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Gender Justice in India: From Substantive Syntactics to Progressive Pragmatics

Dr. Nafees Ahmad

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The idea of gender justice is the substantive recognition of equality in its ethical syntactics, but it remains in a vacuum unless and until it is manifested in pragmatics in the lives of the women and girls. The gender justice is the target to achieve full equality with equity among women and girls and men and boys in all spheres of human development.

The gender justice is the result of men and women jointly defining and shaping the policies and structures on the anvil of equality in the civil society.  The gender justice confronts the discrimination against women and girls that have been affecting the lives of women since time immemorial and is the most widespread and acute human rights violations. Discrimination prevents women and girls from accomplishing their socio-political, eco-cultural and lego-institutional objectives ordained in all regions, all constitutions and based on the ordinary prudence of equity, equality and a clear conscience. The gender justice makes available to women equal rights with men in all spheres of human life including matrimonial relationships that has been an institution of gender abuse, women subjugation, and women exploitation to the hilt among the Muslim community in India. However, other religious communities in India also have the privilege to demean their wives in different departments of life but Muslims in the name of Islam have denied and deprived Muslim women from their lawful claims, entitlements, and rights provided in the Holy Quran particularly their rights in conjugal causes by limiting their ability to access Quranic model of dissolution of Muslim marriage that invokes religious syntactics in interpreting their rights.

The tyranny of Triple Talaq or Triple Divorce has been put in the ground for once and all on August 22, 2017, which was litigated before the highest judicial establishment of India. It is, indeed, a great occasion for an audacious assembly of Muslim women for winning their legitimate rights within the walls of the constitutional sanctity of Quranic idea of annulment of marriage. They have dauntlessly and successfully challenged the parochial, disgraceful and despicable practice of subjugation of Muslim women that too in the name of the un-Islamic orientation of Islam. The Supreme Court (SC) of India delivered a jolt to perpetrators of Triple Talaq practice who circumvented all standards of human civility, spousal equality, and the rule of law. The latest SC verdict in the Triple Talaq Case is capable of addressing the gender justice project across the religious denominations in India. In fact, the beginning of the social justice movement in India against the Triple Talaq initiated on 18 April 1966, in Maharashtra for protecting the Muslim women’s rights. In other parts of the world, for example, there are many countries in the Arab peninsula such as Algeria, Egypt, Iraq,  UAE, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen who have promulgated the laws against the practice of Triple Talaq. Thus, the Triple Talaq is not Islamic, and it is a departure and deviation from the tenets of the Holy Quran to undermine the Muslim women rights on divorce, and it has also been outlawed in many other countries including Pakistan.

Triple Talaq Wiles

Primarily, the Muslim women contended that the practice of Triple Talaq is unconstitutional and it has attained the ugliest form since Triple Divorce is being pronounced by the SMS Text, phone, email, and Whatapps, etc. The SC has viewed that the practice of Triple Talaq is the cruelest, vilest and undesirable form of Muslim marriage dissolution barring few exception of its recognition in some of the schools of Muslim law as observed and practiced in India. Many scholars and academic described the method of Triple Talaq detestable, repulsive, repugnant, and discriminatory to the core that deprives the constitutional right to equality and incompatible with the tenets of the Holy Quran. Therefore, no volume of advocacy can justify its retention. Even GOI had designated all forms of Talaq provided in the Holy Quran such as Talaq-e-Hasan and Talaq-e-Ahsan, as “unilateral” and “extrajudicial” inconsistent with the Constitution of India. However, Kapil Sibal argued on behalf of AIMPLB that the practice of Triple Talaq has been prevalent since 637 AD and cannot be said as un-Islamic and Muslims have been practicing it for the last 1400 years. Unfortunately, that makes it more dangerous and detrimental to the cause of Muslim women’s right to equality. The AIMPLB has behaved arrogantly and irresponsibly in this matter and did not come out with any credible proposal during marathon hearing of the case despite the fact there was opposition to this abhorrent practice in the Muslim community. Therefore, the SC put right a historical wrong that had demeaned the idea of gender equality and perpetuated discrimination based on patriarchal supremacy, bad in theology and sinful and reformed the miasma that was imposed upon the Muslim women.

