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What India Needs to do to Counter Increasingly Aggressive China

Vikash Kumar

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During the recent Eastern Ladakh standoff, India has, again, felt the dire need to dampen the widening power parity equation with China. C Raja Mohan, rightly contends that “Unlike in the past, China now has the military power to make good its claims and alter the territorial status quo, if only in bits and pieces.” The tickler point is how can India do so?

The circumstances engulfing the modern history of India and China are more or less similar. While China is still working to heal the wounds of its “century of humiliation” – a period between 1839-1949 during which China faced subjugation by western powers and its aggressive neighbours (Japan and Russia), India faced cultural, economic and political subjugation & plunder for 1,200 years – successive Islamic invasions for nearly 1,000 years and 200 years of colonial rule – and thus got the scars of a “millennium of humiliation”.

After India got independence and the success of the Communist revolution in China, both nations pursued their bilateral relations on five principles of ‘Panchsheel Agreement’. However, a Chinese ‘Aggression’ and recourse to ‘Use of Force’ in 1962 sowed the seeds of enmity and distrust between the two most populous countries of the world.

Economic Journey: Relative Prosperity of China vis-à-vis India

From 1979 onwards, China undertook a progressive step towards the realization of the goal of liberalization, privatization and globalization (LPG). Faced with a ‘Balance of Payments’ crisis, India, after freeing itself from the shackles of Licence Raj and state control of businesses, undertook LPG in 1991. Statisticstimes.com puts the following figures for historical comparison of Chinese and Indian economy:

“In 1987, GDP (Nominal) of both countries was almost equal. But in 2019, China’s GDP is 4.78 times greater than India. On PPP basis, GDP of China is 2.38x of India. China crossed $1 trillion mark in 1998 while India crossed 9 year later in 2007 at an exchange rate basis.”

China, once sharing equilibrium status vis-à-vis India at one time, made a great jump in economic prowess. How? There are plentitude explanations and here are some non-exhaustive ‘selected’ areas which, in my opinion, makes the difference deeper and firmer.

The first & quintessential element is the level of ‘political stability’, persisting in the political setup of the country. The one-party communist society has hardly faced any ‘threatening’ political instability or ‘internal disturbances’ during the last three decades (1990-2020). Even if it faced, it dealt with them with a great amount of brutality. Tiananmen Square protests are evidence to Chinese iron hand dealing with dissent.

India was undergoing through the phase of ‘political upheavals’ during this period. The onset of coalition era politics with the demise of congress dominance speaks volume about political instability. During the last three decades, India elected its Prime Minister (PM) 8-times while China had 3 new Presidents during the same period. The greatest and most unfortunate phase of turbulence was the decade of 1990-2000 when India effected 6-times change in PM and holding 4-times Lok Sabha elections.

Apart from this, the terrorism, supported & abetted by Islamic Pakistan, which was rooted in Kashmir during the 1990s, still drains India’s sweat and blood. It is also fighting with a daunting challenge of ‘Naxalism’ and ‘Insurgency’ in central Indian states and north-eastern states, respectively. India’s democratic spirit and multi-party political system have hamstrung its capability to quell anarchies, unlike China. Notwithstanding this, the given comparison is a selective one to prove the point of ‘political stability’ and must not be construed to suggest that the Tiananmen Square protests and terrorism in Kashmir are comparable in nature & scope and India should use undemocratic means to crush militancy.

Second, India followed the unconventional path of economic growth. Contrary to the familiar primary-secondary-tertiary trajectory of development, India witnessed primary-tertiary economic growth pattern, thus grossly neglecting its manufacturing sector. This begot lesser level of industrialization in the country having further consequences in form of higher level of unemployment and lesser avenues for export-led economic growth – contrary to the path what East Asian Tiger economies had undergone through in the 1990s.

