WHY NITISH KUMAR SHOULD BE GIVEN BENEFIT OF DOUBT

Lalu Yadav’s Chanakya Nitish helped him emerge as Bihar’s tallest leader. He was instrumental in giving Lalu a makeover of a socialist leader. He helped Lalu become leader of the opposition in 1989 and stood behind him when he became chief minister in 1990. Like others, he, too, was a fan of Lalu’s fiery speeches and his deft ability of pull large crowds.

But how long can it last – the aura of socialism built around someone when power rapidly corrupts the person, something that happened with Lalu. Soon after Lalu rode to power, it became clear that it was indeed a government for nepotism and corruption run by one mighty family, the Yadavs of Bihar. So what if Lalu’s children were not grown-up then, there was no dearth of Lalu’s (and Rabri’s) relatives.

It might have led the socialist in Nitish Kumar, who has so far successfully kept his family away from meddling in politics, to pull away from Lalu. But even if Nitish left his ‘Bade Bhai (elder brother) Lalu in 1994, it was almost after a decade of political camaraderie.

Nitish then joined the BJP and the National Democratic Alliance, the coalition stitched by the BJP. He began his independent political career, away from Lalu Yadav, as union minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s cabinet. He even had a brief stint as Bihar’s chief minister, his first term, for seven days, from March 3 to 10 in 2000. Even if Nitish had no numbers, in a controversial move, the Governor invited him to form the government but he had to quit as he failed to prove majority in the assembly. That certainly would have left Nitish with hurt pride and bitter feelings that later on reflected in his anti-Lalu politics, something that built his career.

He returned to state politics in 2005 and became chief minister of JDU-BJP led NDA coalition in November 2005. It was his second term and he did not look back since then. The alliance continued till 2013. His rise saw Lalu and his family being pushed to margins in Bihar’s politics. But like everyone errs, Nitish, too, faltered. He miscalculated his and his party’s prospects in the NDA by wrongly assessing that he could take on Narendra Modi. That didn’t happen and he split the JDU-BJP alliance in June 2013. But mind you, it was after 17 years.

After splitting with the BJP, Nitish didn’t join any other alliance. He needed few numbers to get majority that he easily got and he remained Bihar’s CM until the results of 2014 Lok Sabha in which Narendra Modi and the BJP routed his JDU. The Lok Sabha results, for the first time, clearly showed that for Nitish, it had become an ego issue. Though he stepped down, taking responsibility of the debacle, he kept the real power in his hands by installing a much weaker CM and before the assembly polls in 2015, assumed the chief-minister’s office again.

So, it was not basically an issue of principles and ethics. When he teamed up with Lalu to defeat the BJP, his bete noire, it became even more visible.

Nitish had been naturalized in the NDA with long years of association. But his ego forced him to enter into an unnatural alliance with Lalu, the anti-thesis of Nitish style of politics. So, it was doomed from the beginning. Lalu’s RJD emerging as the largest party only added to it as it was clear that Lalu wielded the real power by installing his inexperienced sons in plum power chairs.

So, all it needed was reconciliation. Nitish needed to reconcile with his inner self and needed to convince him that he was no match for Narendra Modi as his party JDU, limited to one state, was no match for the BJP, a pan-India party. The BJP spread post 2014 Lok Sabha elections, coupled with Lalu style of politics and corruption dominating Bihar again, would have helped Nitish.

Nitish was always comfortable in the NDA. His whole career in positions of power was in the NDA. He was a clear number two in RJD-JDU alliance and sooner and later he was going to make the decision. After he had reconciled, he needed an inflection point. Now there are many theories and conspiracy theories on what would have led Nitish to take the decision finally but the widening corruption net of Lalu family was a clear contender that would have pushed Nitish to take a call. And he listened to it. Now nothing is so straight in politics which is game of selfish permutations and combinations.

But Nitish should be given benefit of doubt because he only went back to where we was comfortable after an apparent reconciliation. And he cannot be termed an alliance hopper and U-turn man because in his long career, he has been in just two alliance only while, from north to south and from east to west, Indian politics is replete with party and alliance hoppers who have done it multiple times.

©SantoshChaubey

NOW, HAWKISH CHINESE MEDIA TARGETS BRITAIN WITH ITS WAR RHETORIC

The article originally appeared on India Today.

It seems that after India, Britain has now come in the firing line of the hawkish Chinese state media. The reason is another territorial dispute – the South China Sea – where China is flexing its muscles, like it’s trying to do with India in the Doklam dispute.

