Watch – ‘Indo-China War Untenable For Both Nations’

As Line of Actual Control between India and China hots up, with both militaries delaying disengagement, TV news channels are on an overdrive sounding the war bugle. Nationalism is the flavour of the season amid common masses, and electronic media is encashing the sentiment to the hilt.

Amid this hullabaloo, LokMarg finds some saner, educated voices among common people who advise caution against the hysteria. While Saurabh Upadhyay, a social activist, says chances of a war, despite their two bloating egos, are little due to international pressure, Nishi Yadav, an educationist, feels both countries are making an effort to avoid military confrontation at the highest level and this is a mutually beneficial situation. Dr Ravi Chauhan, an academic, too believes no country will like to indulge into a war which will set them many years back.

Even as all of them repose faith in Indian armed forces capabilities, they counsel peace and development to continue. Watch the video:

China, The Artless Dodger

China’s military transgressions along the Line of Actual Control with India might have brought immediate tactical territorial gains, but it has lost a lot more strategically in terms of trust and goodwill. Beijing’s responses have also reinforced the fact that its leaders are perennially unrepentant, even though their hands have been caught figuratively in the cookie jar.

This is evident in the comments that emanate from China over the bloody border confrontation on 15 June in Ladakh. Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on June 19, “China hopes that India will work with us, follow faithfully the important consensus reached between the two leaders, abide by the agreements reached between the two governments, and strengthen communication and cooperation on properly managing the current situation through diplomatic and military channels, and jointly uphold peace and stability in the border areas.”

The subtext is noticeable here and in just about every other official statement. “India, you work with us. Show that you are being cooperative. Do your bit to uphold peace because we already are.” The patronizing tone implies that China is blameless, that Delhi must be the one to repent. This smug self-righteousness is readily apparent in Beijing’s dealings with India, in its interactions with South China Sea claimants, and against anyone who displeases it in even the slightest way.

Yet many countries around the world are growing frustrated and angry with China’s continued bullying, its “innocent” denials of responsibility, and its blatant trampling of international treaties and norms.

Take its treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, for example, with more than a million imprisoned in concentration camps where they are brainwashed and many perform forced labor. China initially refuted the existence of any camps, before eventually euphemistically calling them “vocational training centers” once the proof was irrefutable. Even today, too few governments and international bodies are forceful enough in decrying one of the grossest abuses of human rights in modern times, and of China’s brutal cultural genocide.

Nor was it enough for China to merely possess Hong Kong, for it had to make the city harmless politically and to emasculate its citizens of any aspirations to power.

China has become an Orwellian police state too. A study by Comparitech revealed that it is home to 18 of the world’s 20 most monitored cities in the world. More than half the globe’s surveillance cameras are in China, with 567 million cameras predicted to be there by 2021. Beijing alone has 1.15 million cameras, averaging out at 60 cameras per 1,000 people.

China’s arrogance has been on full display during the COVID-19 pandemic. Chairman Xi Jinping failed dismally in his initial handling of the outbreak, as the clumsy Chinese Communist Party (CCP) apparatus sought to suppress the truth and protect Xi.

Richard McGregor of the Lowy Institute in Australia recently penned an article, saying, “China’s failures in the early stages of the crisis, and in the overseas propaganda campaign it later mounted, were baked into the CCP system. So too was the extraordinary mobilization of the country’s resources to enforce lockdowns and stop the spread of the virus. Success and failure are two sides of the same CCP coin.”

China boasts that its political system is superior, pointing to the dismal handling of the pandemic by countries like the UK and USA. Xi himself claimed, “The effectiveness of the prevention and control work has once again showed the significant advantages of the leadership of the Communist Party of China and the socialist system with Chinese characteristics.”

Yet this is a patently false analogy. Many democracies such as Taiwan and New Zealand handled the outbreak in exemplary fashion; the pandemic’s rampaging effects are more a reflection of the competency of individual governments rather than the victory of authoritarianism over democracy.

Interestingly, for some weeks in the center of the crisis, Xi disappeared from public and delegated responsibilities to Premier Li Keqiang. This is rare for a messianic leader who likes to take credit for everything that happens in China, but it illustrates how he was under intense pressure and was distancing himself if things went worse. He only reappeared upon the cusp of victory to gain the credit.