Third, India’s R&D (Research and Development) expenditures have been, abysmally, at lower levels in comparison to that of China. According to the World Bank, China has increased its R&D expenditure from 0.56% of GDP in 1996 to 2.06% in 2015. India’s figure stood out at 0.63% & 0.62% for 1996 and 2015, respectively. While China cumulatively increased its R&D expenditure, India has unsatisfactory statistics during the above-mentioned period and on an average, maintained the level of expenditure constant – even after thirty years. It has never crossed the mark of 1% of GDP! R&D neglect produces a cycle of backwardness and for India, it has diverse consequences – bigger effects are limpid in a lower share of indigenised technology out of total defence assets being used in service.

Juxtaposing economic size disparity with R&D expenditure figures reveals further alarming statistics for India. In 1996, China’s GDP (nominal) was 2.2 times larger than India while in 2015, it ballooned to 5.2 times. The conclusion emerges that China spent, in 2015, around 17 times more money than India in R&D! The gap is only widening with each passing year.

Then comes the role of Diplomacy spearheaded through instruments of soft power. Diplomacy and Wars have been recognised as two instruments to pursue national interests. In the 21st century, wars have become costly to involve in, therefore, nation-states employ the chief tool of diplomacy. India, being a liberal democracy, having large diaspora, and her image as a peace-loving nation has greatly contributed to raising its goodwill in dealing with foreign nations. But in increasingly economic diplomacy driven world politics, its lack of deep pocket vis-à-vis China do hamstring its foreign policy objectives many a time. The Lowy Institute’s 2019 ‘Global Diplomacy Index’ place China, overtaking the USA, at 1st position with 276 diplomatic posts while India occupies 12th position with 186 posts.

Traditionally, India has been inadvertent in government-endorsed propaganda and advocacy at international platforms, unlike the USA or China. For example, Indian representatives to international institutions are more likely to be diplomats, not field experts – the latter group is preferred by US & China. While this may serve the needs of political institutions like the United Nations, it hinders India’s efficient engagement with the world in its dealing with expert and technical institutions. When the Government of India promulgated CAA and nullified article 370 of the Indian constitution, India faced huge international criticism. Had India deputed some international lawyers or expert to defend its case at international level – through the seminar, talks etc. – perhaps the scenario would have been entirely flabbergasting.

In this context, C Raja Mohanwrites: “Over the last few years, China has learnt to deploy international law in pursuit of its larger global goals. It has trained armies of international lawyers who argue from the first principles of jurisprudence, inject Chinese political conceptions like the “Belt and Road” into multilateral agreements and push for new international norms to suit Beijing’s interests.”

The Way Forward

The tradition of appointing IFS & other Indian civil servants as the representative at the international level needs to be replaced by experts of the field. For example, a trade law expert is better suited to represent India at WTO than an IAS officer. As C Raja Mohan suggests:

Delhi could learn a trick or two from Beijing on how to make international law the keystone of India’s diplomacy, especially in the multilateral domain. If China could emulate US and Britain on leveraging legalpolitik for strategic ends, India should not find it too hard to reinvest in the geo-legal arts that Delhi inherited from the Anglo-Saxons but seems to have lost along the way.”

Effectively, it may mean appointing ambassadors from the pool of academia and experts from private sectors. This will be a revolutionary reform and is amenable to be resisted by IAS-IFS lobby!

India believes in rule-based world order while China’s recent action runs contrary to the latter’s claim of its ‘peaceful rise’. While ‘Use of Force’ for solving territorial disputes is prohibited by International law, China openly flouts this rule. Be it with India in the Himalayas in 1962 or Vietnam in 1974 and 1988 in the South China Sea. In Bangladesh-India sea arbitration award, the former got 80% of the contested area and India complied with the award. The scornful and disrespecting attitude of arbitration award regarding South China Sea Dispute is reminding us of the hollowness of the Chinese claim of its ‘peaceful rise’. India needs to cash on its rule-following approach vis-à-vis the rule-breaking approach of China for securing diplomatic edge over China among the comity of nations.

