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Are we heading towards ‘Asian NATO’?

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By K N Pandita

The Quad is an offspring of the US’ Indo-Pacific security, under contemplation for quite some time at various levels of the US think-tanks. The perception received a boost during the Trump administration when relations between Washington and Beijing soured.

Besides her superpower status, Washington’s Indo-Pacific motivation is a reaction to China’s belligerence towards her smaller neighbours in the South and the East China Sea. In recent years, China has considerably upgraded the capability of her naval strike-power and has been conducting naval exercises in the China Sea and the Indian Ocean region with an explicit threatening prognosis. She has developed ports around India in Gwadar, Hambantota, Chittagong, and Kyaukpyu in Myanmar – called “string of pearls around the Indian sub-continent” in Chinese jargon. Shortly, they may serve as resupply and recreation stations for Chinese naval vessels and their crew, enabling the PLA Navy to extend its reach deep into the Indian Ocean.

China’s intention in spreading out her naval sinews far and deep is to ensure the security of the Strait of Malacca, the narrow but highly strategic strait through which three-fourth of the world trade flows and in which China has a big stake. Any country strong enough to choke the Strait of Malacca undoubtedly controls the jugular vein of international trade.

For centuries in medieval times, China was the master of the fabulous Silk Road – the main artery of ancient international trade — that ran from the east to the west of the Eurasian lands. While still retaining dominance over it, China has come out with a more ambitious plan called Belt and Road programme. The Karakorum Highway connecting Urumchi with the Pakistani seaport of Gwadar was completed two decades ago and now a larger connectivity venture called China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the buzzword in Sino-Pak circles. China’s unabashed aggression against India in Eastern Ladakh in May 2020 convinced the entire democratic world that there was an existential threat to democracy from unilateralism.

It further sensitized the US’ security concerns, and the Indo-Pacific graph received a shot in the arms. The Quad became active to give a clear message to China that the decisive battle for universalism may have to be fought not on the snow-clad heights of the Himalayas but on the turbulent waters of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

What does it mean for the Asian region and the world at large? It reflects the grandiose mission of China to dominate the world first through economic and then military might. In the name of assisting under-developed and developing countries in the Asian-African continents, in particular, China offers massive financial support for building basic infrastructure. The objective is to submerge the beneficiaries under the mind-boggling amount of principal and its interest which they are not in a position to repay in any case and thus in return they turn into a vassal state. Pakistan is a typical example.

It is a new and unprecedented form of colonialism, more penetrative and devastating. It is a challenge to many of our achievements like a democratic political system, free market, transparency and the world order so assiduously built by human intellect and initiative. It is a challenge to human freedom.

Quad blueprint has been there informally for several years. However, President Biden called for the first time, a formal (virtual) meeting of all the four members to deliberate on the challenges facing contemporary democratic societies.

The US official representatives are expected to meet with their Chinese counterparts in Alaska. This prompted President Biden to meet and exchange views with the Quad members ahead of the scheduled Sino-US meeting. It is said that President Biden wanted to know beforehand how the other three members looked at the situation arising out of Chinese belligerence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and its implications for global trade and commerce.

Experts assert that the Quad Summit meant an opportunity for Biden and his team to figure out on which specific issues the United States could secure support from Australia, India and Japan. Regional security issues, such as growing competition in the South China Sea and possible military conflict in the Taiwan Strait, have always been the top priority of previous meetings under the Quad format. Ni Lexiong, a military expert at the University of Politics and Law in Shanghai, told Sputnik. “Unification using military force is justified under Chinese traditional ethics. In China, everyone has to support national unification. A nation’s territory cannot be separated forever. This solved the question of whether a war is justified or not. It doesn’t matter if other countries agree with this or not,” he said.

The Quad virtual meeting appears to have been a success story of the convergence of apprehensions and perceptions. Its leaders, meaning the US president, and prime ministers of India, Australian and Japan, wrote in a joint Op-ed that “the Quad is a ‘flexible’ group of countries sharing similar world views and committed to ensuring peace and prosperity which is also open to working with others sharing those goals.” “Ending and recovering from the pandemic, standing up to climate change, and advancing our shared regional vision will not be easy. We know we cannot and will not succeed without coordination and cooperation,” stated a rare Op-Ed in the Washington Post, penned jointly for the first time by US President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

Political analysts pointed out that the Quad Summit could serve as a good example of Biden’s commitment to building alliances and working with allies when dealing with China. A comment was that “After Biden took office he hoped to rely on multilateralism and traditional allies. Although Biden is likely to continue Trump’s confrontational stance against Beijing, he would not follow Trump’s lack of specific strategy.”