Gender Justice Law & Sensitization

The people with a preference for homosexuality, lesbianism, gay, transgenderism, and queer (LGBTQ) and cross dressings are illegal in many Muslim countries like Saudi Arab, UAE and a sizable section of Muslim community in India consider these orientations and punishable offensive with prison terms. Therefore, the issue of gender justice in Muslim Personal Law has not been attended sensitively, and it was always entwined with a controversial issue of Uniform Civil Code (UCC) that has deflected the larger issue of gender justice. The UCC has been floated as a plausible alternative to achieve the unachievable in the present circumstances. There is no attempt to decipher and define the contours of the UCC about marriage, divorce, maintenance, inheritance rights, matrimonial property rights and custody of children, etc. Presently, these are the contentious issues simmering in all the religious communities, and all communities consider their religious laws and practices inviolable and unimpeachable to the hilt. For example; the position of Hindu community is dicey and volatile on the dilution of HUF (Hindu Undivided Family) that brings them huge tax concessions and exemptions and other benefits. Therefore, there cannot be utopian UCC likely to be a launch pad for social reforms and gender justice in future. The women movements and organizations like AIDWA (All India Women’s Democratic Association) have been spearheading the cause of equal rights and equal laws for the women and girls to ensure gender parity in all communities in India. AIDWA has supported the significant movement led by Mary Roy for women’s inheritance rights of the Syrian Christian Women. However, a large section of the Christian clergy has started a campaign to demand that the Christian Personal Laws relating to marriage, divorce, and inheritance must be reformed while taking into global norms of gender justice. Among the Muslims, after the Triple Talaq, the practices of Halala, and polygamy must also be addressed with greater vehemence and vitality.

There are many relevant provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 like Sections 294 [singing lewd songs and demanding sexual favours], 354 (A) [Making unwanted physical contact] (C) [Voyeurism] & (D) [Stalking], 503 [Criminal Threat], 499 [Morphing pictures of women], 509 [Making sexually coloured remarks against women], Section 67 [posting any obscene or defamatory material on online platforms] of the Information Technology Act, 2000,    There are some legislations enacted like Domestic Violence Act, 2005, Prohibition of Dowry Act, 1961, and the Sexual Harassment of the Women at Workplace-Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal-Act, 2013 and other laws and judicial guidelines against sexual harassment; rape and incidental offences laid down in the matter of Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan & Others that have been appreciated through the lenses of gender equality. The SC had perceived sexual harassment in the workplace as a social problem of considerable magnitude based on discriminatory tendencies against women. The court stated that “Gender equality embraces protection from sexual harassment and the right to work with dignity, which is a universally recognized fundamental human right.” In reality, it is the Libidinal Perversion Gratification (LPG) mindset of the menfolk that works against the women in the public space as well as on the internal walls. All these laws have been enacted under the mounting pressure, but there are many violations of these statutes than the compliance with their provisions. The implementation of these laws has become the biggest challenge in the wake of entrenched patriarchy in all the religious communities in India. The patriarchal mindset has seeped deep into the government and its instrumentalities resulting in the incremental incidences of crimes against women. Thus, it is time to implement these legislations without brooking an iota of discrimination and to establish India as a modern liberal democracy.    

Supreme Court of India

The constitution bench of five-judges of the Supreme Court (SC) of India has delivered the historical and unprecedented judgment and rightly banned and declared the practice of unilateral Triple Talaq (also known as Talaq-e-Biddat—Innovative Divorce) unconstitutional and ultra-vires of the Constitution of India. It is now unequivocally established that Triple Talaq is not fundamental to the religion of Islam in India that has often been misused whimsically against Muslim women contrary to gender jurisprudence evolved by the SC and principles of equality as ordained in the Constitution of India, international human rights law, and Holy Quran. The judgement has the guidance from Muslim Law in India and Abroad by Prof. Tahir Mahmood, and SC has identified as many as 19 countries including Egypt, Pakistan, and Turkey and other nation-states from Arab peninsula, South-East Asia, and South Asia that have abolished Triple Talaq and SC has consulted and cited the laws of these countries. This judgment is not against any individual or any institution, organization or religion of Islam rather the true meaning and spirit of the Holy Quran has been delineated on the idea of individual rights, the rule of law, and human rights enunciated in the Constitution of India.

