Indian government has been, for quite some time, since the protests began in Kashmir, trying hard to put an end to the crisis and give a message to world that everything is “normal” in Kashmir. Having burnt its fingers India would now feel better that the JK government, now controlled jointly by the strange bed fellows BJP and PDP, has lifted the perpetual curfew in Kashmir at least temporally, letting Kashmiris breathe freely..
The curfew, which was imposed in the Valley for the last 79 days, was lifted from all parts of Kashmir on September 25 but restrictions on an assembly of people remained in force in most areas as a precautionary measure. Yes, busy markets, traffic jams and crowds area back in Kashmir after so many days of unrest. However, off and on curfews re-imposed and relifted in some areas.
Kashmir today is essentially a police and garrison state where military misuses its extra powers to kick the Kashmiris, While Indian media in general dutifully supports all military crimes in Kashmir, media in Kashmir does not function as the vanguard of the democracy but not essentially in Kashmir where everything is decided by the New Delhi. India has always behaved as a military hegemon in Kashmir but presented itself in the image of victim. is one of essential survival tactics in the conflict zone like Kashmir. What has not been vindicated in Kashmir under the camouflage of ‘national interests and threat to security of India’ by the Indian media be it fake encounters, rapes innocent murders and virtually everything from sky to earth.
Media reporting and analyses make Muslims in Kashmir the problem. Media barons don’t dare to show the reality and true picture for it is sure to strike the sympathetic chord with the Kashmiri people. The role of Indian media in Kashmir is to defend the status quo. Indian media is seemingly independent but essentially extended arm of Indian state as it is being bankrolled by the political economy of subsidies of state and huge government advertisements industry. Therefore it is essential to dance on the tunes of government if the media barons wish to survive, as largesse’s can be shifted if loyalties are subverted and diverted.
State killing and other forms of atrocities in Muslim dominated Kashmir valley are so common that Kashmiris have taken it their fate to to be ready t get killed by Indian forces. Normal life remained affected in the Valley for the 78th consecutive day before it was finally lifted. Curfews are very regular in Kashmir as Kashmiris refuse to stop demanding sovereignty from India, stop protesting state arrogance.
The JK authorities imposed curfew in Handwara and snapped mobile services across North Kashmir apparently to stop protests aftermath of the killing of a young boy in Forces firing at Nadihal Rafiabad in Baramulla district on Friday evening. Thousands of people, who attended the funeral prayers of Waseem Ahmad Lone killed in forces’ firing, were in tears as his body was lowered into a grave at his ancestral village of Bunpora in Nadihal area of north Kashmir’s Baramulla district. The prayers were led by his father Nazir Ahmad Lone at a school ground in the locality.
Lone, according to his family and witnesses, was killed after Indian forces may be for satisfying sadistic pleasure, opened “unprovoked” fire on him while he was harvesting crops in his fields at Nadihal area of Rafiabad. Local hospital authorities said a bullet had hit Lone on his back and pierced through his heart, resulting in his death. “The bullet had damaged his heart, causing his instant death,” said Dr Masood, Medical Superintendent of District Hospital Baramulla.
Earlier on Saturday thousands of people assembled on Baramulla-Kupwara highway with the body of Lone to take part in a peace march. Amid pro-freedom and anti-India slogans, the body of Lone was then marched to the school ground for last rites. The mourners chanted anti-India and pro-freedom slogans. Curfew was imposed. Due to shutdown, curbs and curfew life was completely disrupted across Kashmir. A police official told CNS that curfew was imposed in Handwara town of Kupwara district, while it remained in force in three police station areas of downtown Srinagar. He said the curbs on the movement of people remained in force in Nowhatta, Khanyar and Mahraj Ganj police station areas of the summer capital of the state. The official said restrictions on the assembly of people under Section 144 CrPc also remained in force in the rest of the Valley.
