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Alex Axar’s Visit to Taiwan: A Strong Message to China

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The official four-day visits of US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to Taiwan in August 2020, marked the senior most US visit to this self-governing island since formal diplomatic relations were severed in 1979 in deference to China. This is going to be a fresh thorn in prickly US-China ties.

Despite switching allegiance to Beijing, the US maintains unofficial ties with Taiwan in deference to Beijing. It remains the island’s most important ally and provider of defensive arms. A 2018 US law urged Washington to send increasingly high-level officials to Taiwan in contrast to past years when such visits were extremely rare. Azar’s visit is therefore the highest-level American official to visit Taiwan since their break in formal diplomatic ties in 1979. In recent times, US-China bilateral ties have experienced strain over a range of issues such as South China Sea, TikTok, Hong Kong and trade. In a throwback to the Cold War, the two recently ordered tit-for-tat closures of consulates in Houston and Chengdu and rhetorical sniping has become a daily occurrence. The significance of Azar’ visit should be measured against this backdrop.

Taiwan’s credentials on virus control

First, a few words about the credibility Taiwan earned by its deft handling the pandemic can help analyse Azar’s visit in context. Besides demonstrating America’s strong commitments to defend Taiwan’s security, necessary protocol was maintained on the Covid-19 issue for the delegation. The fact that such protocol was strictly maintained spoke plenty of Taiwan’s unbending stands in securing its territory from any possible virus threat. Like Taiwan, South Korea and Vietnam are the other two success story in containing the virus. Therefore, use of face masks and other necessary safety protocols were strictly followed by all the delegation members, except in “rare circumstances”. With a population of 23 million, Taiwan has reported 479 cases and seven deaths.

Not only Taiwan handled the virus in the country successfully, it proved to be a responsible nation for the world by sending quietly Covid-19 assistance to foreign countries surreptitiously to avoid protests from China. China’s attempts to isolate Taiwan compelled the island at times to keep its donations of masks and personal protective equipment under the radar. Taiwan chose such an approach as it did not want to complicate the recipient country’s relationship with China. China has pursued all possible measures to isolate Taiwan diplomatically, including barring its participation in forums such as the World Health Assembly.

After bringing the virus under control at home, the island nation donated 51 million masks overseas, including 10 million to the US, along with other items of personal protective equipment. There was no problem in naming the US as one of the recipient country but the vulnerability of other recipient countries prevented Taiwan from revealing their identities. Just 15 countries maintain formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, and China has sought to peel away its remaining allies. Taiwan is aware that acquiescence to Chinese pressure would merely turn Taiwan into another Hong Kong, where China has enforced a new national security law to throttle democracy. Taiwan is unwilling, and rightly so, to surrender its hard-earned democracy after experiencing a phase of dictatorship to the authoritarian aggression from Beijing.

Why Azar’s Taipei visit not a normal one? 

Azar’s visit was not a normal one; it posits in the large political and geopolitical context. It will likely to exacerbate mounting tensions between Washington and Beijing, which claims Taiwan as its own territory to be annexed by force if necessary. When President Donald Trump took umbrage over mounting trade deficit with China, he first put pressure on Beijing to take necessary corrective measures to address this issue. But having failed to get satisfactory response, he started to take countermeasures by tariffs and quantitative quota restrictions. Beijing too retaliated on its own ways. Finding the two at loggerheads and in a throwback to the Cold War, the two ordered tit-for-tat closures of consulates in Houston and Chengdu amid rhetorical sniping. Azar’s visit now adds to those frictions.

Though the visit represented an acknowledgment of the US-Taiwan deep friendship and partnership across a wide spectrum of security, economics, health care, and democratic open transparent values, Beijing was never expected to buy this justification. Even when the US and Taiwan celebrate the bond, China responded with two screaming jets towards the island before the talks began.

In a steady deterioration of bilateral ties, when Washington explicitly denied most of China’s maritime claims in the strategically vital South China Sea, it instantly drew China’s ire. China’s claims almost to the whole of this strategic waterway and considers activities in the area by the US Navy, including ships close to Chinese-controlled islands, as threatening regional peace and stability.

