AUKUS: An Anglo Alliance Against China?
In the recently announced AUKUS alliance, the US has joined the United Kingdom to arm Australia with nuclear-powered submarines to check China's rise. This announcement has not only upset the Chinese but it has also enraged France. The French are angry because AUKUS has scuttled Australia's earlier agreement to purchase diesel-powered submarines from France.
|President Biden Announcing Australia-UK-US (AUKUS) Alliance|
India, a member of the anti-China QUAD alliance, has welcomed AUKUS. Although AUKUS appears to be de-emphasizing QUAD that includes India and Japan, the Indians see it as a green-light from the United States for them to pursue expansion of their nuclear submarine fleet. China could respond to this growing threat by arming its ally Pakistan with nuclear-powered submarines.
“This looks like a new geopolitical order without binding alliances,” said Nicole Bacharan, a researcher at Sciences Po in Paris. France's foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, called the decision a “knife in the back.” Benjamin Haddad, from the Atlantic Council, in Washington, said it had set relations between the US and France back to their lowest point since the Iraq War. Bruno Tertrais, an analyst at France’s Foundation for Strategic Research think tank, went even further, calling it a “Trafalgar strike”, a reference to the 1805 naval battle between the British Royal Navy and the combined fleets of the French and Spanish Navies that was won by the British. “To confront China, the United States appears to have chosen a different alliance, with the Anglo-Saxon world separate from France.” She predicted a “very hard” period in the old friendship between Paris and Washington, according to a report in the New York Times.
Nicole Bacharan's reference to the "Anglo-Saxon world" is not just an angry outburst. A real life example of the Anglo-Saxon alliance is "Five Eyes", an intelligence alliance among Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Ex NSA contractor Edward Snowden has called "Five Eyes" as a "supra-national intelligence organization that does not answer to the known laws of its own countries".
Part of the motivation for the Anglo-Saxon AUKUS alliance is that France and the rest of the European Union do not want a direct confrontation with China. This was underscored in a recent policy paper titled the “E.U. Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific". French President Emanuel Macron has been talking about "European strategic autonomy". He has spoken about an autonomous Europe operating “beside America and China.”
Although the AUKUS announcement does not explicitly mention China, it has drawn a strong response from Beijing. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian has said,"The international community, including neighboring countries, have risen to question [Australia’s] commitment to nuclear non-proliferation." “China will closely monitor the situation", he added.
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Foreign ministers of two countries agree to deepen strategic partnership as they discuss developments in the Indo-Pacific and Afghanistan.
France’s foreign affairs minister has agreed with his Indian counterpart to work on a programme to promote “a truly multilateral international order”, the French foreign ministry said.
Jean-Yves Le Drian and Subrahmanyam Jaishankar also agreed during a call to deepen their strategic partnership, “based on a relationship of political trust between two great sovereign nations of the Indo-Pacific”, the ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
The two ministers agreed to meet in New York next week, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, to work “on a common programme of concrete actions to defend together a truly multilateral international order”, it added.
For his part, Jaishankar said in a Twitter post they discussed “developments in the Indo-Pacific and Afghanistan”.
France has pushed for several years for a European strategy for boosting economic, political and defence ties in the region stretching from India and China to Japan and New Zealand. The European Union unveiled this week its plan for the Indo-Pacific.
The phone call came a day after the French government recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia after Canberra ditched a multibillion-dollar order for French submarines in favour of a partnership with Washington and London in the Indo-Pacific region.
Calling the cancellation “unacceptable behaviour”, Le Drian said in a statement on Friday the decision to recall the envoys, on request from President Emmanuel Macron, “is justified by the exceptional seriousness of the announcements” made by Australia and the United States.
A White House official said on Friday that the US regrets France’s decision and will continue to be engaged in the coming days to resolve differences between the two countries.
Australia said on Saturday it also regrets France’s decision, adding that it values its relationship with France and will keep engaging with Paris on many other issues.
Next week, on Sept. 21, President Biden will make his first speech to the U.N. General Assembly. This address comes at a crucial moment in the Biden presidency and will have a particular impact on how it is viewed abroad. After almost eight months of watching policies, rhetoric and crises, many foreign observers have been surprised — even shocked — to discover that, in area after area, Biden’s foreign policy is a faithful continuation of Donald Trump’s and a repudiation of Barack Obama’s.
Some of this dismay is a consequence of the abrupt and unilateral manner in which Biden withdrew American troops from Afghanistan. A German diplomat told me that, in his view, Berlin was consulted more by the Trump administration than by this one. Some are specific actions, such as the submarine deal, which has enraged the French.
But the growing concerns go well beyond any one episode. A senior European diplomat noted that, in dealings with Washington on everything from vaccines to travel restrictions, the Biden policies were “'America First’ in logic, whatever the rhetoric.” A Canadian politician said that if followed, Biden’s “Buy America” plans are actually more protectionist than Trump’s. Despite having criticized Trump’s tariffs repeatedly, Biden has kept nearly all of them. (In fact, many have been expanded since most exemptions to them have been allowed to expire.) Key Asian allies keep pressing Biden to return to the Trans-Pacific Partnership — much praised by him when the Obama administration negotiated it. Instead, it has been shelved.
Another striking example of Biden’s surprisingly Trumpian foreign policy is the Iran deal, one of the landmark accomplishments of the Obama administration. Throughout his election campaign, Biden argued that Trump’s withdrawal from that agreement had been a cardinal error and that, as president, he would rejoin it as long as Iran would also move into compliance. His national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, described Trump’s reimposing of secondary sanctions against Tehran despite opposition from U.S. allies as “predatory unilateralism.”
But since he took office, Biden has failed to return to the deal and has even extended some sanctions. Having long argued against trying to renegotiate the deal, Biden officials now want to “lengthen and strengthen” it. So far, this Trump-Biden strategy has not worked. Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium went from less than 300 kilograms in 2018 to more than 3,000 kilograms in May.
Or consider policy toward Cuba. The Obama administration was bold enough to tackle one of the most glaring failures in U.S. foreign policy. Having isolated and sanctioned Cuba since 1960 to produce regime change in that country, the United States had instead strengthened Cuba’s Communist government. Fidel Castro sparked nationalist fervor by blaming all of Cuba’s problems on the embargo and, far from being toppled, he ended up staying in power longer than any nonroyal leader on the planet.
As with Iran, the cost of these policies has been paid by ordinary people. One of the cruelest aspects of America’s sanctions policy is that it is so readily deployed because it satisfies special interest groups in Washington and is painless to Americans, but inflicts horrific damage on the poorest and most powerless — millions of ordinary Cubans and Iranians — who have no way to protest or respond
One prominent (Indian) commentator projects the end of “Pax Americana” and another argues that the Taliban’s victory constitutes the “first significant setback” of America’s “Indo-Pacific project.” These Indian strategists see the end of the U.S. effort in Afghanistan as a sign of unreliability. Without U.S. troops on the ground, New Delhi will be challenged to contend with a Taliban government that tilts toward Pakistan and China. Afghanistan historically provided safe haven to terrorist organizations that targeted India, and New Delhi considers the Taliban’s ascendance as a direct threat to its security interests. Other prominent Indian voices, however, take a different view on the meaning of the U.S. withdrawal. C. Raja Mohan, an influential Indian scholar, believes that the U.S. withdrawal can “accelerate current trends in India’s relations with the United States,” while even the Indian foreign minister insists that the United States is still “the premier power” that retains a “very unique sort of standing.
Debates over the reliability of the United States are commonplace in New Delhi. Earlier this year, for instance, Indian commentators argued over the significance of unilateral U.S. freedom of navigation operations in India’s exclusive economic zone and the slow pace of U.S. pandemic relief. Suspicion of U.S. intentions has a long history in India, dating back to the Cold War and America’s longstanding ties with Islamabad. In recent decades, however, New Delhi has been able to count on Washington when in crisis. Last year, the United States rapidly provided supplies, expedited equipment, and enhanced intelligence during India’s 2020 border crisis with China.
Where India remains uncertain is whether Washington will steadfastly support India’s long-term defense and deterrence needs. These lingering doubts have intensified with the looming threat of U.S. sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which India could be subject to when it takes delivery of the Russian S-400 air defense system at the end of 2021. These doubts could abate if the Biden administration is able to work with Congress to issue India a sanctions waiver, and allow strategic and market incentives, rather than punishments, to shape India’s defense partnership choices.
Over decades of close relations with the littoral nations of the Indian Ocean, India has accrued trust and influence the United States cannot match. India’s clear statements that it is a multi-aligned state, and not part of a Western bloc, also strike a chord among some swing states in Southeast Asia that seek a similar balance. By defending the maritime commons and a rules-based order, India offers these states a permission structure to align their stances on the core concerns of international order, not because they are promoted by the U.S. allies, but precisely because they are promoted by influential like-minded states outside that Western alliance structure. Former U.S. officials acknowledge many Southeast Asian states are uncomfortable expressing their concerns with China out loud but, if India affirms a set of international rules alongside the United States and its allies, these states could be emboldened to become similarly forthright. India’s early success selling jointly made Indo-Russian anti-ship cruise missiles to Southeast Asian states (something that CAATSA sanctions could also constrain) further emboldens Southeast Asian states to defend their territorial waters, contributing to a more stable Asian balance of power.
