TALIBAN DISMISSES US POLICY CHANGE, SAYS WILL TURN AFGHANISTAN INTO GRAVEYARD FOR AMERICAN TROOPS

The article originally appeared on India Today on August 22.

The Taliban has dismissed the US policy change on Afghanistan saying it was nothing news and has dared the world’s only superpower that it will turn Afghanistan into a graveyard for the US troops.

“If America doesn´t withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, soon Afghanistan will become another graveyard for this superpower in the 21st century”, an AFP report said quoting Zabiullah Mujahid, an Afghan Taliban spokesperson.

US President Donald Trump, in his much awaited Afghanistan policy review, made a clear departure from his earlier stand that US had to withdraw from Afghanistan. He, in fact, said that after deliberations he had reached to a conclusion that the US could not leave Afghanistan in a state that would make it a breeding ground for terror outfits quoting the Iraq example where a US withdrawal seen emergence of the Islamic State.

Showing a conviction to increase number of US troops in Afghanistan and giving them a free hand in their ground operations, Trump said, “One way or another, these problems will be solved — I’m a problem solver — and, in the end, we will win.”

Reacting on it, the Taliban spokesperson said there was nothing new in the speech and Trump was just wasting American soldiers. “As long as there is one US soldier in our land, and they continue to impose war on us, we, with a high morale will continue our jihad”, he added.

The US launched war in Afghanistan in 2001 to overthrow the Taliban government there after the 9/11 attacks which was planned by Al Qaeda in Afghanistan under the Taliban protection. But what began as an operation to overthrow a government has become the longest foreign war in the US history, now in its 16th years, and has cost the US hundreds of billions of dollars with around 2400 dead US soldiers and over 20,000 injured.

Afghanistan has been witnessing terror resurgence. Last year, the US and NATO commander in Afghanistan General John F. Campbell had described the Haqqani Network as the most capable threat to the US and coalition forces. Also, Taliban is seeing a new surge. According to different analyses, it now controls 10 per cent of the Afghan territory and 30 per cent of its people.

©SantoshChaubey

WHY THE US POLICY CHANGE ON AFGHANISTAN MATTERS FOR INDIA

The article originally appeared on India Today on August 22.

As expected, US President Donald Trump has called for a greater Indian role in Afghanistan. During his address to the nation on US’ Afghanistan policy review, during which Trump made several departures from his established stand to withdraw the US from the war-torn South Asian nation like increasing the number of US troops there and giving the forces free hand to handle insurgents and not micro-managing then from the Washington, he clearly said that developing a strategic partnership with India was a critical part of US’ South Asia strategy.

His policy statement that the “India, the world’s largest democracy is a key security and economic partner of the US and it appreciates India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan and wants India to help the US more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development” is an extension to a last month report by the powerful US Senate Armed Services Committee report that advocated a trilateral arrangement between India, Afghanistan and the US. “The committee believes that the US needs to recommit to the fight in Afghanistan and that India, as a major defence partner of the US and a contributor to regional security, has a critical role to play in this effort”, the report said.

In fact, a greater Indian role in Afghanistan where it is already playing a big part in its reconstruction, will not only give India strategic advantage over its traditional rivals like Pakistan and China, but would also mean greater access to the oil and mineral rich Central Asian nations and opportunity for its industry to gain a larger share in the whole Afghanistan rebuilding business.

And this is coupled with the fact that the US review on Afghanistan has been extremely harsh on Pakistan with Trump describing Pakistan again as safe haven for terror groups. He warned that the US will no longer remain silent about it and pressed that it had to change immediately. Now that has huge implications for an increased Indian role in Afghanistan as it has been primarily Pakistan’s objection, a US ally in war on terror, that sees India’s rise in Afghanistan inimical to its interests. How frustrated the US is with Pakistan’s double-dealings becomes clear once again with Trump’s remarks that “the US has been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that US is fighting.”

INDIA’S GATEWAY TO CENTRAL ASIA

In July 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a historic visit of five Central Asian nations, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan and the main objective was ensuring India’s future energy security. For India, Afghanistan is the gateway to Central Asia and a stable Afghanistan with greater access will go a long way in fulfilling India’s objective.

GREATER LEVERAGE IN DEALING WITH TERROR GROUPS

A wider presence in Afghanistan will give India greater leverage in dealing with the terror groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State which are trying to establish their Indian footprint. There groups are currently using restive regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan as their gateway opportunity to the Indian Subcontinent.

