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To Sequestrate, or Not to Sequestrate: The Impact of Covid-19 on Military Budgets

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The ongoing coronavirus pandemic combined with the resulting economic crisis is already affecting behaviors of most countries in the world, including leading military powers. Thus, the adjustment of state expenditures, such as military budgets, is almost unavoidable in this situation. At the same time, a number of countries will inevitably try to support their technology leaders, as a rule, major weapons and equipment manufacturers included. This article attempts to forecast possible reactions of the planet’s military leaders with a focus on their priorities in the event of a deepening crisis.

In case of positive developments (i.e. limited damages and the rapid economic recovery), military programs on all sides stay practically intact and more attention is given to the automation of some processes and further “depopulation” of the military sphere.

An interim option suggests that the global restoration will last a few years and only the United States can avoid serious revisions by taking advantage of its position as the issuer of the world currency; however, some plans will likely be revised in favor of more effective employment and development of the national industry.

A negative scenario involves a serious collapse, including a number of global financial corporations becoming bankrupt. Behaviors of the military leaders and countries of the Second or Third Echelon will differ dramatically: the latter will practically stop the procurement of new equipment and in some cases be forced to make substantial reductions in the armed forces; the former will consider the military industry, first of all, in the context of saving their own economies, which implies significant changes in priorities, the preservation of serial productions of equipment, albeit in reduced production volumes, and the slow-down of expensive and promising R&D, which in early stages mainly generates costs.

The USA: More Money for Each and Every One!

The U.S. behavior in financing military programs will generally be determined by its macroeconomic policy, which so far has been within the expected range: the Federal Reserve has already announced extensive new measures to support the economy, including the explicitly stated program of supporting a generous lending to businesses. US President Donald Trump, in turn, decides against the nation-wide quarantine in order to ensure the functioning of economy, though, a final decision on this issue is yet to be made.

Given statements made and the memorandum issued by Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen M. Lord on the need to maintain the production of armaments and military equipment, it can be assumed that the United States, at least in the nearest future, intends not to reduce its military production programs.

Nevertheless, the memorandum outlines some priorities and the following areas were identified in this capacity: aerospace; mechanical and software engineers; manufacturing/production workers; IT support; security staff; intelligence support; aircraft and weapons systems mechanics and maintainers; suppliers of medical supplies and pharmaceuticals; and critical transportation.

Based on these priorities, it can be concluded that, most likely, all programs on upgrading the U.S. Air Force as well as space programs will be preserved. In addition, existing contracts concluded for the production of military equipment for other types of armed forces will be executed in order to provide support for production enterprises. At the same time, it is possible that some R&D expenses will be reduced in early stages of the cycle as they require substantial funds and not give a large number of jobs and man-hours in the short term.

This approach cannot be called new. A support for the economy through government spending, including the military one, was characteristic of the American leadership in the midst of the Great Depression in the early 1930s. The economic crisis did not obstruct financing of the construction of almost two dozen cruisers, four aircraft carriers, and a large number of ships of other classes for the U.S. Navy during this period; at the same time, the polit-military situation at that moment did not necessitate strengthened procurement; however, a few projects in initial stages of development were put on hold, which subsequently led to a shortage of modern equipment in the U.S. Army and military aviation in the first period of World War II.

The key difference with the current situation is the transition of priorities from the fleet to the Air Force and the space group. The fleet can still get its share in the form of increasing the production volume of existing types of ships and vessels. Previously announced plans to increase the number of U.S. Navy ships of main classification types to 355 are likely to remain in the category of intentions, especially taking into account the probable early disposal of various obsolete assets and the ability to order new ones to replace them.

Russia: Revising Priorities

Given the general economic environment, the situation for Russia is different: the ruble is not a world currency or a universal medium of exchange, which limits possibilities of supporting the national economy by emission methods, the way the United States is trying to do. A fall in budget revenues, due both to the collapse of oil prices and the reduction in tax revenues because of the economic downturn aggravated by the current pandemic, will inevitably require a revision of the state armament program priorities, even if nominal costs do not change.