President Biden has pulled US’ China policy out of a canister of ambiguity and indecision. His foreign policy is hinged on two ambitions viz. rebuilding ties with frustrated allies and raising a united front against China. It should be noted that the allies rely on trade with Beijing, even though they often clash on security, democracy and human rights. “There is a growing appetite in Tokyo for a strong response to China’s moves” in the South China Sea, The Japan Times reported.

US-China talks

Biden is taking Indo-Pacific with all seriousness. This week, he is working on both of his aims. He has dispatched Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to Japan and South Korea respectively. Writing in the Washington Post, Blinken and Austin said, “It would be a huge strategic error to neglect these relationships.”

China’s state-owned Global Times reported on 11 March that on Washington’s calling Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi and Yang Jiechi, a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, will hold “high-level strategic dialogue with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and NSA Jake Sullivan” in Anchorage on March 18 and 19.

Briefing reporters, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, “It was important to us that this administration’s first meeting with Chinese officials be held on American soil, and occur after we have met and consulted closely with partners and allies in both Asia and Europe.”

The tailpiece of this narrative is that the upcoming US-China meeting has been convened in the wake of a top US commander’s testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Adm. Philip Davidson, the head of US Indo-Pacific Command, has apprised Congress about China’s increasing offensive military build-up and its expanding regional footprint, according to CNN. “I cannot for the life of me understand some of the capabilities that they (Chinese) are putting in the field unless it is an aggressive posture. I see those developing systems, capabilities and a posture that would indicate that they’re interested in aggression,” Davidson told the Senate Committee.

CNN reported that he also described China as “the greatest long-term strategic threat to security in the 21st century”. He highlighted how Beijing has been carrying out increasingly threatening moves, citing Chinese military activity around Taiwan, along its disputed border with India, and even around US islands in the Pacific.

However, the Chinese state media has refuted Davidson’s comment, saying Beijing has no intention to challenge the US. Quoting Chinese experts, Global Times warned such a hostile attitude held by the US military could increase the risks of conflicts in the region, and that regional countries won’t share US hostility against China.

Chinese analysts said that the People’s Liberation Army is strengthening its combat capabilities to thwart new challenges. A large number of advanced weapons and equipment will be developed and commissioned as Beijing plans to turn PLA into a world-class military, they said.

India has been a victim of Chinese expansionism since the 1962 war. But India of 2020 could stand up to Chinese bullying. The biggest outcome of India’s bold and unflinching stand against Chinese aggressive designs is that China has understood that the decisive battle of the Himalayan mountain war will be fought on the waters of the Indian Ocean and India is not alone. The Indian Ocean will be the scene not of a war of civilizations but multilateralism over unilateralism. To demolish this war-mongering mentality, Asian NATO has to come into existence as the leader of the world front for democracy.
( The writer is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University).

Pakistani peacenik warriors: Changing strategy not heart

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By K.N. Pandita

General Bajwa says India and Pakistan must live in peace and dialogue is the only way. In recent months this is the third time he has spoken of peace in the region. It sounds bizarre. The army that initiated three wars with India with the fourth an ongoing proxy war believing that it has to inflict a thousand cuts on the body of India, wants to abandon war and seeks peace. Is this posture real or fake?

The Pakistani Prime Minister also speaks the same language. Pakistani press gives it wide coverage. The foreign press is excited about the “peace around the corner”. Even some Indian national papers exuded mirth over a prospect in which border dwellers along LoC and IB in J&K would return to their habitats and resume the normal activity of life without the fear of bullets being fired and shells dropped to destroy their homes and crops and cattle.