Freedom fighting Kashmiris spearheading the ongoing uprising had called for marches to various tehsil headquarters across the Valley on Saturday and had announced a 12-hour relaxation during night hours starting from 6 pm. In wake of the fresh killing, cellphone services were suspended by the authorities on Fridaynight in North Kashmir. “Only BSNL phones are working. All private mobile phone services have been barred without any reason or explanation,” said a Sopore resident.
People from various localities of North, South and Central Kashmir accused forces of damaging property during nocturnal raids. A private restaurant-cum-guest house was damaged allegedly by police and CRPF men on late Friday night. Muhammad Amin Shaikh, owner of Hotel Blue Spring, Verinag said a forces party raided his restaurant around 10 PM last night and threw stones and damaged the doors, windows and furniture of the hotel. He said that Forces could not enter the hotel as it was locked but they damaged property worth lakhs of rupees. Locals from the same area accused forces of damaging private property. They held protests against the “atrocities” done by forces.
At least four civilians were injured when police and CRPF men fired tear gas canisters and fired pellets to foil a pro-freedom rally in South Kashmir’s Islamabad district on Saturday. Reports said that people of Shangus and its adjoining areas had planned a pro-freedom rally in the premises of Markaz-i-Jamia Masjid Shangus. “But forces raided our village around 5:30 AM and sealed all routes leading to the freedom rally venue,” locals said. They said that people from, adjoining areas tried to march towards Shangus but forces stopped them. “It was a peaceful march but forces started firing tear gas canisters and pellets resulting in intense clashes,” the eye witnesses said. “Clashes intensified in adjacent Bongam in which at least four persons were injured due to pellets,” they added. The locals said that three injured civilians were rushed to PHC Nowgam. However, a doctor at the health facility said that they received only one person who was hit by pellets on his back. The locals further said that the forces damaged a 100 KV electricity transformer. “While leaving the village forces damages several residential houses and made a few arrests made,” the local said adding that people erupted in protests seeking immediate release of the arrested civilians
Thus, Kashmiris are the target of India for collective punishment for not toeing the Indian line.
Lifting of curfew brought some relief to people of Kashmir who have been suffering from all sorts of negativism of the government. It was for the first time in last over two-and-half months that the Sunday market stayed open at Lal Chowk, Kashmir’s main market, which had usually seen deserted roads and closed shops. The footpath vendors had laid out the used clothes, shoes, and handicraft products on the charpoys as people thronged the market. People had lined up outside petrol pumps and heavy movement of vehicles during the day caused traffic jams at many places.
Both the government and the fighting groups are making life in Kashmir intolerable. In the new protest calendar that was issued by the “separatists” in Srinagar, it was for the first time that the relaxation was given from 2 pm to 6 am on Sunday. In the previous week, there was no relaxation in the strike even during Eid. Even during those two days of the Muslim festival, three people were killed as youth clashed with the forces. However, Sunday was unusual as would be the evenings when according to the Hurriyat calendar, shops, and other business establishments stay open between 6 pm to 6 am. The protest calendar has changed the routines of the people who work in Kashmir. The working hours for many have spilled into the night and in a large number of areas of Kashmir normalcy returns in the evening after daylong clashes with the forces and the blockades on the roads are removed.
Nazir Ahmad Mir, the owner of Sonatraders, a gas distribution agency, said that he has turned to a new routine following the strike calendar issued by the separatists after the killing of Burhan Wani, Hizbul Mujahideen militant commander. He wakes up before 4 am to oversee the supply of gas cylinders from his godowns at Bemina and Karanagar in Srinagar city and ensures that the delivery is done before 6 am. In the evening, he brings the staff from different parts of Srinagar to his Karan Nagar office who works late into the night to sell the gas cylinders. Mir has turned to this new routine of working in the evening instead of day, after the strike call given by the Hurriyat Conference.
In a fresh protest calendar, issued by the separatists recently, have asked the people to observe the shutdown till 29 September. Besides marking a new way of life in Kashmir, the ongoing protests have also united the two factions of Hurriyat Conference led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq who are issuing a common calendar now. The people are also following the calendar to observe different modes of protests. Youth and elderly are seen rolling out mats on the roads to offer prayers and even turn to the cleaning of lanes and drains.