The Trump administration lunched the tariff war targeting Chinese institutions and officials, besides campaigning to exclude Chinese telecoms giants Huawei from the US and its allies, which China saw as US attempt to prevent China’s development as a global technology power. Trump suspects Huawei’s links with the ruling Communist Party and that compromises personal data and the integrity of the information systems in the companies in which it operates. Beijing demands proof of this. Further, Trump escalated tensions when he signed an executive order banning to deal with the Chinese owners of consumers apps TikTok and WeChat, possibly leading to their becoming unavailable in the lucrative American market.

Adding another dimension to the US-China tensions, Azar while in Taipei alleged that Beijing broke the international health treaty by failing to warn the world about Covid-19 on time. He also expressed regret over Taiwan being excluded from the World Health Assembly denying it an opportunity to share its health expertise. The US and Taiwan have developed their relationship as one based on “shared democratic values”. The US sees Taiwan playing its role in a brewing ideological battle between the two even when Beijing is not shy of warning consequences if Taiwan continues to nurture ties with Washington.

In the recent past, especially after Tsai came to power, Beijing has used economic doles as weapons and was instrumental in wooing some of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies to switch allegiance to Beijing, leaving Taiwan with only 15 diplomatic allies. Even without formal official ties with many countries who switched allegiance to China, Taiwan’s engagement economically and in cultural domains with many countries it does business with has remained robust. However, Taiwan suffers international recognition as it cannot engage officially with world organizations. Even with the WHO, it was deprived of its observer status because of China blocking it at a time its experience in handling coronavirus could have been of some help to the world community.

On the issue of Taiwan’s exclusion from the World Health Organisation in 2018 that blocked a million-dollar Taiwanese contribution, Azar described Beijing’s position that time as “political bullying”. Had that not happened, Taiwanese contribution could have helped combat an Ebola outbreak in Congo. Indeed, in times of events of global dimensions, international organisations should not be places to play politics but unfortunately China did in 2018 and again in 2020 by denying Taiwan observer status at the world health assembly where its experience in handling the virus could have benefitted other nations.

No wonder, Taiwan saw Azar’s trip as a diplomatic coup and an opportunity to showcase its widely praised response to the virus. Beijing however saw it as another provocation from the US. When the US increases interactions with Taiwan and also sells arms committed under the Taiwan Relations Act, Beijing sees that red and as a challenge to its sovereignty and in defiance of its threats to unify the island with the mainland by force. Azar’s remarks that “Taiwan’s response to Covid-19 has been among the most successful in the world, and that is a tribute to the open, transparent, democratic nature of Taiwan’s society and culture”, infuriates Beijing. Seeing an opportunity and praise pouring in from around the world, Taiwan started promoting the island as a model of democracy and sent millions of masks labeled “Made in Taiwan” to countries in need.

Taiwan was not intimidated when Chinese jets J-11 and J-10 fighter aircraft briefly crossed the mid-line of the Taiwan Strait, the side sensitive and narrow separating it from its giant neighbour, even when Azar was on his way to Taiwan. The aircrafts were tracked by land-based Taiwanese anti-aircraft missiles patrolling the area which drove the jets away from its airspace.

Taiwan strengthens defence capabilities

In view of the looming threat from China and often reminding the island nation of the possible use of force, Tsai has reiterated a number of times the need for the island to ramp up its defences to safeguard its democracy from Beijing’s “coercive actions”. Such a commitment to accelerate the development of asymmetric capabilities, as explained by President Tsai Ing-wen during a video address to the Hudson Institute, a Washington-based think tank, is under the rubric of the island nation’s defence concept. Taiwan’s cabinet has proposed a more than 10 per cent increase in the island’s military budget to $15.42 billion in response to Beijing’s aggression in the region and seeks a “constructive security relationship” with the US.

Despite Taiwan’s determination and resolve to cope with the Chinese threat stemming from its own strength and military capabilities, the truism is Beijing-Taipei relationship if measured in terms of comparative military strengths between the two is something like comparing between David and Goliath as the gulf between the two is huge. Indeed, few geopolitical contexts are as mismatched as China and Taiwan.  