The constitution bench consisted of judges from different religions—Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Christianity and Parsi headed by CJI Justice J.S. Khehar, and other Justices U.U. Lalit, S Abdul Nazeer, Kurian Joseph, and R.F. Nariman and they had examined a bunch of seven petitions including the five individual petitions filed by Muslim women challenging the practice of Triple Talaq in the Muslim community. The bench set aside the cruel practice of Triple Talaq by a 3-2 majority. Justice Nariman and Justice Lalit set it aside by terming it unconstitutional and contravening the Article 14 while Justice Joseph also set it aside on the ground of its being against the teachings of the Holy Quran. The CJI Mr. Justice J.S. Khehar and Justice Abdul Nazeer supported the Triple Talaq and recognized that the Triple Talaq was part of Muslim Personal Law and, thus, enjoys the status of fundamental rights.

The Holy Quran & International Law

The Triple Talaq verdict has created a new space for gender justice, and the court treated the women’s rights as human rights under International Human Rights Law. Therefore, the court has recognized the Quranic injunctions on gender equality that Muslim women lacked for centuries. In the Holy Quran, the Triple Talaq is pronounced by a man with the word Talaq speaking thrice over the period of three months. In such a manner, a person may withdraw his word of Talaq twice before finally pronouncing it to end the spousal relationship. Therefore, the Marriage Dissolution under Quranic Mechanism has a justification to establish that a marital union does not conclude by uttering Talaq thrice in one go due to sudden provocation, intoxication, and anger. However, during the life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) three or more than three utterances of Talaq in one sitting were regarded as one statement. But, the second Caliph of Islam Hazrat Umar, the Great has taken a different view of Triple Talaq due to administrative reasons for a temporary period to bind Muslim men who rush into instant and final Talaq by uttering word Talaq three times in one go. However, the step of Second Caliph was against the principles of Holy Quran. Though, Caliph Umar had put off the impugned practice by flogging the man who resorted to the Triple Talaq. But, unfortunately, the practice of Triple Talaq got embedded into the Islamic Law based on the authoritarian analysis adjudicated by the later Imams particularly Imam Abu Hanifa and it has wrongly been presented to ordinary Muslims as the inalienable part of Islamic law.

India is a signatory to many international human rights instruments to endorse its global obligations and commitments and to address the gender justice matters in the absence of comprehensive and consolidated municipal laws. The court stated that India is a signatory to the CEDAW (UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women-1979) that prohibits discrimination at the workplace and laid down specific state obligations to eliminate all forms of discriminations:

  • To protect the right to work, the right to health and right to safety in the conditions at the workplace including the safeguarding of the function of reproduction under Article 11(1) (a) and (f) of the CEDAW;
  • To undertake the adoption of all necessary measures at the national level to achieve the full realization of the rights recognized in the Article 24 of CEDAW; and
  • To adhere to the General Recommendation No. 19 on the elimination of violence against women under the CEDAW.

Therefore, the Government of India has enacted the domestic legislation called the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act-2013 to adequately address sexual harassment in the workplace to achieve gender equality and non-discrimination as enshrined in the universal human rights norms and standards.

