Category Archives: Foreign Policy

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

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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In the wake of the Pulwama attack in Jammu & Kashmir against Indian paramilitary forces, the Indian government has withdrawn the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status for Pakistan.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

2019: What’s in Store for India-China Relations?

India-China relations went through a year of relative calm in 2018. This was the result of the so-called ‘Wuhan Spirit’ – after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in the Chinese city in April to attempt to sort out tensions in the relationship following the several months-long standoff in Doklam (Dolam) in Bhutan middle of last year. However, this respite must be considered unusual for the goal that China under Xi has set itself is of racing to the top of the global hierarchy at the apparent expense of the United States and India certainly is seen only as a bit player in this story. Continue reading 2019: What’s in Store for India-China Relations?

The Rising Chinese Challenge to Order and Politics Everywhere

2018 marks 40 years since China launched its economic reforms, and opening up that changed its domestic economic structure as well as set it on course to being the global economic giant it is today. Now, China’s significance in the global economy is not in question whether as an industrial producer, as a consumer of raw materials, or as a pioneer in pushing the frontiers of technology and its applications.

What has also been apparent since at least 2012 when Xi Jinping took over as general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC), if not earlier, is that China’s economic power is being put to political uses at both the regional and global levels. Somehow, the west, led by the US, appears not to have anticipated that the ‘rise of China’ would bring with it a challenge to not just western economic domination but also to American military might and perhaps, most importantly, to the very idea of democracy and other largely western political values and ideals.

A dynamic foreign policy Continue reading The Rising Chinese Challenge to Order and Politics Everywhere

Political Crisis in Sri Lanka: Little Risk for China

A major political crisis is underway in Sri Lanka following President Maithripala Sirisena’s sacking of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, replacing him former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and finally the dissolution of parliament. There are now multiple petitions now pending before the country’s Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of Sirisena’s actions.[1]

Meanwhile, if general elections were allowed, Rajapaksa’s chances of returning to power look good given that the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna party – which he formally joined just a few days ago[2] – came out on top in local elections in February. [3]

During Rajapaksa’s tenure as President from 2005 to 2015, the Chinese had begun to gradually involve themselves in Sri Lankan politics. Continue reading Political Crisis in Sri Lanka: Little Risk for China

China-Pakistan Bus Service through PoK: Complaining is Easy

On the eve of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s first state visit to China came the announcement that the two countries were starting a bus service along the Karakoram Highway between Kashgar in Xinjiang and Lahore.[1] The Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) was quick to protest on the grounds that the bus service passed through Indian territory under occupation by Pakistan.

The MEA statement leaves out the fact that this is not the first bus service between China and Pakistan. The first was launched in June 2006 between Gilgit and Kashgar, used by both traders from Pakistan and Chinese tourists and traders. Just a month earlier, a truck service had also begun with Chinese traders allowed to bring their vehicles up to Karachi and Gwadar.

There is no record of the MEA having protested these Sino-Pak connectivity services in 2006.[2] Continue reading China-Pakistan Bus Service through PoK: Complaining is Easy

Raising China as an Issue in Indian Elections

US Vice-President Mike Pence delivered a key speech on his country’s China policy early this month on 4 October 2018.[1] His speech drove home the message of the burgeoning challenge to American interests from China. Using specific examples, he pointed out how the Chinese sought to influence American domestic politics, stole American technology, and undermined other countries through debt-trap infrastructure projects under its Belt and Road Initiative.

Implications for India

Pence’s speech on China has also been read as being politically motivated given the November mid-term elections to the US Congress.[2] While this may be so, it also offers Indians an opportunity to think why their country’s foreign policy challenges from China do not form more of an issue at least during parliamentary elections. Continue reading Raising China as an Issue in Indian Elections