Taking into account the traditional prioritization of the Russian military development in the post-Soviet period, objects of the defense spending sequestration are totally clear. Most likely programs for the Navy, which is already at the bottom of the military priorities pyramid, will be reviewed, including the development of new projects of capital ships (the new generation of aircraft carriers and Leader-class destroyers) and the reduction in infrastructure renovation costs in several districts, such as the Arctic. The program of modernization of ships and submarines built in 1980–1990s is also at risk, given the previous tendency to exceed funding figures and shift work timeframes. In face of quarantine measures, plans to construct new ships within the framework of the state defense order for 2020 are sure to be tilted.

Land forces are also among the likeliest victims. The high cost of finalizing and launching a series of new models of armored vehicles on promising Armata, Kurganets, and Boomerang platforms has already forced lifting the large-scale production of these vehicles, and they again become the first in line for budget cuts in the current situation. At the same time, artillery weapon modernization programs will most probably be unaffected, given the growing role of long-range artillery systems equipped with the guided ammunition and the target designation from unmanned aerial vehicles, among other things.

The nuclear deterrence and aerospace forces remain as priorities for the Russian military construction, but a revision of expenditures is inevitable here too. In the area of strategic nuclear forces, projects for the revival of railway-based ICBM most likely will be canceled. They are currently represented by Barguzin ICBM, the need and serial prospects of which have repeatedly arose doubts. Developing the Burevestnik nuclear-armed cruise missile with a nuclear propulsion system will be certainly postponed (if not completely canceled). At the same time, serial productions of ballistic missiles Yars and Bulava, as well as Sarmat, all of which are in late stages of development, will continue per program.

As of procurement for the aerospace forces, the first to suffer will be early-stage developments: promising Long-Range Aviation and Transport Aviation branches (PAK DA, PAK TA). A reduction of funding is also possible for a number of other projects, such as the upgrade of Su-30 fighter aircrafts and Su-34 bomber/strike aircrafts, the development of a promising medium military transport aircraft, the new product family of Marine Corps helicopters, etc. At the same time, the military department and the industry leadership will probably strive to maintain the serial production of modern aircrafts, so the termination of the procurement of aircrafts under construction is implausible.

With respect to air defense and missile defense technologies, the S-500 missile system, encountering high expectations as a promising air defense/missile defense weapon in the theater of operations, will certainly go into serial production. A shift to the right is also possible for the large-scale delivery of S-350, a non-critical element in the Russian air defense system production line, as its range of operations is covered by other systems from above and from below.

Space vehicles will inevitably preserve, and possibly improve, their positions in the priority list, given the vital role of space reconnaissance, navigation, and communications in ensuring the country’s defense capabilities, as well as prospects for the deployment of anti-satellite weapons by leading global actors. In this regard, the development of electronic technologies for space military equipment almost unavoidably becomes a top priority, the procurement of imported equipment being even more complicated than ever before.

To the detriment of traditional weapon systems, the share of spending for unmanned vehicles, especially battlefield UAVs, will significantly increase on account of capabilities they have demonstrated in local conflicts, particularly in Syria. The availability of workable reconnaissance-strike systems, including reconnaissance-strike UAVs, space-based systems, long-range artilleries, and the aviation with high-precision weapons, can drastically reduce the number of traditional weapons systems needed to solve most tasks on the battlefield.

Europe: At Whose Expense?

Military budgets of European countries are very difficult to compare, primarily because expenditures of Germany, the top 5 world economy, for instance, and Estonia, one of the world’s smallest economies, are formed on the basis of completely different priorities. European countries in the Second or Third Echelon have already begun to reduce military spending during the ongoing crisis, for example, the Czech Republic envisages postponing the purchase of military equipment worth CZK 2.9 billion (about USD 120 million). Defense budget corrections are expected in other NATO countries as well. At the same time, Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg encouraged the member states not just to maintain but even increase their military spending.

Potential effects of the current crisis on the stability and prospects of the NATO Alliance as a whole is a separate topic worthy of reflection, but within the framework of this article a primary focus will be given to expected behaviors of European countries and leaders of the Alliance, whose military spending can be a tool to save their own and the pan-European economy.

From this point of view, one should await a reduction in expenditures for exercises, as not creating additional jobs their costs only bring losses in a crisis situation. The ongoing pandemic has already led to such a reduction by forcing to cancel scheduled series of NATO exercises, and given economic prospects, no one is expecting large-scale exercises the following year.