China has already acquired enough military muscle and economic strengths over the past decades and has emerged as the world’s second largest economic power as well as a regional superpower in Asia. Compared to China, Taiwan is a dwarf. Its military expenditure is more than any other country except the US. After splitting from the mainland, the two sides claimed to represent China for almost three decades, during which military exchanges took place until détente set in the early 1990s. From this time onwards, both sides settled on there being “one China” but agreed to disagree on what that meant. Since then Taiwan has assumed a more distinct identity and considers itself as a de facto independent state separate from the mainland.

However, in terms of military comparison, China is much ahead of Taiwan. Taiwan has around 215,000 soldiers and a defence budget of $12 billion compared with China’s estimated two million armed forces and a defence budget of $178 billion. China is a nuclear-armed state with a growing arsenal of state-of-the-art weaponry including advanced fighter jets, two aircraft carriers, and more on the way. Its growing number of missiles, some of them hypersonic, is positioned just across the Taiwan Strait. It has more than 60 submarines, including nuclear-powered vessels.

In comparison, Taiwan’s 300 or so fighter jets have all been in services since the 1990s.
Its navy is massively outgunned by China’s — two of its four ageing submarines were built decades ago. Though Taiwan is aware that it does not need to match China dollar for dollar, it has certain strategy to defend itself in case it comes under attack. Some of the Western weapon exporting countries are reluctant to sell big-ticket military items in order not to displease China, leaving Taiwan to develop itself indigenously an innovative domestic weapons industry.

China under Xi Jinping has ramped up pressure and gone ballistic often warning that Taiwan’s reunification with the mainland is inevitable. Such belligerence has become more frequent after 2016 when Tsai was elected President who rejects the idea of a “one China” and sees Taiwan as a de facto sovereign state. Tsai is not deterred by such bellicosity even though Chinese fighter jets routinely fly into Taiwan’s defence zone.

The US is bound to arm Taiwan by law so that it can defend itself. Though the US officially maintains ties with the mainland China, it also takes into consideration geopolitics of the region and urges peaceful resolution of disputes between China and Taiwan. The US was careful not to sell major weaponry to the island nation until the mid-1990s as it was wary not to cause friction in its relations with China. That situation dramatically changed soon after. The Trump administration seriously started viewing America’s ties with Taiwan differently after frictions with China started widening.

Under the Taiwan Relations Act, the US has obligation to arms Taiwan. The Trump administration has taken major decisions to sell 66 next-generation F-16 fighters and an upgrade to the island’s Patriot missiles with the objective of strengthening Taiwan’s military capability in the wake of looming China threat. Taiwan’s decision to purchase the 66 new generation F-16 fighter jets from US aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin in a $62 billion, 10-year deal, is sure to anger Beijing. This new acquisition will add to its fleet of F-16s Taiwan purchased in 1992.

Given the China-Taiwan tensions, if a conflict erupts in the region it would be either centered on the South China Sea or on the Taiwan issue. If Beijing takes resorts to any military adventurism, the US is most likely to intervene with its massive military assets.  China is best advised to exercise restraint not to precipitate events, lest the costs would be heavy for all. The Taiwan Strait remains one of the world’s most dangerous flashpoints.

Professor (Dr.) Rajaram Panda, former Senior Fellow at IDSA and ICCR India Chair Professor at Reitaku University, Japan is currently Lok Sabha Research Fellow, Parliament of India, and Member of Governing Council, Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi.

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East Asia

Who would bell the China cat?

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If the G-7 and NATO china-bashing statements are any guide, the world is in for another long interregnum of the Cold War (since demise of the Soviet Union). The G-7 leaders called upon China to “respect human rights in its Xinjiang region” and “allow Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy” and “refrain from any unilateral action that could destabilize the East and South China Seas”, besides maintaining “peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits”.

China’s tit-for-tat response

The Chinese mission to the European Union called upon the NATO not to exaggerate the “China threat theory”

Bitter truths

Amid the pandemic, still raging, the world is weary of resuscitating Cold War era entente. Even the G-7 members, Canada and the UK appear to be lukewarm in supporting the US wish to plunge the world into another Cold War. Even the American mothers themselves are in no mood to welcome more coffins in future wars. Importance of the G-7 has been whittled down by G-20. 

Presumptions about the China’s cataclysmic rise are unfounded. Still, China is nowhere the US gross National Product. China’s military budget is still the second largest after the US. It is still less than a third of Washington’s budget to be increased by 6.8 per cent in 2021.