Around 6 pm shopkeepers are seen opening the shutters and vendors lay wares on the footpath and roads are cleared of blockades. Barbers shops remain filled with people as they wait for their turn for the haircut while people jostle to fill their vehicles at petrol pumps. On Sunday, after 2 pm almost every shop was open in Chanapora and Jawahar Nagar. Traffic police had a tough time regulating the jams in Srinagar as people had parked the vehicles outside the shops in Lal Chowk due to which the pedestrian movement was also affected. There was a total gridlock in the city and it took hours for people to reach the Lal Chowk.
At a famous handicrafts shop, Amirudin and Sons, salesman Aijaz Ahmad, said that they have been footing losses of between seven to eight thousands on a daily basis. He, however, said that Kashmir issue should be resolved soon so that people can live peacefully. The owner of Sonatraders, Mir, said that he has to also bring the staff to the office due to the protests. “I have adjusted to a new routine of life after the protest calendars were issued by the Hurriyat Conference. The internet services remain suspended here due to which we are not able to make the online bookings for home delivery. It is due to this that I have to ferry the staff to the office during the relaxation in the shutdown announced,” he said.
President of the Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir (FCIK), Mohammad Ashraf Mir, said that the industries have not benefitted from the protest calendar. “Due to the incidents of stone pelting we are not able to carry the truckloads of material to the industrial estates. However, there are only a few industries which are functional like the two medical oxygen supply plants. We are footing a loss of Rs 100 crore daily, but we are continuing with the protests as more than the business’ loss it is the loss of daily lives that matters for us. The government should hold dialogue with separatists to end the current unrest.” But government does not seem interested in solutions.
Indian government has its message from protestors in Kashmir in red. Unlike the previous protests and shutdowns, this time Indian government and military committed a big crime, targeting a respected Kashmiri youth freedom fighter and people rose to protest against this murder for so long.
The curfew life is not the end of the struggle road and New Delhi needs to find s credible solution in favor of Kashmiris. Their demand for sovereignty is quite legitimate but, however, India should talk to both Pakistan and China to find a permanent solution to the problem that disturbs the regional peace and tranquility.
India, Pakistan and China jointly occupy the nation of Kashmiris. While Pakistan and China have not attacked Kashmiris or killed anyone, India has already killed more than 100,000 Kashmiris as freely as jungle bosses do.
However, UN and USA do not consider murder of Muslims in Kashmir or India is a matter worth mentioning, let alone debating.
CoVID-19 Control: Can Pakistan Learn From China?
It has been over a year since the first case of CoVID-19 was confirmed in Pakistan. The tally has reached 721,018 confirmed cases, 15,443 have died and 4,143 critical cases by 11thApril2021. Across many countries, since January 2020, a massive surge of research into CoVID-19 had enabled the scientific and medical community to better understand how to manage and eliminate the virus through public health interventions. Today, we have learned, CoVID-19 causes acute symptoms and death. We have learned, immunity lasts at least eight months and we also have five licensed vaccines. We have learned, the long-term effects of CoVID-19 and the morbidity attached to having this virus. We have learned, virus transmission occurs through droplets and aerosols spread through coughing, sneezing, breathing and speaking. We also have learned, stopping the spread of CoVID-19 requires people to avoid mixing though restrictions on social life. We have learned, the virus can mutate into various strains that can be more transmissible – and we also have understand cat-and-mouse game between vaccine and variants.