Countering Chinese military adventure requires a coordinated approach by affected states. When cold war was taking shape, NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) and Warsaw Pact came into existence which ensured greater equilibrium between Capitalist & Communist blocs and protected smaller states against potential aggression of superpowers. China has disputes with nearly all stakeholders in the South China Sea (SCS) region where they are at comparatively disadvantaged in strategic power position vis-à-vis India. An ‘Asian Security Charter’ may involve – India & Japan being at the forefront – a coalition of countries, supportive of rule-based world order undertaking commitment to oppose and fight the practice of any Asian power to take recourse to ‘Use or Threat to Use of Force’ to resolve the territorial or maritime dispute. USA will, of course, be a natural ally of this democratic alliance. This will ensure peace as belligerent states like China will be deterred to pursue military adventures with smaller states of the Asian region.

Incidents of 15/16 June reveal scores of Indian and Chinese fatalities. Experts are opining that China has less or more advantage over India in terms of border infrastructure which limits India’s option to undertake escalation measures. Both India and China, do not want to escalate – this fact seems to be proven by conspicuous silence of senior leaders of both governments. But in the longer term, India needs to inculcate ‘defence culture’ on the lines of Russia and Israel. By defence culture, I mean greater strength or competitiveness of indigenous defence industries over adversaries to offset the greater economic imbalance.

Two geopolitical realities prove that this deterrence has worked so far. First, notwithstanding USA’s economic superiority, Russians have not been at disadvantageous position vis-à-vis Americans in the arena of defence technology. Same applies to China – despite being economically superior over Russia, former still imports high-end defence assets from later. Second, Israel has been able to fight an unholy alliance of Islamist states due to its superior defence culture.

With the termination of a coalition dominated central government, India is enjoying much needed political stability from last six years. This needs to continue further on. Economic factors along with military power will continue to serve as two key areas where India will have to make a significant investment to level power parity equation with China. Continuous economic growth, which incorporates a strong ‘defence culture’, along with effective & simultaneous diplomatic manoeuvres will ensure India more allies at global level vis-à-vis China, notwithstanding latter’s extensive and disproportionately high economic influence. A mighty, peaceful and prosperous India is the sine qua non for preserving rule-based order in Asia, more importantly in the Indo-Pacific region.

Pursuing LLM in International Law (2019-21), Faculty of Legal Studies, South Asian University (A University Established by 8 Member-States of SAARC Regional Grouping), New Delhi, 110021.

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South Asia

Kashmiri Lives Matter

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Inspired by the movement “Black Lives Matter” after the murder of George Floyd, on 25 May 2020. Many other movements are gaining momentum against discrimination around the world. Kashmiri movement for their legitimate right of self-determination, also gained momentum. Kashmiris are struggling for their rights for 72 years, but India not only denying their legitimate right but using accessive force to suppress them.

Starting from Times Square, New York, on the 5th of August 2020,  to almost all capitals of Europe and other parts of the world, Kashmiri people staged protests, agitations, demonstrations, to express their anger and dissatisfaction with the situation in Indian Occupied Kashmir. They were displaying banners with various slogans like Kashmir Lives Matters, Freedom for Kashmir, Condemned India atrocities, Respect for human lives, etc. Not only the Kashmiris, but local people also joined them in such protests. Mainstream Media, around the world, has covered their protests and published or broadcasted the Indian atrocities and brutalities in Kashmir. Seminars, Conferences, were held to address the Kashmir issue in many countries.

PM Narendra Modi, won the Elections based on anti-Muslim and Anti-Pakistan slogans and it was expected that his policies will be anti-Muslims and Anti-Pakistan. But PM Narendra Modi has not calculated well the consequences. Today, the Indian economy collapsed, society has been divided, law and order situation deteriorated, Government rit has weakened, insurgencies go momentum. Simply India as a country may not survive long and may disintegrate soon.  PM Modi is pushing India toward disaster. His Nazi thinking and extremist policies have ruined India already. India used to be known as a secular state, but today India is an extremist Hindu state, with no rights to minorities and low caste Hindus.