NATO leaders will also have to solve the complicated issue of supporting their arms and military equipment manufacturers, that is technology leaders of the European industry, and this pie will need to be cut for several eaters at once. The simplest case is Great Britain, which stopped being a EU member this year, as the support of BAE Systems is its, and partly the U.S.’s, national task; however, within the continental Europe the competition among manufacturers for a share in military spending and anti-crisis packages will sharply increase.

A substantial part of the military budgets will certainly be redirected to sustain Airbus. Provided the expected many-fold reduction in Airbus deliveries, the fall of the company, which was very likely to happen, will leave Europe without its own civilian aircraft manufacturer. The rescue of Airbus will require, among other things, the participation of Great Britain, whose industry is equally interested in maintaining the existence of a pan-European manufacturer of civilian aircrafts.

What is anticipated for combat aircrafts is, first, braking the work process on existing European perspective fighters (French-German FCAS, British-Italian Tempest) and second, a possible revision of current procurement plans by a number of countries, especially with regard to the U.S. 5th Generation F-35 fighter, shifting the timeline to the right: Europe’s participation in this program is not so extensive and makes no warranties in the period when belts must be tightened.

The work on the promising Franco-German tank project KANT, which has been underway since 2015, will be postponed as well. The project involves the creation of a single main battle tank for the armies of the two countries. At this stage, the project requires further investment, but hardly creates production orders or jobs, unlike serial armored vehicles.

Still, this is a longer-term prospect; for now the epidemic is slowing down the ongoing working process. Fincantieri (Italy) and Navantia (Spain) shipbuilding groups, for example, have already reduced their activities. Considering serious damages that the epidemic has already caused to both countries, especially in terms of declining tourism revenues in GDP, it can be assumed that further activities of the defense industries in Italy and Spain will be revised based on their states of the economy in the post-epidemic period. French shipbuilders, who have not yet stopped productions but have reduced their activities and changed some work protocols, too will have to revise their plans. The priority task for the Naval Groupi is to maintain the combat effectiveness of French nuclear submarines and the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. That said, it is thus far difficult to say what kind of impact the crisis will have on the scheduled test program of Suffren submarine, the newest Barracuda class attack submarine.

Nonetheless, according to Petr Topychkanov, Senior Researcher at SIPRI, there is no reason to expect big changes: “The current crisis is another reason for NATO to urge its members to integrate more and increase military capabilities and expenditures. In addition to the traditional threat in the form of the eastern neighbor, whose name was mentioned in connection with the information policy allegedly pursued to spread disinformation and panic over COVID-19, there are now new threats like the virus itself, and the Alliance members were not quite ready for it (but who was ready?). While European countries are only approaching the peak of the epidemic, it is difficult to predict its long-term effect on military spending and the development of the defense industry. So far, we have not heard about the serious need to reduce military spending in favor of restoring the socio-economic sphere. The absence of such rhetoric, together with signals from NATO, suggest that the Alliance members will try to maintain or even increase military spending. Because of the crisis, they will have to adjust priorities, revise schedules, but these changes are unlikely to lead to a long-term decline in military expenditure or the withdrawal of large companies from the arms market”.

A Scenario Check

Any forecast should describe a future scenario that can later be checked for compliance with real events, further assessing the given forecast. The above outlined provisions can briefly be summarized as follows:

In case of positive developments (i.e. limited damages and the rapid economic recovery), military programs on all sides stay practically intact and more attention is given to the automation of some processes and further “depopulation” of the military sphere;

An interim option suggests that the global restoration will last a few years and only the United States can avoid serious revisions by taking advantage of its position as the issuer of the world currency. Some plans, tough, will likely be revised in favor of more effective employment and development of the national industry;

A negative scenario involves a serious collapse, including a number of global financial corporations becoming bankrupt. Behaviors of the military leaders and countries of the Second or Third Echelon will differ dramatically: the latter will practically stop the procurement of new equipment and in some cases be forced to make substantial reductions in the armed forces; the former will consider the military industry, first of all, in the context of saving their own economies, which implies significant changes in priorities, the preservation of serial productions of equipment, albeit in reduced production volumes, and the slow-down of expensive and promising R&D, which in early stages mainly generates costs.