Britain has announced it will send its two aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth – the largest in the British fleet – and HMS Prince of Wales to the South China Sea. It does so in solidarity with the international community’s pledge to ensure freedom in navigation operations in international waters, and to counter China’s attempts to dominate the area by building artificial islands and militarising it with warships and fighter jets.

An editorial in the official Chinese publication Global Times, which regularly threatens India of war over the India-China Doklam plateau border standoff, has warned Britain that sending warships to the South China Sea would be a provocation that would force China to take retaliatory measures.
Questioning the British motive behind the move, the editorial says “it is no longer 1840 and there are no longer any British colonies in East Asia” and that Britain has wrongly taken this decision under Australian and American influence. It describes the “US as a police officer, Australia as its assistant and the UK as its accomplice.”

‘BREXIT WEAKENING BRITAIN’S INFLUENCE’

The editorial says in a patronizing tone that Britain needs to maintain its self-esteem and should not allow itself to “be stupidly dragged back to Asia,” which will only disgrace and humiliate it.

Brexit has been ill-quoted as an example of Britain’s waning influence by the editorial here to justify its arguments. “Brexit is weakening Britain’s influence, and it appears that the country needs to do something to assert its sense of identity.”

The editorial continues to berate Britain as a much weaker country that cannot afford a “new Opium War with China off the China coast,” while aggrandising China’s military prowess that it says has changed the balance of power around the globe.

‘AUSTRALIA CAN ONLY BARK’

Blaming Australia for lobbying hard to instigate Britain, the editorial says Australia “can only bark” and if Britain follows suit, its stature will reduced to “being an accomplice or a dupe.” Canberra has traditionally maintained that China mustn’t build artificial islands in the South China Sea or militarise it.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson revealed his country’s plans to send warships to the South China Sea during his meeting with his Australian counterpart Julie Bishop on Thursday. Bishop was recently in India, where she reiterated the traditional Australian stand on the South China Sea dispute.

Australia has indicated that it may join British efforts directed towards ensuring freedom of navigation patrol in the international waters of the South China Sea – a vital trade route for many countries, and the global economy.

In May, during his Australia visit, US Senator John McCain urged Australia and other nations to conduct naval exercises in the South China Sea, to challenge China – which was acting like a bully.

SEVEN-WAY DISPUTE

The territorial dispute in the South China Sea involves seven countries – China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. A busy trade route passes through it and all other countries except China are in favour of keeping its status as free, international waters.

China wants to control it as it imports most of its oil through this trade route and has built artificial islands in the sea. Doing so would enable China to establish hegemony in East and Southeast Asia. As well, it would keep foreign military forces like the US away from the region.

The US Navy has a sizeable presence in the South China Sea and it routinely carries out patrols in the area to deter the Chinese efforts, maintaining that the South China Sea waters must remain free for international navigation. China doesn’t recognize these claims – including the United Nations Convention on Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS) which has invalidated the Chinese claims on the South China Sea – and says China has controlled these areas since ancient times and if there’s any dispute, it should be resolved by the concerned nations through bilateral discussions.

©SantoshChaubey

KULBHUSHAN JADHAV CASE EFFECT? GLOBAL HUMAN RIGHTS WATCHDOG SLAMS PAKISTAN

The article originally appeared on India Today.

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), an international human rights watchdog with eminent jurists and legal experts as its members from all over the world, has slammed Pakistan for failing to meet its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which the country ratified in 2010.

According to the ICJ, this is the first time that the UN Human Rights Committee, an independent body of experts that is mandated to monitor ICCPR’s implementation, has reviewed Pakistan’s human rights track record since it became signatory in 2010. The review was done on July 11-12 and its recommendations were released yesterday.

Though the recommendations don’t make a direct reference to Kulbhushan Jadhav, an Indian national who has been given death sentence by one of Pakistan’s military courts, it can be said that the issue was on the discussion table while carrying out a review of human rights in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s military courts have been decried by every global human rights body and they gained further global infamy with the ongoing hearing in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case in the International Court of Justice. India has appealed against Pakistan in the International Court of Justice which has stayed Jadhav’s hanging till its final decision.

Jadhav was abducted by Taliban from Iran’s border areas while on a business trip and was reportedly sold to Pakistan’s intelligence agencies. The government of Pakistan and its army made him, a retired Indian Navy officer, a part of their anti-India propaganda by declaring him a spy, tried him in secrecy in Pakistan’s military courts, denying every Indian request for consular access to him, and passed a judgment to hang him.

