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Foreign Policy War and Conflict

Looking Beyond China: Strengthening Bilateral Relationships in the Quad

In early June, a “virtual summit” between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison, led to the signing of several agreements that have significant implications for regional security. The call for a deeper maritime partnership between the two countries and an important agreement on mutual logistics support in each other’s military bases come against a backdrop of bilateral tensions in both the India-China and Australia-China relationships.

Chinese transgressions on the Line of Actual Control between India and China have been ongoing over the past month and while this is not a new phenomenon what was notable was that these transgressions took place at multiple locations in Sikkim and Ladakh, indicating perhaps, a new phase in bilateral tensions. Australia-China relations, meanwhile, are in a particularly difficult phase. Canberra’s push for an independent international investigation into the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic attracting furious reaction from Beijing which accused the Australians of playing proxy for the United States. In the inflated Chinese view of themselves, no country accusing China of wrongdoing has any agency or rationale of its own but is always serving American interests.

Talk of a post-Covid world order often centres around the decline or the retreat of the US from global leadership implying that the field is clear for China to pursue its ambitions to take over with even greater speed. However, as countries like Australia and others like France and Germany – despite the general failure of a collective response from the European Union – have shown, a vacuum created by the US does not necessarily mean that liberal democracies elsewhere will not stand up to China.

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Comparative Politics Foreign Policy

Another Rajapaksa at the Helm in Sri Lanka: The China Factor

The victory of Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the presidential elections in Sri Lanka in November and the subsequent appointment of his older brother and former president Mahinda Rajapaksa as prime minister have created some concerns in India that the island nation might be returning to a more pro-China foreign policy.

It is important to look into these concerns more carefully.

One, it is not as if the Sri Lankans under former president Maithripala Sirisena, and successor to the older Rajapaksa, was able to pull his country completely out of the Chinese embrace. As is well-known it was during Sirisena’s tenure that the country had to sign over Hambantota to China in 2018 for a 99-year lease.[1] And other major Chinese investments such as the Colombo Port City and the Norochcholai power station continued unhindered.

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Foreign Policy War and Conflict

Let the Quad Die: Towards Greater Indian Leadership in the Indo-Pacific

The Indian invitation to leaders of the BIMSTEC grouping to attend the second swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a number of significant implications. For one, it is a sign that the current Indian establishment thinks that the SAARC framework continues to underperform and is simply not enough to facilitate India’s ambitions. For another, the attention to BIMSTEC, with location around the Bay of Bengal as its central organizing principle, can also be read as a sign of the return of a maritime focus in Indian foreign policy.

The challenge, however, is to ensure that any renewed focus on the maritime domain does not go the way of the ‘neighbourhood first’ approach of the first Modi administration.

To this end, it is important to consider afresh some of the approaches the Indian policy establishment has adopted to maritime concepts and groupings over the past decade and more. In recent years, the Indian government has been part of significant maritime groupings such as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD) including its earlier iteration as the Quadrilateral Initiative, and begun using concepts like the ‘Indo-Pacific’. While these initiatives could form part of New Delhi’s ‘Act East’ Policy, it must be noted that neither the QSD nor the concept of the Indo-Pacific, as currently promoted, have India in a leadership role or even as an enthusiastic partner. Even as large sections of the strategic community in India see great promise in the QSD, there is an equally great reluctance by the government to actually declare any consistent or regular interest in the initiative.

This essay argues that rather than form groupings based only on India’s comfort level with certain countries or individuals leading them, as is the case now, New Delhi must push to create, as well as institutionalise, groupings based on certain clear principles. While membership can be ‘open’, it is only if these principles are accepted that membership should be possible. And the central organising principle of any new grouping in the Indo-Pacific must be that of respect for the idea of a ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’, which, in turn, must be based on respect for international law, including UNCLOS. The essay uses a Chinese prism – specifically, Chinese views of the Indo-Pacific and the Quad – to argue why such an Indian approach will be more effective in deterring aggressive Chinese behaviour in the region and perhaps, even further afield.

Download the rest of the article here

This article was originally published as Jabin T. Jacob, ‘Let the Quad Die: Towards Greater Indian Leadership in the Indo-Pacific’, National Maritime Foundation, 17 July 2019.

A shorter version of this article was also published earlier as Jabin T. Jacob, ‘India must create and lead a new regional grouping to replace Quad’, Moneycontrol.com, 12 June 2019.

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Foreign Policy Political Parties

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’.