Tools like CAATSA sanctions that seek to force India into the mold of a U.S. treaty ally either compromises India’s perception of U.S. reliability as an Indo-Pacific partner or compromises the valuable currency of legitimacy India’s multi-aligned status confers. Most likely, though, it undermines both Indian trust and the perception that it is truly an independent and sovereign actor, a two-fold loss for U.S. regional interests. Such reliability questions will only be compounded as other states with defense industrial ties to Russia, like Vietnam and Indonesia, would then fear that U.S. support is conditional on their subordination to every U.S. foreign policy.
Washington may underestimate how much of a collision course it is on with India. The threat of CAATSA sanctions has already cast a cloud over U.S.-Indian relations and imposes a drag on many aspects of the defense partnership. Far more than the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, sanctions will cause India to raise fundamental questions about America’s reliability for years to come. The Biden administration can avert this by taking Congress into consultation to grant India a sanctions waiver.
Rather than diminishing Indo-Russian relations, CAATSA sanctions ultimately threaten U.S. interests by undermining India’s capabilities to defend the rules-based order and willingness to deeply coordinate with the United States in the Indo-Pacific. India’s capacity to support that strategy means the United States should prioritize allowing India to strengthen its capabilities, regardless of origin, rather than seeking to force India into the framework of an American ally that operates U.S. military equipment. While India’s multi-alignment policy can be frustrating to deal with, and trades off with some depth of U.S.-Indian defense cooperation, it remains one of Washington’s best bets for burden-sharing, balancing, and unique political currency among numerous Indo-Pacific littoral states.
India’s quest for modern naval nuclear reactors, meanwhile, continues. When India approached France for nuclear submarine technology in 2017, it found Paris reluctant. In 2021, furious at being cut out of the submarine deal with Australia, Paris has recalled its ambassadors from Canberra and Washington. It is now entirely possible that India might find in France another partner willing to share nuclear submarine technology.
On September 16, Indian Navy officials read the text of AUKUS, a US-UK-Australian military alliance, with a sense of dismay. The high point of AUKUS is that both the US and the UK will equip Australia to design and build up to eight nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) to counter the rising threat of China in the Indo-Pacific. China’s belligerence is a common concern for several countries in the region, especially the ‘Quad’ countries of US, Australia, Japan and India, who revived their grouping last year.
Indian Navy chiefs and naval veterans have raised the prospect of Indo-US collaboration on nuclear reactor propulsion technology only to have been politely rebuffed by their US counterparts. During a Track 2 dialogue held in Australia two years ago, the US side was emphatic in its refusal, recalls an Indian representative who was part of the event. The US Congress would never contemplate discussing anything to do with the transfer of nuclear propulsion, they were told.
This request might have sounded out of place considering that India already operates nuclear submarines—becoming the world’s sixth country to do so when it commissioned the INS Arihant in 2016. The Arihant, however, is an SSBN (nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine)—a slow-moving ‘bomber’ and a stealthy launch platform for nuclear weapons. The Arihant and three more SSBNs under construction are part of the Strategic Forces Command. What the navy wants are SSNs, which can perform a series of tactical missions, from escorting SSBNs to accompanying its carrier battle groups and hunting enemy warships.
Surface Warfare Officer, US Navy
Answered 2 years ago · Author has 1K answers and 1.8M answer views
These are the real sharks. The fast attack, nuclear powered submarines are designed (originally) to hunt down enemy surface ships and cause havoc for surface forces. There role was later expanded to be able to hunt enemy submarines and now has expanded further to give them limited land attack capabilities. These ships have a heavy load of torpedos and a whole lot of speed.
These are the keys to the end of the world. These submarines carry around 24 ICBM missiles capable of traveling thousands of miles and each releasing multiple, independent nuclear warheads. There are always a number of them out to sea at any given time to serve as a leg of the “nuclear triad.” This means that their primary role is to serve as a detterant against nuclear strikes on us. The idea is that if a foreign power were to send nukes at us, one of these “boomers” would end their whole country. They are quiet, sneaky, and have two crews assigned to them to maximize the amount of time that they are out partrolling.
These are a hybrid test of the Navy. It was found in the modern era that it is nice to have a whole shit ton of Tomahawk missiles anywhere in the world so they took 4 of the SSBN’s and pulled out their ICBM’s and fitted each tube with a couple of tomohawks instead. These boats carry upwards of 132 tomahawk missiles and still possess the quiet speed of the SSBN. Additionally, they have been outfitted to deploy SEAL teams when needed anywhere in the world.
By Ewen Levick | Melbourne | 17 September 2021
On Thursday morning Australians woke to perhaps the most significant defence capability news in recent memory: the Royal Australian Navy will acquire nuclear powered submarines under a new deal between Australia, the UK and the US.
The deal, known as AUKUS, was announced by US President Joe Biden, British PM Boris Johnson and PM Scott Morrison and also includes sharing information and expertise in AI, quantum technology, underwater systems, hypersonics and long-range strike capabilities, including Tomahawk cruise missiles for the Hobart class destroyers.
The repercussions are profound. First, the existing $90 billion Future Submarine contract with Naval Group – the largest military acquisition in Australian history – has been scrapped. In a statement, the company said the news was a 'major disappointment' and that it would work through the consequences with the Commonwealth.
Second, Australia's Collins class submarines will now likely need to stay in the water longer than anticipated, raising questions over whether Australia's naval power is sufficient to bridge the gap with the nuclear-powered boats. At least the full cycle docking (FCD) debate is now put to rest - South Australian Premier Steven Marshall confirmed on Thursday that it will take place in South Australia.
Third, the Australian public will now cast judgement on whether the security reasons for acquiring nuclear powered submarines outweigh this country's historical rejection of nuclear power.
Fourth, the acquisition signals that diesel powered submarines are now deemed insufficient for the military contingencies Australia expects to face, meaning those contingencies are changing much faster than anticipated even a year ago when the Force Structure Plan and Defence Strategic Update were released.
When CIA Director Bill Burns traveled to India earlier this month a member of his team reported symptoms consistent with Havana syndrome and had to receive medical attention, according to three sources familiar with the matter.
The incident set off alarm bells within the US government and left Burns "fuming" with anger, one source explained. Some officials at the CIA viewed the chilling episode as a direct message to Burns that no one is safe, including those working directly for the nation's top spy, two sources said.
The event marks the second time in less than a month that reported cases of the mysterious illness have impacted the international travel of top Biden administration officials. Last month Vice President Kamala Harris's visit to Vietnam was slightly delayed when multiple US personnel reported symptoms consistent with the syndrome just ahead of her visit, and at least two of them had to be medevaced.
Under Burns and the Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, the intelligence community has undertaken a wide-ranging investigation into the mysterious attacks, including a 100-day probe into the potential causes that began earlier this summer. While that investigation is expected to be concluded before the end of the year the timeframe could be somewhat adjusted and there is no public report planned, two sources said.
"We are in a national, strategic, long-term competition with a strategic adversary," Kendall said.
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall in a keynote speech Sept. 20 warned that China’s rapid advances in nuclear and conventional weapons will challenge the United States both in the air and space domains.
“While America is still the dominant military power on the planet today, we are being more effectively challenged militarily than at any other time in our history,” he said at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference.
“We are in a national, strategic, long-term competition with a strategic adversary,” Kendall said.
China’s advances in military and space technologies and the implications for U.S. national security was the dominant theme in Kendall’s address to a large audience of active-duty service members, government civilians and defense contractors.
He said China’s military modernization is focused on long-range precision-guided munitions, hypersonic missiles, space and cyber weapons.
“I have had the opportunity to catch up on the intelligence about China’s modernization programs. If anything, China has accelerated its pace of modernization,” Kendall said.
There is “strong evidence” that China is pursuing silo-based intercontinental ballistic missiles and satellite-guided munitions to strike targets on Earth and in space, he said. Some of that intelligence was revealed through open sources but Kendall also has received classified briefings.
During a briefing with reporters on Monday, Kendall described these revelations as “the most disturbing developments in nuclear proliferation I’ve seen in my lifetime.”
With regard to space weapons, he suggested China could pursue a global strike capability using space to deliver weapons, a concept modeled after the Soviet-era “fractional orbital bombardment system” conceived for the Cold War. The Soviets envisioned launching nuclear warheads into low Earth orbit and then directing them back down to targets on the ground.
Kendall said he had no specific knowledge that the Chinese are pursuing this but said “it could be possible” and suggested this idea would be attractive to the Chinese because the fractional orbital system is hard to detect by early-warning satellites.
