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International Institutions, Governance and COVID-19 Crisis in Pakistan

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Authors: Asfandiyar Khan and Areeja Syed  

International organization and global governance are very important factor to run the system of the world. To protect the lives of the world population international institution and global governance can play are very effective and influential role. In the past we have harrowing failures in Rwanda and Somalia still searing our memories, and Syria and Darfur’s. There are many international institution and international organization in the world that are controlling different aspects and affairs of the world. The absence of a robust global regulatory regime governing financial transaction and innovations helped heighten the effects of the 2007-2008 global financial and economic crisis, plunging western economies into more than half a decade of recession and sparring little of the rest of the world. Just a decade earlier, the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997 -98 had also drawn attention to the inequalities of global financial governance, including to the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) role in exacerbating the crisis. The global development architecture has presided over the feeblest of reductions in the proportion of the world’s population living on less than US$ 1.25 per day. Our world is organized in such a way that around 1.5 to 2.5 billion people have little or no access to the more basic needs. Unprecedented growth in the gap between rich and poor has occurred within and across the nation. These international institution and international organization are trying to eradicate poverty and to provide the basic needs of the life. But the efforts of these organizations and institution are negligible they don’t try honestly. Sometimes these institution and organization are exacerbating the crisis, like IMF. To some extent these organizations are exploiting the poor and 3rd world countries.

International Organizations and the diffusion of Power

There are two schools of thought regarding the relationship between international organizations (IOs) and the diffusion of power. One school suggests that IOs are conservative organization that are designed to freeze the existing configuration of power. If they are doing their job, then they are not diffusion power. The other is that IOs are expected to pluralize power. The world is constituted by radical inequalities of power, with some state having an abundance and others a scarcity, and the United Nations and other IOs essential to global governance help to level the playing field by giving an opportunity for the weak to have a voice and neglected issues to be seen. The essence is that both camps are right: IOs can be defenders of the powerful and agents of reform. International organization plays very important role in the global order. There are several best-known theories see IOs as preserving the existing distribution of power and interests.

There are different theories regarding International organizations; Realists see IOs as playthings of states and Marxists as instruments of capitalism and even institutionalism who grant that IO staff have some relative autonomy and discretion, are limited in their ability or desire to effect real change. Critical and constructivist theories acknowledge that IOs are defenders of the status quo, but they also provide theoretical and conceptual grounds for observing real independence and the attempt to provide greater equality of opportunities for other actors. International organizations preserve and promote the interest of the greater states; World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are able to use their capital to force borrowing states to adopt “best practices,” slash budgets and redirect economics resources. Pakistan have bailout packages many time from IMF but it didn’t help Pakistan. Because of IMF strict conditions and its policies Pakistan could not escape from the grip of IMF.

IOs constituted by global liberalism are defenders of an international order that contains the ingredients for the diffusion of power (through compulsory or institutional power). Compulsory and institutional power illuminate the relationship between IOs and the diffusion of power. IOs are two-faced they can either preserve or diffuse power, altering the underlying social relations that limit or enhance the ability of actors to control the circumstances of their lives. They also are relatively autonomous actors. Lastly, they can be linked to the diffusion and preservation of power in and through their position in existing structures, but they also can be linked to these effects through their actions. The world culture values of democracy and technocracy can help diffuse power, but we want to close with a word of warning: these values can be operating at cross-purposes. A classic dilemma of modern liberal governance is the presumed trade-off between democracy and technocracy. In democracy (or the rule of the people), there is deference to respect the “general will,” the “majority,” and the “will of the people” on various grounds, including autonomy, liberty, and the belief that the people know best. In technocracy (or the rule of experts), there is difference to those who have specific knowledge. The immediate implication is that the rule of experts can be anti-democratic. Experts are not expected to always respect the preferences of the people but instead are supposed to use their presumably objective judgment. In these and other instances, outsiders feel justified in ignoring or dismissing the stated needs of the people. For instance, peacebuilders often argue that they cannot practice the democracy that they preach because war-torn societies do not have the institutions to enable them to debate and aggregate preferences and because listening to the “people” might mean privileging the powerful and thus reproducing existing societal inequalities. This suggests the possibility that moral progress might depend not on the revolutionary character of the “people” but rather on the role of morally minded elite. Regardless of whether on thinks the elitism has its positive qualities, it is indisputably anti-democratic. In the race between technocracy and democracy, arguably technocracy seems to be winning. If so, International Organizations might be diffusing and conserving power for themselves.