Among the recommendations made, there are specific strictures asking Pakistan to reform its military courts, “and bring them into full conformity with Articles 14 and 15 of the Covenant to ensure a fair trial”. Articles 14 and 15 of the ICCPR deal with ensuring transparency in legal proceeding in criminal matters which among other guidelines, require the state to provide the accused counsel of his own choosing and forbids the state from taking his forced confession.

The ICCPR does provide a provision for a private hearing but it specifically says that “any judgement rendered in a criminal case or in a suit at law shall be made public except where the interest of juvenile persons otherwise requires or the proceedings concern matrimonial disputes or the guardianship of children.”

UN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE ASKS PAKISTAN TO REFORM MILITARY COURTS

The UN Human Rights Committee has asked Pakistan to reform its military courts as per the provisions of the Articles 14 and 15 of the ICCPR. It is necessary for every signatory of the ICCPR to implement the treaty and submit an implementation report on every provision. Though Pakistan had submitted its report in 2015, the review was carried out this month only, listing all the prevailing concerns regarding human rights’ violations in Pakistan with inputs from other sources.

The UN committee’s recommendations also ask Pakistan to “review legislation relating to the military courts with a view to abrogating their jurisdiction over civilians as well as their authority to impose the death penalty.” Kulbhushan Jadhav has been given death sentence under Section 59 of the Pakistan Army Act which is defined as “the Section for Civil Offences” and gives Pakistan’s military courts power to award capital punishments in the garb of national security.

The ICJ release, quoting Livio Zilli, its Senior Legal Adviser and UN Representative, says, “It is deeply worrying that since ratifying the ICCPR, Pakistan’s human rights situation has worsened in a number of aspects, including with the restoration of the death penalty and the introduction of military trials for civilians.”

PAKISTAN’S MILITARY COURTS

Pakistan had established military courts in 2015 with a constitutional amendment to try people for terrorism and related offences committed in civilian areas after the December 2015 Peshawar school massacre and in March 2017 its parliament voted for another two years extension to them.

Since their establishment, the military courts have an absolute record of convictions with no acquittals. According to the Pakistan’s military, the military courts have convicted 274 people in last two years, 161 of them being sentenced to death and 113 to varying prison terms.

KULBHUSHAN JADHAV’S CASE

On April 10, the Pakistan Army chief confirmed Kulbhushan Jadhav’s death sentence given by a Pakistani military court that held Jadhav guilty of espionage. Pakistan claims Jadhav, who allegedly used the alias Hussein Mubarak Patel in Pakistan, was attached to the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). Pakistan made Jadhav’s arrest public in March 2016.

India has maintained that Jadhav is innocent and there is no evidence against him and that Pakistsan carried out a sham, secret trial in a military court where no information on charges and evidence was given. India has warned Pakistan of ‘dire consequences’ equalling Jadhav’s death sentence with pre-meditated murder.

©SantoshChaubey

WITH BIHAR AGAIN IN ITS FOLD, BJP IS NOW RULING OVER 73 PER CENT OF INDIA

India has 29 states and seven Union territories. Polls are held in these 29 states and two of the Union Territories, i.e., Delhi and Puducherry.

With Bihar again in its fold, the other states where the BJP and its allies have their governments now are – Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Manipur, Andhra Pradesh (NDA partner TDP), Jammu & Kashmir (NDA partner PDP), Nagaland (NDA partner NPF) and Sikkim (NDA partner SDF). The party is number two in Himachal Pradesh and Delhi.

The BJP and its allies were already ruling around 70% of India’s geographical area with 53% of its population before the dramatic Bihar development. After an NDA government in Bihar, the area under the BJP’s influence has gone up 73 per cent with 62 per cent Indians residing here.

The BJP and its allies are now the ruling party/coalition in 18 Indian states while the Congress, that has ruled India for almost 55 years in its 70 years of independent, sovereign history, has shrunk to just five states and one union territory with Karnataka and Punjab as the only electorally significant states in its fold.

In terms of geographical spread, the Congress has shrunk to just 13% of Indian territory with only 11% of the country’s population residing in areas ruled by it.

The BJP along with its allies is now in all corners of the country with its state governments, in north India, in central India, in south India, in West India, in east India and in north-east India, the footprint the Congress enjoyed earlier while the Congress has reduced to only few pockets.