He noted that he came of age in the Cold War and that history can repeat itself.
To stay ahead of China, the United States is going to have to “respond with a sense of urgency, but we also have to take the time necessary to make smart choices about our future and our investments,” he said.
Published : January 21, 2018, 12:37 am | Updated : January 21, 2018, 12:37 AM
On paper the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) comes across as formidable. It is currently engaged in about 70 projects that include making almost every major conventional weapon system and platform that major military powers are already manufacturing. From rifles and machine guns to tanks, fighter aircraft, airborne warning and control system, aircraft carrier and a wide array of missiles—surface-to-air, surface-to-surface and sub surface. In reality, the DRDO has much to answer for its performance.
Notwithstanding, however, India’s self-reliance continues to hover at 30% to 35% despite a series of measures taken by the government that has resulted in India continuing to remain overly import dependent for its defence requirements. India has been unable to increase its self-reliance capability from the current 30% to 35% despite a series of measures it has taken in the last two-and-a-half decades in particular. Much of even the existing self-reliance capability is based on licence manufacture and transfer of technology by foreign state-owned or private companies. What is more, the government itself has expressed doubts about the country’s capability to even develop core technologies in reports prepared by the parliamentary standing committee on defence.
The harsh reality is that India’s state-owned defence industry has been unable to even develop a rifle, let alone a tank or an aircraft engine. The DRDO has consistently been shifting the timeline for all projects, ranging from rifles to aircraft. Furthermore, the DRDO has been unable to successfully complete a single major project except for a few missile systems and the nuclear powered submarine, although the latter has several shortcomings in capability. The procurement process continues to be time consuming and the private industry remains mired in bureaucratic processes. Most of the private industry’s involvement currently is low scale and focused on making sub systems. It is yet to graduate to making complete weapon systems or highly sophisticated technologies as is the case with major defence companies in the US and Europe.
India’s mission to increase self-dependency for defence equipment to 70% remains a dream. In 1992, following the breakup of the Soviet Union, which had been India’s main source of weapons supply, catering to 70% of the country’s defence requirements, a defence ministry “Self Reliance Review Committee” conceived “a ten-year plan for Self-Reliance in Defence Systems”, which, starting from 1995, was aimed at increasing India’s self-reliance index to 70% by 2005. The defence ministry has now shifted its deadline to attain about 70% self-reliance by over two decades to 2027. But as of now, this seems unlikely in the next ten years
In an article in the journal Foreign Affairs in June, Flournoy said that as Washington’s ability and resolve to counter Beijing’s military assertiveness in the region declined, the US needed a solid deterrence to reduce the risk of “miscalculation” by China’s leadership.
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“For example, if the US military had the capability to credibly threaten to sink all of China’s military vessels, submarines, and merchant ships in the South China Sea within 72 hours, Chinese leaders might think twice before, say, launching a blockade or invasion of Taiwan; they would have to wonder whether it was worth putting their entire fleet at risk,” Flournoy said.
Defence and diplomatic observers said that realising that idea would come at huge cost but appointing its advocate would signal that the US would keep piling military pressure on China.
Collin Koh, a research fellow from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, said one point was certain no matter who took office.
“Irrespective of who’s in the White House, the ability to sustain credible deterrence and if necessary, defeat [People’s Liberation Army] aggression against Taiwan in line with the Taiwan Relations Act, would have been seen as a given,” Koh said.
Taiwan has identified seven circumstances in which China could justify launching a military offensive against it, including a formal declaration of independence and the stationing of foreign troops on the island, according to a new white paper shown to lawmakers on Tuesday.
The August 31 report containing its annual assessment of People's Liberation Army (PLA) capabilities and ambitions was submitted to the legislature along with a proposal for an increase in defense spending in 2022.
Taiwan says it is already a functionally independent country under the formal name the Republic of China, with the current government stressing there is no need for any other declaration. The People's Republic of China claims Taiwan is part of its territory, but Beijing has never governed the island since its founding in 1949.
"AUKUS? What would it become? JAUKUS? JAIAUKUS?" White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in lighter moments before giving answer to the question.
“On Friday…you’ll have the Australians there (for the Quad summit). But then you also have India and Japan. Would you envision for them a similar kind of military role that you’ve now defined for with the Australians,” a journalist asked.
“AUKUS? What would it become? JAUKUS? JAIAUKUS?” Psaki said in lighter moments before giving answer to the question.
The trilateral security alliance AUKUS, seen as an effort to counter China in the Indo-Pacific, will allow the US and the UK to provide Australia with the technology to develop nuclear-powered submarines for the first time.
China has sharply criticised the trilateral alliance, saying such exclusive grouping has no future and will gravely undermine regional stability and aggravate the arms race and hurt international non-proliferation efforts.
The move has also angered France, an European ally of the US, which said it had been “stabbed in the back” and has publicly expressed its outrage at the AUKUS alliance. It recalled its ambassador to the US and Australia after the AUKUS security deal was announced. France also lost a lucrative contract to build conventional submarines for Australia.
Meanwhile, in a bid to mend ties, President Joe and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron agreed on Wednesday that the “open consultations” among allies on matters of strategic interest to France would have helped in having a better situation.
Biden and Macron have decided to open a process of in-depth consultations, aimed at creating the conditions for ensuring confidence and proposing concrete measures toward common objectives, a joint statement said after their meeting.
“Of course, it’s an important topic in conversations with the French, with a range of countries who have a direct interest in the region,” Psaki said at the White House briefing on Wednesday.
By Sylvie Kauffmann
Ms. Kauffmann, the editorial director of Le Monde, writes extensively about European and international politics.
France considers itself a “resident power” in the Indo-Pacific region, a crucial battleground for the rivalry between America and China, because it possesses several islands and maintains four naval bases there. It developed its own strategy for the region in 2018 and has been pushing since then for the European Union to come up with a similar project. Ironically, the European Union’s Indo-Pacific strategy was presented on the very day the deal, known as AUKUS, became public. The plan was, of course, drowned out by the uproar.
Australia was key to the French strategy. Beyond the sale of submarines, France foresaw a partnership with Australia that would add an important pillar to its presence in the region. Now the whole plan is in shambles. In the French view, the new program set up by the Americans in Australia is so enormous, encompassing cybersecurity and intelligence, that it doesn’t leave room for any other initiative. To rebuild its regional strategy, France is now turning to India, with which it already cooperates closely.
PARIS — Make no mistake. This is a crisis, not a spat.
The new partnership announced last week between the United States, Britain and Australia, in which Australia would be endowed with nuclear-powered submarines, has left the French angry and in shock. And not just because of the loss of their own deal, signed in 2016, to provide Australia with submarines.
French officials say they have been stonewalled and duped by close allies, who negotiated behind their backs. The sense of betrayal is so acute that President Emmanuel Macron has uncharacteristically opted to keep silent on the issue, delegating the expression of a very public rage to his otherwise quiet foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian. Asked on public television whether President Biden’s behavior was reminiscent of his predecessor’s, Mr. Le Drian replied, “Without the tweets.”
The fallout is about much more than a scrapped business deal, Gallic pride and bruised egos. This diplomatic bombshell has crudely exposed the unwritten rules of great-power competition, in which France cannot be a player unless it carries the weight of the European Union behind it. The past week has been about 21st-century geopolitics and the brutal adjustment of old alliances to new realities.
Since the Trump administration’s announcement that it seeks a “free and open” Indo-Pacific, observers have spilled much ink on the revival of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, to achieve this objective. The Quad—an informal consultative mechanism comprising the United States, Australia, Japan, and India—is quietly opposed to China’s continued militarization of and attempts to control strategic waterways throughout the region, namely the South China Sea. The group met most recently last November, and again in June, after 10 years of inactivity.
But the fate of the Quad is still fragile. Indeed, the first attempt at the Quad died on the vine because then-Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd withdrew over concerns that the Quad needlessly antagonized China. Today, however, following a burst of concern about Chinese influence, Australia is all in. So are the United States and Japan. That leaves India, where New Delhi may be getting cold feet.
Today, however, following a burst of concern about Chinese influence, Australia is all in. So are the United States and Japan. That leaves India, where New Delhi may be getting cold feet.
For starters, India seemed less enthusiastic about the Quad following the Wuhan summit. In April, Chinese President Xi Jinping invited Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Wuhan, China, for an informal summit. Xi’s decision proved to be exceptionally deft diplomacy. Bilateral relations had reached a nadir in 2017 primarily stemming from the monthslong military standoff at Doklam, which probably hastened India’s decision to re-engage the Quad in the first place. Although the two leaders did not issue a joint statement—underscoring their deep differences—they also agreed to find ways of working together.
The excitement, expectations and hopes of the Modi government in 2014, with promises of “minimum government, maximum governance” and “sabka sath, sabka viswas, sabka vikash” (with all, with everyone’s trust, development for all), are fading memories. On June 1, India’s official COVID-19 deaths per million was 238 compared to the world average of 457, the U.S. at 1,832, the U.K. at 1,873 and Brazil reporting 2,163.