The Crisis of COVID-19 in the World and a Case Study of Pakistan

COVID-19 outbreak was first time experienced in the Wuhan City of China at the end of December 2019. Which spread rapidly in China and then worldwide in 209 countries of America, Europe, Australia and Asia including Pakistan. There are more than fifty thousand mortalities and one million plus people have been affected worldwide, while figure increases rapidly. Different steps have been taken worldwide for the control of COVID-19. Even with less resources Pakistan also taken rigorous measures like designed special hospitals, Laboratories for testing, quarantine facilities, awareness campaign and lock down to control the spread of virus. We highlighted the efforts of government to combat this deadly pneumonia. The COVID-19 outbreak was treated as a case of pneumonia with unknown etiology appeared in the Wuhan city of China, at the end of December 2019, which spread across the country to worldwide with a high rate. The PRC (People’s Republic of China) Centre for Disease Control (CDC) analyzed the respiratory samples and declared that the pneumonia was caused by a novel coronavirus which named the pneumonia as Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia (NCP). The coronavirus is one of the major virus that target the respiratory system of the human. The Chinese researchers named the virus as 2019-nCoV. Later, the International Committee on Taxonomy of Virus named the novel coronavirus as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2). On the same day, February 11, 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) name the Pneumonia as Coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19)

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID 19 outbreak as sixth public health of emergency Services (SPHEC) on January 30, 2020. This was not the first outbreak of the coronavirus. The previous coronavirus outbreaks include Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV) outbreak and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) outbreak. The COVID-19 thought the third outbreak of the coronavirus which affected more than 209 countries including Pakistan. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), total of 1,093,349 confirmed cases with 58,620 mortalities. To date, the number of highest positive cases encountered in USA followed by Italy and Spain.

The border countries of Pakistan highly affected including China, where the COVID-19 outbreak experienced first time. In the west, Italy with highest number of COVID-19 mortalities while in the north, Iran a high number of mortalities after the Italy. In Pakistan, the first case of COVID-19 has been confirmed by the Ministry of Health, government of Pakistan on February 26, 2020 in Karachi, Sindh province. On the same day another case confirmed by the Pakistan Federal Ministry of Health in Islamabad. Within fifteen days, the number of total confirmed cases (COVID-19 Positive) reached to twenty (20) out of 471 suspected cases with highest numbers in the Sindh province followed by the Gilgit Baltistan. All of the confirmed cases had recent travel history from Iran, Syria and London. And currently these cases increase by high rate and the situation is worst. The geographical location of Pakistan, with the continuous increases in the number of CVOID-19 positive cases need a high level of action, planes and management. On 12th of February, the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation & Coordination Pakistan presented a plane “National Action Plan for Preparedness & Response to Corona Virus Disease (Covid-19) Pakistan”, the aims to control the spreading of virus and to strengthen country and community emergency preparedness in order to ensure a timely, efficient and effective response to potential events due to Covid-19 including. The local, regional and national outbreaks that can have a significant impact on the health of Pakistani population and society. To date, different steps have been taken by the government of Pakistan against COVID-19 outbreak. In this review, we highlighted the different steps taken by the government of Pakistan against CoVID-19, such as designated hospitals, quarantine centers, testing facilities, treatments, public awareness and the response of local community against COVID-19 outbreak.

The current situation in Pakistan

According to the Ministry of Health, Government of Pakistan, there are total of 12227 confirmed positive cases in the country with total 287 mortalities on Saturday, April 25,2020. The highest cases appeared in the Punjab province (5046) followed by Sindh 4232, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 1708, Baluchistan 656, Gilgit Baltistan 307, Islamabad 223, and Azad Jammu and Kashmir have 55 confirmed cases. Total recovered cases are 2,755.

Facilitation by government of Pakistan against COVID-19

The Government of Pakistan is taking all the measures against the COVID-19 to provide and insure the responsibilities of the state for their people. Since the first day when the first case was conformed in Karachi city of Sindh all the services and measures were used with the extreme capabilities to ensure the safeness of life in the region. Meanwhile, all the cases have a travel history, suggesting transmission elsewhere being imported in the country. The government of Pakistan provides the COVID-19 mitigation strategies with their measures. Such as early case detection and Tracing and tracking of contacts, Risk communication, Social Distancing, Quarantine and Isolation to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

The Government of Pakistan has established a COVID-19 Relief Fund to receive donation for the welfare of publics. Social network helplines were launched by the Government in seven (07) local languages. Communication Task Force Baluchistan with the support of UNHCR has developed IEC material in Dari and Pashto Languages. The materials will be distributed in all villages with refugees in Baluchistan. The Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has issued directives for closure of OPDs and elective surgical services from 1-13 April 2020 in all the Tertiary Care Hospitals, District Headquarters Hospitals and Private Clinics throughout the province. The Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) has allocation $ 60 million to Global Response plan for COVID-19. Sindh Government has established first drive through COVID-19 Testing facility in Karachi.