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Foreign Policy Political Parties

Tsai Ing-wen’s Visit to Central America

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s visit to Central America from 7-15 January 2017 came amidst the tensions set off by US President-elect Donald Trump publicly tweeting about his phone conversation with her soon after his election. Over time, Trump’s tweets on China have gotten ever more provocative, and questions are now being raised about his administration’s willingness to adhere to the one-China policy, which the Chinese have called the fundamental basis of US-China relations, never mind the fact that in reality China has also never supported the one-China policy as the Americans themselves interpret it which is of Taiwan joining the PRC only with the free will of the people of Taiwan themselves. China insists on maintaining the threat of the use of force if the decision of the Taiwanese does not go its way.

Against this backdrop, Tsai’s visit to four of the dwindling flock of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies came under more than the usual international scrutiny. The visits to Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador were part of Tsai’s only second overseas trip after taking office in May 2016; her visits to Panama and Paraguay in June last year went comparatively unremarked by the international press.

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Foreign Policy Political Parties War and Conflict

Interpreting Ma Ying-jeou’s Visit to Taiping Island

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou’s visit to Taiping/Itu Aba Island in the Spratly Islands on 28 January 2016 was justified among other things on the grounds that he visited men and women in uniform before every Lunar New Year and that he was seeking to clarify the legal status of the island.[1]

 

Omissions

There are however, some issues that need to be considered.

For one, Ma did not mention the visit to Taiping of his predecessor Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in February 2008. Standing before military personnel this omission perhaps weakened Taiwan’s/Republic of China’ (ROC) image and position, which is to say that there is an element of dissonance between the Kuomintang’s (KMT) position and that of its political rival.

Categories
Borders Foreign Policy War and Conflict

The Why of China’s Actions in the South China Sea

Shorter version published as Jabin T. Jacob, ‘China’s “moral code”’, The Hindu, 1 July 2015.

In mid-November 2006, Chinese television broadcast a documentary series titled, ‘The Rise of the Great Powers’ (Daguo jueqi) that studied the rise of nine world powers starting with Portugal and ending with the United States in the present with Spain, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, and Russia/Soviet Union in between. Produced by a group of eminent Chinese historians, the series was telecast during primetime and took the country by storm with its bold, impartial look at the reasons behind the rise and fall of powers in the modern era.

The broadcast of the series opened up the discussion of China’s rise to a wider domestic audience; in hindsight, it might have been the beginning of China’s move away from Deng Xiaoping’s 24-character strategy, that enjoined it to “…hide our capacities and bide our time; be good at maintaining a low profile; and never claim leadership.”

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Comparative Politics Foreign Policy War and Conflict

India and China in Afghanistan: A Tangled Skein of Choices

Originally published as Jabin T. Jacob, ‘India, China and the Coming US Drawdown in Afghanistan: A Choice of Dilemmas’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. XLIX, No. 14, 5 April 2014, pp. 24-27. 

 

The post-US drawdown situation in Afghanistan throws up a number of national and regional political and security challenges for India and China. This essay outlines some of these challenges and prospects for joint Sino-Indian action to tackle them.

China and the US Drawdown in Afghanistan

Beijing is convinced that the US will actually not quit Afghanistan entirely. It takes this view from a realpolitik perspective; given the blood and treasure that the Americans have expended on Afghanistan for a decade, to leave giving the impression that they have been defeated or without adequate protection for what little assets they have created during this time, is in the Chinese view, unlikely.

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Foreign Policy Political Parties War and Conflict

Foreign Policy under China’s New Leaders: What India can Expect

(original version in English follows below Hindi text)

चीन में नेतृत्व परिवर्तन की एक बड़ी कवायद पूरी हो चुकी है। कुछ दिनों पहले 18वीं नेशनल कांग्रेस में शी जिनपिंग को चीनी कम्युनिस्ट पार्टी का महासचिव बना दिया गया। अब तक यह कमान हू जिंताओ की पास थी। शी ने सेंट्र्ल मिलिट्री कमीशन (सीएमसी) के चेयरमैन का भी पद संभाल लिया है। यह एक अहम पद है और इसके जरिये वह चीन की पीपुल्स लिबरेशन आर्मी के प्रभारी हो गए हैं। इसके साथ ही शी तीसरे अहम पद के तौर पर मार्च, 2013 में राष्ट्रपति का भी पद संभाल लेंगे।

अब सवाल यह है कि नए नेतृत्व के तहत चीन की विदेश नीति कैसी होगी?