Other big states barring Karnataka and Punjab are all with the regional parties who have chosen not to ally with the Congress – Tamil Nadu (AIADMK), Telangana (TRS), West Bengal (AITC), Odisha (BJD) and Kerala (Left Front). In fact, the governments of Tamil Nadu and Telangana have shown clean NDA tilt on multiple occasions.

Also, elections in Karnataka are due early next year and its prospects don’t look good and there are very real chances that the huge anti-incumbency against the Congress led government will allow the BJP to easily win the state. The other states in the Congress fold are all smaller states, i.e., Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram and union territory Puducherry.

©SantoshChaubey

WHY NITISH KUMAR’S DECISION CAN BE A BLESSING IN DISGUISE FOR RAHUL GANDHI

Rahul Gandhi and Congress may term Nitish Kumar’s act of dumping the grand alliance government of RJD, JDU and Congress in Bihar to join the NDA and form a government with the BJP as betrayal, rank opportunism and treachery, but it may also be an opportunity for Rahul Gandhi to reinvent himself.

The political opposition in India has dearth of credible faces to take on the BJP, the NDA and Narendra Modi at the moment. Nitish Kumar was the strongest of all those contenders who could have provided a viable face against Narendra Modi in 2019 if the political opposition could pull an alliance.

Odisha’s chief minister Naveen Patnaik is another credible face with a clean image who can have acceptability but he is an outsider for national politics and is content with retaining his father Biju Patnaik’s citadel. And he has done well to hold on to the state. But he is certainly not a known Modi-baiter and certainly not a pan-India face to take on Modi in electoral politics.

The other anti-Modi face with a non-controversial image in the opposition camp is West Bengal’s chief minister Mamata Banerjee. But she is also in no position to offer a credible alternative to take on Modi on a pan-India level in electoral politics, at least in the context of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Also, as the BJP is trying to emerge as the principle opposition in West Bengal, sidelining the Left Front and the Congress, she cannot risk neglecting West Bengal for her national ambitions, at least for now.

We have seen what happened with the Aam Aadmi Party and Arvind Kejriwal. They tried to fan out too early after winning the people’s mandate in Delhi. Result! AAP created a sort of record with its candidates forfeiting their deposits in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The humiliation outside Delhi continued in the recently concluded Punjab assembly polls. Like West Bengal is for Mamata Banarjee, Delhi is for Arvind Kejriwal. They cannot risk leaving the states before proving their mettle. And certainly it is not the time.

Remember, even Modi had spent almost 13 years as Gujarat chief minister, consolidating his position, before fanning out of Gujarat. The time was opportune for him in 2014 when the country was looking for an alternative political face and he could make the public believe, based on his credentials of serving Gujarat four times that he was indeed the one who could be the answer to the huge anti-incumbency of ten years of the Congress rule under the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government led by Manmohan Singh.

The health of any nation’s democracy needs at least two credible political faces who can compete nationally. The more the merrier. The political opposition space in India is looking for someone who can take on Narendra Modi for the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha polls and Nitish Kumar was the most probable contender.

But as Nitish Kumar has been effectively co-opted by the BJP again, that option is gone, and along with it the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Now only a miracle can save the day for them as hardly a year is left before going full throttle on the campaign spree for the next parliamentary election and we know miracles don’t happen in politics. Every step is a calculated move in this game of possibilities where there are no permanent friends or foes and Nitish Kumar has again showed us this.

Now the political opposition needs to look beyond 2019 to take on Narendra Modi and the BJP. And most importantly a face who can stand against Narendra Modi in elections beyond 2019. The BJP, in fact, has become the only national political party with its governments in every corner of the country. With Bihar again in its kitty, the BJP and its allies have now governments in 18 Indian states while Congress is at a historic low and is seeing further decline. And the central reason behind this is the perceived absence of leadership in the party.

CAN RAHUL GANDHI REINVENT HIMSELF?

Though Sonia Gandhi is still the Congress’ president, its Rahul Gandhi, the vice-president, who is the de facto head of the party. But willingly or unwillingly, an image of being a reluctant and non-serious politician has overtaken his political identity. Add to it the spate of electoral losses in states and the huge setback in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and we come across a perception that Rahul Gandhi is neither inclined nor able to shoulder the responsibility.

That he needs to break. He needs to reinvent himself because he has the means to emerge as the pan-India alternative of Narendra Modi.