India’s role

India claims to be a natural ally of the G-7 in terms of democratic “values”. But the US based Freedom House has rated India “partly free because of its dismal record in persecution of minorities. Weakened by electoral setbacks in West Bengal, the Modi government has given a free hand to religious extremists. For instance, two bigots, Suraj Pal Amu and Narsinghanand Saraswati have been making blasphemous statements against Islam at press conferences and public gatherings.

India’s main problem

Modi government’s mismanagement resulted in shortage of vaccine and retroviral drugs. The healthcare system collapsed under the mounting burden of fatalities.  

Media and research institutions are skeptical of the accuracy of the death toll reported by Indian government.

The New York Times dated June 13, 2021 reported (Tracking Corona virus in India: Latest Map and case Count) “The official COVID-19 figures in India grossly under-estimate the true scale of the pandemic in the country”. The Frontline dated June 4, 2021 reported “What is clear in all these desperate attempts is the reality that the official numbers have utterly lost their credibility in the face of the biggest human disaster in independent India (V. Sridhar, India’s gigantic death toll due to COVID-19 is  thrice  the official numbers”, The frontline, June 4, 2021). It adds “More than 6.5 lakh Indians, not the 2.25 lakh reported officially are estimated to have died so far and at best a million more are expected to die by September 2021. The Seattle-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates that actual Indian casualties may be 0.654 million (6.54 lakh), not the official count of 0.221 million (2.21 lakh as on May 6 when the report was released. That is a whopping three times the official numbers, an indicator of the extent of under-reporting”.

Epidemiologist Dr. Feigl-ding told India Today TV on April, 16, 2021 that “actual number of COVID-19 cases in India can be five or six times higher than the tally right now” (“Actual COVID-19 cases in India may be 5 to 10 times higher, says epidemiologist. India Today TV April 16, 2021).

Concluding remarks

India’s animosity against China is actuated by expediency. There is no chance of a full-blown war between China and India as the two countries have agreed not to use firepower in border skirmishes, if any. Modi himself told the All-party conference that not an inch of Indian territory has been ceded to China. In May this year, the Army Chief General M M. Naravane noted in an interview: “There has been no transgression of any kind and the process of talks is continuing.”

It is not China but the Quad that is disturbing unrest in China’s waters.

History tells the USA can sacrifice interests of its allies at the altar of self interest. India sank billions of dollars in developing the Chabahar Port. But, India had to abandon it as the US has imposed sanctions on Iran.

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Xinjiang? A Minority Haven Or Hell

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While the G7 meets under the shadow of Covid 19 and the leaders of the most prosperous nations on earth are focused on rebuilding their economies, a bloodless pogrom is being inflicted on a group of people on the other side of the world.

In this new era, killing people is wasteful and could bring the economic wrath of the rest of the world.  No, it is better to brainwash them, to re-educate them, to destroy their culture, to force them to mold themselves into the alien beings who have invaded their land in the name of progress, and who take the best new jobs that sprout with economic development.  Any protest at these injustices are treated severely.

Amnesty International has published a new 160-page report this week on Xinjiang detailing the horrors being perpetrated on Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.  Amnesty has simultaneously announced a campaign on their behalf.

Persecution, mass imprisonment in what can best be described as concentration camps, intensive interrogation and torture are actions that come under the definition of ‘crimes against humanity’.  More than 50 people who spent time in these camps contributed first-hand accounts that form the substance of the report.  It is not easy reading for these people have themselves suffered maltreatment even torture in many instances.

The UN has claimed that 1.5 million Muslims (Uighurs, Kazakhs, Uzbeks and Tajiks) are in these internment camps and China’s claims of re-education camps made to sound as benign as college campuses are patently false.

People report being interviewed in police stations and then transferred to the camps.  Their interrogation was frequently conducted on ‘tiger chairs’:   The interviewee is strapped to a metal chair with leg irons and hands cuffed in such a manner that the seating position soon becomes exceedingly painful.  Some victims were hooded; some left that way for 24 hours or more, and thus were forced to relieve themselves, even defecate, where they sat.  Beatings and sleep deprivation were also common.

