revive a concept that Japan proclaimed seven decades ago, when it was an imperial power seeking to impose its will on the region: “Asia for the Asians.” But that effort may not end as badly for China as it did for Japan.

International relations tend to become destabilised by rapid changes in the distribution of power. Established powers’ resistance to their rising counterparts’ demands for a larger role in setting the global agenda fuel tensions and disrupt the existing world order.

That is precisely what has been occurring lately between China and the US, and is the impetus for China’s “Asia for the Asians” policy. Last November, China shook the regional order by unilaterally declaring an Air-Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) over a large swathe of the East China Sea that includes disputed territory — notably the Senkaku Islands (known in Chinese as the Diaoyu Islands) that are claimed by China, Japan and Taiwan.

This amounted to an escalation of China’s already assertive stance in the region, with Chinese President Xi Jinping routinely sending maritime-surveillance and fishery law-enforcement ships to the waters surrounding the islands, spurring protests in South Korea and Japan. The US, prompted by its allies’ anger, dispatched two B-52 bombers into the ADIZ.

Tensions continued to mount through early 2014, raising concerns about an “accidental war” between China and Japan, which would demand the involvement of Japan’s main ally, the US (as President Barack Obama confirmed on a visit to Tokyo in April). Add to that simultaneous tensions over China’s claims to South China Sea islands and atolls — claims disputed by the Philippines and Vietnam — and a clash between China and the US was beginning to seem inevitable.

Before long, however, the US had to turn its attention to Russia, which under President Vladimir Putin’s leadership has been seeking to recapture the Cold War-era Soviet Union’s geopolitical status. With its regional authority apparently threatened by rising pro-European sentiment in Ukraine, Russia invaded and annexed Crimea and began supporting separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine, prompting the US and Europe to impose increasingly tough political and economic sanctions.

In this conflict, China has actually become something of a US ally. Though the conclusion of long-negotiated gas deals between Russia and China may seem to reflect a deepening of the bilateral relationship, China extracted an exceedingly low price from Russia for the gas that it will receive. This, together with the fact that China has cut lending to Russia since the Crimea invasion, suggests that, in the longer term, the Chinese envision Russia as a natural-resource vassal, not an equal ally.

Chinese and American policies converged even more clearly on North Korea in 2014. Xi expressed his unwillingness to tolerate any unruly behaviour — particularly concerning nuclear weapons — by the country’s unpredictable rulers. This drove the North, which depends on Chinese aid, to send diplomatic interlocutors to Japan, Russia, and even South Korea. But, following the United Nations General Assembly’s resolution on North Korea’s human-rights situation, the regime announced that it would hold its fourth nuclear test.

This year’s power shifts are a result less of Russia’s expansionist ambitions or China’s military and economic rise than of America’s declining international leadership. With Obama unwilling — or unable, due to rising political partisanship at home — to take the lead in addressing crises like those in Egypt, Libya, and Syria, challengers to American primacy took heart in 2014, and US allies took fright. Global power must be allocated somewhere; if the US would not fill its leading role on the international stage, an understudy would have to step in.

But China’s recent shift away from muscle-flexing and its confluence of interests with a US-led order offer hope that it will not continue to engender large-scale regional instability next year. Indeed, China withdrew its jumbo oil platform from the waters of the disputed Paracel Islands in July, and it has been sending surveillance ships to the Senkaku Islands less frequently. Chinese officials have also become more willing to discuss the creation of a code of conduct for the South China Sea.

The most important element of China’s charm offensive is its effort to improve relations with Japan, initiated at a meeting between Xi and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Beijing. The long-awaited climate deal that Xi struck with Obama at another peripheral meeting at the same event is no small step, either.

China’s new, more emollient diplomacy underpins a nuanced foreign policy. By offering generous economic incentives to its Southeast Asian neighbours, it has weakened their will to confront China in a coalition. Vietnam, for example, decided to “reset” its relations with China, and not to cooperate with the Philippines in waging a legal battle over China’s maritime claims.

Indeed, China has been shifting from hard power to soft throughout the region, and is using its economic power to challenge western-dominated multilateral institutions. Specifically, China has decided to pour huge amounts of money into establishing new development institutions: The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the Maritime Silk Road Bank, and the New Development Bank (created by the five major emerging economies, Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). Furthermore, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang recently offered $20 billion to finance infrastructure and development projects in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries.

With the US economy yet to recover fully from the global economic crisis, and American politics increasingly dysfunctional, there is a global power vacuum that China, with shrewd diplomacy and economic might, hopes to fill — beginning in Asia. This may not yet mean Asia for only the Asians; but it could mean a reduced regional role for the US — especially as America turns inward during the presidential election season that starts in 2015.