One year ago, on the same day, the 5th of August 2019, India revoked its own constitution Articles 370 and 35A and annexed Kashmir. The merger of Kashmir and Ladakh to Union territory ends the special autonomous status of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh, which is a disputed territory, recognized Internationally. The UNSC passed dozens of resolutions to resolve the Kashmir Issue. But India is not implementing the UNSC resolutions and became defaulter to the UN, which is a criminal act.  Kashmir is a disputed territory among China-Pakistan and India. The Unilateral actions taken by India angered the stakeholders and offended the international community.  It is a clear breach of international law and fair practices of the civilized world. It was Indian international commitment, the legal binding under Delhi agreement 1952, to implement the UNSC resolutions.

India is spoiling the peace of the whole region. It has initiated arms race in this region and procuring more and more lethal weapons. It should be known that the region is heavily armed with nuclear weapons. India, China, Pakistan, and Russia, al are nuclear countries. Any misadventure may cost the human lives of almost half of the world population.

Indian cross-border terrorism and aggressive acts are increasing and threatening the neighboring countries. India has disputes with all of the regional countries, like Nepal, China, Bhutan, Sikkim, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives.

Almost nine hundred thousand troops of the Indian army, empowered with draconian laws,  have illegally occupied the territory and are keeping the 8 million people of Kashmir under siege while violating with impunity the International Humanitarian law and practices. Kashmir has become the largest jail. Indian troops are using lethal weapons, cluster bombs, pallet guns, and perpetrating Sexual offenses, destroying Muslim religious and private properties. Whereas the Kashmiri civilians are innocent and unarmed. They are protesting and agitating peacefully for their legitimate right of self-determination, sanctioned by UNSC in 1948. Although UNSC resolutions are legally binding on India, but, India is delaying and not implementing UNSC resolutions passed in 1948. 

Estimated killings so far are said to be 352, including 75 unarmed civilians, 196 freedom fighters, and also 81 from the occupational forces. 170000 persons have been arrested including old-aged, women, and under-aged children. The top political leadership has been arrested or house arrest. The activists and youth are arrested are shifted to detention camps. Children are separated from parents and messed in detention camps. It’s now a year since the curfew was clamped. There is a severe shortage of food, medicines, fuel, and electricity and the basic necessities of daily life. The phone and internet services are suspended. Travelling is restricted, especially media persons and foreigners.  Kashmir is totally cut-off from the rest of the world, and blacked-out, with no flow of information. Only state media is reporting the censored reports. Whatsoever is reported in the International media is only a fraction, as leaked information is always limited only. The actual situation on the ground is rather much more severe and dangerous. Kashmir is split into two Indian union territories as Kashmir and Ladakh.Against the wishes of the stakeholders. This is the worst type of tyranny being faced by the helpless people of Kashmir in the history of humankind.

For 72-years of Indian atrocities and brutalities, have forced Kashmiris to seek a merger with Pakistan. The more force India will use to suppress Kashmiris, the more hate will increase against India, and the more love for Pakistan will increase. The ultimate solution to Kashmir is the merger with Pakistan according to UNSC resolutions through holding a plebiscite. India is granting domicile to non-Kashmiris, especially Hindus from other parts of India, to change the demography of Kasmir. India wanted to change the Muslim majority of Kashmiris which stands 87% to the Hindu majority. India failed to control Kashmir for 72-years, and will never keep occupation forever. India has to leave Kashmir, the sooner, the better. The spirit of Kashmiris can not be suppressed by any means, they are determined to keep their struggle till victory. People of Kashmir are brave, bold, and committed. No one can suppress them.  Salute to the brave men and women from Kashmir, who are fighting with the huge Indian Army and yet not surrender. Their struggle will reach a logical end with Victory only.