OPPORTUNITY FOR INDIAN INDUSTRY IN AFGHANISTAN’S RECONSTRUCTION

India has played an important role in Afghanistan’s reconstruction in post Taliban era spending around $2 Billion since 2002 on development projects including its parliament building and committed another $1 Billion last year. The Indian aid basically has been in infrastructure development, health services and military equipments like bullet proof jackets and convoy vehicles. But breaking the tradition of not giving lethal military equipments in aid, it gave Afghanistan four attack helicopters last year and is also training its soldiers.

Now with the US policy change, seeking an enhanced Indian role, coupled with the fact it seeks to limit the Pakistan’s presence there, Indian companies have an opportunity to invest more in Afghanistan, especially when the US wants to win the war on terror, its longest foreign war that is on for the past 16 years, at any cost. A drastic change in the US policy to crack down on Afghan terrorists with a free hand to security forces can effectively take care of the terror menace. How big the opportunity is can be gauged from the fact that the US has spent over $100 Billion of Afghanistan reconstruction yet it is just far from producing any tangible outcome and now that Trump has made it clear that there will be no more ‘blank check’ from the US, the door is wide open.

Also, Afghanistan in future can emerge as a big push for Make in India initiative for India’s nascent defence industry as the country would need a sustained military supply to handle not only its internal terror threats but also to secure its contentious borders with Pakistan, a terror exporter that has been destabilizing Afghanistan for the past four decades.

KEEPING PAKISTANI AND CHINESE DESIGNS IN CHECK

If Pakistan has used Afghanistan as its junkyard to push terrorists there to maintain its hegemony and export them to India at the same time, China, too, has been trying to increase its influence there owing to Afghanistan’s geographical advantage but so far has failed. A stable Afghanistan, which is fiercely against Pakistan, can in fact give India strategic advantage by providing a valuable military base in future, overlooking both Pakistan and China. It is important for India as reports indicate that China is going to establish its military base in Pakistan, most probably at the Gwadar port in India’s backyard.

©SantoshChaubey

DONALD TRUMP SAYS NORTH KOREA WILL BE MET WITH FIRE AND FURY IF IT THREATENS US

The article originally appeared on India Today on 9 August.

US President Donald Trump has warned North Korea that “if it escalates nuclear threat, it will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen”, the US media has said. A tough response from him was expected after it was revealed earlier in the day that North Korea had produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that could be fitted inside its missiles. The revelation was based on the assessment of the US intelligence agencies.

Terming Trump’s threat extraordinary, a CNN report quoted him as saying, “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. They will be met with fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which the world has never seen.”

On Monday, North Korea ‘vowed’ to teach US a severe lesson. North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said if the US used military force, North Korea would not hesitate to use nuclear weapons.

HARSHER SANCTIONS

Earlier, on Saturday, the United Nations Security Council slapped even harsher sanctions on North Korea, in an aim to reduce its exports by one-third.

Hitting back, North Korea said “it would make the US pay dearly for all the heinous crimes it commits against the state and people of this country.”

Experts are divided on whether imposing more sanctions on North Korea will be of any help – because even though China, its biggest trading partner, has announced to support the sanctions, its track record says it has never implemented such international agreements in past and they merely remained on paper.

NUCLEAR PROGRAMME

North Korea has been rapidly revving up its nuclear and missile programme after it successfully test fired its first inter-continental ballistic missile last month which according to experts was a new type unlike the previous North Korean missile tests and with a range of over 8,000 km. Such a missile can easily reach the American mainland.

North Korea’s ICBM had left the major world powers divided. A Russia-China joint statement was soft and put the onus of North Korea’s missile launch on annual US-South Korea military drills in the region and the deployment of the US anti-ballistic missile defence system THAAD in South Korea.
Trump, who had said earlier he would not allow North Korea to have an ICBM, had reacted strongly. He then said the US was drawing plans for its “pretty severe” response.

The US, with South Korea, held a military drill in response to North Korea’s ICBM and the US allies held an emergency UN Security Council meeting where the US’ UN Ambassador Nikki Haley asserted that the US could use “considerable military forces” if situation demanded.

©SantoshChaubey

HOW CAN DONALD TRUMP BE THE GREATEST PERSON ON EARTH?