To alleviate the destructive effects of CoVID-19 on the economy, Pakistan has sought debt relief of slightly around $2 billion from its G20 creditors. In addition to the G20 countries, China was the largest bilateral creditor with $9 billion, followed by Japan with $5 billion. By early April 2020, when there were just about 2,000 CoVID-19 positive cases in Pakistan, the World Bank approved $200 million package to help Pakistan. Likewise, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had approved the payout of $1.386 billion as financial support to Pakistan to meet its urgent balance of payment needs halting from the CoVID-19 outbreak. Further, to support Pakistan’s public health response to the CoVID-19 and allow to meet the basic needs of the vulnerable and poor segment of society, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved $500 million emergency assistance loan to Pakistan. Similarly, The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) also provided a $650 million financial package to support Pakistan in its efforts against the CoVID-19. All these grants were provided to Government of Pakistan to assist in effective and timely action in response to the spread of the CoVID-19. The objective was to strengthen Pakistan’s public health infrastructure and to alleviate socioeconomic disruptions due to the pandemic. Despite huge grants and substantial endowments, Pakistan’s response to the CoVID-19 has been unsatisfactory. Lack of basic healthcare infrastructure, disease surveillance and management system, and inconsistent implementation of policies and SOPs resulted in the rapid and incessant spread of third-wave of CoVID-19 throughout the county.
China’s extraordinary organized and preventive risk management approach, established on coalition between government officials, virologists, epidemiologists and public health experts, has demonstrated to be successful in containing and controlling CoVID-19.The experience in China emphasized the significance of listening to science and public health experts during pandemic event. Firstly, China’s response demonstrates the value of national research and public health capability. Huge investment in research and development rendered China much better prepared for CoVID-19. China’s experience indicates the value of investing in national health and research scheme to boost laboratory capacity along with workforce. They are essential to a rapid and effective national response to health emergencies and to national health security. Secondly, a strong foundation of research and development cannot ensure effective control without powerful top-level political dedication to use science to confront the outbreak. Government and leaders must respect science, understand its significance, and act on science-based advice in a way that is best for society. Thirdly, attaining speedy and successful implementation of control measures for CoVID-19 requires extensive community engagement. Public solidarity during the CoVID-19 outbreak in China had been unprecedented. Control measures that could sacrifice personal freedom were accepted readily by the nation.
To be brief, cricket is to South Asia and football is to Europe. In fighting CoVID-19, everyone is equal. Everyone has the identical liability and shares the equal threat. The effective implementation of prevention and control measures in China is a model for Pakistan other parts of world to follow. From the beginning, a science-based, risk-informed and phased approach was taken, with a clear appreciation and enthusiasm. Today, China has restarted its economy, reopened and almost returned to normality. The key of success story is to make everybody responsible, get every single division involved and held executives accountable. These are the most prominent lessons Pakistan could learn from China at national and local levels. After the failure of “Smart-Lockdown” strategy, Pakistan needs to choose a strict strategy, should follow the example of China and continue the lockdown until the number of CoVID-19 infections is brought close to zero; the strategy should then be to maintain infection rates at very low level until vaccination is done. China’s epidemic management provides an important experience from which countries such as Pakistan can learn. This applies in particular to Pakistan, which would risk to lose many of its achievements in case of a severe third wave of the epidemic. Government of Pakistan should involve not only public health experts, virologists and epidemiologists, but also scientist and respect science advice when making any decision that is required to keep the epidemic under control. The rest of the world can also learn from China’s success in bringing outbreak under control.
United States snubs India for its excessive maritime claim
On April7, 2021, a 9,000-ton guided-missile destroyer, USS John Paul Jones (US 7th Fleet), waded (not strayed as it was deliberate) into the vicinity of India’s Lakshadweep Islands. The ship was 131 nautical miles away from India’s coast (12 nautical miles territory) but well within its exclusive economic zone (200 nautical miles, 370.4 kilometre).
The trespass by the US destroyer triggered indignation through all walks of life. It conjured up memories of the arrival of the 7th fleet during the Indo-Pak war of 1971. The fleet gave a message, loud and clear, to India that it should not dare finish West Pakistan, its long cherished desire. Even Nehru, an ostensibly liberal leader, regarded the creation of Pakistan a blunder. His rancour against Pakistan reaches a crescendo in his remarks: “I shall not have that carbuncle on my back.” (D. H. Bhutani, The Future of Pakistan, page 14). During 1971, Pakistan was a US ally. Now India is in the anti-China US-backed basket.