To represent India in national politics, one either needs a long and influential political career, be it at state level like Narendra Modi has had or at national level like PV Narasimha Rao had or it has to be a dynastic lineage of a political party with a pan-India presence.

The Nehru-Gandhi family has had this advantage, be it Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi earlier and Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi now. It is true that Indira Gandhi did build her political career for many years, including participating in the Indian freedom struggle, but she was a union minister for just two years before she became prime minister in 1966. Rajiv Gandhi was also a sort of reluctant politician before he was made prime minister after Indira Gandhi’s assassination. But once in the office, he did try to evolve. Sonia Gandhi was accepted because she belonged to the family and same holds true for Rahul as well.

Though the Congress has shrunk to just five states and one union territory with only two electorally significant states, i.e., Karnataka and Punjab, in fold and could win just 44 Lok Sabha seats in the 2014 General Elections, it is still the only other national political party than the BJP with a pan-India presence with 19 per cent vote share in the 2014 elections. The party is still the principle opposition in many states including Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Telangana, Odisha, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Goa. That is still a great leverage over other anti-BJP political parties.

And as the big three, Nitish Kumar, Mamata Banerjee and Naveen Patnaik, are effectively ruled out as the anti-BJP face of the political opposition, who could have mobilized the whole anti-BJP opposition to form a credible alternative this is an opportunity for Rahul to chip in and claim the place that he enjoys with his Nehru-Gandhi lineage. What also helps his prospects is the fact that other non-Congress regional satraps like Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav, K Chandrasekhar Rao and MK Stalin are limited to their states only with no electoral appeal outside.

Rahul began his active political career around 2008 and since the very beginning he has been the most important voice in the Congress, even if Manmohan Singh was the prime minister and he has worked hard and has campaigned hard in every part of the country in every election. True the Congress is looking like a crumbling bloc these days but Rahul’s failures so far tell us he may be lacking in focus in leading the party out of the mess. The opposition in India is in disarray. Its politics looks flabbergasted. It needs someone who can give it some direction. Can Rahul Gandhi realize the opportunity at hand?

©SantoshChaubey

WAS IT LOVE?

A night of endless hesitations
Perplexing and reassuring both
In some moments
We would come together
Living the years between us
But the fear then would creep in
Reminding us of the void
That had sent us apart
I would often ask
Why it had to go this way
I can’t say about you
But your eyes speak the same
Was it love?
Well, we never spoke about
But I did care
About even smallest things
Life was building
Like a nest so delicate
Yet so vulnerable
That I had left everything else
To weave its wings
I still fly with it
And it was same that night
Expectations?
Well, I never had them
But it really helped
To see you flying as well

©SantoshChaubey

CHINA ANNOUNCES ADVANCED WEAPONS DEFENCE RESEARCH AGENCY TO COMPETE WITH US’ DARPA

The article originally appeared on India Today.

The US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is unarguably the most advanced defence research agency in the world known for its pathbreaking technical innovations. And its discoveries are not limited to the military domain only. In fact, the biggest technological breakthrough of contemporary times, the Internet, is DARPA’s gift to the humankind. What began as a defence experiment, the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), later became the foundation for the Internet.

Another technology that is now a regular part of today’s technology driven lives, the Global Positioning System or GPS, is also DARPA’s discovery. In addition, there are most advanced defence technologies of the day, i.e., stealth fighters, precision weapons, electromagnetic cannons and laser guns.

Now China, the aspiring superpower that is trying to replace the world’s only superpower from its global leadership position, the US, has announced its own version of DARPA, the Scientific Research Steering Committee (SRSC). According to South China Morning Post (SCMP), the committee was set up earlier this year but it’s existence was publicly announced this week only with a documentary aired on China’s state broadcaster CCTV.

‘Carrying Reform Through to the End’, a 10-part documentary series was focused on SRSC in its Sunday and Monday episodes. The committee will report to China’s Central Military Commission (CMC) which is headed by Chinese President Xi Jinping. The documentary claimed that SRSC was similar to DARPA and “would make greater efforts to promote scientific technology in the Chinese army to win the competitive advantage.”

Xi Jinping, who was declared only the second Core Leader of China last year, decades after the title was given to Mao Zedong, the founding father of the People’s Republic of China, is on a spree to modernize the Chinese defence establishment including the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The official PLA Daily earlier this month reported that China is going to downsize its military strength from 2.3 million to below one million and attributed the reason behind this to change in China’s strategic goals. PLA is presently the largest military force in the world.