Source: Project Syndicate, 2014

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East Asia

Ladakh: Uneasy subsurface calm prevails

Amjed Jaaved

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On July 9, 2020, Chinese foreign-office  spokesperson Zhao Lijian, at the press conference indicated that disengagement of rival troops was taking place smoothly. He revealed, ` The overall situation at the China-India boundary is stable and ameliorating. The two sides will continue to maintain dialogue and communication through military and diplomatic channels, including holding a new round of commander-level talks and the meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on China-India Border Affairs. We hope India will work with China towards the same goal to implement consensus reached between the two sides with concrete actions and jointly de-escalate tensions in the border region’.

But it is significant to note that no joint statement was issued following Wang-Doval telephonic conversation that led to disengagement. The two countries issued separate statements. The Chinese statement omitted the word Line of Actual control. The Hindu  dated July 6, 2020 reported `No mention of LAC: China’s statement did not mention the LAC, let alone respecting it’.  

Be it noted that shortly after peace restoration statements, India’s defence minister announced that the Border Roads Organisation would continue its work unabated, as planned. The gory brawl between rival troops was instigated by the Indian infrastructural works close to overlapping Chinese territory. It appears bone of contention remains intact.

The post-Galwan Indian external-affairs ministry’s statement reflects that LAC and status quo shall be abided by. In the past also similar statements have been made by India. For instance, India’s external-affairs spokesman Anurag Srivastava said at press conference on June 25, 2020 `Respecting and strictly observing the Line of Actual Control is the basis for peace and tranquility in the border areas and explicitly recognized so in the 1993 and subsequent agreements. Indian troops are fully familiar with the alignment of the LAC in all sectors of the India-China border areas and abide scrupulously by it (The Hindu dated June 25, 2020).

China and India have divergent perceptions of the LAC. 

Who violated the LAC? It is India, not China that altered LAC by annexing Ladakh, a part of disputed Jammu and Kashmir State. Flanked by Pakistan’s prime minister, before a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, (April 28, 2019), China’s President Xi Jinping had stressed they opposed India’s “unilateral actions” in Kashmir and called for a dialogue (Indian express September 10, 2019).

Where does the LAC lie on India-China border? India-China border is divided into three sectors, where the LAC in the western sector falls in the union territory of Ladakh and is 1597 km long, the middle sector of 545 km length falls in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, and 1346 km long eastern sector falls in the states of Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. The middle sector is the least disputed sector, while the western sector witnesses the highest transgressions between the two sides.

How is the LAC different from the Line of Control with Pakistan? One could peek into Indian mind through books such as Shivshankar Menon’s Choices: Inside the Making of India’s Foreign Policy, Shyam Saran’s How India Sees the World,  and A G Noorani’s India-China Boundary Problem 1846-1947.

It is a common misperception that LAC is more sacrosanct than the LoC. For instance, India’s prestigious Indian Express explained `The LoC emerged from the 1948 ceasefire line negotiated by the UN after the Kashmir War. It was designated as the LoC in 1972, following the Shimla Agreement between the two countries. It is delineated on a map signed by DGMOs of both armies and has the international sanctity of a legal agreement. The LAC, in contrast, is only a concept – it is not agreed upon by the two countries, neither delineated on a map nor demarcated on the ground. 

The newspaper poses question `what was India’s response to China’s designation of the LAC?’. It then explains India rejected the concept of LAC in both 1959 and 1962. Even during the war, Nehru was unequivocal: “There is no sense or meaning in the Chinese offer to withdraw twenty kilometres from what they call ‘line of actual control… In July 1954, Nehru issued a directive that “all our old maps dealing with this frontier should be carefully examined and, where necessary, withdrawn. New maps should be printed showing our Northern and North Eastern frontier without any reference to any ‘line’. The new maps should also be sent to our embassies abroad and should be introduced to the public generally and be used in our schools, colleges, etc”. This map, as is officially used till date, formed the basis of dealings with China, eventually leading to the 1962 War’ (Indian Express, June 6, 2020, Line of Actual Control: Where it is located and where India and China differ).

There are genuine differences on border `perception’ that intermittently lead to face-offs. India considers the LAC to be 3,488 km long, while the Chinese consider it to be only around 2,000 km.

Shyam Saran discloses that the LAC was discussed during Chinese Premier Li Peng’s 1991 visit to India, where PM P V Narasimha Rao and Li reached an understanding to maintain peace and tranquillity at the LAC. India formally accepted the concept of the LAC when Rao paid a return visit to Beijing in 1993 and the two sides signed the Agreement to Maintain Peace and Tranquillity at the LAC.

The reference to the LAC was unqualified to make it clear that it was not referring to the LAC of 1959 or 1962 but to the LAC at the time when the agreement was signed. To reconcile the differences about some areas, the two countries agreed that the Joint Working Group on the border issue would take up the task of clarifying the alignment of the LAC.