Yet, the `destroyer’ conjured up memory in India’s mind of `bitter’ American intervention. Congress leaders voiced surprise at the U.S. move. In a tweet, Manish Tewari said, “This never happened in the 10 years of UPA [Congress-led rule] or perhaps even before that as far as I can recall. The last time I remember it being so rather in your face was 1971 – Task Force 74 – 7th Fleet. What then happened is History. Hope the NDA/BJP shows some Oomph?” Echoing the surprise, former Union Minister Jairam Ramesh, said, “And this happened when the former U.S. Secretary of State and Climate Envoy, John Kerry, was meeting Ministers in New Delhi.”
The euphoria created by US gung-ho support for Quad, and Pakistan’s exclusion from the climate conference petered out.
India’s foreign office tried to play down the event by stating that it was not a “military manoeuvre”. So, the USA was not bound to inform India about it. But, to India’s chagrin, the U.S. The Navy announced that its ship the USS John Paul Jones had carried out Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP) in the Indian EEZ, adding that its operations had “challenged” what the U.S. called India’s “excessive maritime claims.” The U.S. defends its actions saying they were in compliance with international laws. Even Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby justified what India calls “intransigence’ by announcing the US Navy’s move was in compliance with international law. He told reporters, “I can tell you that the USS John Paul Jones, a Navy destroyer, asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the vicinity of the Republic of the Maldives by conducting innocent passage through its territorial sea in normal operations within its exclusive economic zone without requesting prior permission. We conduct routine and regular FONOPs, as we have done in the past and will continue to in the future. FONOPs are not about one country, nor are they about making political statements’.
India compelled to protest
As a face-saving gesture, India was forced to protest the U.S. decision to conduct a patrol in the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the western Indian Ocean, rejecting the U.S.’s claim that its domestic maritime law was in violation of international law. India’s external-affairs ministry retorted, ‘The Government of India’s stated position on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is that the Convention does not authorise other States to carry out in the EEZ and on the continental shelf, military exercises or man oeuvres, in particular those involving the use of weapons or explosives, without the consent of the coastal state.’ The ministry insisted that the USS John Paul Jones was “continuously monitored” transiting from the Persian Gulf towards the Malacca Straits.
The incident is a rare falling out between the two partners in the Quadrilateral Grouping that had recently committed to upholding freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific together.
Bone of contention
The USA shrugged off India’s ennui. According to the annual FONOP reports released by the U.S. Department of Defence for each fiscal year, the U.S. had been regularly conducting FONOPs in Indian EEZ. The FONOPs were carried out in several c continental shelves of several countries including its allies and partners. The USA regarded Indian maritime claim as “excessive” and in violation of International Law. From 2007 onwards till 2017, the U.S. carried out multiple FONOPs every year challenging “excessive” Indian maritime claims. No FONOP was carried out in 2018 and 2020 and one FONOP in 2019.
Difference of opinion is due to the fact that the USA has not ratified the UN Convention on the Law of Seas. India and China have ratified it with some reservations. But, the USA does not care a fig about provisos attached by China and India.
Ashamed of USA’s crass rebuttal, India is coining excuses to mitigate its embarrassment. To relieve pressure on Indian government, former Navy Chief Admiral Arun Prakash interpreted the US “trespass” as if it were a message to China that the USA has unfettered “freedom of navigation”. Prakash Tweeted
“While India ratified UNCLOS in 1995, the U.S. has failed to do it so far. For the 7th Fleet to carry out FoNOPs missions in Indian EEZ in violation of our domestic law is bad enough. But publicising it? USN please switch on IFF (Identification, friend or foe)! Prakash added FONOPs by U.S. Navy ships, “ineffective as they may be,” in South China Sea, are meant to “convey a message to China that the putative EEZ” around the artificial SCS islands is an “excessive maritime claim.” “But what is the 7th Fleet message for India?” he asked.