From our partner RIAC

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Webinar: How will we minimize conflicts in the Eastern Mediterranean?

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One of the biggest online events for this year with the theme: “How will we minimize conflicts in the Eastern Mediterranean?was held by the Region of Western Greece and EuropeDirect Patra, on Thursday 25 February 25 2021, organized by the Deputy Governor of Entrepreneurship, Research and Innovation of Western Greece, Fokion Zaimis, with representatives at a very high level, from Greece and abroad. Specifically, the countries represented were Greece, Turkey, Sweden, the USA, Italy and Brussels through elected representatives, MEPs, MPs, lawyers, International Relations Specialists, political scientists, diplomats, senior officials, academics, journalists and representatives of European and international networks.

Opening the event the Deputy Governor of Entrepreneurship, Research and Innovation of Western GreeceFokion Zaimis said: “The Eastern Mediterranean, the cradle of ancient civilization and the crossroads of major economic and commercial routes has been and is the focus of many conflicts from antiquity to the present day. I warmly thank all the participants in today’s international event for conflict prevention in the Eastern Mediterranean in cooperation with Europe Direct and CPMR. Critical and serious issues emerged from completely different starting points and perspectives. Regional government has an important role to play in communication, trade and economic relations, tourism, environment and the consolidation of relations of mutual respect and trust between the communities of Mediterranean countries. The goal is the progress and prosperity of the citizens and what unites us is much more than what divides us”.

The Regional Governor of Western Greece Nektarios Farmakis highlighted: “It also proves in this way that regional government is able to organize and contribute to national or supranational issues and this is something very important, because it proves that it is not limited to the house and is not only trapped in its daily life but also looks at our world with a broader look. Knowing what is happening in the wider area ultimately concerns the regional government. I firmly believe in diplomacy and the possibility of international cooperation that can shape self-government strengthening the national diplomacy and strategy”.

The MEP (epp) Manolis Kefalogiannis, stated: “A very important initiative of the Region of Western Greece with many distinguished guests from Greece and abroad on an important issue concerning the conflict and the reduction of conflicts in the Eastern Mediterranean. It really concerns a dominant issue at this time because we have a neighbor Turkey and President Erdogan who are behaving like riots in the wider region violating every concept of law, every good neighborly relationship and creating tensions in the wider region. We must respect, in accordance with international law, the decisions of the United Nations, the decisions of the European Union, always guided by good neighborly relations, always with respect to the international law of the sea, resolve any disputes in a spirit of peace, cooperation and relations as befits a country such as Turkey, a country that is part of the European family “.

Particularly honorable was the representation of NATO through the speech of a senior official, Dr. Nicola De Santis, Head of NATO Public Diplomacy, presented by Theodosios Georgiou, President of the Greek Association for Atlantic and European Cooperation, who highlighted, among other things, the role that Regions can play in security and cooperation. Dr. Nicola De Santis spoke about the important role that NATO plays in the challenges and what security prospects in the Eastern Mediterranean, explained the principles of the Alliance, pointed out the important role played by citizens through their demands, security as a necessary condition for development, as well the consultations and cooperation proposals promoted by NATO.

Speaking about the institutional-legal framework, the Ambassador (ad.hon.) and former Ambassador of Greece to Washington, Alexandros Mallias, pointed out: “It is exactly one year since the operation of violating the borders of Greece in Evros. The invasion and occupation of Cyprus, the aggressive moves against Greece and the constant official provocations, the strategic intervention of Turkey in Libya, Iraq, Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh are violations, incompatible with Article 1 of the NATO Statute. So this is an ally behavior that allows NATO rivals to question the consistency between declarations, principles and actions. The goal of Mr. Erdogan’s policy is not sound in the negotiations to ensure the terms of an honest peace that will ensure relations of cooperation and good neighborliness. On the contrary, its goal is the forced adaptation of Greece to the expectations and conditions of Turkey. Therefore, it does not have a short-term character. It is no coincidence that Mr Erdogan is systematically calling for a revision of the Lausanne Treaty. At the same time, Ankara aims to nullify the trust of Greek citizens in its political leadership”.