Everything in China is subverted to just one purpose, to bolster the CCP’s standing and to legitimize the leader. The party fears the will of the people most of all.

McGregor thus noted: “Despite outlasting the Soviet communist party as a governing entity, the CCP still frets it will fall through the trapdoor of Chinese history, in which the glorious rise of dynasties has inevitably been followed by their corrosion and corruption, and then collapse. The CCP, in contrast to other fallen communist parties, has pledged to break out of the dynastic cycle by incessantly reinforcing a focus on political awareness and loyalty to President Xi and the party.”

Xi’s COVID-19 remediation strategy was essentially threefold: pump money into job creation; censor any dissenting views; and redirect anger with an appeal to nationalism. After restraining coronavirus, China soon pursued a two-pronged propaganda campaign at home and abroad. Beijing deliberately played down other countries’ donations as it fought the coronavirus, but proudly trumpeted its own efforts as aid flowed in the opposite direction. However, the latter’s “facemask diplomacy” backfired when it peddled inferior products and the realization hit home that China was ultimately responsible for spreading the disease worldwide, decimating national economies and personal livelihoods.

Most informative of all was China’s hardline belligerence regarding the origins of the virus. Officials accused the USA of starting it, for example. China also castigated Australia for seeking an international enquiry into COVID-19’s origins. It resorted to the same old canard – China is innocent and certainly does not deserve vilification.

China’s “wolf warrior diplomacy” proved particularly self-defeating too. The country’s refusal to admit failure and its denial of responsibility turned many against China. Humility is absent from the CCP, for to admit failure is intolerable for authoritarians.

This type of arrogance is captured in an obsequious Global Times opinion piece criticizing the West for blaming China for nurturing COVID-19. “Lies told a thousand times remain lies. In the face of an unknown virus, no government is prepared enough. But the important thing is we admit our limits and faults, and join hands to fight the real enemy.” These words were being aimed at the West, but there was no hint of irony that they applied more accurately to China’s actions.

Shi Yinhong, an international relations professor at Renmin University of China, admitted, “The aim is to promote the Chinese political system as superior, and to project the image of China as a world leader in combating a global health crisis. But the problem is, [these efforts] have failed to recognize the complexities that have emerged on the global stage during the pandemic, and they are being done too hastily, too soon and too loudly in tone, so there is a huge gap between what is intended and what is achieved.”

A report from the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, a think tank of the Ministry of State Security, was leaked earlier this year. One segment stated, “Beijing faces a wave of anti-China sentiment led by the United States in the aftermath of the pandemic and needs to be prepared in a worst-case scenario for armed confrontation between the two global powers.”

Indeed, relations between Beijing and Washington are at their lowest ebb for years. Many Chinese believe the US has a poor impression of their country, and that they are being unjustly demonized. They also feel the USA is rather pushy, and cannot believe that Washington would launch a trade war and impose such stiff tariffs. The fact that both the Republicans and Democrats are somewhat united in their stance against China is rather unprecedented too, although it is not coincidental that the USA is in electioneering mode right now.

Confronting China has, in many ways, become the one organizing factor in current US foreign policy. This can be seen in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent statement on the South China Sea, and a strongly anti-CCP speech on 23 July. Even if President Donald Trump has only a single term in office, it is difficult to conceive of a dramatic about-turn in American foreign policy.

Perhaps unwittingly, Xi has made China a prime target. And who has come out on China’s side? Despite what it regards as generosity under its Belt and Road Initiative, China is receiving little tangible sympathy for its “suffering” at the hands of the USA.

All the above factors are forcing China to rethink its understanding of and relationship to the USA. Many are advocating that their country return to the past policy of keeping a lower profile. Yet this seems unlikely, for Xi retains three key aims: comprehensively modernizing China with the CCP at the helm; reunifying Taiwan; and making China powerful globally.

A number among the patriotically-crazed Chinese populace were advocating that China should invade Taiwan, as things are already going so badly with the USA anyway. However, cooler heads believe such a move would be far too costly and risky, and that energy would be better spent on “national rejuvenation”. Even Qiao Liang, a hawkish retired air force major general, posted on WeChat recently, “This impulsive way of decision-making based on determination or confidence (more of a spur-of-the-moment) without regard for self or external constraints is misconstrued as patriotism, which is actually harmful to the country.” Qiao posited a longer-term strategic view was needed for China.