Now we don’t need to wait for controversies to tail US President Donald Trump when most of them are his own creation. And they are aplenty – even if it is just six months for Trump in the White House – he brought presidential order to block people from Muslim majority countries in the US; he withdrew the US from global trade and climate deals, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Paris Climate Deal; he has tried hard but has failed so far in repealing his predecessor Barack Obama’s healthcare act; he has cracked down on immigrants and introduced an immigration bill this week to slash down the number of legal immigrants; and his campaign pledge to build a wall along the Mexican border and make Mexico pay for it.

The 45th US President is writing the newest chapters of the book on few controversial US Presidents so far. A CNN analysis few days back, in fact, had found a term to describe Trump – The Most Un-presidential President. Ever since Trump’s inauguration, his popularity has been rapidly coming down and new survey has found 61 per cent of registered American voters disapproving his way of governance.

Now another major US publication, The Washington Post, that has already done its series of revelations and expose on Trump’s misadventures and has been in Trump’s firing line of his vitriolic wit and tweets, has come out with another bombshell. The Post has released leaked transcripts of Trump’s phone conversations with his Mexican and Australian counterparts. And like said, they are so un-presidential that the White House did not release them in first place.

When we go through the entire transcript, we can easily look into the mind of Donald Trump, that why he is so – someone who believes he is the greatest person on the earth and then goes on to boast it.

There is no denying to this established fact that the US President is the most powerful person on the earth – but he is certainly not the greatest one. That is a human virtue that doesn’t need the power corridors of the White House. By virtue of being the US President, Donald Trump, indeed could have been the most powerful person in the world. But the irony is, he is not even the most powerful one in America, owing to the spate of controversies around him and his family. The robust system of checks and balances in the US administration cannot allow him to be so. What can be a better testimony to this than his failed attempts to repeal Barack Obama’s healthcare act that he so vehemently detests or wide criticism in the US that his travel ban plan from Muslim majority nations attracted.

The transcript shows him fighting with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull like some small time, factional politician and not the President of the United States of America, an office that is most powerful in the world and is also supposed to be the most dignified one. But how can it be dignified when its inhabitants are not.

This one ‘I am the greatest person on the earth’ is a perfect example of it. While discussing with his Australian counterpart an already agreed deal to take in Nauru and Manus islands refugees who were trying to enter Australian through sea route but were caught and imprisoned, he can be seen using un-parliamentary words not just for human lives but also for his predecessor Barack Obama who had signed the deal with Australia. Trump declares the deals signed by Obama stupid and rotten.

Portions of this Trump-Turnbull conversation were leaked earlier which had created tension between the US and Australia. Reportedly, after the 20-minute conversation had ended, Trump had described Turnbull, who is considered a moderate, a brawler and not a shrinking poppy, something that Trump had expected before the call.

But what shocks is the utter disregard for human lives that Trump has. During the course of conversation with Turnbull on January 28, Trump says, “I am the world’s greatest person that does not want to let people into the country. And now I am agreeing to take 2,000 people and I agree I can vet them, but that puts me in a bad position. It makes me look so bad and I have only been here a week.”

Even if Turnbull assures that they are not bad people but economic refugees and Australia has full knowledge of their backgrounds, Trump keeps on repeating his scorn for the refugees as if he is not hearing what Turnbull is saying, “I am taking 2,000 people from Australia who are in prison and the day before I signed an Executive Order saying that we are not taking anybody in. We are not taking anybody in, those days are over.”

©SantoshChaubey

IN NEW MESSAGE, ZAWAHIRI SAYS AQIS ONE OF MOST IMPORTANT DEVELOPMENTS, CONFIRMS ISLAMIC EMIRATE

The article originally appeared on India Today.
Here it is bit modified and extended.

Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri has confirmed that slain Al Qaeda commander Abu Dujana al Pasha was the main driving force behind formation of Al Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS).

According to the transcript of al-Zawahiri’s new video message, released by As Sahab, Al Qaeda’s propaganda arm and available on social media platforms and Twitter handles of some terror monitors, al Pasha “united several jihadi groups belonging to the Indian Subcontinent”.

Abu Dujana al Pasha, who was also known as Abu Dujana al Basha, was son-in-law of Zawahiri and played key role in Al Qaeda’s terror operations. Reports say he was known as the “hidden commander” in Al Qaeda, because though relatively unknown to the outside world, he worked hard to establish AQIS. The US had declared him a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in 2009.

Zawahiri had announced formation of AQIS in a video message in September 2014. Though it was widely reported that al Pasha was killed in a US drone strike before a month, in August 2014, Al Qaeda had never accepted it.