Might is Right
Obviously, the USA is acting upon might-is-right policy. India itself acted upon this policy to devour princely states, and annex Nepalese territory. Junagadh and Kashmir disputes are still unresolved on UN agenda. Indian Union is an artificial sally.
In its entire history India had never been a single nation, or one country, until united at gun point by the British. The artificial nature of modern India created by the British colonialists and adopted by post-colonial India generated insurgencies and separatist movements.
At the time of partition, India was in grip of virulent insurgencies and separatist movements (Dravidian South, Khalistan, Seven Sisters in the North East, so on). Wikipedia lists 68 major organizations as terrorist groups. Of them, nine are in the northeast (seven sisters states), four in the center and the east (Maoist/Naxalites), seventeen in the west (Sikh separatist groups), and thirty eight in the northwest (Kashmir). India kept afloat as a union only at the barrel of gun. The Indian army chief paid a five-day visit to Bangladesh as a prelude to conducting a massive operation against the Naxalbari militants.
UK and USA’s Diego Garcia headache
International Court of Justice advisory opinion on Chagos Islands has catapulted Indian Ocean into limelight. The ICJ `advisory’ is a blow to UK’s forcible occupation of Chagos Islands, including the strategic US airbase of Diego Garcia atoll (leased out to the USA by the UK).
The ICJ President Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf observed, `The UK has an obligation to bring to an end its administration of Chagos archipelago as rapidly as possible’. The court ruled that separation of Chagos Islands from Mauritius during decolonisation in the 1960s constituted an “unlawful detachment” and was a “wrongful act”.
In 1966, the U.S. signed a secret agreement with Great Britain allowing the Pentagon to use the Indian Ocean territory as an airbase in exchange for a big discount on Polaris nuclear missiles. Three years later, hundreds of Navy Seabees arrived by ship and began pouring out two 12,000-foot runway that would become a bulwark of American Cold War strategy in the region, and a key launching pad for the first and second Gulf wars, the 1998 bombing of Iraq and invasion and carpet-bombing of Afghanistan.
The base can house more than 2,000 troops and 30 warships at a time. It has two bomber runways, a satellite spy station and facilities enabling the use of nuclear-armed submarines. It served as a CIA black site (like Guantanamo Bay) to interrogate and torture terror suspects including those from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Indonesia.
The base holds key to America’s Afghan exit plan, by year 2024, to avoid a rout at the hands of Taliban.
To India’s chagrin, the USA wants to exert its authority on Indian Ocean also. Forty seven countries have the Indian Ocean on their shores. The Indian Ocean is the third largest body of water in the world. It occupies 20 percent of the world’s ocean surface – it is nearly 10,000 kilometers wide at the southern tips of Africa and Australia and its area is 68.556 million square kilometers, about 5.5 times the size of the United States. India’s motto is ‘whoever controls the Indian Ocean dominates Asia’. Admiral Alfred T. Mahan (1840-1914) of the United States Navy highlighted the strategic importance of the Indian Ocean in these words: “whoever attains maritime supremacy in the Indian Ocean would be a prominent player on the international scene. The Indian peninsula (i.e. the Deccan and below) juts 1,240 miles into the Indian Ocean. 50 per cent of the Indian Ocean basin lies within a 1,000 mile radius of India, a reality that has strategic implications. Under the law of the sea, it has an exclusive economic zone of 772,000 square miles. Chennai is a mere 3,400 miles away from Perth in Australia, slightly more than the distance between New York and Los Angeles.
To dominate Straits of Malacca (bordering Indonesia and Malaysia), India established its Far Eastern Marine Command at Port Blair in the Andamans. It has developed Port Blair as a strategic international trade center and built an oil terminal and trans-shipment port in Campal Bay in the Nicobar Islands.
In diplomacy, there are no permanent friends or foes, only permanent interests. Afghan exit plan requires the USA continues to retain Diego Garcia.