Status Quo: Resolution of border disputes with China is intertwined with resolution of the Kashmir dispute. That is why China avoided mentioning the `LAC’. How could China settle boundary dispute with India when Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed state.

One may ask how China settled its boundary dispute with Pakistan. How come Pakistan gifted of part of disputed state’s territory to China (Aksai Chin)?

The factual position is that Pakistan ceded no territory to China. A. G. Noorani points out, `Two myths predominate: India’s two adversaries ganged together to cut a deal on the border and Pakistan gifted China with large chunks of territory. In truth, China was most reluctant to accept Pakistan’s proposal and responded only belatedly. It got no territory. Instead, it was Pakistan which secured from China 750 square miles of administered territory (A. G. Noorani, Facing the truth, JUNE 5, 2020, frontline, Print edition : October 06, 2006).

Aside from India’s atoot ang mantra (integral-part iteration), China and Pakistan regard Ladakh as part of the disputed Jammu and Kashmir State.

India does not respect any LAC/LOC or status quo: At heart, Nehru did not care a fig for the Sino-Indian LAC, India-Pakistan LOC, disputed state’s constituent assembly, UN’s resolutions about plebiscite, or the Indian parliament.

This truth is interspersed in Avtar Singh Bhasin’s 10-volume documentary study (2012) of India-Pakistan Relations 1947-2007.  It contains 3649 official documents, accessed from archives of India’s external-affairs ministry. Despite effort for over a year, Bhasin was denied access to coveted Nehru Papers. But, in 2014, Bhasin was able to get permission from India’s Department of Culture to access them.

These papers gave new perspectives on Nehru’s vacillating state of mind concerning the Kashmir dispute.

In his 2018 book (published after six years of his earlier work), India, Pakistan: Neighbours at Odds (Bloomsbury India, New Delhi, 2018), Bhasin discusses Nehru’s perfidy on Kashmir in Chapter 5 titled Kashmir, India’s Constitution and Nehru’s Vacillation(pages 51-64). The book is based on Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru and author’s own compendium of documents on India-Pak relations. Let us lay bare a few of Nehru’s somersaults.

Kashmir assembly’s `accession’ disowned, Security Council owned: Nehru banked on so-called Instrument of Accession and its authentication by `Constituent Assembly’. Nehru unmasked his brazen volte face in a letter dated October 31, 1947, addressed to the disputed state’s prime minister, on the fourth day of `signing’ of the mythical accession instrument by maharajha on October 26, 1947. It was `counter-signed’ by Lord Mountbatten on October 27, 1947.  The letter says `after consideration of the problem, we are inclined to think that it [plebiscite] should be held under United Nations’ auspices (p. 28 ibid.).

He reiterated in New Delhi on November3, 1951 that `we have made it perfectly clear before the Security Council that the Kashmir Constituent Assembly does not [insofar] as we are concerned come in the way of a decision by the Security Council, or the United Nations’(SWJ: Volume 4: page 292, Bhasin p.228). Again, at a press conference on June 11, 1951, he was asked `if the proposed constituent assembly of Kashmir “decides in favour of acceding to Pakistan, what will be the position?”’ he reiterated,  `We have made it perfectly clear that the Constituent Assembly of Kashmir was not meant to decide finally any such question , and it is not in the way of any decision which may ultimate flow from the Security Council proceedings’ (SWJ: Volume 15:, Part II, page 394. Bhasin page 56). He re-emphasised his view once again at a press conference in New Delhi on November 3, 1951. He said `we have made it perfectly clear before the Security Council that the Kashmir Constituent Assembly does not [insofar as] we are concerned come in the way of a decision by the Security Council or the United Nations’.

 Security Council disowned as just a non-binding mediator: Bhasin points out that `there was a perceptible shift in his [Nehru’s] stand on July 24 1952` about the future of the State _ if the decision of the Security Council was at variance with that of the Constituent Assembly’. Nehru said, `Unless the Security Council functioned under some other Sections of the Charter, it cannot take a decision which is binding upon us unless we agree to it. They are functioning as mediators and a mediator means getting people to agree (SWJ, Volume 19, page 241. Bhasin page 56).

Security Council re-owned: Bhasin points out (page 57 op. cit.) `At the same press conference on 24 July, 1952 when asked what the necessity of plebiscite was now that he had got the Constituent Assembly, he replied “Maybe theoretically you may be right. But we have given them an assurance and we stand by it (SWJ: Volume 19, pp. 240-241. Bhasin, p. 57).