The crux of the problem thus is not the unmitigated spread of COVID-19 but the lack of a fit-for-purpose public health infrastructure and the availability of medical supplies, equipment and drugs. India is a sobering reminder of why a strong economy is not an optional luxury but an essential requirement for good health.
Modi’s neglect of urgent economic and governance reforms in addition to requirements for a good public health infrastructure — choosing instead to go into a semipermanent campaign mode in every state election and focusing on a Hindu nationalist agenda — further aggravated the COVID-19 misery.
People’s health is vitally dependent on a healthy economy that gives the government the financial wherewithal to create an efficient universal-access public health system. No country achieves better health outcomes by becoming poorer.
The pandemic, for its part, hastened an economic decline that had already begun. According to World Bank figures, India’s annual GDP growth tumbled from 8.3% in 2016 to 4.2% in 2019. It contracted by 7.3% in 2020–2021 and the 2021 GDP forecast has been downgraded by around 17% — the worst among the G20 countries.
India got the worst of both worlds: a smashed economy and a massive COVID-19 toll that peaked in May with the official count recording nearly 400,000 daily new cases and over 4,000 daily new deaths. Recovery will be a long haul on both the disease and the economy front.
The continuing legal fight with Vodafone over retrospective tax claims has eroded investor confidence. The goods and services tax suffered from design flaws and was badly implemented. The voodoo economics of demonetization was a disaster. And turning inwards by rejecting the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership signaled lack of faith in India’s competitiveness.
Slogans and sycophantic cheer squads can neither hide nor offset these pathologies. India has plummeted from the world’s fastest growing major economy when Modi took over, to the fastest shrinking.
The nation’s democratic credentials are also eroding, as recorded in annual surveys by the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index, the U.S. Freedom House report and Sweden’s Varieties of Democracy project.
The methodological flaws of any one report can be questioned but the broad trendlines converge in a compelling narrative of reverses on democratic institutions, practices and discourse. Domestic unity has also been strained by injecting the poison of religious tensions into what had been a remarkably stable set of live-and-let-live arrangements for decades.
In a provocative paper in 2009, Lant Pritchett, then at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, described India as a “flailing state.” Using examples from health, education and driver’s licenses, he said the decision-making “head” was disconnected from the “arms and legs” of implementation and the state was flailing helplessly with the world’s highest malnutrition rate, immunization rates below African countries’ and infant mortality worse than Bangladesh. Confused, chaotic, wracked by pain and tossed about helplessly — Pritchett accurately foreshadowed India’s coronavirus experience.
Since a major war in 1962, India and China have largely contained disputes through talks and treaties. Flare-ups happen, because unlike with Pakistan where the boundary is clearly defined on maps, India and China have not been able to agree on the specific demarcation of the 2,100-mile frontier referred to as the Line of Actual Control. Indian officials say their Chinese counterparts have been reluctant, preferring to keep the border’s uncertainties as a “pressure tactic.”
The Indian military establishment has remained more cautious than Mr. Modi, its warnings against a resurgent China going back to the mid-2000s. The military was particularly vulnerable in eastern Ladakh, where China has terrain advantage — the Tibetan plateau makes moving troops easier — and better infrastructure on its side of the border.
For decades, the Indian military has been carrying out huge logistical operations in the mountains. It transports hundreds of tons of matériel every day to not only sustain 75,000 troops guarding against Pakistan and China, but also to stock up for six months of winter when many of the roads close. At the Siachen Glacier — referred to as the battleground on the roof of the world — Indian forces have maintained a face-off with Pakistan for more than three decades.
During last year’s clashes, India benefited from an element of luck, since the tensions escalated during warmer weather.
“Had this happened sometime in September, we would have to fly in troops. That was the only option, because the passes have ice over it — 40 foot of ice,” said A.P. Singh, a retired major general who led logistics operations in Ladakh.
But India will have a hard time sustaining its increased presence on two fronts.
A sudden rush of tens of thousands of additional troops meant shifting personnel and resources not only from the reserves, but also from the units at the Pakistani front.
Deployment in the highest of altitudes tremendously increases transportation costs. It also requires about 48 items of specialized gear, 18 of which — such as snow clothing, snow boots, alpine sleeping bags, ice axes — are critical, General Singh said. The cost of building outposts is five times higher in eastern Ladakh than in the plains.
“When the boys moved in, it was not that ‘I am going for patrolling for 15 days, and I am back, and I will carry my arctic tent on my back.’ Everyone realized that if something happens, you are going in for good,” General Singh said. “It’s cost the country economically.”
The fallout in France is one of several caveats to what otherwise appears to be a strategic coup for the three partners in aukus. The administration’s idea of working together with allies to check China makes sense. But a major split with a key ally—one with serious Indo-Pacific interests—hardly helps. Creative efforts will now be needed from the aukus squad to try to mitigate the damage.
Second, there is what this says about American diplomacy. The French were bound to be upset, but the handling of them was graceless. That comes on top of the Biden administration’s poor handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan. One example of foreign-policy incompetence looks unfortunate; two in quick succession look like a pattern. That is not a good omen for the management of the relationship with China, which involves elements of military competition, economic laissez-faire and collaboration over, say, climate change and arms control.
Third, American foreign policy has often been criticised, including by Mr Biden, for placing too much emphasis on the military dimension and not enough on diplomacy and other tools. The nuclear-submarine initiative is a big move on the defence front, but China is increasingly powerful in the region on the economic and financial fronts. China responded to aukus by criticising its “cold-war mentality”. The next day it applied to join the cptpp, an 11-country transpacific trade pact that America helped to instigate as a way to limit China’s influence, but then abandoned.
There is no quick fix for America’s mistakes in economic policy. Indeed, the rivalry between China and America, together with its allies, will play out across many areas over many years. It is the defining geopolitical challenge of the 21st century. And now in aukus it has acquired a new landmark.
The U.S. military reportedly "failed miserably" in a series of wargame scenarios designed to test the Pentagon's might. The flunked exercises, which took place last October, are a red flag that the way the military has operated for years isn't going to fly against today's enemies.
Specifically, a simulated adversary that has studied the American way of war for decades managed to run rings around U.S. forces, defeating them decisively. "They knew exactly what we're going to do before we did it," Gen. John Hyten, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, revealed at an industry event.
While Hyten did not disclose the name of the wargame (it's classifed), he did say that one of the exercises focused exclusively on a brawl between U.S. and Chinese forces fighting over Taiwan—a scenario that seems increasingly likely.
He says there are two main takeaways for the U.S. military. The first involves the concentration of combat power—the American military, like many armed forces, tends to concentrate ships, planes, and ground forces for maximum efficiency and effect. Concentrating forces allows the military to mass firepower, operate more efficiently, and more easily resupply while in the field. In other words, it's easier for everyone on the good guys' side.
But the problem with concentration of mass is that it makes it easier for the enemy to find and kill you. If an enemy knows that American carriers always operate together, for instance, and an enemy discovers one carrier, it then knows a second carrier is close by. By the same token, an Air Force wing of 72 fighter jets operating from a huge, sprawling air base makes it easier to efficiently arm, fuel, and service the fighters, but destroying the base will take out the entire wing. And an Army infantry battalion concentrated in two one-kilometer grid squares is easy to control, but will suffer heavy casualties to artillery barrages.
Another takeaway is that the U.S. military's information dominance is no longer guaranteed, and would probably be in doubt in a future conflict. Since 1991, most of America's enemies have been relatively low-tech armies without the aid of satellites, long-range weapons, cyber forces, or electronic warfare capabilities. As a result, the U.S. military's access to communications, data, and other information has been very secure during wartime, giving friendly forces a huge advantage.
That won't happen in the next war. Potential adversaries Russia and China both have a strong motivation—and more importantly, capability—to attack the Pentagon's information infrastructure. Both countries are aware that U.S. forces are heavily reliant on streams of data, and in a future conflict will attack, jam, and disable the nodes that distribute that information (such as satellites and aircraft-based node) whenever possible.
What does that mean for U.S. forces? Hyten says that the Pentagon is pushing a new concept known as "expanded maneuver," and wants the entire military to adopt it by 2030.
Expanded maneuver is likely exactly what it sounds like—a greater use of mobility to keep U.S. forces out of the enemy's gunsights. Two aircraft carriers, for example, might sail a thousand miles apart while still working together. A wing of fighter jets might be spread out among half a dozen smaller airfields so the destruction of one won't mean the loss of all 72 warplanes. An infantry battalion's subunits might operate farther apart from one another and stay on the move to avoid destruction by enemy artillery.
A range of conventional weapons were on display, from sniper rifles to vehicle-mounted remote control weapon systems, mortars, grenade launchers and anti-tank missiles. Military experts said the training indicated the PLA infantries had been equipped with specially designed weapons for high-altitude combat-readiness operations.