A good portion of the CCP’s legitimacy comes from increased prosperity. Xi and his cohorts are terrified at the prospect of millions of unemployed, for this will fan social unrest. As long as people are making money, they believe their position is secure. Now they feel vulnerable, as many of the country’s 149 million self-employed business owners and 174 million migrant workers are losing their incomes.

Xi’s response in a time of testing is to double down on existing policies and to issue rallying calls to gather around the flag (which he, of course, is holding aloft). At the 19th Party Congress in 2017, he was already proclaiming, “The banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics is now flying high and proud for all to see.”

Xi recognizes the struggle is now becoming harder, but he always knew this would be so. Back in 2013, Xi warned for “a fairly long time yet, socialism in its primary stage will exist alongside a more productive and developed capitalist system … [There will be a] long period of cooperation and of conflict between these two social systems” before China has “the dominant position”.

“Socialism with Chinese characteristics” decrees that modernization must be led by the CCP acting in the interests of the “overwhelming majority” of the people. Leninism would teach that free markets and free elections lead to rule by selfish elites, so China’s rejuvenation relies on the CCP protecting the people from both. Of course, it can be easily argued that China is ruled by a selfish elite, for China’s bureaucratic heart numbers only about 3,500-4,000 personnel, each of which is screened by the party center.

Xi perhaps fervently believes capitalism will die out and that socialism will ultimately prove victorious. But more than that, he yearns for moral recognition from the rest of the world that his way is right, something that his “community of common destiny for mankind” will make patently clear to all.

What the rest of the world would really like is a conciliatory approach from China, but “conciliation” is not in Xi’s lexicon. It cannot be, for the future of China hinges solely in Xi’s godlike hands, or so the CCP’s narrative goes. That is why China must behave as the “artless dodger”, deflecting blame and reveling in self-aggrandizement.

LAC Standoff: De-escalation, Disengagement Or Status Quo Ante

The border standoff between India and China in Ladakh continues amidst calls from the international community to tone down the rhetoric and resolve the issue bilaterally. India and China, on their part have continued deliberations at both diplomatic and military levels. The nuances of negotiations, though, not available through the media to the general public indicate that the talks initially, were centred around de-escalation of the situation wherein violence had occurred on the night of 15th June in Galwan Valley and there were number of casualties on both sides. Gradually, the discussion moved towards the process of disengagement as both the parties had amassed a huge number of troops in the region.

The roots of the current standoff, however, go back to the months of April and May this year when the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China moved to the many patrolling points on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and built structures (permanent and temporary). The build-up of the Chinese troops along the LAC which is disputed at many places and substitutes for the international border, till one is finalized, was unprecedented and reminded of the Chinese tactics of occupation in the South China Sea. Boundary-making process is a very sophisticated technical exercise which involves primarily four stages of Definition, Delimitation, Demarcation and Administration.

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In the case of the LAC, even the first stage which involves defining the boundary on the map is not clear at many points and locations. The matter becomes more complicated with the Chinese ignoring continual Indian demands to share the maps with the Chinese perception of the LAC. Though the mechanisms to resolve the boundary disputes are in place since the year 2005, the Chinese have refused to share the maps in all the deliberations. This raises a lot of questions and problems and has been one of the major challenges for the Indian side. The Chinese perception which they have often invoked in the media through their spokesperson have never been displayed through maps.

Nevertheless, even during this difficult phase, the discussions between the two sides have continued: at the External Affairs Minister level and at the level of the National Security Advisors of both the countries. This is followed by the talks by Corps Commanders of India and China at the ground situation in Ladakh. Chinese focus, however, remains on the disengagement and de-escalation and they have made it a very protracted process with constant insistence on the perceptions of the LAC. It is noteworthy that progress has been made on the ground over the course of the last month and forces have been gradually moving back to their respective territories and away from the LAC.