Activities were closely monitored and they were mostly forbidden to speak to other internees including cell mates.  Trivial errors such as responding to guards or other officials in their native language instead of Mandarin Chinese resulted in punishment.

Amnesty’s sources reported the routine was relentless.  Wake up at 5am.  Make bed — it had to be perfect.  A flag-raising and oath-taking ceremony before breakfast at 7 am.  Then to the classroom.  Back to the canteen for lunch.  More classes after.  Then dinner.  Then more classes before bed.  At night two people had to be on duty for two hours monitoring the others leaving people exhausted.  You never see sunlight while you are there, they said.  That was because they were never taken outside as is done in most prisons.

The re-education requires them to disavow Islam, stop using their native language, give up cultural practices, and become Mandarin-speaking ‘Chinese’.

Such are the freedoms in Xi Jinping’s China.  If China’s other leaders prior to Mr. Xi effected moderate policies in concert with advisers, it is no longer the case.  Mr. Xi works with a small group of like minds.  He has also removed the two-term or eight-year limit on being president.  President for life as some leaders like to call themselves, then why not Mr. Xi.  His anti-democratic values make him eminently qualified. 

An enlightened leader might have used the colorful culture of these minorities to attract tourists and show them the diversity of China.  Not Mr. Xi, who would rather have everyone march in lockstep to a colorless utopia reminiscent of the grey clothing and closed-collar jackets of the Maoist era. 

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Looking back on India-China ties, one year past the Galwan incident

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modi xi jinping

Two nuclear-armed neighbouring countries with a billion-plus people each, geographically positioned alongside a 3,488-km undemarcated border in the high Himalayas. This is the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. Differences in perception of alignment of this border for both sides have contributed to a seemingly unending dispute.

Chinese unilateral attempt to change status quo in 2020

One year back, on 15 June 2020, a clash between Indian and Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley of eastern Ladakh turned bloody, resulting in the death of 20 soldiers in the former side and four in the latter side. It was an unfortunate culmination of a stand-off going on since early May that year, triggered by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops encountering Indian troops who were patrolling on their traditional limits.

It was followed by amassing of troops in large number by China on its side and some of them crossed the line over without any provocation, thereby blocking and threatening India’s routine military activities on its side of the traditionally accepted border. It was a unilateral attempt by the Chinese Communist Party-run government in Beijing to forcefully alter the status quo on the ground.

The LAC as an idea

Over the years, the LAC has witnessed one major war resulting from a Chinese surprise attack on India in 1962 and periodic skirmishes along the various friction points of the border, as seen in the years 1967, 1975, 1986-87, 2013, 2017, and the most recent 2020 Galwan Valley incident, the last being the worst in five decades. Post-Galwan, the optics appeared too high on both sides.

The LAC as an idea emerged with the annexation of Buddhist Tibet by Chinese communist forces in the early 1950s, bringing China to India’s border for the first time in history. This idea just emerged and was taking shape through the Jawaharlal Nehru-Zhou Enlai letters of correspondence that followed.

In 1962, while the world was engrossed upon the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Chinese inflicted a huge military and psychological debacle on unprepared and outnumbered Indian soldiers in a month-long war along this border.

Even to this date, there is still no mutually agreeable cartographic depiction of the LAC. It varies on perceptions.

What could’ve led to 2020 stand-off?

One of the reasons that led to the current new low in India-China ties, other than differing perceptions, is the improvement in Indian infrastructure capabilities along the rough mountainous terrains of the Himalayan borders and its resolve to be on par with China in this front. This has been a cause of concern in Chinese strategic calculations for its Tibetan border.

The carving up of the Indian union territory of Ladakh with majority Buddhists from the erstwhile Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir in 2019 has indeed added to Beijing’s concerns over the area.

For the past few years, India has been upfront in scaling up its border infrastructure throughout the vast stretch of LAC, including in eastern Ladakh, where the 2020 stand-off took place. There is a serious trust deficit between India and China today, if not an evolving security dilemma.

Post-Galwan engagement

Several rounds of talks were held at the military and the diplomatic levels after the Galwan incident, the working-level mechanisms got renewed and new action plans were being formed before the process of disengagement finally began.

The foreign ministers of both countries even met in Moscow on the side-lines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meet in September, which was followed by a BRICS summit where Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping came face-to-face in November, although virtually.