US-China Developing Confrontation: India and QUAD
At the request of the editors of International Affairs magazine, the renowned Kanwal Sibal, India’s Foreign Secretary and Ambassador to Turkey, Egypt, France and Russia, comments on new US initiatives in Southeast Asia.
Judging by its Interim National Strategic Security Guidance (INSSG) document (March 2021) the Biden Administration intends to be tough towards China on many fronts. Human rights issues in Xinjiang and Tibet, threats to Taiwan, limiting Hong Kong’s autonomy, encroachments and territorial pressures in the East and South China Seas, freedom of navigation and overflight issues, preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific, unfair trade practices, technology theft, resilience of critical supply chains, emerging technologies, standard setting for 5G, a new competitive US industrial strategy, and so on.
Whereas Trump had alienated allies and weakened America’s hand in dealing with China’s challenge, the Biden administration seeks to speak to China from a position of strength. For this it seeks to restore ties of confidence with Japan, South Korea and Australia in priority. In doing this the US is indirectly recognizing its reduced strength and its inability to meet the China challenge alone. In this perspective, It had reached out to Europe for policy coordination towards China even before it took office, but Europe went ahead to sign a Comprehensive Investment Agreement (CAI) to protect its own independent and competitive interests in China. After the fractious US-China Alaska meeting, the US has continued its coordinating efforts with Europe but faces resistance from Germany and France in particular who want to retain their strategic autonomy in dealing with China, believing that US policy under Biden will remain self-centred and that too much water had flown under the bridge for US-Europe ties to simply revert to the pre-Trump era.
The timing of virtual Quad summit before the Alaska meeting was also intended to signal to China that like-minded countries were coming together to deter what they view as China’s increasingly aggressive policies. From a telephonic meeting at the Foreign Ministers level in February 2021 the summit was a major step forward in consolidating the Quad politically. India, earlier reticent in moving too far too quickly with the Quad in the light of the need to manage the stresses of its China ties, decided to join. After the stand-off in eastern Ladakh India has realized that deferring to Chinese sensitivities is not reciprocated by China. The visit of the US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to India coincided with the US-China meeting in Alaska.
In the INSSG, India is not treated strategically in the same category as US allies like Japan, Republic of Korea and Australia. The China challenge is felt primarily in the western Pacific where the US has bases, deployed military forces and a powerful naval presence. China’s challenge in the Indian Ocean is not considered of the same order for the time being, but partnership with India, with its significant naval assets and geographic position, overlooking the critical sea lanes of communication in the region, is important for the future. India is seen as a net security provider, fitting into the template of burden sharing. For this the US has shown its readiness to build India’s maritime surveillance capacities by supplying defense platforms, intelligence sharing, increasingly complex military exercises with the inclusion of Japan and Australia, and utilizing the India-US defense-related foundational agreements that provide for inter-operability and sharing of geo-spatial data.
Although the joint statement issued by the Quad summit did not mention China by name, China was of course discussed, with each leader sharing his thinking. According to US NSA Jake Sullivan, China, about whom none of the leaders had any illusions he said, was discussed at the meeting but was not its focus. Coercion of Australia, harassment around the Senkakus, border aggression against India figured in the discussions. According to him, the Quad is now a critical part of the architecture of the Indo-Pacific. Cybersecurity incidents impacting Quad members too figured, including attacks against India’s power sector. He dismissed the talk about Quad being a military alliance, though he stated that it has to worked out at the leaders level and that of the working groups how the Quad can move from freedom of navigation to broader regional security questions. Apparently, at Alaska, the Chinese reacted negatively to US mentioning its dialogue with India.