If Kashmir is India’s integral part, what is the United Nations’ Military Observers’ Group on India Pakistan doing on LOC since January 24, 1949?  India is wary of their presence. It asked them to vacate their residence at 1/AB, Purana Qila Road, Connaught Place, Delhi – 11000; from where it has been functioning since 1949 (India asks UN team on Kashmir to leave Delhi, Reuters July 9, 2014). It even harassed `Three members of the United Nations Military Observers Mission for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) had a close call along the restive Line of Control (LoC) in Azad Jammu and Kashmir after Indian troops shot at and injured two locals who were briefing them on the situation prevailing in the wake of ceasefire violations’ (Indian troops fire across LoC in presence of UN observers, 2 injured, March 14, 2018).

Besides being a geographical dispute, Kashmir dispute has a human rights dimension. Even the Simla accord does not repeal UN resolutions and Kashmiris’ right to self-determination.

Inference: India does not own the LOC or LAC. It shrugs off UN resolutions or Simla Accord. Then will it abide by the LAC or status quo?

Buffer zone is a temporary measure to ward off conflict with China. A permanent solution lies in resolving the Kashmir dispute. Pending a final settlement, softening the borders in accordance with former Indian foreign secretary Jagat S. Mehta’s proposals appears to be need of the hour to mitigate suffering of the Kashmiri (Jagat S. Mehta, ‘Resolving Kashmir in the International Context in the 1990s‘, in Robert G. Wirsing, India, Pakistan and the Kashmir Dispute 1994, St Martin’s Press).

If a dispute re-flares up Aksai Chin, and by corollary status of the disputed J&K state, shall be internationalized.

If a broad solution is not hammered out, then, still, there are two solutions- a nuclear holocaust or, perhaps, divine intervention

Let India know that a state that flouts international treaties is a rogue state: pacta sunt servanda, treaties are to be observed and are binding on parties. Self-determination is not only a political but also a legal right in disputed lands. 

The post-Galwan Indian external-affairs ministry’s statement reflects that LAC and status quo shall be abided by. In the past also similar statements have been made. For instance, India’s external-affairs spokesman Anurag Srivastava said at press conference on June 25 `Respecting and strictly observing the Line of Actual Control is the basis for peace and tranquility in the border areas and explicitly recognized so in the 1993 and subsequent agreements. Indian troops are fully familiar with the alignment of the LAC in all sectors of the India-China border areas and abide scrupulously by it (The Hindu dated June 25, 2020).

China and India have divergent perceptions of the LAC.  The Hindu dated July 6, 2020 reported `No mention of LAC: China’s statement did not mention the LAC, let alone respecting it’.  

It is India, not China that altered LAC by annexing Ladakh, a part of disputed Jammu and Kashmir State. Flanked by Pakistan’s prime minister, before a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, (April 28, 2019), China’s President Xi Jinping had stressed they opposed India’s “unilateral actions” in Kashmir and called for a dialogue (Indian express September 10, 2019).

Where does the LAC lie on India-China border? India-China border is divided into three sectors, where the LAC in the western sector falls in the union territory of Ladakh and is 1597 km long, the middle sector of 545 km length falls in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, and 1346 km long eastern sector falls in the states of Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. The middle sector is the least disputed sector, while the western sector witnesses the highest transgressions between the two sides.

How is the LAC different from the Line of Control with Pakistan? One could peek into Indian mind through books such as Shivshankar Menon’s Choices: Inside the Making of India’s Foreign Policy, Shyam Saran’s How India Sees the World,  and A G Noorani’s India-China Boundary Problem 1846-1947.

It is a common misperception that LAC is more sacrosanct than the LoC. For instance, India’s prestigious Indian Express explained `The LoC emerged from the 1948 ceasefire line negotiated by the UN after the Kashmir War. It was designated as the LoC in 1972, following the Shimla Agreement between the two countries. It is delineated on a map signed by DGMOs of both armies and has the international sanctity of a legal agreement. The LAC, in contrast, is only a concept – it is not agreed upon by the two countries, neither delineated on a map nor demarcated on the ground. 

The newspaper poses question `what was India’s response to China’s designation of the LAC?’. It then explains India rejected the concept of LAC in both 1959 and 1962. Even during the war, Nehru was unequivocal: “There is no sense or meaning in the Chinese offer to withdraw twenty kilometres from what they call ‘line of actual control… In July 1954, Nehru issued a directive that “all our old maps dealing with this frontier should be carefully examined and, where necessary, withdrawn. New maps should be printed showing our Northern and North Eastern frontier without any reference to any ‘line’. The new maps should also be sent to our embassies abroad and should be introduced to the public generally and be used in our schools, colleges, etc”. This map, as is officially used till date, formed the basis of dealings with China, eventually leading to the 1962 War’ (Indian Express, June 6, 2020, Line of Actual Control: Where it is located and where India and China differ).