The business framework was set by former Minister of Culture & Tourism, Pavlos Geroulanos: “One can not ignore the provocation of Turkey and its willingness to create tension in the region. Obviously we can not discuss any cooperation as long as we have such a deployment of Turkish troops in the Aegean Sea. The basis of cooperation is with countries that have strong diplomacy, economy and army. Only when you can stand on yourfeet can you impose peace in an area.”

Dimitrios Kairidis,  Professor of International Relations and MP (North Sector of Athens, New Democracy), explained why Turkey, a country with special structural elements, is a particularly destabilizing factor for the wider Mediterranean region.

Suleyman Ozeren, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, George Mason University talked about forced Migration, Refugee Crisis and the Abyss of Securitization in Turkey, which consist really concerning issues. He referred that Turkey is not only a country of entry for many refugees, such as Syrian people who were considered guest in the beginning, but also a country of exit for many Turkish people due to law and democracy issues. In this context he made some policies recommendations.

The representation of ELIAMEP (Hellenic Foundation for European & Foreign Policy) was also particularly honourable by Thanos Veremis, Vice President of the Boardand Emeritus Professor (Department of Political Science and Public Administration, University of Athens, History, International Relations) who expressed strong concerns about Greek-Turkish relations.

An important parameter in international relations regarding the value code that each country has, every citizen, put the Ottoman, Turkologist, Associate of the Laboratory of Turkish & Eurasian Studies and Lawyer at the Supreme Court, Dr. Dimitris Stathakopoulos stating: “We have common interests with Eastern Mediterranean, but we also have different quality characteristics which our value codes and the historical memories we have prevent us from resolving the existing issues in a sense of” associations “. Because we start from a different historical basis and it is by no means self-evident that we perceive International Law or conventions in exactly the same way. The Turks believed and believe, for example, that Greece liberated not Greek territories, but conspiracy theoristically conquered new countries. He sees Greece as an ungrateful part of the Ottoman Empire which made a “stop”, not a Greek revolution “, and added that” we can get along with Turkey, but the logic of Turkey does not allow us to agree, since it does not want cooperation with equals”.

Matthew Crosston, Ph.D., Professor, Director of Academic Transformation Office of the Provost, Bowie State University, Executive Vice Chairman and Author at  Modern Diplomacy.eu talked about the Hydrocarbon Hybrid War asan untangling conflict in the Eastern Med. He pointed the problem of missing information in western and eastern media regarding the real  situation, as well as the vision of Turkey to be an energy hub.

Through this event besides presenting the current situation in the wider Eastern Mediterranean region, the opportunity was given to identify those points that complicate the situation and views were expressed from different perspectives within a democratic, multicultural and pluralistic context that seeks to find cooperation solutions through dialogue, democracy, human rights and the peaceful coexistence of peoples.

The event was also attended by the honorable speakers:

  • Mitat ÇELİKPALA, Vice Rector, Professor, Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences, Department of International Relations, Kadir Has University
  • Emmanouil Karagiannis, Associate Professor, Department of Defense Studies, King’s College London
  • Ioannis Mitsios, Political Scientist, International Relations Specialist, M.A. Northeastern University, Boston
  • Giorgos Alexakis, Vice Governor on European and International Affairs at Region of Crete, Vice-President of CPMR & EUROMONTANA
  • Theodoros Louloudis, Publisher of “Peloponnisos” Newspaper, Member of the Organizing Committee of the Regional Growth Conference,
  • Annika AnnerbyJansson, President of Region Skåne, Chair of the CPMR’s Task Force on Migration Mamangement
  • Dimitrios Triantafyllou, Professor, Department of International Relations, Kadir Has University
  • Dimitrios Rizoulis, Journalist, Director of the newspaper “Dimokratia”.

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India – The US Promote National Defense – Security Cooperation

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US and Indian foreign ministers and defense ministers at a press conference after 2+2 Dialogue on 27/10 (Source: IANS)

In recent years, the India-US bilateral relationship has been more closely bonded, especially defense-security cooperation in various fields including nuclear technology, maritime defense and security, anti-terrorism in the region and in the world … has been continuously promoted, contributing to the development of an intensive bilateral relationship. This results from the demand for security strategy, economic, security and political interests of the two parties. The United States wants India to become its ally in the Indo-Pacific region, counterbalancing China’s growing influence, ensuring U.S. maritime security interests and a huge commercial arm market for the US. To India: a good relationship with the US will help India highten its position in the region; India also wants to rely on US power to increase its military strength, to watch out China and create pressure on Pakistan. In addition, India’s comprehensive diplomacy and the US’s regional strategy carried out simultaneously without overlapping, is conducive to strengthening the bilateral security cooperation for both countries.