Peace idiom from the other side of the border has become repetitive. The behaviour is unprecedented and, therefore, merits in-depth analysis. Columnists have written copiously on how come Pakistan has agreed to a ceasefire after keeping it broken for nearly 17 years. The baseline of dealing with Pakistan is that for seven long decades Pakistani think-tanks have brainwashed the masses so deep that they cannot think about India as anything other than a deadly enemy of Islam and Muslims. They are not told that the population of Muslims in India outnumbers those in Pakistan and how can India be an enemy of the Muslims or Islam?

The truth behind accepting ceasefire is that ISI is now convinced that it has fully established the base headquarter of Kashmir-centric Theo-fascist outfits in parts of the valley, particularly the South Kashmir where locals have been fully brainwashed and trained in hidden camps in deep recesses of forests. They have established a secure and dependable line of communication besides deep-rooted moles in the local population. They are regularly briefed on the location, movement and manoeuvring of the security forces’ communication facility whom they take on conveniently and of their choosing. They are provided with necessary logistics like food, night shelter, intelligence, roadmap, mobiles and communication facility etc.

The terrorists have spread out over other parts of the valley like Baramulla, Sopor, Uri, Rafiabad, Hamal, Handwara, Kupwara and the Shamsbari slopes and habitats. The ever-increasing number of OGW shows that the insurgent movement has become widespread. Kashmir valley leaders have been insisting on India-Pakistan talks but never even once appealed to the militants to lay down their arms and join the massive effort of reconstruction of Kashmir.

Both Imran Khan and Gen Bajwa have asserted that the initiative for peace in the region and Indo-Pak meltdown should come from India. This one sentence exposes their claim to peace and t tranquillity in the region. It is so strange that Pakistan, the country that launched a well-calculated attack on India in October 1947 wants India, the aggrieved country, to take the initiative. Again Pakistan, the country that launched Operation Topac in 1990, asks India to take the initiative. Surprisingly Pakistan, whose intelligence agencies have been instrumental in planning and implementing the so-called freedom movement in Kashmir and simultaneously subjecting the valley to massive ethnic cleansing should ask India to initiate peace talks.

Why does not General Bajwa tell the ringmasters of the world’s most dreaded terrorist organization stalwarts to disband their organizations, handover arms to security forces of Pakistan, dismantle their camps and return to their homes to run normal life and let the people of Pakistan, nay the entire sub-continent, live a life of peace and comfort? How can there be peace in the sub-continent as long as these cobras and scorpions lay hidden in the grass? Terror and peace talks don’t go together.

By accepting ceasefire along LoC, Pakistan wants to convey a message to the international community and organizations, particularly the FTFA, that she has taken a major step in curbing terrorist and radicalist funding. It will be noted that incidents of terrorist attacks in Kashmir are showing an upward graph. This is what suits Pakistan the most. She goes around the world propagating that she cannot be falsified in asserting that in Kashmir there is an indigenous freedom movement fought by the Kashmiris, and Pakistan has no hand in it. India can no more accuse Pakistan of sending jihadists clandestinely across the border under the cover of fire.

Acceptance of ceasefire by Pakistan is clear and irrefutable proof that she has built up a very strong terrorist superstructure in the valley and has involved a large chunk of the local population in their designs. Unfortunately, this aspect has not been taken care of by the Indian policy planners when they decided to agree to the ceasefire along the LoC. Pakistan is very shrewdly making international capital out of it.

What is the way forward? This is the vital question we should deal with. Signing of ceasefire agreement whether by the DGMOs of the two sides or by seniors in the government on both sides is meaningless and untenable because it is nothing beyond eyewash. The hardcore jihadist outfits on Pakistani soil are intact. Scores of jihadist camps along the LoC remain fully functional. Radical jihadist leaders of these armed groups are enjoying the freedom of movement, speech and action. The army and ISI are not only in close liaison with them but are their patrons and prime fundraising agencies. And they never make a secret of the aims and objectives of their mission in which they are working in cahoots with known Theo-fascist movements like ISIS and the Islamic Caliphate, Islamic Brotherhood, Al Qaeda etc.

Peace in Kashmir means resolution of Kashmir issue. The issues are (a) restoration of PoK and GB to India, the nrightful country (b) Homeland for the victims of ethnic cleansing in Kashmir valley.