Indian Analysts, on the other hand have argued that total disengagement will be a long haul, especially at the Pangong Tso and the Depsang Plains. These two spots are extremely critical from India’s military and strategic perspective and that is precisely the reason that the Chinese want to maintain a stranglehold over them. The Depsang Plains lie in close proximity to India’s Air Force Base at Daulat Beg Oldie which is advantageous to India in adverse conditions.

ALSO READ: ‘China Strengthening Military Bases In Gilgit, Baltistan’

At the Pangong Tso, the LAC is disputed and according to reports, Chinese have encroached more than 8 kms. inside the Indian version of the LAC which runs at Finger 8 (fingers are mountain features jutting out into the lake from the North Bank) and the Indian Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) used to patrol till this point. The Chinese have occupied area till Finger 4 and have built concrete structures effectively covering more than 60 square kms. of the area and therefore will be difficult to evacuate through negotiations. On the other hand, one of the parties can afford a conflict.

Indian stance, therefore, should be to press the negotiations towards the restoration of the status quo ante, or the situation which existed prior to the month of May 2020. Media reports in India indicate that during the last round of talks between the Corps Commanders on 14th-15th July, demand for status quo ante has been made by the Indian side to Chinese counterparts. Chinese media reports indicate little and only say that progress has been made on the disengagement of forces.

On the other hand, the pattern along this part of the LAC, due to altitude, difficult terrain and inclement weather conditions is that of withdrawal of forces from heights during the winter months and moving back to the permanent bases in the area. Given the situation this year this may not happen at Pangong Tso and Depsang Plains and the Indian side should be ready to face the vagaries of weather, terrain and altitude.

The experience of the Indian Army at the Siachen Glacier can be drawn to withstand the Chinese in the area. One way or the other, the strategic geography of the area of these crucial points will play an important role in the future of this picturesque militarized space.

Watch – ‘I Used To Spend 5-7 Hours On Tik Tok Daily’

Millions of small town boys and girls are missing watching and uploading of short videos on Tik Tok. They said the app was not only a good pastime but also allowed them to showcase their talent before a vast virtual audience. While they do not mind banning of the app after border hostilities, they yearn for an easy-to-use replacement for the Chinese app

Chinese In India

‘Most Chinese I Know Love India & Indian People’

Laila, a Chinese girl working in Bengaluru since 2018, says despite border tension and Covid-19 surge, she never felt unsafe in India. She finds Indian people warm and welcoming

As a Chinese staying in India, I get overwhelmed, even a bit annoyed, by the sudden concern I am getting every day from my family and friends, sometimes even strangers and media reporters, thanks to the military standoff and tensions at Ladakh border since May.

There were always inquiries from my family and friends in China about my wellbeing. But with the current Covid-19 surge coupled with India-China border tensions, the queries have grown manifold. Every time I post a picture of my travel in India on social media, a flurry of comments pops up: “Are you in India alone? Is it safe?”

Questions usually include Covid-19 situation, essential supplies, and anti-China sentiment in India. I was even approached by media reporters who kept asking whether I have experienced discrimination.

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I came here in 2018 to work with a Chinese company based in Bangalore, and I fell in love with this country as soon as I landed: I still remember when the cab took me from the airport to my hotel, the driver didn’t take the expressway but took me through interior roads. That made me see colourful houses along the bumpy road, and my heart was singing.

Since then I have made so many good friends in India — across the country — who made my life anything but lonely here. They are funny, brilliant and much braver than I had imagined before I came here. As far as I know, most of Chinese love India and Indian people, as it has such a rich culture and beautiful landscapes.

In the last two years, Bangalore has become a home away from home. It is a beautiful, relaxing and a friendly place compared to Beijing where I used to work before 2018. Even amid this pandemic and border tension, I don’t actually feel concerned or unsafe.

I have heard once in a store that people say the word Corona while seeing me. Also, one of my friends was not allowed to check-in to a hotel while he was travelling. Besides these two isolated incidents, our experiences here are beyond wonderful. We consider these incidents were triggered by ignorance rather than with an intention to create a hostile environment for Chinese.

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That said, there are some people who might be hating Chinese in India. We were lucky to not be consumed by their hatred. I would consider most of Indian people as friendly and welcoming.

Like all my Indian friends who are in their late 20s and 30s, I am actually more troubled by Covid-19 curbs than border tension. Only because of this issue, I once thought of going back when I had a chance to board the flights back to China in June. If only I can roam around in India freely in the present scenario, then I would never think of going back.