It is evitable that in recent years, defense-security cooperation between India and the US has made remarkable progresses. After removing the Sanctions on India for nuclear testing in May 2018, the US and India announced the Joint Declaration on Civil Energy Cooperation between the two countries. Accordingly, the US will provide nuclear fuel and technology support for India to develop civil nuclear energy. This has opened the door for India to develop their nuclear weapons and improve military strength. The two countries also cooperate in many defense activities including ballistic missile defense, joint military training, expanding arms sales, strengthening military staff exchanges and intelligence, as well as loosening two-way technology exports.

To be specific: In January 1995, the two countries signed the “US-India Defense Relations Agreement”, stipulating that in addition to conducting cooperation on research and production of military weapons, the two countries also conduct exchanges between military and non-military personnel. In May 2001, the Indian government announced its support for the US to develop a ballistic missile defense system, and proposed to purchase the “Patriot 1 (PAC-3)” air defense missile system. In March 2005, during the Conference on Cooperation in Ballistic Missile Defense, the US, India and Japan agreed to set up a joint working group, to implement close cooperation on ballistic missile defense. In June 2005, the United States and India signed a 10-year military cooperation agreement, which not only required increased exchanges between the two countries’ armies, but also proposed to strengthen military cooperation regarding weapons production, and trading as well as ballistic missile defense. In July 2009, the two countries signed a “Comprehensive customer surveillance treaty” on defense, the US sold advanced defense technology to India. This treaty allowed India to obtain a “permission card” to buy the US’s advanced weaponry. In addition, the two countries also cooperate in counter-terrorism in the region and around the world, maritime security, and joint military exercises …

One of the activities promoting bilateral relations between India and the US was the “2 + 2 Dialogue” taking place on October 27, 2020 in New Delhi. Within the framework of this dialogue, India and the United States had shared exchanges of a free and open Indo-Pacific vision, embracing peace and prosperity, a rules-based order with  the central role of ASEAN, resolving disputes, ensuring the economic and security interests of all related parties with legitimate interests in this region … The focus on defense-security cooperation in this “2+2 Dialogue” is the signing of the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA). The agreement allowed India to access accurate data, topographic images, maps, maritime and aviation data and satellite data on a real-time basis from US military satellites. Thereby, this will assist the provision of better accuracy for such weapons as cruise missiles, ballistic missiles and drones of India, and support the rescue operations during natural disasters and security strategy. The BECA is one of the four basic agreements a country needs to sign to become a major defense partner of the US. The other three agreements that India had previously signed with the United States are the General Security Of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA),  the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) and theCommunications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) . These are “cornerstone” agreements allowing the armies of the two countries to fight together in the event of a conflict. Accelerating the signing of the BECA was just one of various ways India reacted to China threats, especially after the border clashes in Doklam (2017) and Ladakh (5/2020-now). India, the US, Japan and Australia were more active in the Quartet Meeting on October 6 in Tokyo. India also invited Australia to join the Malabar naval exercises with the US and Japan in November.

The signing of BECA was a further institutionalization of the Indo-US strategic relationship to promote the two countries’ intensive cooperate on strategy and military, without pressure to become an official ally yet have benefits. Washington received interests in selling weapons to New Delhi, especially when conflict starts. New Delhi has attached more importance to US military equipment because of its transparent pricing, simple operation and maintenance, thereby reducing reliance on Russia for weapons. Currently, the total value of Indian weapons purchased from the US is more than 15 billion USD and is expected to double in the coming time. The US-India military cooperation, therefore, will be closer in the future.

Also at this dialogue, the two countries agreed to cooperate in dealing with the Covid pandemic, considering this a priority for bilateral cooperation in this period. Accordingly, the US and India will cooperate in RDto produce a series of vaccines, to expand access to vaccines, and ensure high-quality, safe, effective and affordable medical treatment between the two countries and on a global scale.