But this message from Al Qaeda chief himself has now confirmed it. Calling al Pasha a martyr, Zawahiri’s long message slams Pakistan, its rulers and its military; takes on ISIS and urges Syrian jihadis and believers across the world to unite; and describes formation of AQIS as one of the most important works.

“Allah guided him to avail his old relationships that had been formed with the Mujahideen of the Subcontinent in training camps and fronts. Allah had given him popularity amongst them, so he directed his efforts to unite these different groups in a single organization, and thus, with the blessing and favour of Allah, Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent was formed, under the banner of the Islamic Emirate,” Zawahiri says.

Terrormonitor.org‏ @Terror_Monitor
#AlQaeda Leader Ayman Al-#Zawahiri Urges #Jihad|ists Unity In #SYRIA, Eulogies Slain Cmdrs In #Waziristan, Praises #AQIS Role In New Video.
3:47 PM – 3 Aug 2017

Terrormonitor.org‏ @Terror_Monitor
#AlQaeda Leader Ayman Al-#Zawahiri Urges #Jihad|ists Unity In #SYRIA, Praises #AQIS Role In New Video. #TerrorMonitor
3:44 PM – 3 Aug 2017

AQIS is trying to make its present felt in India that has virtually been non-existent so far. It recently named former Hizbul terrorist Zikar Rashid Bhat alias Zakir Musa chief of its India unit Ansar Ghawzat-Ul-Hind. Before that, in June, AQIS had released a new code of conduct for its members and other terrorists, who wanted to show allegiance to Al Qaeda, to follow.

ISLAMIC EMIRATE

This latest video message by Zawahiri also confirms another important development, acceptance of establishment of an Islamic Emirate in Al Qaeda’s core ideology. Osama bin Laden, the Al Qaeda founder, was against the idea of establishing Islamic Emirate. But with rapid rise of ISIS, an Al Qaeda offshoot that was denounced by its parent for being too cruel or extremist, as Zawahiri says here, and its declaration of an Islamic Caliphate, Al Qaeda had to change its strategy, it seems.

Last year, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), currently considered the most dangerous Al Qaeda faction, had announced to establish an Islamic Emirate in eastern Yemen, a war torn country that has become battleground for Iran and Saudi Arab to establish their regional supremacy.

ISIS is on its way out. It has been driven out of its Iraqi stronghold Mosul and its headquarters in Syria’s Raqqa is expected to fall soon as international forces are rapidly marching ahead. Though US Defence Secretary James Mattis has doubted ISIS leader Ab Bakr al-Baghdadi’s death, the Iraqi and Arabian media has declared him dead. It is only natural then for Al Qaeda to reclaim its position at top of the pyramid as the most preferred outfit of terrorists from across the world with the fall of ISIS. ISIS rise had seen terror outfits the world over shifting their allegiance from Al Qaeda to ISIS.

©SantoshChaubey

CHINA HAS OVERWHELMING ADVANTAGE OVER INDIA IN CASE OF MILITARY CONFLICT: GLOBAL TIMES CHIEF EDITOR

The article originally appeared on India Today.

China has an edge over the United States’s military presence in the South China Sea and anywhere near China’s coastal waters, and is far more powerful than the India’s overall military strength that is restrained by limited resources, an editorial in Global Times, a hawkish state-run newspaper in China, says.

China also has an ability to upgrade its military capabilities that is unparalleled among other countries, the Global Times editorial goes on to say. China has worked on its core strategic areas in such a streamlined fashion that it can augment the country’s comprehensive military capability faster than others, in fact every few years, the editorial points out.

The editorial comes as China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the world’s largest military force with a strength of around 2.3 million troops, celebrates its 90th anniversary and as the India-China standoff at the Doklam plateau enters its second month.

The article is the latest in a string of India-baiting editorial that have been published by the Global Times, which sometimes is known to take extreme positions not always held by Beijing. The hawkish newspaper has run a number of anti-India editorials laden with rhetoric ever since soldiers from the Indian Army and the PLA first faced off on the Doklam plataue last month.

This time, however, the Global Times seems to have brought out the big guns. The newspaper’s Twitter handle today posted a video in which its editor-in-chief Hu Xijin, a former war correspondent, can be seen aggrandizing China’s military strength vis-a-vis India, drawing parallels like ‘if China and India engage in military conflict, the PLA has an overwhelming advantage’ and ‘if China and the US have a standoff in the nearby waters, the PLA will not lose’.