Hospitals for COVID-19 in Pakistan

The arrangements to fight against the COVID-19, there are lots of measures being taken by the government of Pakistan to control the outbreak and facilitate their people. There were many hospitals been working in this scenario to bring back the life and fight against the deadly outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.

In the capital territory Islamabad, there was a single hospital functional. While in the Baluchistan, there were 10 hospitals for COVID-19. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) 7, Punjab (PJB) 6, Sindh (SD) 4, Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) 4, and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) 3 hospitals were functional.

Designated hospitals

Specific hospitals have been approved for admission and management of suspected and confirmed based upon availability of quality isolation wards at Federal, provincial and regional level. Each institute and hospital are expected to conduct need and availability assessment of supplies (equipment, personal protective equipment, laboratory diagnostics) and including identification of sources to ensure provision and availability of PPEs and other equipment. Notify and train IPC (Infection prevention and control) team at the designated hospitals. A trained IPC focal person be nominated to ensure the IPC measures implanted and imbedded. The recently drafted National IPC guidelines/SOPs (Standard operational procedure) will be distributed and implemented which are following;

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) have been developed and disseminated for waste    management at hospitals and airports. Local SOPs should be established and available in all HCFs with appropriate training of the staff assigned to handle the waste.

Disinfection and Environmental decontamination SOPs were developed.

Isolation wards were built all over Pakistan to prepare for COVID-19 pandemic, Province/Region wise number of designated Hospitals ICT-01, Punjab-06, Sindh-04, Baluchistan-10, KP-07, GB-04 and AJK-03. The total number of beds in isolation wards in whole country are 23,557 were established. In capital territory Islamabad 350 beds, Punjab 10,948, Sindh 2,100, Baluchistan 5,897, KP 2,760, GB 972 and in AJK 530 beds facilities were established in isolation wards.

Future Prospects and Major Steps Should Take by Government of Pakistan

The COVID-19 coursed by SARS-CoV-2 in the Wuhan city of China which rapidly spread in 208 countries/regions including USA, UK, Italy, Spain and Pakistan. The current scenario of Pakistan is not satisfactory as Pakistan is much populated country where required more facilitation. Pakistan is a developing country where the financial position is not better as compared to China, USA, UK, Russia to combat with COVID-19 outbreak. The number of hospitals and quarantine facilities being not fulfilled as required. If these medical facilities improved, then it will not be difficult to control the transmission of viruses and treatment of patients. Currently the testing facilities are much lower than the required target. The testing facilities could increase by five to ten (5to 10) folds. The right steps should be taken to control the situation more worst such as staying at homes, lockdown, social distancing, using sanitizers, face mask when necessary. Pakistan needs more screening facilities for the arrivals as well as for the departures. It is hoped that Pakistan will overtake the COVID-19.

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Looming Humanitarian Crisis – Millions May Die in Afghanistan

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A mother and her child in the Haji camp for internally displaced people in Kandahar, Afghanistan. © UNICEF Afghanistan

There is a dire need for massive funds transfer to Afghanistan in present circumstances where banks and businesses have collapsed, the hunger crisis is also rising while the prices of basic commodities like shelter, fuel, and food have increased. There is a clear warning from World Health Organization (WHO) that within one year over 3 million children may suffer from malnutrition. UN World Food Program has also issued multiple warnings of deteriorating food insecurity in Afghanistan. The Winter season will also become too risky for the survival of one million children as the temperature will drop to an extremely low level. 

There are numerous cases of acute shortage of money, where families are compelled to even sell their babies and daughters as child brides. Public hospitals are facing a shortage of medical equipment; the nurses and doctors are not paid prompting them to quit. The majority of Afghans want to move to other countries for life security and a better future. Heavy human traffic from Afghanistan has gathered on borders with Iran and Pakistan. UNHCR has called on authorities of Afghan neighboring countries to cease the forced return of Afghans, noting that many of them may require refugee protection.

The private sector, which works for the progress of the country, has halted due to uncertainty. There is a serious and shocking analysis by UNDP that by July next year 97% of the Afghan population may fall under the poverty line. Millions of people are living hand to mouth and will face harsher economic crises due to troubling economies. 