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South Asia

Indian Imbalanced Balance

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A serious crisis is looming over journalism in India, which is increasingly vested in the hands of authority. On the one hand, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee asks for “discussion and dissension” for a vibrant democracy. “There should always be room for the argumentative Indian, and not the intolerant Indian. The media must be the watchdog, the mediator between the leaders and the public,” Mukherjee said while paying his regards to Ramnath Goenka – former press baron. On the other hand, Indian media has lost its credibility regionally as well as internationally owing to quality of Indian public discourse. According to criminal lawyer Rebecca Mammen, “The true test of a robust democracy is the independence of its media. Over the past few years our media has become the mouthpiece of the party in power. Coupled with the fact the corporate owners of media houses share close links with the government, the Indian media has tragically lost its voice.”

The mainstream media is vested in the hands of a selected few and refuses to question authorities.         The ‘Reporters Without Borders’ annual Press Freedom Index, which was released on April 20, has ranked India at 142 among 180 countries reflecting poor credibility due to pressures by government. According to the Report, the Indian media is reeling under a Hindu nationalist government, which has time and again tried to gag journalists. Moreover, India’s influential TV news channels function largely as government mouthpieces.A European non-governmental group “EU disinfo lab” had uncovered a network of 265 ‘fake’ news outlets sponsored by an Indian network to influence the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) with content against to Pakistan.

The crisis in the Indian media will have deeper impacts on Indian democracy. With a feeble opposition, weak institutions, and an inadequate media, Indians have no checks and balances. For instance, maligning Pakistan High Commission, Colombo(PAHIC) during a recent Indo-China conflict was an Indiangovernment instructed media strategy to divert public opinion from their failures in North. In other words, media strategy inadvertently defines poor political will of India to stand up to China while feel strong enough to bully the smaller neighbourhood.

The sane voices in Indian media have continuously shrinking space.Having almost 400 news channels, Indian media has failed to highlight serious matters, such as beef ban, human rights violations in Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IoJK), and numerous discriminations against Indian Dalits. “Over the last few years – especially after Prime Minister Narendra Modi won the general election of 2014 – the Indian mainstream media has allowed itself to be undermined by the transcendent political power that he represents,” said Pamela Philipose, The Wire. “A new note of muscular nationalism has crept into media discourse.  Also conspicuous is the curbing of dissent and the rise of the surveillance state – developments that bode ill for the independence of the Indian media,” says Philipose.

In a similar manner, a political scientist Giles Vernier argues that “a new note of muscular nationalism has crept into media discourse.  Also conspicuous is the curbing of dissent and the rise of the surveillance state – developments that bode ill for the independence of the Indian media.One reason why we don’t see much criticism in the media is that the government, in the person of the Prime Minister, has the ability to completely dominate the media’s agenda, by saturating the public and media sphere with the message, image, and his voice.”

Journalists should be critical of government’s handling of its internal and external matters to keep it on the right track. TV channels will call speakers of their choice, who would heavily lean to one side of discussion and pretend that it is balanced.

In the current atmosphere, with enraptured legislative issues and social perspectives, with populist political leadership, with developing bigotry against minorities and dissenters, the media can and ought to be an encouraging sign for liberal, mainstream and law based thoughts, yet additionally to guarantee that outrageous perspectives does not get into the papers or on TV. Rather, the media in India has become some portion of the issue, either excitedly partaking in preparing of contempt against the helpless, or carrying on in an insincere path by permitting the most exceedingly terrible components a free run of significant reality on their foundation. Whole ages of columnists are growing up with the possibility that they are playing out an important help; they have scarcely any good examples to gaze upward to, since their own managers, who should know better, are either sold out, ideologically dedicated to fanaticism or are indecisive, without firm feelings or just fearful. In any case, Indian reporting is in a profound emergency, all for the sake of ‘balance.’

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This is Pakistan

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With an unprecedented progress in politico-socio-economic domains, Pakistan has a new face in the world. It has not only successfully corrected misplaced perceptions about it, but the internal and external circumstances around it have also changed, which has helped shaping Pakistan its renewed look according to changed regional and international environment. The successes at the security front has also led to the economic progress in Pakistan.