The summit rightly felt that the Quad should have a broader agenda than simply China, a point of view that India has studiously supported. India is conscious of the fact that the US, as well as Japan and Australia, have deep economic ties with China, which can be rolled back selectively to lessen dependence by decoupling in critical areas, restricting Chinese access to advanced critical technologies in which China has external dependence such as semi-conductors, preventing Chinese investments in sensitive areas etc but cannot be dramatically reduced, given China’s huge weight in the global economy. The US policy seems to be “extreme competition”, cooperation and confrontation, as required. India’s investment in the Quad, beyond the maritime security aspect, would be to benefit from a shift away from China of critical supply chains, use India’s democratic environment to attract more US investment and technology transfers that would accelerate India’s growth for the welfare of its people, besides enabling it to close the developing gaps with China.
It is in this perspective that the decision on building India’s capacity for vaccines should be seen. The three expert groups set up by the Quad summit, on vaccines, critical technologies (5G, AI, Quantum Computing, human biology) and climate change broaden the Quad’s agenda, opening up bilateral opportunities with the US for India, besides creating the beginnings of a structure. In line with Indian thinking and emphasis on a broader agenda, the Quad leaders pledged “to respond to the economic and health impacts of COVID-19, combat climate change, and address shared challenges, including in cyber space, critical technologies, counterterrorism, quality infrastructure investment, and humanitarian-assistance and disaster-relief as well as maritime domains”. The decision to manufacture US vaccine in India with Biological E Ltd to provide one billion doses to the Indo-Pacific region was taken, with Japanese finance and Australia’s delivery support. The third group will deal with critical – and emerging-technologies to facilitate cooperation on international standards and innovative technologies of the future.
China’s concerns about the Quad summit and the strengthening of India’s strategic ties with the US have no basis. China has benefited enormously from US capital and technology and that of its allies for China’s rise. The economic power it acquired, and with that military power, has been used by it to expand territorially in the western Pacific and globally through the BRI, not to mention in the Indian Ocean. Now that defenses are being put up against China’s policies and ambitions, China, after the stand-off in Ladakh, has no ground to warn India not to become close to the US. Even now the US is China’s biggest economic partner and China is reaching out to the US to ease pressures on it. Its critique of “selective multilateralism” would apply equally to the Russia-India-China group, BRICS as well as the SCO. It has established a Quad in our region- the China-Pakistan-Afghanistan-Nepal group, in which Nepal does not fit at all.
The bristling encounter at Alaska demonstrates that China’s expectations that a change of administration in the US could lessen tensions and some accommodation could be worked out have been belied for the time being. China touted the Alaska meeting as a strategic dialogue, which was strongly denied the US. In response to Secretary of State Blinken’s severe strictures on China’s infringements of a rules based international order on various issues, Politburo member Yang Jiechi hit back brutally, decrying US democracy, castigating America’s racism, calling it the champion of cyberattacks, rejecting the notion that western nations represent global public opinion, and, most significantly, stating that the US lacked the qualifications to speak to China from a position of strength, now or even 20 or 30 years earlier. Yang Jiechi may have intended to say all this in private but felt compelled to do so in public to show to the domestic and international audience that China will not be bullied and will deal with the US as an equal. If he had reacted meekly, it would have been a blow to China’s prestige and its self-image. It appears that after the public spat the two sides got down to business calmly on the agenda items , with serious differences over Taiwan emerging and raising US concerns that this could become a flash point if Xi Jinping was determined to achieve reunification, by force, if necessary. There was no commitment by the US side to meet again despite persistent probing by Yang Jiechi to elicit a response.
With China and Russia in the cross-hairs of the Biden government, it is not surprising that both countries have closed ranks against the US. Lavrov and Wang Yi rejected US calls for “a rules-based order” and proposed a summit of the UN Security Council’s five permanent members to be held “to establish direct dialogue …in the interests of maintaining global stability”. With the sharper US divisions with China and Russia it is unclear what the P5 summit could achieve concretely, especially as the representative nature of the UN Security Council as currently constituted is questioned in large parts of the world.
Regrettably, a new version of the Cold War might now be taking shape. In the developing scenario, it is very important that the India-Russia dialogue is strengthened so that the implications of the new developments and the compulsions of the two countries are better understood bilaterally.
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