“The PLA has introduced precision strike training in Indian border [areas] that aims at controlling more area in future contingencies,” said Macau-based military observer Antony Wong Tong, who added the operation would save manpower and secure the PLA’s defensive capability along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) during the winter.
“The use of the Type 06 semi-automatic grenade launchers and mortars in the recent drill indicated China would deploy the powerful but handy weapons with precision strike capabilities to other disputed border areas,” he said.
The precision shooting drill is just the latest high-altitude battle capability training carried out by the PLA near the border areas with India in the Himalayas after both sides failed to reach agreement to resume talks on disengagement last month.
New Delhi has also ramped up its defences along the disputed border, stepping up the construction of roads and other infrastructure along the LAC, as well as deploying MiG-29UPG and Su-30MKI fighter jets to the region. There are also plans to buy high altitude armed swarm drones for the Indian military.
Zhou Chenming, a researcher from the Beijing-based Yuan Wang military science and technology institute, said the PLA’s new weapons systems would be able to eliminate Indian outposts, military assets, and other targets.
“According to ballistic computation, there are differences for all guns and artillery systems and even aircraft to operate in plains regions and at high altitudes, due to anoxia and extreme weathers,” he said.
Before China’s military modernisation – accelerated under President Xi Jinping – there was no firing operations data for many of its weapons systems at elevations over 5,000 metres, according to an insider. Today, live-fire tests supported with electronic combat data are carried out at high altitudes for most new weapons.
Modernisation of the PLA’s weaponry began in the late 1990s under former president Jiang Zemin, who studied electronic engineering, and aimed to speed up weapons replacement as part of the goal to transform the military into a modern fighting force on a par with its US counterpart by 2035.
The deadline was brought forward to 2027 – the 100th anniversary of the PLA’s foundation – with China’s leadership announcing in the latest five-year plan that the country should accelerate its military modernisation programme and ensure the PLA becomes a modern army to meet one of the three centennial goals.
Mr. Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are expected to sign agreements including one extending military technical cooperation until 2031 and another to produce more than 500,000 Russian-designed rifles in India, according to officials involved in the visit.
Also on the agenda, according to the officials, is an agreement on using logistics facilities at each other’s ports and military installations that mirrors similar pacts India has signed with the U.S. and several American allies.
The two leaders’ summit in Delhi on Monday comes as the U.S. considers whether to impose sanctions on India over its purchase from Russia of the S-400 surface-to-air missile system, delivery of which is now under way.
It also follows warnings from Biden administration officials on Friday that Mr. Putin is amassing a force expected to total 175,000 troops near Russia’s border with Ukraine, giving him the capability for a potential invasion by early 2022.
Although the U.S. is ultimately expected to waive sanctions on India over the S-400, American officials have urged Delhi to cancel the deal, warning that it undermines efforts to improve interoperability between the U.S. and Indian militaries.
India says it needs the missiles to bolster defenses on its disputed frontier with China, which last year saw one of the bloodiest clashes between Indian and Chinese troops since a brief border war in 1962.
China already has S-400s, also supplied by Russia.
“A stronger and secure India is in the interest of the U.S., and so the administration should take a pragmatic view,” said one Indian official.
Last week, India’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Arindam Bagchi, said India pursues an independent foreign policy, which applies to its defense acquisitions.
“India and the U.S. have a special global strategic partnership. And we also have a very special and privileged strategic partnership with Russia,” he said.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Delhi said Washington hadn’t yet made a decision on a potential sanctions waiver for India but urged all allies and partners to forgo transactions with Russia that could trigger such penalties.
“The U.S.-India defense partnership has expanded significantly in recent years,” the spokesperson said. “We expect this strong momentum in our defense partnership to continue.”
The Putin visit highlights the tension between U.S. attempts to isolate Russia—long India’s main arms supplier—and Washington’s efforts to boost defense ties with Delhi as part of a grouping of democracies concerned by China’s recent assertiveness.
India has grown increasingly wary of China, especially since last year’s border clash, and wants more high-tech weaponry from the U.S. and other Western countries, defense experts say.
Even so, Delhi is reluctant to be drawn too directly into the U.S.-China confrontation and wants to preserve its ties to Moscow, which date to the Cold War, to avoid becoming too reliant on the West.
India could face U.S. financial sanctions over the deal under the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA, which names Russia as an adversary alongside North Korea and Iran.
Last year, the U.S. sanctioned Turkey under CAATSA for buying the S-400.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman warned during a visit to India in October that it was dangerous for any country to buy the Russian missile system.
World military spending rises to almost $2 trillion in 2020
Who were the top 10 military spenders in 2020?
1) United States
5) United Kingdom
6) Saudi Arabia
Total global military expenditure rose to $1981 billion last year, an increase of 2.6 per cent in real terms from 2019, according to new data published today by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The five biggest spenders in 2020, which together accounted for 62 per cent of global military expenditure, were the United States, China, India, Russia and the United Kingdom. Military spending by China grew for the 26th consecutive year.
Russia’s military expenditure increased by 2.5 per cent in 2020 to reach $61.7 billion. This was the second consecutive year of growth. Nevertheless, Russia’s actual military spending in 2020 was 6.6 per cent lower than its initial military budget, a larger shortfall than in previous years.
With a total of $59.2 billion, the UK became the fifth largest spender in 2020. The UK’s military spending was 2.9 per cent higher than in 2019, but 4.2 per cent lower than in 2011. Germany increased its spending by 5.2 per cent to $52.8 billion, making it the seventh largest spender in 2020. Germany’s military expenditure was 28 per cent higher than in 2011. Military spending across Europe rose by 4.0 per cent in 2020.
In addition to China, India ($72.9 billion), Japan ($49.1 billion), South Korea ($45.7 billion) and Australia ($27.5 billion) were the largest military spenders in the Asia and Oceania region. All four countries increased their military spending between 2019 and 2020 and over the decade 2011–20.
Military expenditure in sub-Saharan Africa increased by 3.4 per cent in 2020 to reach $18.5 billion. The biggest increases in spending were made by Chad (+31 per cent), Mali (+22 per cent), Mauritania (+23 per cent) and Nigeria (+29 per cent), all in the Sahel region, as well as Uganda (+46 per cent).
Military expenditure in South America fell by 2.1 per cent to $43.5 billion in 2020. The decrease was largely due to a 3.1 per cent drop in spending by Brazil, the subregion’s largest military spender.
The combined military spending of the 11 Middle Eastern countries for which SIPRI has spending figures decreased by 6.5 per cent in 2020, to $143 billion.
Eight of the nine members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) for which SIPRI has figures cut their military spending in 2020. Angola’s spending fell by 12 per cent, Saudi Arabia’s by 10 per cent, and Kuwait’s by 5.9 per cent. Non-OPEC oil exporter Bahrain also cut its spending by 9.8 per cent.
The countries with the biggest increases in military burden among the top 15 spenders in 2020 were Saudi Arabia (+0.6 percentage points), Russia (+0.5 percentage points), Israel (+0.4 percentage points) and the USA (+0.3 percentage points).
When Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi heads to Comoros, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka later this week after diplomatic visits on the African continent, it will highlight Beijing’s determination to gain a strategic foothold in these Indian Ocean island nations. In the Maldives and Sri Lanka, Wang will also continue to challenge India’s claim to primacy in South Asian waters—India’s own maritime backyard.
Although it was the conflict along the Himalayan border that dominated India’s growing troubles with China over the last two years, Beijing has kept up relentless pressure on New Delhi with its overtures to the Maldives and Sri Lanka, including investment and security assistance. Despite some recent setbacks in its relations, China remains a force to be reckoned with in these two island republics, which India has long considered part of its sphere of influence in South Asia.
If New Delhi theoretically benefits from geographic proximity, Beijing brings a lot more resources—economic and military—into play and exploits the natural tendency of small nations to seek to balance a dominant neighbor. What’s more, India’s proximity comes with its own problems: Close neighbors often have multiple disputes while a distant power can take a more strategic view of the relationship. The contestation between Asia’s two great powers in the Maldives and Sri Lanka has also become tightly intertwined with the latter two’s domestic politics, where competing political factions mobilize Indian or Chinese support.
China might dismiss the idea of the Indo-Pacific as an artificial U.S. foreign-policy construct and maintain a laser-like focus on its front yard in East Asia, but Beijing is not taking its eyes off the Indian Ocean. While tensions mount closer to home as China rattles its sabers in Taiwan’s direction, Beijing has never yielded its efforts to advance its interests in the Indian Ocean. While that far western flank’s salience for Beijing might be less than the Pacific’s, there is no denying China is pursuing a two-ocean strategy.
Wang begins his African journey this week in Eritrea in its strategic Red Sea littoral and Kenya, the largest economy in East Africa and a historic hub of Indian Ocean trade. Eritrea recently joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and China has developed a significant economic presence in Kenya.
Beijing and Nairobi, however, have dismissed reports they are seeking to establish a Chinese naval base in Kenya after a U.S. Defense Department report on Chinese military power recently suggested Beijing might be looking for bases in various African countries, including Kenya.