There are genuine differences on border `perception’ that intermittently lead to face-offs. India considers the LAC to be 3,488 km long, while the Chinese consider it to be only around 2,000 km.

Shyam Saran discloses that the LAC was discussed during Chinese Premier Li Peng’s 1991 visit to India, where PM P V Narasimha Rao and Li reached an understanding to maintain peace and tranquillity at the LAC. India formally accepted the concept of the LAC when Rao paid a return visit to Beijing in 1993 and the two sides signed the Agreement to Maintain Peace and Tranquillity at the LAC.

The reference to the LAC was unqualified to make it clear that it was not referring to the LAC of 1959 or 1962 but to the LAC at the time when the agreement was signed. To reconcile the differences about some areas, the two countries agreed that the Joint Working Group on the border issue would take up the task of clarifying the alignment of the LAC.

It appears India is short on fulfilling its promises, be they relate to LOC/LAC or plebiscite.

Status Quo: Resolution of border disputes with China is intertwined with resolution of the Kashmir dispute. Aside from India’s atoot ang mantra (integral-part iteration), China and Pakistan regard Ladakh as part of the disputed Jammu and Kashmir State.

Historical perfidy: at heart, Nehru did not care a fig for the LAC, or for the disputed state’s constituent assembly, Indian parliament or the UN. This truth is interspersed in Avtar Singh Bhasin’s 10-volume documentary study (2012) of India-Pakistan Relations 1947-2007.  It contains 3649 official documents, accessed from archives of India’s external-affairs ministry. Despite effort for over a year, Bhasin was denied access to coveted Nehru Papers. But, in 2014, Bhasin was able to get permission from India’s Department of Culture to access them.

These papers gave new perspectives on Nehru’s vacillating state of mind concerning the Kashmir dispute.

In his 2018 book (published after six years of his earlier work), India, Pakistan: Neighbours at Odds (Bloomsbury India, New Delhi, 2018), Bhasin discusses Nehru’s perfidy on Kashmir in Chapter 5 titled Kashmir, India’s Constitution and Nehru’s Vacillation(pages 51-64). The book is based on Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru and author’s own compendium of documents on India-Pak relations. Let us lay bare a few of Nehru’s somersaults.

Kashmir assembly’s `accession’ disowned, Security Council owned: Nehru banked on so-called Instrument of Accession and its authentication by `Constituent Assembly’. Nehru unmasked his brazen volte face in a letter dated October 31, 1947, addressed to the disputed state’s prime minister, on the fourth day of `signing’ of the mythical accession instrument by maharajha on October 26, 1947. It was `counter-signed’ by Lord Mountbatten on October 27, 1947.  The letter says `after consideration of the problem, we are inclined to think that it [plebiscite] should be held under United Nations’ auspices (p. 28 ibid.).

He reiterated in New Delhi on November3, 1951 that `we have made it perfectly clear before the Security Council that the Kashmir Constituent Assembly does not [insofar] as we are concerned come in the way of a decision by the Security Council, or the United Nations’(SWJ: Volume 4: page 292, Bhasin p.228). Again, at a press conference on June 11, 1951, he was asked `if the proposed constituent assembly of Kashmir “decides in favour of acceding to Pakistan, what will be the position?”’ he reiterated,  `We have made it perfectly clear that the Constituent Assembly of Kashmir was not meant to decide finally any such question , and it is not in the way of any decision which may ultimate flow from the Security Council proceedings’ (SWJ: Volume 15:, Part II, page 394. Bhasin page 56). He re-emphasised his view once again at a press conference in New Delhi on November 3, 1951. He said `we have made it perfectly clear before the Security Council that the Kashmir Constituent Assembly does not [insofar as] we are concerned come in the way of a decision by the Security Council or the United Nations’.

 Security Council disowned as just a non-binding mediator: Bhasin points out that `there was a perceptible shift in his [Nehru’s] stand on July 24 1952` about the future of the State _ if the decision of the Security Council was at variance with that of the Constituent Assembly’. Nehru said, `Unless the Security Council functioned under some other Sections of the Charter, it cannot take a decision which is binding upon us unless we agree to it. They are functioning as mediators and a mediator means getting people to agree (SWJ, Volume 19, page 241. Bhasin page 56).

Security Council re-owned: Bhasin points out (page 57 op. cit.) `At the same press conference on 24 July, 1952 when asked what the necessity of plebiscite was now that he had got the Constituent Assembly, he replied “Maybe theoretically you may be right. But we have given them an assurance and we stand by it (SWJ: Volume 19, pp. 240-241. Bhasin, p. 57).