I also know I will start to miss India as soon as I go back. All I wish is the pandemic gets over and the tension between two countries gets sorted soon. And I know there are thousands of Chinese wishing the same as me. 

Apps Are Only Tip Of China’s Huge Presence In India’s Tech Sector

On June 29, the Indian government banned 59 Chinese-owned mobile apps. The list included many but the most prominent ones were TikTok and WeChat, both hugely popular among Indian users. India has the world’s second largest number of mobile phone users. The number of mobile phones in use in India is estimated to be 1.38 billion, with more than 104 connections for every 100 citizens. Even if a third of those are on smart phones, it is a staggeringly huge number that accesses internet on their mobile apps, a market that most global app makers worldwide cannot afford to miss.

The ban on Chinese apps came shortly after a border clash between troops from the two countries left 20 Indian soldiers dead earlier in June. The Indian government blocked the apps ostensibly because of cybersecurity risks and the possibility that some of the apps could be used to compromise India’s defence systems. But the ban may have also been a way of sending a message to China. Ever since the most recent border clash between the two countries occurred—at a time when India is struggling with a massive internal problem of containing the rapidly spreading pandemic of Coronavirus within the country—there has been a clamour for boycotting all Chinese products and services in India.

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TikTok and a host of other apps that have been blocked or banned in India will no doubt affect users as well as the makers and suppliers of those apps but China’s less visible but ubiquitous presence in India’s tech and internet landscape goes way beyond Chinese apps that have been popular in that market. Chinese venture capital is probably the biggest component of funding that India’s start-ups, most of them internet based and online. In many ways, Chinese funding is the lifeline for India’s bustling and vibrant start-up industry.

Chinese venture capitalists and private equity investors have invested huge amounts in India’s tech start-ups. And one could argue that without their funding, India’s start-up sector could lose much of its buoyancy. US investors who earlier dominated India’s start-up funding have been eclipsed by Chinese funders. According to GlobalData, an analytics firm, Chinese investments in Indian start-ups increased 12 times since 2016 to $4.6 billion. Eleven of the 30 Indian unicorns (start-up firms with a valuation of $1 billion or higher), at least 15 are funded by Chinese venture capitalists, with two of the biggest funders being China’s Tencent and Alibaba.

Some Indian start-ups that have become household names in India have raised huge amounts from Chinese firms. Paytm, the mobile payment system that has become ubiquitous in India, particularly after the government resorted to demonetisation of large currency notes, has raised $3.5 billion; Flipkart, India’s challenge to e-tailing giant Amazon has raised $7.7 billion; food delivery major Swiggy got $1.6 billion; and Uber’s Indian rival Ola $3.8 billion. All of their funding coming almost exclusively from Chinese venture capitalists. Between 2016 and 2018, Chinese funds for Indian start-ups grew an eye-popping five-fold.

Much of this has happened because of the potential that Chinese investors see in India. India’s population of 1.3 billion is expected to cross China’s 1.4 billion. Middle-income earners in India who comprise the biggest chunk of consumers are estimated at more than 30% of the total population. Moreover, there have been changes in the global dynamics of manufacturing and supply of products. Tech giants from across the world have been steadily shifting their manufacturing bases to emerging markets and India is a prime destination for them. This trend has a multiplier effect, spawning new start-up ancillaries and other firms in India, all of which need funding, which has translated into opportunities for Chinese venture capitalists and private equity investors.

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Some Chinese investors appraise the Indian market as China was some years ago when the mobile access to internet began taking off. There are other similarities with China—the size of the market and the willingness of Indian consumers to quickly adopt new apps for convenience or recreation when they are launched. Chinese investors not only have a deeper understanding of the Indian market (because it is not unlike China’s) but they are also funds-rich.

The recent ban on Chinese apps is likely, of course, to have an impact. Both on users as well as app makers who are set to lose what is probably their biggest market with the promise of a huge potential. But what could happen if India follows it up with a decision to curb or restrict Chinese investment in Indian companies? In April this year, the Indian government amended its foreign direct investment (FDI) policy by stipulating that any country that shares a border with India cannot any longer take recourse to the automatic route for FDI but has to take government permission before investing in Indian firms. Besides China, India shares borders with Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Myanmar, and Bhutan, but those latter countries account for negligible amounts of investment in India.