According to Chinese media reports, China is going to shift its strategic focus from ground battles to electronic warfare and communication and the PLA restructuring, while cutting down army troops, will focus on increasing troops and resources for PLA’s air force, navy, strategic support force and rocket force, in a clear departure from its ‘homeland defence approach to acquiring overseas mission capabilities to defend the Chinese interests anywhere in the world.’

In March this year, China inducted J-20, its first stealth fighter jet, into active service. The same month, it announced to develop a breakthrough, an electric propulsion technology, that it claimed would make its submarines quieter than US submarines. In April, the country launched its first home-built aircraft carrier in open waters. In June, it launched its home-built guided missile destroyer that it claimed was most advanced in Asia and the world second most powerful.

©SantoshChaubey

HOW CHINESE HEGEMONY IS SHAPING UNDER XI JINPING

The article originally appeared on India Today.

This time, it was the turn of China’s defence ministry to warn India. Its defence ministry spokesperson Wu Qian said China would go to any extent to protect its sovereignty and India’s should have ‘no illusion about China’s military strength’. It added to the long list of warnings and threats made by China’s foreign ministry, its People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and its official media that began unfolding a month ago with Chinese transgression of the disputed Bhutanese tri-junction near Doklam in the Sikkim Sector.

The Chinese action on border is a sudden change in its stand when we see it in the context of India-China border negotiations as recent as April 2016 when both countries held the 19th Round of negotiations emphasizing on maintaining peace and tranquillity.

But when we see these developments in a wide perspective of Xi Jinping’s global ambitions, it seems well timed. Xi Jinping after emerging as an undisputed supreme leader of China, ruthlessly crushing any rival voice in the name of anti-corruption purge that has swept China, has declared himself a ‘Core Leader’ like Mao Zedong.

And as his China imprint is almost finished, he has turned his gauge take it outside China. And from his acts in last few years, it is quite clear that he seems in a hurry and he is exploiting both, China’s military might and its economic prowess to push the agenda of his power projection.

BORDER HOSTILITY WITH INDIA – SUDDEN CHANGE IN TONE AND RHETORIC

In May 2014, China had congratulated Modi on his victory. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was in India in June 2014 and Chinese President Xi Jiping in September 2014. Indian Army Chief Bikram Singh visited China in July 2014 while Modi met Jinping for the first time in the same month on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit in Brazil. The meeting between them lasted for 80 minutes and Jinping remarked about the meeting, “When India and China meet, the world watches us.”

In February 2015, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj visited China. Xi Jinping then had this to say, “I have full confidence on the future of China and India relations and I believe that good progress will be achieved in the growth of bilateral relations this year.”

In March 2015, India and China held 18th Round border talks in Delhi. India was represented by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. China had sent its State Councillor and Special Representative Yang Jiechi. The Ministry of External Affairs release on the talks says, “The talks were marked by cordiality and candour and were held in a constructive and forward looking atmosphere.”

From the language of the MEA release, it is quite clear that India and China were on the same platform to settle the border issue, “The Special Representatives expressed satisfaction on the progress made in the negotiations and emphasized commitment to the three-step process to seek a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable resolution of the border question at an early date.”

In April 2016, India and China held 19th Round of border talks in Beijing between Ajit Doval and Yang Jiechi. While Doval didn’t share details of the meeting, he did say that the talks were held in a good atmosphere. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson echoed, “The two sides enhanced mutual trust and expanded consensus through this meeting which is of great significance in promoting settlement of the boundary question, maintaining peace and tranquillity of the border areas and securing sound and stable development of bilateral relations.”

In the light of these developments, just a year after, this sudden change in the stand of China is surprising and tells us about the hegemonic designs of China. China is behaving like a power-blinded imperialist regime hell-bent on its territorial expansion, something that it has been known historically – be in Tibet or Aksai Chin or South China Sea or Taiwan.

ECONOMIC IMPERIALISM

China is known for territorial expansionism and autocratic rule but its increasing economic prowess has added another dimension to its clout – the economic imperialism. It is now financially big enough to first pump its money in small, poor nations and then acquire controlling stakes in organizations as the nations fail to repay, be it the poor or financially weaker nations of Asia or Africa.