Even $1.29 billion aid, recently announced from US and EU for Afghanistan & its refugees living in surrounding countries cannot solve the economic crisis permanently. This aid will only be able to postpone the human disaster for some time but it is not a permanent solution.

The world’s best economists are constantly warning that the present economic situation will lead to anarchy and chaos in Afghanistan. Abdallah Al Dardari, UNDP’s Afghanistan head, said, “I’m comparing Afghanistan with Venezuela, Lebanon, and so on; we haven’t seen such an immediate, abrupt drop”.

After the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, the first step by the Biden administration was to freeze the $9.5 billion foreign reserves. Taliban recently called on the US delegation in Doha for the unconditional and immediate unfreezing of Afghanistan’s financial assets.

IMF has also warned that this year Afghan economy will get contracted to 30%. During Ghani’s government, US aid accounted for 75% of the government budget and 45% of the country’s GDP. The majority of sectors of Afghanistan were run by foreign aid including a majority of public-sector jobs in the medical, teaching, policing, and legal sectors.

From the last few months, the life of millions of daily wagers/ working class has become hopeless. They gather in various downtowns for the sake of work but as the construction industry has halted so they get back without getting any work. They are unable to buy food for themselves and their families and live miserable lives. Another fact of the matter is that Afghanistan has long been dependent on imports of basic utensils.

In Ashraf Ghani’s government, the Afghan economy was fragile because of poverty and corruption. Customs, administration, and traffic officers, who have gone unpaid for months, are asking for more bribes. Things have become highly disorganized in all segments of the country.

Taliban have placed withdrawal limits on currency ranging from 200-400$ per week to counter complete currency collapse. Taliban have appealed to fill its billions of dollars vacuum from Qatar, Turkey, Pakistan, and China. Taliban are also pressing the US for the release of its frozen funds and they think that the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is increasing as a result of their frozen funds. Afghans are facing a shortage of crucial goods due to trade disruptions and the collapse of financial services which have supplemented traders’ woes that depend on U.S. dollars and bank loans for imports. Issuance of sanctions’ exemption, by the Biden administration at the end of September to ease out the process of aid, is still not enough.

Afghan interim government has to find the best economic team from inside and outside the country which should be able to bring some fruitful strategies and planning to solve this economic crisis. The International community needs to come together to join hands with the Afghan interim government to avoid the worst-case scenario in Afghanistan. The international community should also play its role in bringing “explicit humanitarian exemptions” for the delivery of aid to prevent a “catastrophe”.  Watchdogs like UNSC and the US government should do their utmost to raise the living standards of the Afghan people.

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What ails Modi’s relations with its own people and neighbours?

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The veneer of “democracy” cloaks “autocratic and hypocritical” style of Modi’s government. Modi first tried every Machiavellian trick to suppress the farmers’ protest movement against the three farms laws. He tied to sow seeds of discord among them by portraying them as “Khalistani” through a multitude f fake social media accounts.  He then tested the protester’s patience by letting the movement linger on for a years. He allowed police to beat them mercilessly. Tried to turn the Supreme Court hostile to them. And finally a farmer was mowed down under a vehicle (Lakhimpura incident).  About seven hundred farmers including some women lost their lives. But, Modi shrugged off the claim saying their deaths were due to natural causes. He kept insisting that the laws were enacted for farmers’ welfare. And they would repent their repeal. The farmers saw through the ruse and stayed put. The laws were finally withdrawn without any discussion. This gesture strengthened the opposition’s allegation and farmers’ perception that the laws were meant to surreptitiously benefit the crony capitalism (Adanis, Ambanis, et al).

Modi deprived the disputed Jammu and Kashmir of even its nominal statehood without caring a fig for sentiments of the common man or the politicians. He is unwilling to repatriate the Occupied Kashmir widows or wives of so-called militants. Instead of repealing draconian laws, he is killing innocent Kashmiris in fake encounters (Hyderpora encounter being the latest). In 1990s, India’s reign of terror forced large number of Kashmiri natives to cross over into the Azad Kashmir.  India launched operation ‘Sadbhavana’ to lure back the refugees. Some refugees even married the Azad Kashmiri nationals.  Those who returned mostly wives or divorcees had been suffering immeasurably being without nationality documentation. Indian government could have deported them back to Azad Kashmir. But, India flouted its own promise of rehabilitation and international norms by denying them nationality.  Defying restrictions, hundreds of wives protested in Srinagar and held a press conference (November 21, 2021) to highlight their plight. Modi is unwilling to repatriate the widows or wives. Be it observed that Pakistan immediately returns innocent border crossers back to India.