The Holy Quran & the Constitutional Law of India

The SC for the first time has made Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India “absolute” despite their being subjected to restrictions. However, the Triple Talaq Judgment (TTJ) has not been a unanimous decision and two judges dissented including the CJI Justice J.S. Kehar who regarded the Triple Talaq inalienable part of Muslim personal law in India and opined that Triple Talaq does not contravene Articles 14, 15, and 21 of the Constitution of India while majority judgment held the view that instant Triple Talaq is an un-Islamic practice and Justice Kurien’s judicial construction of Shamim Ara Judgment as the decisive law of divorce in India that should have been followed. However, the dissenting judges have taken a cautious approach to balancing the whole gamut of Triple Talaq by outlining the fact the practice is not prevalent even in Muslim theocracies. Therefore, dissenting judges have directed the Government of India (GOI) to frame the appropriate law in this regard. The GOI must demonstrate the political will to come out with a concrete legislation to lay down the quantum of punishment that shall be meted out to the offenders otherwise this judgment would remain a pyrrhic victory. The TTJ has been welcomed as a milestone for unprecedented social change by every progressive section of the civil society institutions including Amnesty International India and international human rights organizations.

Conclusion 

Now, political discourse on Triple Talaq must be set at rest and ways must be rummaged to implement the SC decision in its letter and spirit without brooking any pressure from organizations like All India Muslim Personal Board (AIMPLB) who played the politics of procrastination on this issue for its political ends. The AIMPLB is a conglomerate of so-called Muslim leaders and does not represent diverse voices of the Indian Muslims. There are multiple religious practices and beliefs which Indian Muslims follow in their daily life. Among the Indian Muslims, there are 90% Sunni Hanafi and remaining 10% belong to Ahle-Hadees and Shafaiis and Shafaiis support the Hanafi stand on the validity of Triple Talaq in one go.  However, one sect called Ahle-Hadees does not subscribe to the practice of Triple Talaq. Moreover, TTJ has clarified that all personal laws must conform to the Constitution of India regarding marriage, divorce, property, and succession. It has rightly been contented by the GOI before the SC that it is not “majority community” v. minority community” discourse but an intra-Muslim community power struggle between fundamentalists and the subjugated Muslim women.

It is, now, evident that the political will of the highest order in the Government of India is needed to take necessary measures for enforcing the judicial dicta. August 22, 2017, would be regarded a defining moment and turning point in the legal history of India when gender equality attained its zenith in the lives of Muslim women. India’s Muslim women have achieved what was considered unattainable since independence. The latest SC decision has established the supremacy of constitutional guarantees in upholding the gender equilibrium in human relationships within the religious structures including of Islam. Now, the time has come to reform the unjust and obsolete religious practices under the new laws across the communities while expanding the horizons of gender justice. Therefore, progressive codification of Muslim Law must be commenced while taking into primacy of the jurisprudence expounded by the Supreme Court, Constitution of India and the Holy Quran for once and all.   

Ph. D., LL.M, Faculty of Legal Studies, South Asian University (SAARC)-New Delhi, Nafees Ahmad is an Indian national who holds a Doctorate (Ph.D.) in International Refugee Law and Human Rights. Author teaches and writes on International Forced Migrations, Climate Change Refugees & Human Displacement Refugee, Policy, Asylum, Durable Solutions and Extradition Issus. He conducted research on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from Jammu & Kashmir and North-East Region in India and has worked with several research scholars from US, UK and India and consulted with several research institutions and NGO’s in the area of human displacement and forced migration. He has introduced a new Program called Comparative Constitutional Law of SAARC Nations for LLM along with International Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law and International Refugee Law & Forced Migration Studies. He has been serving since 2010 as Senior Visiting Faculty to World Learning (WL)-India under the India-Health and Human Rights Program organized by the World Learning, 1 Kipling Road, Brattleboro VT-05302, USA for Fall & Spring Semesters Batches of US Students by its School for International Training (SIT Study Abroad) in New Delhi-INDIA nafeestarana[at]gmail.com,drnafeesahmad[at]sau.ac.in

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South Asia

Pakistan not a Threat for Israel: Clearing Misconceptions

Uzge A. Saleem

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Ever since 1998; the beginning of Pakistan’s nuclear age, the state’s self-defense mechanism has been a source of worry and unrest for India and the US. Both these states never really accepted that a small state like Pakistan could develop the prestigious asset and was now well capable of defending itself against external threats. US opposed the program on the grounds that it had been tested after the signing of NPT and that it is an “illegitimate” program. Their basic concern was Pakistan not being a party to NPT and US non-proliferation efforts failing. India, though very much against the program, could not openly oppose it on the same grounds because its own Nuclear Program had the same issue i.e. it was tested after the signing of NPT and they had also not signed the treaty.