If Kashmir is India’s integral part, what is the United Nations’ Military Observers’ Group on India Pakistan doing on LOC since January 24, 1949?  India is wary of their presence. It asked them to vacate their residence at 1/AB, Purana Qila Road, Connaught Place, Delhi – 11000; from where it has been functioning since 1949 (India asks UN team on Kashmir to leave Delhi, Reuters July 9, 2014). It even harassed `Three members of the United Nations Military Observers Mission for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) had a close call along the restive Line of Control (LoC) in Azad Jammu and Kashmir after Indian troops shot at and injured two locals who were briefing them on the situation prevailing in the wake of ceasefire violations’ (Indian troops fire across LoC in presence of UN observers, 2 injured, March 14, 2018).

Besides being a geographical dispute, Kashmir dispute has a human rights dimension. Even the Simla accord does not repeal UN resolutions and Kashmiris’ right to self-determination.

Inference: India does not own the LOC or LAC. It shrugs off UN resolutions or Simla Accord. Then will it abide by the LAC or status quo?

Buffer zone is a temporary measure to ward off conflict with China. A permanent solution lies in resolving the Kashmir dispute. Pending a final settlement, softening the borders a la Mehta appears to be need of the hour to mitigate suffering of the Kashmiri (Jagat S. Mehta was former Indian foreign secretary).

If a dispute re-flares up Aksai Chin, and by corollary status of the disputed J&K state, shall be internationalized. Contrary to common misconception Pakistan has settled its boundary dispute with China. Aksai Chin was already under China’s control. Pakistan did not cede any territory but instead received gift of 750 square kilometers from China (A. G. Noorani, Facing the truth, Frontline October 06, 2006).

If a broad solution is not hammered out, then, still, there are two solutions- a nuclear holocaust or, perhaps, divine intervention

Let India know that a state that flouts international treaties is a rogue state: pacta sunt servanda, treaties are to be observed and are binding on parties. Self-determination is not only a political but also a legal right in disputed lands.

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Reducing Dependence on China

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Ties between UK-China have witnessed a steady deterioration ever since the outbreak of covid19. UK like many other countries has been seriously working towards reducing its dependence upon China, for imports of essential commodities, as well as Chinese technology (UK’s intelligence agencies, MI5 and MI6 had warned the Boris Johnson administration, that UK needs a serious rethink vis-à-vis China in the context of economic ties, and needs to be especially watchful with regard to Chinese investments in sensitive sectors) .

 The Boris Johnson administration is laying emphasis on shifting pharmaceutical production to UK, and focusing on reducing its dependence on China, not just for medical supplies, but for all other essential commodities. An initiative codenamed ‘Project Defend’ will focus on the above tasks.

UK’s proposal for a D10 and its efforts to strengthen ties with countries in the Asia Pacific region

In May 2020, UK had also proposed a group of democracies D10 (G7+ South Korea, India and Australia) to work jointly for developing alternatives to Chinese technologies – especially Huawei’s 5G network.

It would be pertinent to point out, that UK has also hardened its stance vis-à-vis Huawei, while in January 2020, UK had given a go ahead to Huawei’s participation in its 5G network — with security restrictions a market cap in January 2020 — post the pandemic it had stated, that it will reduce participation of Huawei to zero by 2023,. More recently, Boris Johnson stated that Huawei will be viewed as a ‘hostile state vendor’ (after tensions between both countries over China’s decision to impose the national security law in Hong Kong).

Given the changing geo-political and economic environment, in the aftermath of the pandemic, Britain which is focusing on strengthening ties with the Asia-Pacific region is also likely to sign an Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Japan to bolster bilateral economic ties, and to become part of the 11 member CPTPP (Comprehensive Progressive Agreement for Trans Pacific Partnership).  If Britain were to join the grouping, CPTPP’s global share of GDP would be an impressive 16%. Both these steps will enable Britain to be less dependent upon China.

Further deterioration of ties between China and Britain

In the aftermath of the covid19 epidemic, ties between London and Beijing had already soured. China’s decision to impose the national security law in Hong Kong, which according to Britain is a violation of the Sino-British joint declaration signed in 1984 (which guaranteed Hong Kong’s sovereignty through its unequivocal thrust on a ‘one country two systems’ agreement) has exacerbated tensions between Britain and China.

 Hong Kong is governed by a mini-constitution titled ‘Basic Law’ which apart from the thrust on the ‘one country two systems’ principle, also upholds Hong Kong’s ‘liberal policies,  system of governance, independent judiciary, and individual freedoms for a period of 50 years from 1997’. Britain has argued, that the imposition of the National Security Law is in violation of the above principles.

The British government has announced, that it will offer 3 million residents of Hong Kong (much to the chagrin of China) the option to come to the UK for a period of 5 years.  3,50,000 British passport holders and 2.6 million others who are eligible will be provided this option.