India has been trapped in signing a ceasefire. It is now learnt from reliable sources that Turkey and her secret agencies have taken over from ISI the mission of Islamization and radicalization of Kashmir valley. Indian intelligence agencies should issue a statement that exposes the full activities of Turkey in creating an anti-India atmosphere in Kashmir through a subtle mechanism in which the Turkish embassy in New Delhi is directly involved. The sooner these anti-India designs are exposed the better.

Lastly, India should convey to Islamabad in no ambiguous terms that ceasefire becomes sanctimonious only when the outfits of Theo-fascism in Pakistan are dismantled under international supervision and the most wanted terrorist leaders like Hafiz Saeed, Masud Azhar and Rahman Lakhvi are handed over to India where they will be prosecuted under Indian law for the crimes of genocide they have committed and also accepted. If these conditions are not met, no guarantee of s sticking goes a fragile, uneven and unjust ceasefire can be given.

Sub-continent in the grip of disquiet

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By K N Pandita

Three countries of the Indian sub-continent – India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan – are bogged with grim disquiet whose roots lie in the exclusivist beliefs of the Islamic State of Pakistan. After actively stoking the embers of Theo-fascism for more than three decades, the deep State finds that at the end of the day the flames are engulfing it. Continue Reading…

Pakistan struggles for Pan-Islamic bloc

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By K N Pandita

How the Biden administration will deal with Pakistan is not an immediate concern for policy planner in Islamabad: their real concern is how the divided Islamic world patches up and agrees to stand behind her for realizing the Kashmir dream. Pakistan foreign minister’s jaunts to some West Asian countries and the statements emanating from the host as well as the visitor, both, are clear indications that Pakistan wants to mend the fence and bridge the chasm not really for bringing peace and prosperity to Muslims but to garner the support of Islamic radicals for grabbing the entire region of Kashmir. She wants the ummah to believe that Pakistan’s struggle is Islam centric whereas actually, it is Kashmir centric. Continue Reading…

A new phase in Himalayan border strategy

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K N Pandita

Reporting that the embattled commanders of India and China in Ladakh have agreed to disengagement of troops at the Pangong Tso watershed, the Hindustan Times of 16 February quoted an official source making a cryptic remark which no policy planner can afford to ignore. The commentator had said that the speed at which China has moved back its armoured units is not only surprising but it also shows their capacity to deploy the tanks and heavy vehicles again. Continue Reading…

Momentous farewell to veteran parliamentarian

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By K N Pandita

Rajya Sabha or the Upper House of the Parliament witnessed an unprecedented event of momentous farewell given to Ghulam Nabi Azad, the leader of the opposition (Cong), who along with his other three co-parliamentarians will be retiring after completing their tenure next week. Continue Reading…

Farmers’ strike ends in a fiasco

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By K N Pandita

That the 53-day strikes by the farmers ended in a fiasco did not spring a surprise to anybody with an understanding of the democratic arrangement of our politics and the astute manner in which the government handled the situation. During the long period of the strike there surfaced numerous occasions where people began to apprehend a physical lash likely to take shape. Continue Reading…

India and China: the “diplomacy of strings”

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By K N Pandita

Last week, a news item in Hindustan Times disclosed that our Defence Ministry would be doing a mega joint exercise in the Andaman Sea. The contingents of Indian Army, Navy, Air Force, and the Coast Guard are to take part in the drills. IAF’s Jaguar maritime strike aircraft, transport aircraft, destroyers, anti-submarine warfare corvettes, amphibious warships with ship-borne helicopters among others will take part in the exercise. Continue Reading…

Pakistan’s expectations from Biden admin

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By K N Pandita

Prime Minister Modi’s farewell message to Donald Trump on the conclusion of the latter’s last visit to India was “ab ki bar Trump sarkar”. The wish did not come true. It is a stark reminder that the results of democratic elections are unpredictable. Continue Reading…

Fast-tracking of Indo-Pacific partnership

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By K N Pandita

The Eurasian Times of 17 January reported de-classification of a US highly confidential ten-page report prepared by Assistant Secretary Robert C O’ Brian which, among other things, highlights the importance of India in the US’ Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific as the Trump Administration’s overarching strategic guidance for implementing the President’s 2017 National Security Strategy (NSS) within the world’s most populous and economically dynamic region. Continue Reading…