ONE BELT ONE ROAD (OBOR): India’s neighbourhood countries that China is eyeing are Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Myanmar. Having a strong Chinese presence in these countries would give China strategic advantage over India. So, China, in the name of building economic corridors linking Asia, Africa and Europe, is offering these countries huge loans for infrastructural projects at higher interest rates and when these economically poor countries are not able to repay the loans, China goes on to acquire controlling stakes in them, as high as 85 per cent.

THE AFRICAN BLUEPRINT: There has been consensus among experts that China, that has ramped its ties with African nations significantly in the last 15 years, has used Africa as ‘testing ground’ for its global ambitions. African countries are rich in oil and minerals and some one million Chinese entrepreneurs have settled there. “Africa has been a workshop of ideas that now have a much bigger scale and strategic significance,” writes a Financial Times commentary quoting Howard French, journalist, Columbia University professor and author of “China’s Second Continent: How A Million Migrants Are Building A New Empire in Africa “.

China-Africa trade rose to $220 billion in 2014 from mere $10 billion in 2000 according to Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and is investing $60 billion to develop infrastructure in different African countries but there are valid questions on this humongous rise, “Many are suspicious of what they see as a neocolonial land grab, in which companies acting as proxies for the Chinese state extract minerals in return for infrastructure and finance that will saddle governments with large debts. There have been legitimate complaints about Chinese companies employing few locals, mistreating those it has and paying scant regard to the environment,” the Financial Times commentary further writes.

Though there are African experts like Horace Campbell, a Syracuse University professor and renowned international scholar, who question this stand, calling them western afterthoughts on increasing Chinese footprints in Africa, going by China’s history and its recent acts of imposing itself on some South Asian countries where it invested heavily, we have reasons to think otherwise.

GLOBAL LEADERSHIP OR HEGEMONIC PROJECTIONS?

China has been more than eager to represent itself as the new world leader that is going to replace America. Reportedly, China is eyeing to replace America in the proposed 12-member trading bloc of Pacific-rim counties, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) after US President Donald Trump withdrew US from the treaty in January this year. The other members of the proposed trading bloc are Japan, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, New Zealand, Mexico, Chile and Peru and after American withdrawal they have warmed up for a Chinese prospect.

Then China, the largest carbon dioxide emitter in the world according to the Global Carbon Project, portrayed itself as an environment crusader after Donald Trump withdrew the US from the global climate agreement in June, i.e., Paris Climate Accord of 2015, to reduce the emission level of the greenhouse gases to check global warming. Rejecting the Paris Accord was one the main campaign themes of Trump in the US presidential election, something that would have appealed Jinping’s designs to pitch in on a global stage. So, in May, before Trump had even officially announced his decision, Jinping declared that he would ‘protect the Paris climate deal’, pledged his commitment to the pact after the formal US withdrawal and China held a meeting of energy ministers to find ways to push clean energy.

OVERSEAS NAVAL BASES: Earlier this month, China sent its troops to Djibouti, its first overseas military base. China has entered into an agreement with Djibouti which allows it to station its 10,000 troops in the country till 2026, much higher than 4000 US soldiers stationed at Camp Lemonnier, also in Djibouti, America’s largest permanent base in Africa. And experts say its second overseas naval base is going to come up in India’s backyard, at Pakistan’s Gwadar Port in the Arabian Sea.

This is quite contrary to the earlier Chinese stand when it didn’t want to have overseas military presence. “China has previously been very reluctant even to contemplate a serious overseas military presence,”, the India Today magazine writes quoting Andrew Small, author of The China Pakistan Axis: Asia’s New Geopolitics.

Clearly, Xi Jinping, the only second Core Leader of China after Mao Zedong, wants to go beyond Mao. Mao had an absolute power grip over a China that was not in the global mainstream and was not a military and economic superpower. Jinping’s China is both now. It is an economic powerhouse and a global manufacturing hub with a military might that is probably next only to US and Russia. Something that has, probably, given Xi Jinping wings to fly far and wide. Under Mao, China was inward looking and protectionist. Under Jinping, China is trying to become the leader of the world, but probably with a more protectionist streak of its national interests that are no longer limited to China.

©SantoshChaubey

IT SEEMS US IS COMING OUT OF ITS ‘GOOD AND BAD TERRORISTS’ MINDSET

The US State Department had declared Pakistan a safe haven for terrorists five years ago, a historical study of its annual authoritative Country Report on Terrorism says. The annual report for 2012 that came out in 2013 for the first time used the term “safe haven” for Pakistan for letting terrorist groups thrive and operate from its soil.