Nairobi, traditionally within the Anglo-American sphere, has longstanding military ties with its former colonial power, Britain, as well as the United States. If Washington’s and London’s past focus in the region has been on counterterrorism, they are beginning to see East Africa as an important part of rivaling Beijing in the Indo-Pacific.
As Africa’s economic importance for China rises, Beijing has been eyeing the islands sprawled across the sea lanes and lines of communication to Africa in the western Indian Ocean: the Seychelles, Comoros, Mauritius, and Madagascar. In recent years, China has stepped up its engagement with these island nations, any one of which could prove pivotal to a future Chinese Indian Ocean naval fleet one day.
By Sameer Lalwani
Why haven’t China’s increasing Indian Ocean capabilities raised more alarm bells in Washington, given the laser focus on China these days? One reason is that the U.S. has concentrated its efforts on East Asia, particularly the possibility of conflict in the Taiwan Strait. Another problem, however, is that the U.S. has long assumed India would be a counterweight to China in the Indian Ocean. Indeed, a deeper partnership with India — the world’s largest democracy, on an upward economic trajectory, seemingly perfectly positioned to counter China on land and at sea — has been something of a holy grail for at least four U.S. administrations.
Yet what former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a decade ago called a “strategic bet” on India does not seem to be paying off. Indian naval and political power in the Indian Ocean region is faltering, giving way to influence by Beijing. Many of these problems are of India’s own making. But part of the problem is the way the U.S. has managed its relationship with New Delhi. The India relationship has become a case study of a partnership between two nations with naturally aligned geostrategic interests that is nonetheless faltering because of a lack of clear priorities, misaligned incentives, and a frequent inability to understand what the other side really wants.
Ultimately, it’s New Delhi that will need to make the most significant course corrections. But the U.S. can also help ensure this bet pays off, with clearer prioritization, incentives and expectations for what could be one of the most important security partnerships of the 21st century. To check China’s rising influence in the Indian Ocean, Washington needs a comprehensive strategy for the region and a revitalized approach to its partnership with India that prioritizes maritime security, bolsters India’s defense technologies and sets bold expectations for a country whose potential against the China challenge has yet to be realized.
Part of the reason the Indian Ocean hasn’t received as much attention as it should is that many U.S. defense experts assume or hope they can rely on India to automatically be a “counterweight” to China in this region. For over two decades, Washington has been enamored with the idea that India, at one point exceeding 8 percent economic growth annually, would become a military powerhouse that could “frustrate China’s hegemonic ambitions.” The U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy released in February counts on India to be “a net security provider,” just as previous administrations officially banked on the Indian Navy taking a “leading role in maintaining Indian Ocean security.” Some former Trump administration officials even want to formalize a Japan-style alliance.
But India’s ability to play this role is in serious doubt. Indian officials had targeted a 200-ship navy by 2023, but today, the Indian Navy acknowledges it will be fortunate to reach 170 total ships sometime in the 2030s. Even if it does, analysts worry India may still be held back by a fleet that’s continuously underfunded and 60 percent obsolescent with serious deficiencies in equipment and manpower. As India’s navy slides in the opposite direction of China’s, it doesn’t help that India’s political influence in its neighborhood has also wobbled. Within a decade, India may not even be able to protect its own backyard against Chinese military coercion at sea just as on land.
By VIR SANGHVI
Even while the war in Ukraine rages, however, we should be asking ourselves deeper questions. A few days ago, at the ABP Ideas of India Summit in Mumbai, I interviewed Fareed Zakaria. Fareed’s view was that over the last decade or so, India has become so inward-looking and obsessed with its own issues and divisions that it has not spent enough time thinking about its place in the world, going forward.
While we have been obsessed with headscarves and caste arithmetic, the world has rearranged itself. No matter what happens in Ukraine, Russia will come out of the war damaged. If it makes peace, then some of the sanctions imposed on it by the West may be moderated but it seems unlikely that Putin’s Russia will become a full-fledged member of the global economy for a long time.
In that case, it will have no choice but to move into the Chinese sphere of influence. One scenario sees Russia as a classic vassal state of the Chinese, supplying energy and raw materials to feed the Chinese military machine and its industrial complex. Pakistan and China are longstanding allies, so we will probably see the emergence of a Russia-China-Pakistan alliance.
India will then have two choices. Either we agree to accept China’s suzerainty over the East. Or we look for other options.
Should we choose the second path (and I imagine we will have to), then there really is nowhere to go but the West. At present, the West understands how India is constrained by its dependence on Russian weaponry. But in the long run, it will expect a greater measure of alignment. Is that something we have considered? Or are we too blinded by the rhetoric about anti-Hindu America and hypocritical Washington?
Sooner, rather than later, we will have to rescue reality from the rhetoric.
On Aug. 19, India’s minister of external affairs, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, gave a speech at a university in Thailand where he stated that relations between India and China were going through “an extremely difficult phase” and that an “Asian Century” seemed unlikely unless the two nations found a way to “join hands” and start working together.
For many observers, Jaishankar’s speech was taken as an opportunity for the US to drive a wedge between India and China, exploiting an ongoing border dispute along the Himalayan frontier to push India further into a pro-US orbit together with other Western-leaning regional powers. What these observers overlooked, however, was that the Indian minister was seeking the exact opposite from his speech, signaling that India was, in fact, interested in working with China to develop joint policies that would seek to replace US-led Western hegemony in the Pacific.
Struggle for Leadership
More than six decades ago, then-US Senator John F. Kennedy noted that there was a “struggle between India and China for the economic and political leadership of the East, for the respect of all Asia, for the opportunity to demonstrate whose way of life is the better.” The US, Kennedy argued, needed to focus on providing India the help it needed to win that struggle — even if India wasn’t asking for that help or, indeed, seeking to “win” any geopolitical contest with China.
Today, the relationships between the US, India and China have matured, with all three wrestling with complex, and often contradictory, policies that are simultaneously cooperative and confrontational. Notwithstanding this, the US continues to err on the side of helping India achieve a geopolitical “win” over China. One need only consider the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or “Quad,” conceived in 2007, but dormant until 2017, when it was resurrected under US leadership to bring together the US, Japan, Australia and India in an effort to create a regional counterweight to China’s growing influence.
There was a time when cooler heads cautioned against such an assertive US-led posture on a regional response to an expansive, and expanding, Chinese presence in the Indo-Pacific region. This line of thinking held that strong Indian relationships with Tokyo and Canberra should be allowed to naturally progress, independent of US regional ambitions.
These same “cool heads” argued that the US needed to be realistic in its expectations on relations between India and China, avoiding the pitfalls of Cold War-era “zero-sum game” calculations. The US should appreciate that India needed to implement a foreign policy that best met Indian needs. Moreover, they argued, a US-Indian relationship that was solely focused on China would not age well, given the transitory realities of a changing global geopolitical dynamic.
The Asian Century
The key to deciphering Jaishanker’s strategic intent in his Thailand comments lay in his use of the term “Asian Century.” This echoed the words of former Chinese reformist leader Deng Xiaoping, who, in a meeting with former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1988, declared that “in recent years people have been saying that the next century will be the century of Asia and the Pacific, as if that were sure to be the case. I disagree with this view.” Deng went on to explain that unless China and India focus their respective and collective energies on developing their economies, there could, in fact, be no “Asian Century.”
By Ram Madhav Founding Member of the Governing Council of India Foundation (Hindu Nationalist RSS)
"...no one wants the present world order to continue except the US and its [Western] allies."
The conflict in Ukraine has begun reshaping the global order. Ram Madhav, Former National General Secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party and Member of the Governing Council of India Foundation, questions the legitimacy of the Western leadership model for “Ukraine Shifting the World Order”. Shedding light on the increasingly heteropolar nature of our world, he advocates for a new world order based on 21st century realities: one where nationalism and liberalism can coexist and where the Global South is a primary stakeholder.
The Western leadership model
Two important questions arise. Firstly, is a uniform world order wedded to those three principles mandatory for the world, or can there be diversity? Secondly, who is responsible for wrecking the current liberal order? The Western powers themselves or their recalcitrant challengers like Russia and China?
After the Second World War, Western leadership villainized national identity. Nationalism was blamed for the two wars and all modern nation-states were mandated to follow the same template: liberal democracy, open market capitalism and globalization. Other forms were condemned as retrograde. When India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru mobilized nations to build a non-alignment movement, the Western leadership disapprovingly dubbed him a "neutralist". The Soviet Union finally collapsed in 1991, and a wave of enthusiasm engulfed the Western world. A unipolar world order based on Western liberal principles seemed inevitable and a fait accompli.