A new chapter in India-Saudi relations

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By K N Pandita

In his six-day-long (9 – 14 December 2020) visit to the UAE and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Army Chief, General MM Naravane was given a red carpet reception by the hosts as it was the first visit of any Indian Army Chief to the two strategically important countries in the Gulf region. In both countries, the Commander met and interacted with his counterparts and other top military and civilian brass besides visiting some of their prestigious defence establishments. The itinerary of the General’s engagements in the two countries shows the importance attached to the visit. Continue Reading…

Farmers’ strike has notable lessons

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By K.N. Pandita

The recent strike by sections of Punjab-Haryana farmers may not arguably pass for a nationwide strike. Nevertheless, some political opposition parties and those with vested interest tried to expand the strike to other states as well. Thus behind the cover of farmers’ protest, these political parties have been trying to challenge the sovereignty of the Parliament. It is politics of disruption and not of nation-building. However, notwithstanding its geophysical aspects, we should not shy away from making a dispassionate analysis of the upsurge because for more than one reason it is a notable event in the contemporary political history of India. Continue Reading…

South Asian conundrum- strategies and statesmanship

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By K N Pandita

China made a grave miscalculation in opening front against India in the Eastern Ladakh. It shows that PLA has turned into a typecast unable to keep pace with the dynamics of changing world order. Her intrusive economic ventures globally have induced many developed countries in the West to look for the protection and perpetuation of their commercial wellbeing. Continue Reading…

Muslim tirade against French President

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By K.N. Pandita

Last week saw a widespread outburst of the people in many Muslim countries against the President of French Republic Mr Emmanuel Macron. In certain cases like Pakistan, the mobs after Friday prayers became uncontrollable and turned violent so much so that the authorities had to deploy riot force to control the unruly mobs. Continue Reading…

Supreme Court verdict on Shaheen Bagh lockdown

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By K.N. Pandita

The verdict of the Apex Court in a petition filed by BJP MLA Nand Kishore Garg has mostly focused on the constitutional and administrative aspects of the last winter’s Shaheen Bagh sit-down agitation that had caused great inconvenience to the public in a crowded part of the capital for a long time. The sit-down strike ended in March last and the verdict has come seven months later. The long time gap is reflective of rather low priority with which the Apex Court treated the matter. Continue Reading…

Isn’t the dragon getting oversized?

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By K N Pandita

Expansionism by force and by treachery is China’s well-known forte. If the originator of the chain-Hindi Bhai Bhai naiveté became its hopeless victim, bring not the onus to the doorsteps of China. The great lessons that India learnt from the 1962 debacle are primarily twofold. One is the bitter truth that “power flows from the barrel of the gun”, and the second is that “the internal enemy is far more dangerous than the external one” more so when the latter is patently in cahoots with the enemy. Continue Reading…

A tiny lamp versus the tempest

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By K.N. Pandita

If Kangana Ranaut’s critical statement hurt anybody or any institution, the right thing to do was to make her judicially answerable on refusing to apologize. In no case, it warranted taking the law into one’s hand. This country has to be ruled by the law of the land and not the jungle law. Continue Reading…

Iran in new regional alignment

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By K.N. Pandita

CIA overplayed capitalist hegemonic role in Iran during the Iranian oil nationalization movement under Dr Mussadegh in the 1950s. Thereafter Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, inexperienced in national politics and regional diplomacy, failed to interact with the Iranian Left, the Jibbeh-e-Milli and also the Iranian clergy, both opposed to the monarchical rule. Some self-seeking intransigence political leaders who emerged from time to time hardly enjoyed popularity with any solid constituency in Iran. Though the Left was suppressed but not eliminated. The clergy expanded their influence fairly well in rural Iran. Continue Reading…

Muslim world: the deepening fissures

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By K.N. Pandita

The new Islamic syndicate, though still at the conceptual stage, is pushed mainly by Turkey and Pakistan. Iran, the lone Shi’a Muslim State, and traditionally not friendly with the Sunnis would be an odd man in the contemplated syndicate. Continue Reading…

India-Iran relations under strain

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By K N Pandita

Iran has not officially announced dropping of India from Chahbahar’s three-fold project. The buzz emanating from The Hindu is actually attributed to two middle rank Iranian officers but not to any senior official spokespersons. Hence, till date the buzz remains only a quasi-official rumour. Continue Reading…