China’s reaction

 China’s Ambassador in UK, Liu Xiaoming warned that UK’s offer of citizenship to Hong Kong residents, and a boycott of Huawei’s 5G network would significantly dent the bilateral relationship. He went to the extent of stating, that Britain should avoid treating China as an enemy. Britain and China share close economic ties, and Chinese students are the largest group within international students pursuing higher education in the UK. It would be pertinent to point out, that China has taken strong economic measures vis-à-vis Australia, due to Canberra’s demand for an inquiry into the origins of covid19, and it remains to be seen if it will take similar steps vis-à-vis Britain.

Conclusion

With the US, Australia, Britain, Canada and India adopting a strong posture vis-à-vis Beijing, China is certainly on the backfoot . The tone of publications like the Global Times, a mouthpiece of the Chinese government, clearly indicates, that China is carefully watching policy measures being taken by countries in Europe and Asia to reduce economic dependence on China in the aftermath of covid19. Beijing has also got unsettled by the resistance to its hegemonic designs and aggressive actions by not just the US, but Britain as well.

What is also evident is that Britain is seeking to revive its importance in the geo-political context by strengthening economic ties with Asia Pacific countries, and promoting groupings like D10. Britain’s firm stance vis-à-vis China after the imposition of the National Security Law in Hong Kong has also reiterated the point that in the aftermath of covid19, it is unlikely to kowtow to China in spite of close economic linkages.

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India and China in the clash for Ladakh

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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On June 15, 2020 the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)shot some Indian soldiers dead – approximately 20 – in Galwan, a valley and a river of the Ladakh region.

 The territorial issue in that region is still very difficult to settle: the 1993 Line of Actual Control (LAC) has included 60 square kilometres of ancient Indian territory into the China-controlled area. The control of the DSDBO – Darbuk, Shyak, Daulat Beg and Oldi, the 225 kilometre road that connects the Ladakh region and the Galwan Valley with the outside world – is still to be defined.

For India, in the north of Ladakh, there is also the possibility of a simultaneous war on two fronts, with Pakistan in the Siachen glacier and with China in the rest of the North.

 China has also shown it is not interested in five different peace agreements – in 1993, 1996, 2005, 2012 and 2013 – defined as early as the 1962 war between India and China.

 The “forgotten conflict” that John Fitzgerald Kennedy did not use in the global confrontation with Communism, later choosing – and ill became of it – the confrontation with the Vietminh in South Vietnam.

In 1993 China asked India to stop the extension of the DSDBO and also the return of the Indian troops into the northern area of Ladakh. India, however, is blocked by considerable internal terrorism and by the strong tensions in Jammu-e-Kashmir, as well as by the traditional policy of opposition to Pakistan and finally, by the new maritime trends in the South and the ever more difficult coexistence between Hindus and Islamists.

 Certainly, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) can fight three modern wars simultaneously: the cyber-warfare, the space and finally the electromagnetic wars.

 In conventional terms, China can currently fight a limited regional war and a larger global war, again simultaneously.

Hence what does China really want from India? Firstly, hands free on a border, like Ladakh’s, which is vital to the already started New Silk Road.

 Many Indian leaders have long been asking China to make the BRI corridor cross Kunming in Southwest China up to the port of Kolkata, where it could reconnect to the maritime “Silk Road” through the Bay of Bengal.

 Or China and its Silk Road could enter Uttakharand, via Kailash Manasarovar in Tibet to later reach the port of Mumbai. This is one of the real issues of contention.

Hence China, with its BRI, should not cross the valleys of Kashmir, but the Indian areas.

 India has also quickly pulled out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the large free trade area established in 2012. An implicit favour to China.

Hence what does China really want? Firstly, to use the Ladakh region and Kashmir as bases and criteria to control Tibet.

 The area below, where the Indian army is stationed, south of the Brahmaputra river, is still an easy target for the Chinese missile launches.

 If we consider the Chinese troops in Ladakh and those already present in the Tibetan autonomous region, currently the People’s Liberation Army is actually master of the scene.

However, if the Indian President, Narendra Modi, shows clear signs of India’s realignment on the U.S. strategy in the region, its strategic closure to the North will become inextricable. And very dangerous, not for a war, but for the strategic and geo-economic effects of the closure in the North.

 The Indian troops on the Ladakh border, however, are not a target for China.

 Apart from the Galwan Valley, China is ready to negotiate hard on everything else.

 This means that China wants full security of the lines around the Tibetan Autonomous Territory and the discontinuity-control of the Pakistani forces on the Indian-Chinese border, as well as the maximum mobility of its forces, and finally the guarantee that there will be no military dangers hosted on the Indian territory.

 Jihadist dangers or not. Therefore, China does not need to wage war on India insofar as it can force the Indian government to do what China wants.

 China also wants to reaffirm mutual neutrality between China and India, while it thinks that Narendra Modi has above all nationalistic aims in the Himalayan region and in the arc of the Three Borders.