There  are  a  lot  of  ambiguities  surrounding   Pakistan’s  nuclear  program  which  are  there intentionally for the benefit and security of the program and state. However, there is one thing which has been kept very clear since day one and that is the Indo centric nature of Pakistan’s nuclear program. The program was developed because the conventionally strong next door neighbor had developed their program. Pakistan, in an attempt to ensure territorial security, had to develop its own program as well. US, China, Russia, France or the UK were never a threat to Pakistan nor was Pakistan on their attack agenda. India on the other hand was in close territorial proximity, a historic enemy, conventionally stronger and now also a nuclear power. After evaluating all these factors any national strategist would suggest a nuclear program for Pakistan and that is exactly what the state did.

There have been news in an Israeli newspaper,  Haaretz, that Pakistan is more of a threat to Israel than Iran. This was published on 20 May, 2018. The grounds for this allegation have been identified  as  Pakistan’s  growing  arsenal  and  other  similar  reasons  which  have  always  been popular in the western policy circles. Iran, a conventional enemy, one with which there have been numerous conflicts, has been ruled out as a threat to Israel since they do not have a nuclear arsenal.

However, there are many concrete facts that have been ignored in this propagating debate. For instance Pakistan has had no wars with Israel. Both the states have never even been on the verge of an all-out war. The states have never even had a conflict that could’ve led to war. Although Iran does not have  a nuclear arsenal at present but that did not stop the states from indulging into conflicts before and although initiating a nuclear war might not be a possibility for Iran but a conventional war is very much within their skill set.

Pakistan is already indulged in a two front defense strategy on its eastern and western borders. The Taliban threat from the west and the ever present Indian threat from the east, particularly along the  line of control is already consuming most of the state’s energy, attention and resources. Under such circumstances, jumping into any sort of venture as far as Israel without any apparent or direct conflict seems like an amateur move which is not expected from Pakistan whatsoever. If any linkages are being made based on the fact that Iran and Israel have cordial ties then they are weak to begin with. On the other hand India and Iran have more than friendly ties and India’s nuclear arsenal is growing rapidly with the US help. However, this does not mean that just because India is a nuclear state and a friend of Iran, it will be inclined to attack Israel.

Pakistan’s nuclear program is solely for the safety and security of the nation against any external threat.  The program  is not for the state  to pick  and choose  enemies  and start  non-existing conflicts. That is definitely not how Pakistan intends to use its resources and deviate from the real agenda which is to protect the state of Pakistan. The only condition under which Pakistan would use its nuclear weapons against any state would be if they choose to attack the territory of Pakistan in a nuclear or non-nuclear manner. The state has been absolutely clear about this from the very beginning of its  nuclear era.

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Behind Indo-Pacific Vision

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Mike Pompeo’s recent speech titled, ‘America’s Indo-Pacific Economic Vision – at the Indo-Pacific Business Forum’ at the US Chamber of Commerce, Washington DC has been carefully observed across Asia.  Beijing has understandably, paid close special attention to it. Pompeo emphasized on the need for greater connectivity within the Indo-Pacific, while also highlighting the role which the US was likely to play (including financial investments to the tune of 113 Million USD in areas like infrastructure, energy and digital economy). The US Secretary of State while stating that this vision was not targeted at anyone, he did make references to China’s hegemonic tendencies, as well as the lacunae of Chinese connectivity projects (especially the economic dimension).

The Chinese reaction to Pompeo’s speech was interesting. Senior Chinese government officials were initially dismissive of the speech, saying that such ideas have been spoken in the past, but produced no tangible results.