Modi imposed a corrupt friend (Patel) as governor of Lakshadweep (32 square kilometers), a predominantly Muslim archipelago of 36 islands (10 of which are uninhabited). It is sparsely populated with population of 63000, growing at about six per cent against national average of 17 percent.

The governor issued many orders which were perceived as anti-Muslim. For instance, no-one could slaughter a cow without a permit but liquor was allowed in all the islands ostensibly to promote tourism. The government could acquire any piece of land from inhabitants in national interest.  The isles are in COVID grip and the people used to airlift the sick to nearby Kerala. The governor ordered that no sick shall be flown out without the governor’s permission. The people interpreted the governor’s move s as an effort to impair their life style and links with Kerala. He wanted to facilitate the isles link with Mangalore (Karnataka). The islanders are convinced that the Centre is trying to depopulate the island and convert into a naval base. Within framework f QUAD, the Modi government wants to strengthen “Chagos-Lakshadweep-Maldives choke”.

India’s volatile North East

At the time of partition, India was in grip of countless insurgencies and separatist movements (Dravidstan, Khalistan, Bodo, Nagas and Mizos). It is still a simmering cauldron. India’s north east was a porous border. Through deceit, coercion, and financial incentives, India mellowed some of the insurgencies. Ambushes and confrontations still take place in some north eastern states. Indian bowed to insurgents’ demands for the creation of new states. And, insurgency leaders became chief ministers! India forgot yesteryear when they used to burn to ashes copies of the Indian constitution and uproot rail tracks. Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Nagaland and East Punjab merged into the Union.” India has become synonymous with a thousand insurgencies waged by mysterious outfits, known only by their acronyms. It has become synonymous with grandiose announcements by successive prime ministers of many thousand crore packages that disappear without trace, leaving a handful of political brokers very rich. And in the Indian bureaucracy, a posting in the Northeast is treated on par with incarceration in Siberia” (Swapan Dasgupta, India’s Siberia, Rediff dated October 2004).

Neighbourhoods

Pakistan

Modi‘s “might is right” style is conspicuous from India’s policies towards her neighbours. India’s former foreign secretary Shyam Saran (How India sees the World) thinks none of the disputes with Pakistan are intractable. They were almost solved except for lack of political will to sign the final draft deals. To pander to the galleries, India’s home minister Amit Shah roared in Parliament that “Aksai Chin and POK (Azad Kashmir) are part of India. And we would lay down our lives to get them back”.

Nepal

To topple KP Sharma Oli’s government, Indian embassy in Nepal had been bankrolling corrupt politicians and other members of Nepalese society. Oli was ultimately ousted by Supreme Court of Nepal and appointed the new prime minister until the next elections. Oli

debunked India’s conspiracies during a ceremony to commemorate sixty-ninth anniversary of the Party’s popular leader Madan Bandari. He claimed, `Conspiracies were being plotted against him since the constitutional Nepali map amendment’.  No-one thought that a prime minister would be removed from office for printing a map’.

Be it observed that Nepal amended its map when its objections fell flat on India. India’s defense minister Rajnath Singh, went ahead to inaugurate an 80-kilometer-long road connecting the Lipulekh Pass in Nepal with Darchula in Uttarkhand (India). Indian army chief insinuated that Oli was being prodded by China against India.

After being ousted by the Nepalese Supreme court, Oli continued to criticise India’s machinations. Inaugurating the 10th general convention of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) in Chitwan, Oli claimed if his party comes back to power it will “take back the disputed territories such as Limpiyadhura, Kalapani and Lipulek from India through dialogue”. The Lipulekh pass is a far western point near Kalapani, a disputed border area between Nepal and India. Both India and Nepal claim Kalapani as an integral part of their territory — India as part of Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district and Nepal as part of Dharchula district. (‘Will ‘take back’ Kalapani, Lipulekh from India, If…’ KP Sharma Oli. One India, November 27, 2021).

Maldives

Indo-Maldivian relations are no longer hunky-dory. They are rather in a state of flux. India reneged on contract to supply a hundred thousand doses of corona virus vaccines to Maldives. So did India despite that fact that it views the current president Solih as pro-India as compared to Yameen the previous president. India withheld supplies thoughMaldives had already paid the cost.  In perhaps a tit-for-tat, Maldives banned all Indian tourists including films stars.

Fluid political situation in Maldives

There is a widespread impression in Maldives that India has subjugated the country’s sovereignty through a host of treaties. The present president Solih is perceived as an Indian stooge. People resent granting immunity to Indian forces in Maldives and allowing construction of military infrastructure. The subsurface resentment led to “India out” social media campaign. The Indian High Commission became terrified of the ferocity of the protests. And, it sent a note verbale to the Maldivian government for protection of its staff.