 Moreover, China did not like the strengthening of relations between India and Australia, as well as the Indian repeal of Article 370 of the Jammu-e-Kashmir Statute, i.e. the “special administrative status” of the Indian State with a Muslim majority.

This has led to the creation of the Union Territory of Ladakh in the Indian legal system. Currently some Chinese maps already draw the territory of Aksai Chin – where China, India and Pakistan meet – with borders that, according to China, show that India is expanding illegally.

 In essence, Modi’s India has chosen on which side to stand in the next andin any case – already started “cold war”. The U.S. side and the side of strategic contrast with China.

 The Sino-Indian territorial tension currently stretches from Lake Pangong and the Galwan River valley, as well as from the Gogra region, to Naku La in Sikkim.

 Neither side, however, recognizes the extent of their respective claims in the LAC area and around Lake Pangong.

The Chinese soldiers in the region come from the 362nd Border Regiment and are quartered in Fort Khurnak, north of Lake Pangong and Lake Spanggur.

Moreover, there is a Chinese base in Gongra and a squadron of boats on Lake Pagong.

Approximately 600+1500 units. To the northwest, there are other Chinese troops from the 6th Mechanized Division.

 The base is in the Taklamakan Desert, but they are mainly reserves from Xinjiang.

An important Chinese strategic goal is to avoid porosity of a border that directly affects Xinjiang.

Therefore, for the Indian Leader, Narendra Modi, there are two choices to make, an economic and a strategic one: to launch India as a global competitor of China, by absorbing the many future “third” processing activities- hence an active control of borders and a regional war even with China becomes rational – or India could join China via the “New Silk Road” and the Sino-centred globalization.

 It is a choice still in fieri, despite the old talk about Chindia a few years ago.

 In terms of economic and trade wars, the issue becomes even more complex.

In the first quarter of 2020 the People’s Republic of China recorded a GDP of 20.65 trillion yuan, equivalent to 2.91 trillion U.S. dollars.

A 6.9% reduction compared to the GDP of the previous year. A significant reduction, but certainly lower than in many Western countries.

 China’s imports fell by 8.5%. A situation that does not enable anyone to start a war, not even a regional or local war.

 In the first half of 2019 alone, China’s tariff war with the United States cost as much as 35 billion to China.

 For China, fighting with India would mean losing 74.72 billion dollars from the rich and wide Indian market.

 Pakistan, a sure ally of China, is in the midst of an economic crisis and cannot afford a war. Therefore, only the tiny Nepal remains, on which you cannot certainly rely for a “long lasting war”.

 On a strictly military level, China is far more efficient than India.

 104 Chinese missiles could hit every part of the Indian territory.

 12 DF-21s missiles are targeting New Delhi directly. The DF-31s missiles are deployed in Beidao, Gansu Province. Some DF 21 and 31 missiles are deployed in Xining, while other DF-21 ones are deployed in Korla, Xinjiang and others in Yunnan.

 For India, ten “Agni” missiles can reach the entire Chinese territory.

Eight additional Agni II missiles can reach the centre of China. But there are 51 aircrafts – the real key to India’s nuclear defence – that can fly over targets in Chinese territory.

 But, above all, Tibetan and Xinjiang targets.

 Only the Indian missions in Tibet could exploit a strategic surprise effect. In other regions the Mirage 2000, Jaguar IS and F-35s missiles would not be particularly successful, considering the level of Chinese anti-aircraft fire.

Currently the Indian forces available for a clash with China in the North are approximately 225,000.

 This also includes the T-72 tank base in Ladakh and a series of Bramhos cruise missiles, stationed in Arunachal Pradesh.

 The three Indian Armed Forces commands that oppose the respective three Chinese commands have 270 aircrafts and other equipment at their disposal.

 China also have high altitude air bases in Tibet, Xinjiang and the Northern Ladakh region.

 This means that the Chinese aircrafts have to leave with only part of their cargo.

Hence the Chinese decision-makers immediately think of a missile attack on Indian positions, without an initial air “passage”.

Obviously it must also be noted that India is strongly opposed to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which crosses Kashmir and the Gilgit-Baltistan area, a project that India has tried to stop with the U.S. help.

On the other side, India has built a lot of infrastructure in its part of Kashmir.

As already noted, there was the economic closure of India, a real gift for China.

Meanwhile, India has asked Russia to quickly send the S-400 and Sukhoi SU 30 MKI missiles quickly, but Russia has no interest in mediating between China and India.

In the background there is also a hardening of bilateral relations between Russia and China, which could leave room for manoeuvre to Russia, not for mediation between the two countries, but for rebuilding the old link between the USSR and India, which was also one of the reasons for tension between Maoist China and Soviet Russia.

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