An article in the Global Times ‘Indo-Pacific strategy more a geo-political military alliance’ response is significant. What emerges clearly from this article is that Beijing is not taking the ‘Indo-Pacific vision’ lightly, and neither does it rule out the possibility of collaboration. The article is unequivocal, in expressing its skepticism, with regard to the geo-political vision of the Indo-Pacific vision. Argues the article:

While the geopolitical connotation of the strategy may lead to regional tensions and conflicts and thus put countries in the region on alert

It is optimistic with regard to the geo-economic dimension, saying that this would be beneficial, and would promote economic growth and prosperity. What must be noted is that, while the US vision for ‘Indo-Pacific’ has been put forward as a counter to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the article also spoke about the possible complementarities between the US vision for ‘Indo-Pacific’ and China’s version of BRI. While Mike Pompeo had spoken about a crucial role for US private companies in his speech, the article clearly bats in favor of not just between Indian, Japanese, Chinese, US governments as well as companies. This is interesting, given the fact that China had gone to the extent of dubbing the Indo-Pacific vision as the foam on the sea” “that gets attention but will soon dissipate”

While there is absolutely no doubt, that there is immense scope for synergies between the Indo-Pacific vision, and BRI especially in the economic sphere. China’s recent openness towards the Indo-Pacific vision is welcome, but one of the propelling factors is the growing resentment against the economic implications of some BRI projects. While in South Asia, Sri Lanka is a classical example of China’s debt trap diplomacy, where Beijing provides loans at high interest rates (China has taken over the strategic Hambantota Project, since Sri Lanka has been unable to pay Beijing the whopping 13 Billion USD). Even in ASEAN grouping, countries are beginning to question the feasibility of BRI projects, Malaysia which shares close economic ties with Beijing is reviewing certain Chinese projects (this was one of the first steps undertaken by  Mahathir Mohammad after taking over the reigns as Prime Minister of Malaysia).

Second, that while for long the Indo-Pacific Vision has been dubbed as a mere ‘expression’ and one of the criticisms has been a lack of gravitas in the economic context (and even now 113 Million USD is not sufficient). Developments over recent months, including the recent speech, indicate that The Department of State seems to be keen to dispel this notion that the Indo-Pacific narrative is bereft of substance. Here it would be pertinent to point out, that Pompeo’s speech was followed by an Asia visit (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore).

Countries which are key stakeholders in the Indo-Pacific narrative need to keep in mind the following:

US needs to walk the course and apart from investing, more it needs to think of involving more countries, including Taiwan and more South Asian countries like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the Indo-Pacific partnership.

Second, the Indo-Pacific speaks in favor of democracy as well as greater integration, but not only are countries becoming more inward looking, even their stand on democracy, and Human Rights is ambiguous.  Japan is trying to change its attitude towards immigration, and is at the forefront of promoting integration and connectivity within the Indo-Pacific. Neither US, nor India, Japan or Australia have criticized China for its excesses against the Uighur minority in Xinjiang province.

Finally, there is scope for China to be part of the Indo-Pacific, but it needs to look at certain projects beyond the rubric of the BRI. A perfect instance is the Bangladesh China, India Myanmar BCIM Corridor which India was willing to join, but China now considers this project as a part of BRI.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Beijing can not be excluded from the ‘Indo-Pacific’ narrative, but it can not expect to be part of the same, on its own terms. It is also important, for countries like US and India to speak up more forcefully on issues (within their domestic contexts, as well as external) pertaining to Freedom of Speech, Human Rights and  immigration issues, given that all these are essential for a ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’

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Chimeras and Realities of the Indo-Pacific Partnership

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The new American initiative for the creation of the Indo-Pacific Partnership (IPP) has grabbed the spotlight in many political discussions of late. Although the idea to set up such a forum was proposed at the end of 2017 and to this day has been no more than a general slogan, now the Trump administration seems set to stake on it. Why?

As a reminder I would like to point out that on May 30 the US Secretary of Defense announced the renaming of the Pacific Command into the Indo-Pacific Command (although the Command’s responsibility zone a priori included the Indian Ocean waters).