The 2013 Country Report on Terrorism (for terror activities in the year 2012) used the line “a number of these attacks were planned and launched from these groups’ safe haven in Pakistan.” ‘These groups’ hear mean “the Afghan Taliban, HQN (the Haqqani Network) and other AQ-affiliated groups” which continued to wreak havoc in Afghanistan.

From next year onwards, i.e., 2014 Country Report on Terrorism (for terror activities in the year 2013), the US chose to generalize about Afghanistan centric terror emanating from Pakistan by removing ‘these groups’ and adding ‘and other insurgent and terrorist groups’. It meant the US found many more terror outfits operating from Pakistan to perpetrate terror against US and Afghan forces in Afghanistan and it was not just limited to the terror triad of Afghan Taliban, HQN and the AQ-affiliated groups.

So, first few lines of the second paragraph of Chapter 2 of the Country Report on Terrorism (on South and Central Asia) every year would be, “Afghanistan, in particular, continued to experience aggressive and coordinated attacks by the Afghan Taliban, including the affiliated Haqqani Network (HQN) and other insurgent and terrorist groups. A number of these attacks were planned and launched from safe havens in Pakistan.”

We can see the focus of the report about describing Pakistan a safe haven for terrorists all these years have been basically about Afghanistan. But the latest report goes a step ahead in adding the much required dimension to it, i.e., recognizing Pakistan’s complicity in sponsoring terror in India.

India has long been complaining to the US on its double standards on terror emanating from Pakistan rightly arguing that it cannot differentiate between a good terrorist from a bad terrorist. All the US censure, all tough words to Pakistan have been about cracking down on the terror outfits that have shifted their base to Pakistan but continue to target Afghanistan, the US forces and interests there and the Afghanistan’s government.

The civil war, in fact, never ended in Afghanistan. The warring factions were previously centralized within Afghanistan with Taliban being the last ruling faction. Now Pakistan has become the main base for Taliban and other such groups who want to overthrow the process of democratic transition in Afghanistan. And from Pakistan, they continue to run amok in Afghanistan. How serious is situation can be gauged from the fact that even Afghanistan’s most secure area, Kabul’s diplomatic enclave that also house the seat of its government, is not safe from terror strikes. It has seen multiple attacks.

For Pak based groups perpetrating terror in India, the US brief had not gone beyond the routine lines like ‘Pakistan should expedite the Mumbai or Pathankot terror probes’. The US continued with billions of dollars in aid even if it knows that Pakistan is harbouring terrorists who are India’s most wanted. What made it a theatre of absurd was the fact that even if many of these terrorists like Hafiz Saeed were carrying a heft US bounty on their heads, they were free to roam in Pakistan, like respectable citizens.

That, seems, is changing now. First, the US pressure left Pakistan with no other option but to house arrest Hafiz Saeed in January this year. Though symbolic, it suggested that the US had started putting pressure on Pakistan. It also told us that the US was coming out of its “good and bad terrorists” mindset. In June, Pakistan had to ban the new front of Hafiz Saeed’s terror outfit, Tehreek-e-Azadi-Jammu & Kashmir (TAJK).

Then in June only, the US declared Syed Salahuddin, the terror lord of Pak based umbrella groups for perpetrating terror in Jammu and Kashmir, a global terrorist. And now in July, the world’s only superpower has termed Pakistan a safe haven for India centric terror groups.

The Country Report on Terrorism 2017 (for the year 2016) says, “The Pakistan government supported political reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban, but failed to take significant action to constrain the ability of the Afghan Taliban and HQN to operate from Pakistan-based safe havens and threaten U.S. and Afghan forces in Afghanistan.”

And then goes on to do the course-correction that was long overdue by writing specifically against the major India centric terror groups like LeT and JeM and holding Pakistan accountable for not doing enough, “The government did not take any significant action against LeT or JeM, other than implementing an ongoing ban against media coverage of their activities. LeT and JeM continued to hold rallies, raise money, recruit, and train in Pakistan.”

©SantoshChaubey

THAT EVERYDAY JOURNEY

It was a vast expanse, virgin and uncharted
The joy of mapping it day after day
It was like visiting sanctums yet to be seen
The soul had no further expectations then
Than being on a journey to life and beyond
Paths would speak to destinations like routine
Sometimes it would be green of the rain
Or like the blue singing in melancholy quatrains
But all were like the dots waiting to connect
Known, unexpected, all colours would meet
In the freedom of sameness and its shades

©SantoshChaubey