In result of Pakistan’s fight against terrorism and anti-extremism operations, it lost tens of thousands of people, including soldiers and civilians. Pakistan’s strong resolve together with sustained military operations against terrorist elements, however, brough back peace and stability in the country. According to Security Report 2019 by Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS), “Pakistan witnessed a further decline in the number of terrorist incidents and consequent casualties… terrorist attacks this year decreased by around 13 percent as compared to 2018.” The report clearly depicted a gradual decrease in terrorist attacks and casualties since 2009. In this regard, Pakistan’s National Action Plan (NAP) helped eliminating the menace of terrorism from the country. The improved security situation in the country resulted in the economic dividends in the shape of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Pakistan is also appreciated for its nuclear material safety. In its annual report, the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) – a leading United States non-proliferation watchdogdivulged that “Pakistan’s improvements in the Security and Control Measures category are significant because strengthened laws and regulations result in durable boosts in Pakistan’s score as well as provide sustainable security benefits.” While appreciating Pakistan’s further improvement in nuclear materials’ safety, Laura Kennedy, a former United States diplomat, tweeted that “one welcome bit of news reported by #NTIindex is that #Pakistan ranked as most improved in security of those countries holding nuclear materials.”

Pakistan’s fight against Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) is used as a role model by developed countries of the world. The Government of Pakistan (GoP) revealed a PKR 1.13 trillion relief package to help to the powerless and securing industry and other organizations. The concept of ‘Smart Lockdown’ also reaped its dividends and Pakistan has come out from the dangers of this deadly virus.

On the socio-economic front, Pakistan is making progress as well. For instance, the current account deficit has reduced from US$ 20 billion to US$ 3 billion together with a significant decrease in trade and fiscal account deficits. The stalled construction of Diamer-Bhasha dam has also been approved, which will result in additional water supplies for better agricultural production. There has been increase in the rights activism i.e., Transgender Pride March, Aurat March, Climate March, and Student Solidarity March. Women sports stars of Pakistan won international medals and recognitions.For instance, 8-year-old Pakistani Taekwondo star Ayesha Ayaz won a bronze medal for Pakistan at the 7thFujairah Taekwondo Open Championship in United Arab Emirates (UAE); Hajra Khan won 3 Guinness World Records; Mahnoor Shahzad won the Annapurna International Badminton Tournament; Nida Dar became the first Pakistani woman to sign a deal with an international cricket league, Sydney Thunder; Shahida Abbasi from Hazara won one of the total two gold medals for Pakistan at the South Asian Games 2019; and Mallak Faisal Zafar won first position in the Basic Novice Girls II category at the 24th International Eiscup Innsbruck 2019. Test cricket also returned to Pakistan.

Culturally, Pakistan is projecting itself more prominently. Pakistani celebrities are mamking it to international fashion weeks – Mushk Kaleem and Alicia Khan walked the ramp for Milan Fashion Week 2019. Pakistani film Laal Kabootar won the Vancouver International South Asian Film Festival for the Best Feature Film Award. ActressMahira Khan was appointed National Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, strengthening the bond between the people of Pakistan and the international community. Moreover, Mehwish Hayat was appointed ambassador to UK based international humanitarian charity, Penny Appeal.

On the entrepreneurial front, 9 Pakistanis made it to Forbes’ coveted 30 under 30 Asia list: Ahmed Rauf Essa: Founder, Telemart; Karishma Ali, President, Chitral Womens Sports Club; Laila Kasuri, Water Analyst, Global Green Growth Institute; Hanaa Lakhani, Hasan Usmani,Gia Farooqi and MoneebMian, Cofounders, Roshni Rides, Zain Ashraf, Founder, Seed Out; and Zainab Bibi, Founder, Pakistan Society for Green Energy (PSGE).

Regionally, Pakistan’s foreign policy is paying its dividends. Pakistan’s relations among Iran, Afghanistan, Sri-Lanka, Russia, United States and others has improved significantly. Overall, there is many encouraging events happening in and around Pakistan.

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