A few days later, at the Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD) conference in Singapore, the idea of IPP was spelled out by the American side, with an emphasis on the aspects of regional security. When commenting on the change of the name of the American command, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi remarked that for India the unification of the Indian and Pacific oceans into a single geographic array looked “natural”.

The practical implementation of the IPP strategy will most likely be carried out both through the strengthening of US bilateral relations with countries of the region and through the creation of multilateral cooperation formats. The most important of these cooperation initiatives is the so-called. “Quadro”, which is designed to bring together the four “democracies” of the Indo-Pacific region – the United States, Japan, Australia and India.

It is believed that the United States, Australia, Japan and India, united in the Quadro, will consider the two oceans a single strategic space. Since 2016, the United States, India and Japan have been conducting joint naval exercises “Malabar”. Washington is clearly giving New Delhi ever more attention, counting on India as one of the future regional security poles, along with Japan, Australia and its other allies.

The feasibility evaluation of IPP was proposed in the concept of “free and open Indo-Pacific strategy”, FOIP). And the recent report of the US National Security Strategy states that “in the Indo-Pacific region, there is a geopolitical competition between free and repressive visions of the world order.”

Apparently, this is about China. Therefore, the idea of IPP, which is motivated by the value and geostrategic approach, did not cause immediate enthusiasm from the American allies in the region.

Assessing the US initiative to establish IPP, Japanese experts, for example, say that Japan has no objections in principle to such an initiative as long as it is “transparent and inclusive”. To this, they add that this initiative can play a role in the development of interregional relations involving East Asia, South Asia, Africa and Eurasia; the main thing is that it should not be directed against China, since Japan is interested in China’s sustained development and Japan-China relations.

In response, South Korea argues that it is too early to suggest a full approval for the IPP as this initiative has been put forward in the form of a general slogan. Seoul has yet to understand what it is and needs more time to examine it in more detail. If it turns out that the initiative aims to deter China, participation in it of the Republic of Korea will be a “difficult choice” to make.

According to experts of the US Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Indo-Pacific region may account for half of the global economy within decades, but this requires investments of almost $ 26 trillion. Now it is obvious that from the point of view of trade and economic cooperation, the IPP is set to replace the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership (TPP), which Donald Trump chose to reject, and offer an alternative. US Secretary of Commerce William Ross explains in this respect that TPP agreements require too much effort to conclude and too complicated: “With such major geopolitical phenomena as the TPP, it is impossible to carry out a controlled experiment.”

Verbally, Washington welcomes China’s contribution to regional development, emphasizing that IPP will not be aimed at containing China or opposing China’s Belt and Road Initiative. At the same time, the emphasis is put on the need to adhere to “international standards of transparency, the rule of law and sustainable financing”.

However, in practice, the main reason underlying IPP is the attempt to conduct a “controlled” geostrategic and geoeconomic experiment, by constructing a partnership framework artificially, in the American interests, without taking into account the interests of potential partners who are not interested in political or economic deterrence of China

Supporters of conventional geopolitical approaches say that the creation of IPP means the advance of the US into Eurasia still further from the east to the west by strengthening ties with predominantly “naval” powers in the eastern and southern peripheries of the Eurasian continent (from South Korea to countries of the Arabian Peninsula) and with island states of the Pacific (from Japan to New Zealand). The main purpose of the IPP is the political and military-strategic deterrence of China, the creation of a rigid “framework” that would prevent Beijing from assuming a dominant position in the region.

Whatever the case, American attempts to artificially “patch together” the IPP “from the material at hand” indicate the need for the Russian diplomacy to boost efforts to cement the Russian-Chinese strategic partnership by developing security mechanisms and fostering cooperation in the land areas of the Eurasian “heartland”.

In the first place, such mechanisms involve the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), measures towards linking the Eurasian integration and the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative and the consistent implementation of the Russian initiative to establish the Greater Eurasian Partnership (GEP).

India’s participation in these organizations and initiatives is a matter of special concern, while the three-party consultative arrangement Russia-India-China needs further strengthening as well.

First published in our partner International Affairs

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