Fukuyama's 1992 book The End of History and the Last Man argued Western liberal democracies would become "the endpoint of mankind’s socio-cultural evolution, and the final form of human government". Samuel Huntington directly challenged Fukuyama with his provocative 1996 "Clash of Civilizations" thesis, stating that far from unipolarity, the ideological world had been divided on civilizational identities, the new source of conflict in the world, with "each learning to coexist with the others". Later years proved that the collapse of the Soviet Union had not moved the world from bipolarity to unipolarity, but to multipolarity. Several nation-states, with long cultural and civilizational histories, like China, Arab countries and India, have emerged as the new poles in the world. We also witnessed the rise of non-state poles - multinational corporations, social media giants, new age religious movements, non-governmental bodies like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Oxfam and CARE, and even terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda and ISIS. With influences beyond the national boundaries of the states, these created a heteropolar world.
The erosion of the liberal democratic world order is a Western failure
The hegemonic nature of the world order is eroding with the rise of the heteropolar world. Lofty ideals that it cherished - liberal democracy, open markets, human rights and multilateralism - have been facing severe scrutiny and challenge in the last two decades. Unfortunately, the institutions created for sustaining that world order have increasingly grown weak and ineffective. The world appears to be moving inexorably in the direction of anarchy. The Ukrainian-Russian war is the latest, not the first, in the sequence of events that have catalyzed the collapse of the old world order. The West wants the world to believe that Russia and Putin were the culprits for ushering in anarchy and attempting to destroy what they had built over the last seven decades. But the West cannot escape responsibility for the failure of its hegemony.
The New Delhi government fears its expansionist neighbor but is deeply wary about getting in the middle of a brawl with Beijing.
By Hal Brands
So how might India react if China attacked Taiwan? Although India can’t project much military power east of the Malacca Strait, it could still, in theory, do a lot. US officials quietly hope that India might grant access to its Andaman and Nicobar Islands, in the eastern Bay of Bengal, to facilitate a blockade of China’s oil supplies. The Indian Navy could help keep Chinese ships out of the Indian Ocean; perhaps the Indian Army could distract China by turning up the heat in the Himalayas.
New Delhi has a real stake in the survival of a free Taiwan. China has a punishing strategic geography, in that it faces security challenges on land and at sea. If taking Taiwan gave China preeminence in maritime Asia, though, Beijing could then pivot to settle affairs with India on land.
Expect a “turn toward the South” once China’s Taiwan problem is resolved, one Indian defense official told me. And in general, a world in which China is emboldened — and the US and its democratic allies are badly bloodied — by a Taiwan conflict would be very nasty for India.
But none of this ensures that India will cast its lot, militarily or diplomatically, with a pro-Taiwan coalition. Appeals to common democratic values or norms of nonaggression won’t persuade India to aid Taiwan any more than they have induced it to help Ukraine.
Armchair strategists might dream of opening a second front in the Himalayas, but India might be paralyzed by fear that openly aiding the US anywhere would simply give China a pretext to batter overmatched, unprepared Indian forces on their shared frontier.
The Modi government has been happy to have America’s help in dealing with India’s China problem but is far more reluctant to return the favor by courting trouble in the Western Pacific.
What India would do in a Taiwan conflict is really anyone’s guess. The most nuanced assessment I heard came from a longtime Indian diplomat. A decade ago, he said, India would definitely have sat on the sidelines. Today, support for Taiwan and the democratic coalition is conceivable, but not likely. After another five years of tension with China and cooperation with the Quad, though, who knows?
Optimists in Washington might take this assessment as evidence that India is moving in the right direction. Pessimists might point out that there is still a long way to go, and not much time to get there.
India was reportedly not invited, according to informed sources.
Beijing: China held a meeting this week with 19 countries from the Indian Ocean region in which India was conspicuously absent.
The China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA), an organisation connected with the Chinese Foreign Ministry held a meeting of the China-Indian Ocean Region Forum on Development Cooperation on November 21, in which 19 countries took part, according to a press release issued by the organisation.
The meeting was held in a hybrid manner under the theme of "Shared Development: Theory and Practice from the Perspective of the Blue Economy" in Kunming, Yunnan Province, it said.
Representatives of 19 countries, including Indonesia, Pakistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal, Afghanistan, Iran, Oman, South Africa, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, Seychelles, Madagascar, Mauritius, Djibouti, Australia and representatives of 3 international organisations were present, it said.
India was reportedly not invited, according to informed sources.
Last year, China held a meeting with some South Asian countries on COVID-19 vaccine cooperation without the participation of India.
CIDCA is headed by Luo Zhaohui, the former Vice Foreign Minister and Ambassador to India.
According to the official website of the organisation, he is the Secretary of the CPC (the ruling Communist Party of China) Leadership Group of CIDCA.
CIDCA's official website said the aims of the organisation is to formulate strategic guidelines, plans and policies for foreign aid, coordinate and offer advice on major foreign aid issues, advance the country's reforms in matters involving foreign aid, and identify major programmes, supervise and evaluate their implementation.
During his tour of Sri Lanka in January this year, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi proposed to establish a “forum on the development of Indian Ocean Island Countries.” When asked whether the CIDCA meeting is the same that is proposed by Wang, the Chinese Foreign Ministry here has clarified to the media that the November 21 meeting was not part of it.
At the November 21 meeting, China has proposed to establish a marine disaster prevention and mitigation cooperation mechanism between China and countries in the Indian Ocean region, the CIDCA press release said.
China is ready to provide necessary financial, material, and technical support to countries in need, it said.
China is vying for influence in the strategic Indian Ocean region with substantial investments in ports and infrastructure investments in several countries, including Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
While China has established a full-fledged naval base in Djibouti, its first outside the country, Beijing has acquired the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka on a 99-year lease besides building the port at Pakistan's Gwadar in the Arabian Sea opposite India's western coast besides infrastructure investments in the Maldives.
The Chinese forum apparently is aimed at countering India's strong influence in the Indian Ocean region where India-backed organisations like the Indian Ocean Rim Association, (IORA), which has a membership of 23 countries have taken strong roots.
China is a dialogue partner in the IORA formed in 1997.
IORA became an observer to the UN General Assembly and the African Union in 2015.
Besides the IORA, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has proposed “Security and Growth for All in the Region” (SAGAR) in 2015 for active cooperation among the littoral countries of the Indian Ocean region.
The Indian Navy-backed ‘Indian Ocean Naval Symposium' (IONS) seeks to increase maritime cooperation among navies of the region.
Since the June 2020 Galwan Valley clash between Chinese and Indian armies, bilateral ties have been severely hit.
Beijing’s military and infrastructure advantage has transformed the crisis and left New Delhi on the defensive.
The widening power gap between India and China—military, technological, economic, and diplomatic—now constrains New Delhi’s options on the border. It also raises tough questions for India’s geopolitical partnerships, such as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (known as the Quad), and its aggressive approach toward Pakistan. The border crisis will hang over India’s decision-making for the foreseeable future.
The risk of an accidental military escalation between Asia’s most populous countries—both nuclear powers—has increased significantly since 2020. This will continue unless Modi and Xi find a new modus vivendi. Establishing guardrails in the relationship will require political imagination and an honest appraisal of relative strengths; failing that, New Delhi faces tough geopolitical choices. It has so far eschewed any security-centric step with the Quad that could provoke Beijing, but murmurs from its partners about reticent Indian policy are bound to get louder. Meanwhile, India’s reliance on Russia for military equipment and ammunition now falls under a cloud of suspicion. And an unstable border with China prevents India from targeting Pakistan, a tactic that has proved politically rewarding for Modi.
This marks the third straight winter that around 50,000 Indian reinforcements will spend in Ladakh’s inhospitable terrain in the northern Himalayas, warding off an equal number of Chinese troops stationed a few miles away. Despite intermittent dialogue between the two militaries, Indian Army Chief Gen. Manoj Pande recently confirmed that China has not reduced its forces at the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Chinese infrastructure construction along the border is “going on unabated,” he said—confirmed by independent satellite imagery and echoed by the latest U.S. Defense Department report on China. Pande said the situation is “stable but unpredictable.” That unpredictability has become structural.
India’s military and political leaders now confront a reality at the border that should have jolted them into serious action: China has a distinct advantage over India, which it has consolidated since 2020. By investing in a long-term military presence in one of the most remote places on Earth, the PLA has considerably reduced the time it would need to launch a military operation against India. New military garrisons, roads, and bridges would allow for rapid deployment and make clear that Beijing is not considering a broader retreat. The Indian military has responded by diverting certain forces intended for the border with Pakistan toward its disputed border with China. It has deployed additional ground forces to prevent further PLA ingress in Ladakh and constructed supporting infrastructure. Meanwhile, New Delhi’s political leadership is conspicuous in its silence, projecting a sense of normalcy.
Beijing refuses to discuss two of the areas in Ladakh, where its forces have blocked Indian patrols since 2020. In five other areas, Chinese troops have stepped back by a few miles but asked India to do the same and create a no-patrolling zone. This move denies India its right to patrol areas as planned before the border crisis began. The PLA has flatly refused to discuss de-escalation, in which both armies would pull back by a substantive distance. The question of each side withdrawing its additional troops from Ladakh is not even on the agenda. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson rejected any demand to restore the situation along the LAC as it existed before May 2020. The PLA continues to downplay the severity of the situation, instead emphasizing stability in its ties with India.