By February 2021, the process of disengagement of troops gained momentum on the ground around the Pangong lake area. So far, eleven rounds of talks were held at the military level on the ground at the border. But, the disengagement is yet to be fully completed in the friction points of Hot Springs and the Depsang Plains.

Diplomacy is gone with the wind

All the bilateral border agreements and protocols for confidence-building that were signed between the both countries in the years 1993, 1996, 2005, 2012 and 2013 were rendered futile by the Chinese PLA’s act of belligerence in Galwan.

The spirit of two informal Narendra Modi-Xi Jinping summits to build trust after the 2017 Doklam standoff, one in Wuhan, China (2018) and the other in Mamallapuram, India (2019) was completely gone with the wind. This is further exacerbated by the Chinese practice of ‘wolf-warrior diplomacy’, which is clearly undiplomatic in nature.

India’s diversification of fronts

Coming to the maritime domain, India has upped the ante by the joint naval exercises (Exercise Malabar 2020) with all the Quad partners in November, last year. Thereby, New Delhi has opened a new front away from the Himalayan frontiers into the broader picture of India-China strategic rivalry. Australia joined the exercise, after 13 years, with India, Japan, and the United States, a move indicative of militarisation or securitisation of the Quad partnership.

Recently, India has been consolidating its position over the union territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, lying southeast to the mainland, and close to the strategic Strait of Malacca, through which a major proportion of China’s crude oil imports pass through before venturing out to the ports of South China Sea.

Economic ties, yearning to decouple

Last year, India’s external affairs minister S. Jaishankar remarked that border tensions cannot continue along with co-operation with China in other areas. In this regard, the Narendra Modi government has been taking moves to counter China in the economic front by banning a large number of Chinese apps, citing security reasons, thereby costing the Chinese companies a billion-size profitable market. The Indian government has also refused to allow Chinese tech companies Huawei and ZTE to participate in India’s rollout of the 5G technology.

Moreover, India, Australia and Japan have collectively launched a Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI) in 2020 aimed at diversifying supply chain risks away from one or a few countries, apparently aimed at reducing their dependence on China. In terms of trade, India is still struggling to decouple with China, a key source of relatively cheap products for Indian exporters, particularly the pandemic-related pharmaceutical and related supplies in the current times.

But, the Indian government’s recent domestic policies such as “Self-Reliant India” (Atmanirbhar Bharat) have contributed to a decline in India’s trade deficit vis-à-vis China to a five-year low in 2020, falling to around $46 billion from around $57 billion in 2019.

The broader picture

The border dispute remains at the core of a range of issues that define the overall India-China bilateral relations. Other issues include trade and economics, Beijing’s close ties with Islamabad, the succession of Dalai Lama who has taken asylum in India since 1959 and the issue of Tibetan refugees living in India, educational ties, and the strategic rivalry in India’s neighbourhood, i.e., South Asia and the Indian Ocean Region, among others.

Chinese belligerence has led India to find its place easily in the evolving ‘new Cold War’

The more China turns aggressive at its border with India, the more it will bring India close to the United States and the West. Despite India’s traditional posture of indifference to allying itself exclusively with a power bloc, in the recently concluded G7 summit, India referred to the grouping of liberal democracies as a ‘natural ally’.

India has been raising the need for a free, open and rules-based Indo-Pacific in as many multilateral forums as possible, a concept which China considers as a containment strategy of the United States. Possibly, India might also join the G7’s newly announced infrastructure project for developing countries in an appropriate time, as it is initiated as a counterweight to China’s multi trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative.

There was a time in the past when the former Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru sought to lead Asia by cooperating with China. Considering today’s changed geopolitical realities and power dynamics, nowhere in anyone’s wildest dreams such an idea would work out. Prime Minister Modi’s muscular foreign policy imperatives are aligning well with the Joe Biden-led Western response to the looming common threat arising from Beijing.

Today, encountering Xi Jinping’s grand strategy of Chinese domination of the world (by abandoning its yesteryear policy of ‘peaceful rise’) is a collective endeavour of peace-loving democracies around the world, to which Asia is particularly looking forward. Most notably, it comes amid an inescapable web of global economic inter-connectedness, even among rival powers.

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