Currently, India-US defense-security cooperation is at its heyday in the history and is likely to develop further. This relationship has profound effects on the regional security environment, especially direct effects on China. As military forces grow, India will probably implement their military strategy “taking the Indian Ocean in the South, expanding power to the East Sea in the East, attacking Pakistan in the West, watching out for China in the North”, plus nuclear deterrence. This will worsen the fierce arms race in such regions as the South Asia and the Indian Ocean, leading to an imbalance of forces and add up a number of unstability factors in these regions.

In short, India-US defense-security cooperation is making remarkable progresses and has created impact on regional security, especially China and other countries with common interests in this region, including Vietnam. Therefore, the China-American-Indian triangle relationship is currently in an unstable state. In this scenario, it is suggested that countries actively identify issues relating to the this three military powers relationship and devise appropriate diplomatic strategies, balancing bilateral relations with major powers with disagreements to ensure national security and stability in the region.

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India-Pakistan LOC peace

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India and Pakistan have both announced to “strictly observe” the truce along the Line of Control and all other sectors “in the interest of achieving mutually beneficial and sustainable peace along the borders”. Such an announcement could not have emerged without Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s imprimatur.  A hunch is that the move is an upshot of a nudge from the US president. This impression is fortified by several events that are accentuated by India-Pakistan entente (so called surgical strikes, 5000 ceasefire violations, hype about 2008 Mumbai attack and the one at Pathankot  airbase, so on). From Pakistan’s angle, India believed in might is right. And while it was open to compromises with China, it displayed a fist to Pakistan.

Need for a dialogue

In the past, peace at the LOC proved ephemeral as it was not backed up by sufficient follow-up. A dialogue is needed for the hour. It is a good omen that Pakistan is open to talks despite chagrin at abolition of the occupied state’s statehood.

Misconception about the sanctity of the India-Pakistan LOC vis-a-vis the Sino-Indian LAC

A common misperception is that the Line of Actual Control (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 Simla Agreement. It is delineated on a map signed by Director General Military Operations 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’.

To understand Sino-Indian differences, one needs to peek into the 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.

The afore-quoted newspaper poses the 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 had 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”. It is this map that was officially used that 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).

India considers the LAC to be 3,488 km long, while the Chinese consider it to be only around 2,000km.

The LAC was discussed during Chinese Prime Minister Li Peng’s 1991 visit to India, where Indian PM P. V. Narasimha Rao and Premier Li reached an understanding to maintain peace and tranquility at the LAC. India formally accepted the concept of the LAC when Rao paid a return visit to Beijing in 1993.

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.

India’s disdain of the LOC

India’s mindset on the LOC should change. The problem is Nehru never cared a fig 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 3,649 official documents which gave new perspectives to Nehru’s state of mind.

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.

LoC peace should lead to Kashmir solution

The tentative solutions include (a) status quo (division of Kashmir along the present Line of Control with or without some local adjustments to facilitate the local population, (b) complete or partial independence (creation of independent Muslim-majority tehsils of Rajauri, Poonch and Uri, with Hindu-majority areas merged in India), (c) a plebiscite to be held in five to 10 years after putting Kashmir under UN trusteeship (Trieste-like solution), (d) joint control, (e) an Indus-basin-related solution, (f) an Andorra island (g) Aland island-like solution and (h) permutations and combinations of the aforementioned options.

Another option is for Pakistan and India to grant independence to disputed areas under their control and let Kashmir emerge as a neutral country. An independent Kashmir, as a neutral country, was the favourite choice of Sheikh Abdullah. From the early 1950s “Sheikh Abdullah supported ‘safeguarding of autonomy’ to the fullest possible extent” (Report of the State Autonomy Committee, Jammu, p. 41).

Abdullah irked Nehru so much that he had to put him behind the bars. Bhabani Sen Gupta and Prem Shankar Jha assert that “if New Delhi sincerely wishes to break the deadlock in Kashmir, it has no other alternative except to accept and implement what is being termed as an ‘Autonomy Plus, Independence Minus’ formula, or to grant autonomy to the state to the point where it is indistinguishable from independence”. (Shri Prakash and Ghulam Mohammad Shah (ed.), Towards understanding the Kashmir crisis, p.226).

Sans sincerity and the will to implement, the only Kashmir solution is divine intervention or the unthinkable, nuclear Armageddon.

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