The editorial runs on similar lines, saying that ‘underestimating the PLA’s strength could lead to a major mistake’. The editorial also boasts of PLA’s ‘all around development’ built on high-tech research and development in military hardware including submarines, aircraft carriers and navigation systems and highlights China’s defence budget of $151.4 billion, three times of India’s $52 billion allocation for its defence sector.

China is rapidly enhancing its strategic capabilities and in fact, has created an advanced weapons research agency, the Scientific Research Steering Committee, modelled on the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, the mother of most innovative defence research in the world giving us technologies like internet, GPS, stealth fighters, precision weapons and electromagnetic cannons.

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.

And as it is the season of army parades in China, the Global Times editorial takes the liberty of issuing warning even to the world on PLA’s behalf it seems. It says as “China’s national interests expand, the PLA will take on greater responsibilities. Other countries need to get used to the presence of Chinese forces outside China’s coastal waters, whether they like it or not.”

Last 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.

©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

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

US SUPREME COURT ALLOWS TRAVEL BAN: IS DONALD TRUMP’S NEIL GORSUCH GAMBLE GOING TO PAY?

The article originally appeared on India Today.

The US Supreme Court on Monday handed a victory to President Donald Trump by allowing his temporary bans on travelers from six Muslim-majority countries and all refugees to go into effect for people with no connection to the United States while agreeing to hear his appeals in the closely watched legal fight.

The Trump administration had issued two versions of Donald Trump’s controversial executive order on travel ban, first on January 27 and then on March 6 but the federal courts expressed their strong reservations against the discriminatory nature of the order saying that they were in bad taste and were targeted against the Muslim community.

The US Supreme Court has accepted the emergency appeal by the Trump administration allowing travel ban on people from six Muslim majority nations for 90 days, i.e., Syria, Libya, Sudan, Iran, Yemen and Somalia and all refugees for 120 days “who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States” while the federal courts had completely blocked it.

DONALD TRUMP’S NEIL GORSUCH GAMBLE

Nominating judges in the US courts has always been the prerogative of the US President and his party. Trump wanted appellate judge Neil Gorsuch, a conservative, to fill the lone vacancy in the US Supreme Court. And with Gorsuch’s approval in April, after a long and bitterly fought confirmation process, Trump had what he wanted.

“Trump had vowed to choose ideologues in the mould of the late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative icon – a prospect that had activists on the right giddy,” a Washington Post report had said. Antonin Scalia, a Ronald Reagan appointee to the US Supreme Court, was seen as a legal luminary but with a conservative mindset who vocally opposed gay rights and abortion.
Scalia’s death last year had given Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama an opportunity to tilt the 5-4 conservative majority in the US Supreme Court in favour of a 5-4 liberal majority but the Senate Republicans didn’t allow Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland, a liberal.

TRUMP SEEKS AN EXPEDITED HEARING IN THE SUPREME COURT

After the London Bridge terror attack on June 3 that left seven dead and dozens injured, Trump, while slamming, the re-drafted version of his administration’s travel ban order as an attempt to be “politically correct”, commented that “the US Justice Department should have stayed with the original travel ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to the US Supreme Court and the Justice Department should ask for an expedited hearing of the watered down travel ban before the Supreme Court – and seek much tougher version.”

Before that, on June 1, the Trump administration had filed an emergency application in the US Supreme Court requesting temporary revival of the travel ban plan. And for the moment, the US Supreme Court decision seems to have given what Trump had wanted from the US judiciary, a favourable decision for his orders that are challenged.

There has always been this line of thought in the US that Trump wanted to have a conservative majority in the US Supreme Court so that he could push his agenda and one can always raise the question that the US Supreme Court could have expedited the hearing without altering the ban put in place by so many US courts. A US Judiciary with more conservative judges is likely to have a favourable view of Trump administration’s conservative policies like travel ban or stopping funds to the NGOs working for abortion.

A more ‘likeminded and amenable judiciary’ can be a great help, especially when the US under Trump is witnessing a flurry of lawsuits against his decisions that his rivals see as controversial. That is bound to happen as Trump’s victory has bitterly divided America and he took oath with historically low approval ratings amid nationwide protests.

Trump was always more than ready to move to the US Supreme Court on his travel ban plans where he expected a respite there with a 5-4 conservative majority with Neil Gorsuch’s approval. And with this respite, his administration may now work out his plans pushing for a much tougher version of travel ban as he has sought.

©SantoshChaubey