President Solih is up against opposition from within his party. Through a tweet, Nasheed, the former President and at present Parliament Speaker, has highlighted corruption scandals against President Mohamed Solih9 (‘ventilator-import scam). Nasheed tweeted “I see the government colluded in this… I do not want the MDP to stand by a government that steals,” adding that he would ‘not budge’ against attempts to put a lid over the scandal.  He alluded to the Health Ministry  MVR 34.50 million (US$ 2.2 million) contract to Dubai-based Executors General Trading to procure 75 ventilators. The Auditor General’s office found out that nearly 90 percent of the contracted amount was paid in advance without any ‘performance guarantee.’ It was found that only 15 of the 75 ventilators were received.

The ruling party’s internal rift portends that it may be ousted in next general elections. Mr. Nasheed is likely to put himself as a presidential candidate. Already, the -ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) could not sweep the municipal elections. It  secured 43 percent of all seats, with opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) having won 34.9 percent.

Bangladesh

India is not sincere even with Bangladesh. At India-Bangladesh Business Forum, in Delhi, Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina expressed grief (Oct 4, 2019) on the onion crisis in her country. Hasina taunted, `We are facing crisis on the onion issue. I don’t know why you have banned onion export. Maine cook ko bol diya ab se khana mein pyaaz bandh kardo. (Indian Government had banned export of Onions on September 29).

India is the biggest supplier of onions to Bangladesh, which buys a yearly average of more than 350,000 tons. India abruptly slapped a ban on onion exports to Bangladesh. Following the export ban, onion prices in Bangladesh jumped by more than 50 per cent, prompting the government to procure supplies from elsewhere.

In retaliation, Bangladesh’s involved the Chinese in a proposed $300 million project in the downstream of Teesta River.

India claims that Bangladesh is her close strategic and economic friend within its `Look East, neighbour’s-first policy”. But, the history of broken promises indicates that India looks to its own interest. A raft of issues from water disputes to religious tension mask mistrust in the relationship.

India backed out of its agreement (December) with Bangladesh to supply 30 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine, developed by Oxford University in cooperation with the Pune-based Serum Institute of India. The Institute announced that India had barred Serum from selling doses on the private market until everyone in India had received the vaccine.

Later, Salman F. Rahman, a Cabinet minister and co-founder of the Beximco Group, a Bangladeshi conglomerate, took over the responsibility to distribute three million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Bangladesh.

Concluding remark

Modi government is insincere not only in dealing with its own people but with also its neighours. 

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China’s rise in power and India’s rise in fear: Strategic hedging amidst growing threat

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modi xi jinping sco

India, the nation long being under colonial oppression started its journey of foreign policy with the ideology of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru’s Non-Alignment; abstaining from taking sides of the bipolar power blocs and securing its newly gained national sovereignty and independence. But soon after, it realised the crux of surviving in the internationally interlinked world that the countries were fast approaching towards. Therefore, in 1971, India joined hands with the Soviet Union in a Treaty of Friendship, but with the disintegration of Soviet Union in 1991 and the United States emerging as the sole superpower, India felt back into the state of isolation and helplessness.

As the famous saying goes on to say “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”, India soon learnt from its mistakes to not put all its might and trust into one entity as concepts such as ‘trust’ and ‘no strings attached’ are non-existent elements of global politics and international relations.

Today, the 21st century is largely seen as an ‘Asian century’, the century where Asia’s burgeoning economy and demographic dividend will make it rise to everyone’s notice and be the talk of the center stage. This is what is envisioned by experts and to no surprise it is what is slowly molding to be the fact; a fact that is greatly favoring the People’s Republic of China.

Despite the pandemic’s birth from Wuhan and the global economic stagnation in 2020, China managed to log 2.3 percent growth for 2020, becoming the only major economy that grew during a year when the virus exacted a devastating global toll (Gerry Shih, 2021). This shows the success rate of the country into turning its far-sighted ‘China Dream’ a reality. It is of no surprise that the rise of China is rampant, aggressive in some instances, strategic and far-sighted into changing the existing world order; posing a threat to the rest of the major power houses today.

India, being the largest rival neighbour to China has a lot at stake, for which it has shifted its foreign policy from hedging for to strategically hedging against the collective threat imposed by China. Contemporary geopolitical and strategic circumstances present a multifaceted challenge to India’s foreign policy, with regards to its neighbourhood, border and the Indian Ocean region, for which incorporating a pragmatic realpolitik approach is the need of the hour.

