China and National Security – the BJP’s 2019 Election Manifesto

For a party that claims to be the best defender of India’s national security interests, it is strange that the Bharatiya Janata Party does not have a separate dedicated document on the subject of national security like the Congress does.

The BJP’s election manifesto, ‘Sankalp Patra’, mentions China all of once – while referring to the Russia-India-China trilateral framework for multilateral cooperation in the same breath as the Japan-America-India trilateral.[1]

China, does, however, appear by implication in a number of instances Continue reading China and National Security – the BJP’s 2019 Election Manifesto

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Listing Masood Azhar as Global Terrorist: China Helps India to a Pyrrhic Victory

In an age of extremes, of hyperbole, and of tall promises, a headline announcing that getting Pakistani terrorist Masood Azhar sanctioned by the UN’s 1267 Committee is a ‘big’ diplomatic win for India[1] should not be surprising. It would however, be worrying if Government of India officials or responsible political leaders were to also parrot this line.

India’s Permanent Representative to the UN was calm in his tweet declaring that Azhar had been designated a terrorist.[2] Finance Minister Arun Jaitely, however, at a press conference on behalf of the ruling BJP could not resist taking potshots at the opposition Congress, criticizing it for asking, “what is the big deal?” and went on to call the listing ‘badi kootnitik vijay’ (big diplomatic victory).[3] Continue reading Listing Masood Azhar as Global Terrorist: China Helps India to a Pyrrhic Victory

China and National Security – the Congress’ 2019 Election Manifesto

National security, like other issues of national importance, is seldom determined by the actions of any one government administration alone. Both failures and successes trace their roots to strategies and policies developed and actions implemented over time by successive governments.

While national security deserves a place in the electoral discourse, in the present elections it has been reduced to simplistic binaries and an unhealthy focus on Pakistan. China has undoubtedly been a major beneficiary of this proclivity of Indian politicians and people to get carried away by emotion and prejudice.

It is only the Indian National Congress so far that has come out with a full-fledged ‘Plan on National Security’. Continue reading China and National Security – the Congress’ 2019 Election Manifesto

The Second BRI Forum: Signaling Change?

China hosted the 2nd Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing from 25 to 27 April 2019 with a few dozen heads of state/government and of international organizations in attendance. Seen as a key event of the Chinese diplomatic calendar, international participation at the BRI Forum is seen by Beijing as some sort of validation of its attempts at regional and global leadership using the mantra of economic growth through infrastructure development.

This infrastructure development provided by Chinese enterprises around the world has come under increasing scrutiny since the launch of the BRI in 2013 and the Chinese appear to have used the 2nd Forum both as a sort of reality check for themselves as well as a fresh attempt to convince countries hosting BRI projects and those not yet on board that there is still much on offer.

Problems with Chinese Infrastructure Continue reading The Second BRI Forum: Signaling Change?

Chinese Views of India’s Elections: Watch and Disparage

The Communist Party of China’s mouthpieces now regularly carry reports of elections being held in different parts of the world. The criticism both overt and subtle that is found in Chinese analyses of these elections reflects the CPC’s insecurities and the desire to promote its own model of politics and development to the rest of the world.

How are the Chinese looking at India’s current general elections? Continue reading Chinese Views of India’s Elections: Watch and Disparage

India’s Mixed Signals to China on Terrorism

India failed yet again to have Jaish-e-Mohammed founder Masood Azhar sanctioned because of a ‘technical hold’ by China at the UN Security Council’s 1267 Committee. Minister of State for External Affairs Gen. (retd) V K Singh chose the occasion to send out a tweet asking if China’s stance was ‘a reflection of the soft position of some leaders & political parties’[1] implying, of course, Indian opposition leaders and parties.

The Minister’s ill-advised tweet is a clear indication of this government’s political priorities focused on settling domestic political scores in election season and a preference to deal with Pakistan – clearly the more profitable issue from an electoral point of view – rather than the longer-term and harder challenge of China.

The MEA statement in response to the outcome of 1267 Committee meeting did not even name China directly as being responsible.[2] This, when it has previously criticised China by name.[3] Instead of taking a consistent position on China, the Minister has decided to milk the occasion for domestic politics by imputing motives to his party’s political opponents. Continue reading India’s Mixed Signals to China on Terrorism

China’s Reactions to India’s Attack on Balakot, Pakistan

Remarks from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the wake of India’s attack on Balakot in Pakistan and the subsequent tensions between the two South Asian neighbours[1] appeared to suggest that Beijing was taking a more or less neutral stand. The official spokesperson’s answers to repeated questions on the Indo-Pak incidents stuck to the same overall formulation calling for restraint from both sides and for de-escalation.

A Pakistan Slant

However, the fact is that this apparent Chinese neutrality also creates a false equivalence between India and Pakistan in which Pakistan’s original sin as the perpetrator of terrorism, including the Pulwama attack, is erased and equal responsibility assigned to both India and Pakistan for the current instability and tensions. Continue reading China’s Reactions to India’s Attack on Balakot, Pakistan

India’s Withdrawal of MFN Status to Pakistan: Ceding More Space to China

In the wake of the Pulwama attack in Jammu & Kashmir against Indian paramilitary forces, the Indian government has withdrawn the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status for Pakistan. This status had been accorded to Pakistan on the basis of India’s obligations under the World Trade Organisation. The former had, however, never reciprocated and it is only now that New Delhi has sought to respond in kind. [1]

While this is seen as a strong signal of sorts to the Pakistanis, it is unlikely to be so given the abysmally low level of Indo-Pak bilateral trade.

According to the UN Comtrade Database, Indo-Pak trade stood at US$1.992 billion in 2015, just about crossed the US$2 billion threshold in 2016 and in 2017 had not increased by more than a few tens of millions of dollars over the previous year. Pakistani exports to India in this period stayed between US$310 million and US$350 million. By contrast, Sino-Pak trade in 2015 stood at nearly US$13 billion with Pakistan suffering a deficit of some US$11 billion. In 2016, trade went up to US$15.3 billion with not just Pakistani imports rising but its exports to China also falling worsening its deficit. This trend continued even as Sino-Pak trade rose to nearly US$17 billion with Pakistani exports to China constituting just a shade over US$1.5 billion.[2] Continue reading India’s Withdrawal of MFN Status to Pakistan: Ceding More Space to China

On Democratic Space and Aggressive Foreign Policy

Indian analysts and officials frequently differentiate their country from China on the basis of the political systems of the two countries. It is seen as positive that India is a democracy despite the poverty, superstitions and lack of education of a large number of its people. China however is looked down upon despite its many achievements in living standards and social indicators because it is an authoritarian state.

Nevertheless, it is also common to find among sections of Indian elites an admiration for China’s ‘tough’ ways; for the ‘discipline’ of its people. It is often proposed that India, too, needs a tough leader with authority to ensure that corruption and other ills are eliminated and the country reaches the front rank of nations, which it deserves. A question left unaddressed is whether the objective of becoming a world power is an end in itself or designed to help India to the means to improve its domestic conditions. Continue reading On Democratic Space and Aggressive Foreign Policy