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?
A shorter version of this piece was published as Jabin T. Jacob, ‘North Korea hasn’t gone rogue. Nukes are its geo-political trump card’, Catch News, 16 January 2016.
Following North Korea’s fourth nuclear test since 2006, the world led by the UN Security Council has condemned Pyongyang’s action. The DPRK for its part blamed South Korea’s propaganda broadcasts in the Demilitarised Zone – which includes K-pop songs, by the way – and deployment of military assets, saying these were pushing the two countries to the ‘brink of war’.
The UNSC’s resolutions since 2006 imposing and strengthening sanctions on North Korea for continuing to develop its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles have however not been very effective, even if they have slowed down the pace of development of these programmes. This is because Pyongyang views nuclear weapons as a guarnator of its regime security. Given American efforts at regime change in West Asia, Pyongyang clearly sees nuclear weapons as the ace in its pack. The Americans reminded Kim Jong-un’s regime of that threat by flying a B-52 over South Korea in a joint response to the North Korean test. The bomber that took off from far-away Guam, can carry precision guided conventional ordnance as well as nuclear weapons. Continue reading North Korea’s Nuclear Test: Regional Reactions and the Chinese Responsibility
Contemporary Sino-Japanese relations have long crossed the line from foreign policy to becoming an active domestic issue, particularly in China and now increasingly so, also in Japan. China appears to believe both that nationalist passions can be controlled and that time and demography are on its side. The first assumption is questionable though evidence till now shows that Beijing has been successful while the second is correct. India will then have to manage its relationship with Japan keeping both realities in mind.
Given their long history of exchanges, it was always unlikely that the legacy of World War II would be forgotten or forgiven as in the European case but in both countries this past is now being used to rake up and create fresh reasons for discord and enmity. In China, the humiliation of being overrun and subject to the depredations of the Japanese was the worst of the ‘century of humiliations’ while for the Japanese, their brief dominance over China allowed them to finally emerge from the long historical and civilizational shadow of their larger neighbour.
Continue reading India-Japan Ties in the Sino-Japanese Mix
(Published as जबिन टी. जेकब, “संबंधों में साहस और सतर्कता जरूरी,” Business Bhaskar, 24 January 2013, p. 4.)
The recent visits of Indian Vice-President Hamid Ansari and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Vietnam are signs of a growing convergence of concerns that these countries have about China. China’s rapid military modernization and its assertiveness in the last few years on various territorial disputes have belied the hope that China’s regional and global economic integration would also ensure a more peaceful China.
In China’s own view, its actions are reasonable and justified in the face of provocations from its neighbours. Leaving aside the veracity of China’s claims, the object here is to examine the strategic coming together of India, Vietnam and Japan vis-à-vis China. Continue reading India and China’s Neighbours: Carefully Does It
(original text in English follows below the Hindi text)
पिछले महीने तीसरे इंडो-यूएस रणनीतिक वार्ता के बाद दक्षिण और मध्य एशिया के लिए अमेरिकी सहायक विदेश मंत्री रॉबर्ट ब्लैक ने कहा, अमेरिका चीन और भारत के साथ एक त्रिपक्षीय वार्ता करना चाहता है ताकि अफगानिस्तान समेत तमाम दूसरे मुद्दों पर मिलकर काम हो सके। हालांकि मौजूदा अंतरराष्ट्रीय माहौल में यह देखने वाली बात होगी कि इस तरह की त्रिपक्षीय वार्ता की गुंजाइश बनती भी है या नहीं? Continue reading A US-India-China Trilateral? Big Promise but Dim Prospects
During her visit to India for the 2nd Indo-US Strategic Dialogue, last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called upon India to “not just to look east, but to engage east and act east as well”. But the problem in New Delhi might well be an incapacity to ‘think east’ beyond the boundary dispute with China or trying to retain a toehold against Chinese dominance in Myanmar. What engagement there is occurs in the economic domain but India remains overcautious in its political and military outreach to the Asia-Pacific. Continue reading Hillary Clinton’s India Visit: Chinese Elephant in the Room
Original Article: Oliver Stuenkel and Jabin T. Jacob, “Rising powers and the future of democracy promotion: the case of Brazil and India,” Portuguese Journal of International Affairs (Lisbon), No. 4, Autumn/Winter 2010, pp. 23-30.
Extract: The decline of Western dominance, symbolized by the financial crisis in 2008 and the rise of emerging actors such as China, India and Brazil, will fundamentally change the way decisions are made at the international level. Power, and the responsibilities that come with it, will be more evenly spread across a larger number of stakeholders, creating potentially a more equitable world order. Power not only allows rising actors to participate in international negotiations but also increasingly allows countries such as China, India and Brazil to frame the debate and decide which issues should be discussed in the first place. In other words, rising powers will increasingly turn into global agenda setters. Apart from changing the way decisions are made, the rise of non-established powers such as India and Brazil on the one hand and China on the other, will also have an impact on the international discourse on political values and systems of governance.
In the short-run, it does seem likely that the rise of emerging powers will contribute to the decreasing importance of democracy promotion in the international political discourse. African dictators will show little inclination to accept loans laden with conditionalities if they can opt for Chinese, Indian or Brazilian loans without any strings attached and Central Asian despots will seek to take advantage of instability in their neighbourhood or the fear of possible chaos in their own country to play one power against the other. But in the long-run, as they grow and become more confident of their positions in the world order, at least some emerging powers might see that they have little to from kowtowing to dictators. They might also seek increasingly to distinguish themselves not so much from the West as from each other. And at least Brazil and India could well find that their democratic nature is an important marker also of their global identity and that democracy promotion is an useful tool of their national interests worldwide.
Originally published: 29 September 2010
When a Chinese fishing vessel apparently rammed into two Japanese naval vessels on 7 September, few imagined that the ensuing standoff would continue for as long as it did. The incident occurred in waters off the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands in the East China Sea claimed by China, Taiwan and Japan. The Japanese released all of the crew but for the captain of the vessel within a week, detaining the latter for well over a fortnight. Whatever the incident says about Sino-Japanese relations, it is notable also for three important reasons involving Chinese external policymaking and regional responses in general. Continue reading Another Sino-Japanese spat
Originally published: August 2008
Extract: Current realities including the US presence in Asia as well as China’s global emergence will need to be addressed in any new Asian security architecture. For the new architecture to also acknowledge India’s rise and its interests, India will however need to provide something much more than military or economic might. There must be an Indian idea that can motivate the security discourse on the Asian continent.
Towards this end, India must ask itself some hard questions. What does India view as the foundation for its relations with other countries? Why for example, should any country consider India’s rise as benign in comparison to that of China’s and why therefore, should any country buy India’s argument that an open and inclusive system with the widest possible membership is the most effective and useful way forward for Asia?
It is about time India answered these questions and (re)examined the nature of its engagement with the world. No matter what its current limitations or perceived advantages, India needs to embark on an exercise of basing its foreign policy on strong domestic fundamentals, before it can truly rise in Asia and the world.
Original Article: “Towards a New Asian Architecture: India and Ideology,” IPCS Issue Brief, No. 80, August 2008.