What balancing China means is to strengthen India’s capacity and linkages in order for it to be well-equipped to counter Chinese aggression. India has been working towards this aspect in the following ways-

-India has embarked on its own “Diamond Necklace” policy to counter China’s ‘String of Pearls’ through which it is building ports in strategic points such as Singapore, Indonesia, Oman, Seychelles and Iran and strategically cooperated with Mongolia, Japan, Vietnam and the Central Asian regions.

-India-Russia and Indo-Pak relations although sour, have been tried to reconcile in the recent past as maintaining a somewhat cordial relationship with China’s ally should be one of India’s priority as both the nations are militarily heavy. India has built its defence cooperation with Russia and Putin recently told that “there is no contradiction in the relationship with India”, giving it a stronger tie. Russia has also managed to show great support to India during its fight for Pandemic. Maintaining this cordial relationship is of great benefit to both and is a way towards balancing relations.

-In addition to all this, what is more important today to withstand international threat is the coming together of like-minded states that are willing to support each other and target China with a common motive. India has therefore, signed bilateral and multilateral agreements on different fronts to achieve its hedging goals, which will be further looked upon ahead in the paper

-Along with external ties, India needs to be well-equipped domestically as well by building up its defence capabilities. It is here that India’s ‘atmanirbhar’ (self-reliant) initiative plays importance.

However, on the flip-side, India cannot manage independently without China. The two being giant players in Asia with the two largest populated countries in the world and more so, being geographically in close proximity and economically dependent on each other, it is inevitable for them to have zero contacts. Therefore, whilst battling China’s String of pearls and border disputes, India must also be wary of having a middle ground with China wherein it can conduct its peaceful coexistence and continue its trade relations.

Overall, it can be said that New Delhi’s policy of strategic hedging works on a mode of attempting to find a modus vivendi with Beijing, while also slowly moving towards building security and political links with other regional and international powers as an insurgence against China. The Modi government has adopted a mixed strategy towards asymmetric rival China by maintaining a relationship of cooperation at the regional level (the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank), competition at the regional level (Indo-Pacific), rejection of China’s unilateral initiatives (Belt and Road Initiative), and deterrence along the Himalayas and in the Indian Ocean (Manjeet S. Pardesi, 2021).

When the survival of a state is threatened by a hegemonic state or a coalition of stronger states, they seek to join forces with other states and establish an alliance to preserve its own independence by keeping in check the power of the other state. This is the Balance of threat theory (Stephen M, 1985), wherein the threat levels can be affected by geographical proximity, offensive power, and aggressive intentions and when all this is together met with one nation alone, the severity of forming coalition and strategically hedging speaks for itself.

The United States

If the rise of China poses a direct threat on someone, it is United States’ hegemony. US being the super power in the globalized multipolar world, while India being the largest democracy, an emerging economy and a key important player in Asia proves both the states to be in a mutually benefitting coalition.

The two biggest democracies have joined hands on various fronts such as pursuing the joint interest in freedom of navigation in the highly contentious South China Sea where China has shown a great deal of interest as well. The US recently has shown a shift in their focus to the Asia-Pacific region through its new policy of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and its decision to station 2500 marines in Australia. This has been regarded by China, who staked claim over South China Sea, as a hedging strategy if not outright containment by the USA. In 2020, Indo-US ties have elevated to a “comprehensive global strategic partnership”. This has been a great achievement in India’s vision for development. Moreover, both the nations have successfully concluded three 2+2 dialogues, wherein USA reiterates to support India in defending its territorial sovereignty against the “greater threat”, referring to China. In addition to these, the highlights also follow the four foundational agreements between the two nations, which are – Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA) and Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA). The two nations have also released a Joint Statement on shared Indo-USA goals in the Asia-Pacific region. The developments so far have been quite beneficial on both sides and are a great strategic hedging handling on India’s part. And to top this policy of strategic hedging is the establishment of QUAD (Quadrilateral Strategic Dialogue) between the four members- United States, Japan, Australia and India with their common vision of securing global order, liberal trading and freedom of navigation between the countries. The informal dialogue between these four nations has seen to be a driving force is curtailing a ‘rising China’.