The new policy, therefore, is presumably aimed at a closer scrutiny of China’s investments in India. This could hit India’s start-up industry hard. Some start-ups, such as the popular food delivery major, Zomato, are already witnessing a slowdown in investments that were slated to come from Chinese funds. It is early days still because the policy has just been implemented but by all reckoning, it will have an adverse effect on Indian firms whose business models pin their hopes on easy funding from Chinese investors.

What exacerbates the situation is India’s large trade deficit with China—in 2019 it was $57 billion. India imports a vast range of products from China. Much of it is capital goods such as telecom equipment, power plants, railway coaches, value-added iron and steel items; electronic and household durables such as air conditioners, washing machines, refrigerators and so on; as well as mobile phone components, chemicals, auto components, and pharmaceuticals.

If the tensions at the Sino-Indian border spills over to the economic front, there could be a bigger impact on the Indian economy. Banning apps is just the tip of the looming iceberg below. If Indian firms’ funding is affected, India’s burgeoning start-up industry would suffer. If India resorts to trade restrictions in the form of import sanctions, it is conceivable that the economy could be hit hard. In both countries’ interests it is, therefore, prudent to dial down the tensions at the borders they share and foster greater economic ties instead.

Chinese In India

‘We Chinese Are Like Marwaris, We Value Business’

Alfred Lee, 50, a hotelier at Puri of Chinese origin, says Chinese people are businesspersons who don’t bother much about what’s happening on the international front. For him, Puri is the most beautiful place on the planet

We Chinese, are more like the Gujaratis or the Marwaris. We are attached to our roots and language but we also have a very sharp insight and ability to settle anywhere in the world if it makes business sense. Thus, you can find Chinese immigrants running businesses everywhere in the world.

I will refrain from commenting on the current relationship between India and China as this is a sensitive issue. All I can tell you is that I am a proud Indian with a Chinese origin; so is my extended family in other parts of the world. There is no place like Puri in the entire world to live. It is the most beautiful place on the planet. It is my home.

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During the British rule, people who lived in Hong Kong did business in India freely as there was no need of passports back then. Most of these Chinese nationals had business links with Kolkata via Hong Kong. The earliest Chinese settlers in India are those who came to Kolkata to do business and never returned. Many of my extended family members are in Canada doing the business but we chose to stay in India. 

Our family’s story is really beautiful. From Kolkata, my grandfather migrated to Puri and started a little eatery. He learnt the local language and mingled with the local people. We later shifted to a better place and now apart from running the most popular Chinese restaurant in Puri, we have a 32-room hotel. The Odiya people never treated us as outsiders as there was never a language barrier between us.

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All of my family, including the youngest one, speak very fluent Odiya. Our mother tongue is Cantonese, which we speak within the family but our second language is Odiya. We can also speak English and Hindi fluently which is required for our business. 

Every Chinese living in India or Hongkong or Singapore has two names – a Chinese name and a local name. The local name is easy to pronounce and helps us communicate better. So my local name is Alfred Lee, while my Chinese name is Lee Chung Hsing. This is how generations of Chinese people have worked – they aren’t much bothered about what’s going on the international front between India and China and other countries.

You can find Chinatown or Little China where a number of Chinese business people live in many of the large western cities like New York, Chicago, Toronto and others. This is the spirit of the people with Chinese origin. They are somewhat religious and do business very precisely. Our focus is on growing our business across the globe.

Trump’s India Visit: Geopolitics & Strategy

US President Donald Trump’s India visit in the month of February 2020 clearly indicates that India’s alignment with the US is now complete. India’s Foreign Policy approach for the last many decades has been of multi-alignment with major partners in the most geopolitically important regions of the world. This particular visit with the visible camaraderie between the two leaders, President Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, proves to be a landmark. The defining feature has been the signing and announcement of the ‘Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership’ at the end of Trump’s visit. The much-touted trade deal between the two countries, however, remains a task to be completed over the coming years.