Japan

India’s foreign policy is built on its three foundational pillars, which are security, economic development and status and Japan plays quite a significant role in all three aspects. This bilateral relation is of great benefit to India. Japan and India’s upward trajectory gives it a status of being ‘Special Strategic and Global Partnership’, transforming the relation into a ‘cornerstone of India’s Act East Policy’. The relationship between Asia’s largest democracies is deemed to be Asia’s fastest growing relationship as well. Japan was the first country with which India held its 2+2 ministerial level dialogue which along with military and defence talks, also shared concerns of China’s rise in the region.  As Japan acquires world class navy and high-tech capabilities; if the two countries continue to add concrete securities, a high hope is instilled in this strategic relationship of becoming a game-changer in Asia. The two countries have already deepened ties in the field of maritime defence and infrastructure such as the construction of India’s first high speed railway corridor between Mumbai and Ahmadabad.

Australia

The two nations have had a cordial relationship even before independence and continue to share common interests in trade, sustainable development, and student-to-student ties. It has been building its strategic partnership and recognizes India’s critical role in the Indian Ocean and therefore, the two nations are committed to working together to enhance maritime cooperation, along with engaging in a naval exercise called AUSIDEX since 2015. Trilateral engagements with crucial nations like Indonesia and Japan, deeper engagement with regional groups like the Indian Ocean Rim Association and East Asia Summit and the very efficient quadrilateral dialogue with Japan and US have all contributed in strengthening the ties between India and Australia. A cordial relation with Australia will help India in the long run as by 2027, India is expected to have world’s largest population and henceforth require the up-skilling of 400 million people. Australia is well-equipped to assist with this huge need for knowledge-sharing, education and skill development. The two countries also have enormous potential to build on their people-to-people links and thus their soft power influence (Parakkal, 2018). India is the third largest source of immigrants to Australia and the second largest source for skilled professionals. The pandemic is seen to have exacerbated Sino-Australian relations and this further strengthens Australia’s relations with India is managing China.

European Union

The recent past has seen a reboot in the relations between India and EU which have both embarked on the journey of resuming the long stalled talks on a free trade deal with an aim to strengthen their economic cooperation in the face of an increasing Chinese assertion.

In 2013, trade talks suspended between the two nations but today it rises together to hedge strategically amidst the pandemic. The nations aim to double the trade by 2030 which shows the optimism it withholds for the future endeavours.

In a speech, Indian Foreign Minister Jaishankar highlighted how the pandemic has shown the necessity of diversifying supply chains, especially for the EU.  He says “Europe is looking at strategic autonomy, looking at a multipolar world, which is actually hedging its risk” (Jaishankar, 2021). This was told in the backdrop of repercussions faced by EU and more so, for the majority of the world for being overly dependent on China for trade. Glorifying on this aspect, India has an edge to build connections in the European world and sustain Chinese growth.

In addition to the trade boon, EU countries also signed the “Indo-Pacific Strategy” that aims to impose greater European influence in areas of Chinese superiority. Keeping this in hand, the two nations remain steadfast on building infrastructure across Europe, Asia and Africa in the name of “connectivity” partnership. It doesn’t brand it to be an “anti-Beijing” plotting, but a mere alternative to the Belt and Road Initiative of china, a way of disallowing Chinese investments.

Conclusion

Today it can be said that the world has come up together, galvanised in order to counter China in the changing world order. This pushback against China has been manifesting itself in multiple ways and in particular, by the regional players who have been successful in persuading more coordinated actions along the way so as to create a more stable balance of power in these highly tumultuous world that we live in.

The complex rivalry between India and China has led to hedging strategically by a mixed approach of cooperation, deterrence and balancing, which is seen to be working efficiently for India till now. After all, India’s ultimate aim is to build its own capabilities without overtly provoking China and silently transform itself to be a competition. To achieve this, India is building its relation with China’s neighbours such as South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, along with maintaining a cordial relationship with Russia and mending relations with Pakistan and ultimately gaining support from the western nations in strategic cooperation with a common aim.

It is evident today how China’s belligerent agenda on regional states has caused it a greater pushback with the unity of the rest of the world against it. The BRI is confronted with numerous fault lines, the Indo-Pacific is well-established, QUAD resurrected and various regional players are beginning to engage with each other much more cohesively.

The only concern that remains today is the growing influence China has over India’s neighbours through its ‘debt-trap diplomacy’ and its ‘aggressive wolf-warrior diplomacy’, for which India needs to make sure to make the neighbouring countries believe in the hidden agenda and bring unity with India in countering the spread and rise of China. India’s ‘vaccine-maitri’ initiative was a good way of handling the neighbourhood, but more needs to be done in this aspect.

The way forward is to accept each other’s legitimacy in certain aspects and hedge accordingly in others. Military escalation such as in 2020 Ladakh is to be prevented in order for both to maintain its relations. To paraphrase Deng Xiaoping (1988), “unless China and India are able to co-exist peacefully, “there will be no Asian century.”

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