In terms of geostrategy of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), it marks the final acceptance of the US Indo-Pacific Region strategy for India. The practical framework or background of the Indo-Pacific strategy was already established when the US and India signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) and Communications, Compatibility Security Agreement (COMCASA) were signed in 2016 and 2018 respectively. The LEMOA facilitates the US with using Indian military bases in the region certain conditionalities and case by case basis. The COMCASA on the other hand, allows India to access and purchase the military communications systems of US origin like the C-17, C-130 and P8Is. A combination of these arrangements leads to increasing interoperability between the militaries of the United States and India.

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Since the Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership has been signed, it accords India status of a Major US ally and this has ramifications for India in the larger international system. India’s clear and overt tilt towards the US may cause concerns in the Russian strategic circles but the trend clearly indicates that Indian military and weapons imports from the Russia are declining and India’s recent purchases have been from France, Israel and the United States. China has gradually emerged as a major partner for Russia, because of its multiple collaborative arrangements in the field of trade, transport, industry and finance.

For Beijing, the hope to draw India into its fold through Russia and multilateral agreements like the BRICS and SCO, will eventually fade with the increasing bonhomie between the two leaders (Trump and Modi). The resultant security and strategic apparatus in the IOR or the larger Indo-Pacific under the US leadership and India as a junior partner is directed towards the Chinese is no secret either.

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With its subscription and eventual promotion of the terminology of the Indo-Pacific, a certain deviation from the Asia-Pacific of the Cold War years, India also has become part of the multilateral arrangements like the QUAD which provide tangible flesh and bone for the furtherance of the encirclement/containment of the Chinese. The leadership for the QUAD, again, comes from the United States, the other partners being Japan and Australia. The geographic location of Japan and Australia, which have been US allies since the Second World War and now India, indicates towards a certain geostrategic encirclement of China. Some international commentators have argued that the New Cold War has begun, and such new geopolitical alignments need to be factored in to make sense of the international system with Beijing as a major actor.

To conclude, the Trump visit, with all the pomp and glory aside, finally is a declaration from both New Delhi and Washington that US-India partnership is going to be a long-term affair. An important marker for South Asia from the visit is the de-hyphenation of the India-Pakistan connection from the US strategic mindset.

Indian efforts to make the international community realize that Pakistan’s support for the terrorism infrastructure in the subcontinent and outside have borne results. Donald Trump is perhaps the first president of the US to not visit both India and Pakistan on the same tour. The focus during the visit was solely on New Delhi and with that a clear signal that India is the only partner of importance for the US in the region. The expected outcome for Pakistan is that it will have to be content with the Chinese alliance, whereas India can still leverage its economic prowess and markets to maintain harmonious relations with China.

The benefits for India and US with the Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership will be manifold and will be decisive in the affairs of the Indo-Pacific as well as the Indian Ocean Region.

Why Foreign Policy Is Never An Electoral Issue?

It is surprising that for a country like India, which likes to project itself as a global power, the foreign policy narrative during elections remains limited to Pakistan

For a nation which sees itself as a future global power, it is surprising that foreign policy is never a major talking point in the election season. What goes as foreign policy is a national security narrative focused mainly on Pakistan, terrorism and the need for a strong leader like Narendra Modi to keep India safe.

This buys into the domestic tirade against an “unpatriotic opposition” which plays to Pakistan’s tune. Indeed, this is not the first time that Pakistan comes into play during election season. The “Mia Musharraf” jibe at the Congress party was after all popularised by Narendra Modi in 2014. However, the mainstay of BJP campaign theme that year was not Pakistan, but development and good governance.

Having failed to deliver credibly on any of its poll promises made in 2014, the BJP has pounced on nationalism as the recipe to return to power. The Pulwama terror attack which killed 42 CRPF men in South Kashmir could not have come at a better time. The suicide attack outraged the country. India’s bombing of the Jaish-e Mohammed centre at Balakot gave a fillip to the BJP’s strong leader narrative. The IAF hero who was captured when his plane was shot down over PoK and his subsequent return home, enthralled the urban Indians glued before their television sets to soak up every bit of the action details.

Much of this ultra-nationalism passes off as a foreign policy achievement for the BJP in its election campaign now, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself declaring that India had got inside the enemy’s territory and hit hard. While there is still debate on the amount of losses incurred on Pakistan, the super efficient BJP election machine has ensured that all this is of no consequence. Modi’s connect with the voters is perfect. Anyone questioning the state narrative is anti-national. The opposition dare not raise any doubts for fear of being dubbed as enemies of India.

While foreign policy is rarely an electoral issue for most developing countries, the relations with neighbouring countries often raised to bolster own and vilify the opponents. South Asian nations are a case in point. For a while in Bangaldesh, India was used by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party of Khaled Zia much in the way Pakistan is being by the BJP. Sheikh Hasina was constantly attacked for being an Indian stooge. In Nepal’s last elections, the fact that Prime Minister Oli took on India for its blockade of Nepal in 2015 played a significant part in winning elections for the Communists.

India’s foreign policy has seen a continuation of the Nehruvian vision by successive governments. Even though critics have torn into Nehru’s non alignment movement, we have continued with our lip service to it. The Congress manifesto this year “affirms its firm belief in the continued relevance of the policy of friendship, peaceful co-existence, non-alignment, independence of thought and action, and increased bilateral engagement in its relations with other countries of the world” reads the party’s manifesto in response to a muscular policy allegedly adopted by the Modi government.

The one new idea offered by the Congress is establishment of a National Council on Foreign Policy, where members of the Cabinet Committee on Security would me domain experts to advise the government from time to time. The rest is pretty much the same. There is not much difference between the policies of the BJP and Congress on external affairs.

The biggest tactical shift in India’s foreign policy was brought in by the Manmohan Singh government in 2006 by signing the India-US civil nuclear deal. But the UPA government hesitated to take this either to its logical conclusion or posit it as an achievement before the electorate. The ground for changing equation with the US was set in motion by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee with the  Strobe Talbot-Jaswant Singh dialogue. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has further enhanced the Indo-US partnership by signing three of the four foundation defence agreements which would help the Indian and US troops to operate together. But do such important strategic policy decision make it to the poll campaign banners? Hardly.

In the Indian foreign policy and security establishment, as well as people psyche, there is concern about moving too close to the US. So while Delhi is cautiously moving towards the US camp, it is hesitant to take the final leap. We have little idea of either the BJP or the Congress take on this. The US is keen for India to jointly patrol the South China Sea, in a show of cooperative action against Chinese assertiveness in the region. Yet like the previous UPA government, the NDA has also so far not agreed to it for fear of escalating tension with its giant Asian neighbour.

So far both the Congress and the BJP has continued with the policy of going ahead with co operation with China despite the boundary issue not having being resolved. All this is pragmatic but now with the Belt and Road Initiative of President Xi Jinping, the question is should Delhi continue to stay away? The answers are not simple but need to be debated in public. Should India go ahead and take part in certain projects which would enhance connectivitiy or oppose the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor? Does India have a realistic chance of getting back POK? All of India’s neighbours except Bhutan, have signed in. Italy has too. That should be an eye opener. The foreign policy debate in India should have been much more robust. Can India continue to ignore SAARC? How long will this boycott continue?  But on every question on SAARC, Pakistan props up and the debate goes nowhere till relations improve. We need Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi to talk all this though.

There are reasons why foreign policy is not a part of the election discourse. In a country still struggling to lift millions of people from grinding poverty, unemployment, caste and religious divisions, foreign policy does not resonate among the general voters. It is a subject confined to strategic experts and academic and power circles. India is not an advanced democracy like either Britain or the US or France. It is a democracy in the sense it holds national and state elections every five years and very little else. Questions of human rights, transparency and seldom raised except by intellectuals and activists. It does not concern the general public.

It would be of some concern to people living in border villages along the LoC who are suffering Pakistani artillery in Kashmir or Punjab. In Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Manipur and Assam, the one point agenda is to detect and deport the alleged Bangladeshi migrants who have entered the north east. All together these states carry less than 40 Lok Sabha seats in a 543-member of the Lower House. For the states that carry the lion’s share of constituencies, like Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, or Madhya Pradesh or Andhra Pradesh, where villagers struggle to make ends meet, does India’s foreign policy really impact their lives?

Thus, it will be quite some time before foreign policy discourses become part of India’s election debate. Till that happens, the electoral debate will circle around either ‘jumlas’ or basic livelihood issues.