It would mark only the second time the leaders of India and Russia haven’t met face to face since 2000, when the relationship was elevated to a strategic partnership. The summit, usually held in December, was cancelled just once in 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Bloomberg, Modi’s government is trying to balance between Moscow, a key provider of weapons and cheap energy, and the United States and its allies, which have imposed sanctions and price caps on Russian oil.
Since Russia’s invasion began, India has been one of the biggest swing nations. Modi’s government abstained from United Nations votes to condemn Putin’s war and held back from participating in U.S.-led efforts to sanction Moscow, using the opportunity to snatch up cheap Russian oil.
Brawling on the roof of the world
The most likely flashpoints in Asia are generally thought to be the Taiwan Strait, the South China Sea and the Korean peninsula. This week, though, attention turned to the Himalayas and the 3,440-km (2,150-mile) border, much of it disputed, between the world’s most populous powers. News of a high-altitude brawl on December 9th has trickled down from the mountains.
The border disputes date back to the early 20th century when Britain demarcated spheres of influence between British India and Tibet (not in those days under Chinese subjugation). At the western end of the frontier, India claims Aksai Chin, an area under Chinese control in the Xinjiang region. In the eastern sector, China claims the whole of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh as a historical part of Tibet: an earlier Dalai Lama was born in its Tawang monastery. Sixty years ago India and China fought a nasty war over the disputed line. It ended with India humiliated by the People’s Liberation Army (pla).
In the decades since, confrontations have often taken place. But thanks to protocols agreed between the two countries—including a ban on using firearms when patrols clash—most have been tokenistic. Until recently, both sides tacitly acknowledged the other’s patrol routes along the contested Line of Actual Control (lac). When rival patrols met, warning banners were raised and sharp words exchanged, but little worse.
That changed in 2020 when the remote Galwan valley, in Ladakh in the western sector, saw a terrible mêlée that left 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers dead. They were the first fatalities along the frontier since 1975. The latest incident was in the eastern sector near Tawang, and resulted in no deaths; yet it appears to have been similar to the one in Galwan. Several hundred pla soldiers—many times the usual patrol size—are said to have charged across to the Indian side of an “agreed disputed area”, in the frontier jargon. They carried tasers and spiked clubs, and were swinging “monkey fists”, steel balls on lengths of rope. Well-prepared Indian troops pushed them back, India claims, but with injuries on both sides. China says the Indians “illegally” crossed the lac and sought to block a Chinese patrol. It was the first clash in the eastern sector in years.
Though the details of such incidents are always contested, and neither side’s account is reliable, the Galwan fracas appeared to represent a direct Chinese challenge to the status quo. It occurred after China had built new roads along the border and reinforced it with troops and equipment. It is now doing much the same in the eastern sector and India, as ever, is scrambling to keep up. “Unpredictability” along the frontier, writes Sushant Singh of the Centre for Policy Research in Delhi, “has become structural”.
To manage the tensions that it has done so much to increase, China may well propose to establish buffer zones in the east, just as the two sides have done in the west. Given that such zones often mean India being shut out of areas that it had previously patrolled, they are tantamount to an Indian retreat. Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, would be extremely reluctant to submit to this. India’s political opposition senses that he is vulnerable on the issue.
Mr Modi once invited President Xi Jinping to his home state to celebrate the Indian prime minister’s birthday. Such chumminess is long gone. China says the border dispute should be isolated from the two countries’ broader relationship. But India considers a peaceful border a precondition for normal ties, says Tanvi Madan of the Brookings Institution, a think-tank in Washington. Since Galwan, India has blocked a lot of Chinese investment and banned Chinese apps. Official visits are curtailed. The two leaders have had one brief exchange in three years, at the g20 summit in Bali.
Unthinkable under past administrations, the rapid arming of Japan has the support of about 70 percent of voters, polls say.
Japan has said it would begin a once-unthinkable $320bn military build-up that would arm it with missiles capable of striking China and ready it for a sustained conflict as regional tensions and Russia’s Ukraine invasion stoke war fears.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s government worries that Russia has set a precedent that will encourage China to attack Taiwan, threatening nearby Japanese islands, disrupting supplies of advanced semiconductors, and putting a potential stranglehold on sea lanes that supply Middle East oil.
Japan’s post-World War II constitution does not officially recognise the military and limits it to nominally self-defensive capabilities.
In its sweeping five-year plan and revamped national security strategy, the government said on Friday it would also stockpile spare parts and other munitions, reinforce logistics, develop cyber-warfare capabilities, and cooperate more closely with the United States and other like-minded nations to deter threats to the established international order.
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a serious violation of laws that forbid the use of force and has shaken the foundations of the international order,” it said in the national security paper.
“The strategic challenge posed by China is the biggest Japan has ever faced.”
Unthinkable under past administrations, the rapid arming of Japan, which already hosts US forces, including a carrier strike group and a Marine expeditionary force, has the backing of most voters, according to opinion polls. Some surveys put support as high as 70 percent of voters.
Kishida’s plan will double defence outlays to about 2 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) over the next five years, and increase the defence ministry’s share to about one-tenth of all public spending.
It will also make Japan the world’s third-biggest military spender after the US and China, based on current budgets.
The five-year spending roadmap did not come with a detailed plan for how Kishida’s administration would pay for it, as ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers continue to discuss whether to raise taxes or borrow money.
The money will fund projects including the acquisition of what Japan calls “counterstrike capacity” – the ability to hit launch sites that threaten the country.
The documents warn that Japan’s current missile interception systems are no longer sufficient and a “counterstrike capacity is necessary”.
While Japanese governments have long suggested that counterstrikes to neutralise enemy attacks would be permissible under the constitution, there has been little appetite to secure the capacity.
That has shifted with the continued growth of Chinese military might and a record volley of North Korean missile launches in recent months, including over Japanese territory.
Still, in a nod to the sensitivity of the issue, the documents rule out preemptive strikes, and insist Japan is committed to “an exclusively defence-oriented policy”.
Its language on relations with both China and Russia has hardened significantly.
The strategy document previously said Japan was seeking a “mutually beneficial strategic partnership” with Beijing, a phrase that has disappeared from this iteration.
Instead it suggests a “constructive and stable relationship” and better communication.
China’s foreign ministry on Friday urged Japan to “reflect on its policies”.
“Japan disregards the facts, deviates from the common understandings between China and Japan and its commitment to bilateral relations, and discredits China,” ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters.
By Ajai Shukla
Mr. Shukla is a strategic affairs analyst and former Indian Army officer.
Soldiers from China and India, nuclear-armed Asian neighbors, have been clashing on their disputed border with an alarming frequency owing to the rise of aggressive nationalisms in President Xi Jinping’s China and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s India. Insecurity is also growing in New Delhi and Beijing over intensified construction of border infrastructure by both countries. And mutual suspicion is deepening as China contemplates the increasing strategic cooperation between the United States and India as competition and conflict between Washington and Beijing intensifies.
Throughout the 1960s and the ’70s, India’s military, traumatized by China’s comprehensive victory and fearful of setting off another conflagration, deployed well to the rear of the border, which was covered only by long-range patrols. In the early 1980s, the Indian military leadership came to be dominated by a new generation of bolder commanders and New Delhi greenlighted a move forward, much closer to the Line of Actual Control.
Between 1989 and 2005, the Indian and Chinese sides had 15 meetings and no blood was shed for 30 years. After the Gandhi-Deng meeting, the two sides signed an agreement in 1993 for restraint and joint action on the disputed border whenever Indian and Chinese patrols differed on the alignment of the LAC. It was followed by four more pacts, aimed at keeping the peace on the border.
Minor Chinese intrusions in Ladakh in 2008, 2013 and 2014 were resolved through dialogue. A major escalation followed in June 2017 in the Doklam Plateau in the Himalayas, where India, China and Bhutan meet. The Chinese military was building a road into the area, which is claimed by both China and Bhutan.
The plateau is close to “Chicken’s Neck,” a narrow corridor of Indian territory that connects mainland India to its northeastern states, an area the size of Oregon, where 45 million people live. India saw the Chinese incursion and construction as a dangerous move toward control over the Doklam Plateau, and it reawakened New Delhi’s fear of China cutting off northeastern India in a war by taking over Chicken’s Neck.
For New Delhi, China’s new aggressiveness presents a clear dilemma: Should India continue to build strategic and military relations with the United States and the partnership of America, Australia, Japan and India — known as the Quad — even though Beijing has made it clear it sees the Quad as an anti-China grouping? While the Quad, and its more overtly militaristic version, the AUKUS (Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States) alliance, constitute a viable deterrent to China in the maritime Indo-Pacific theater, India is the only partner that confronts China on its land border.
From New Delhi’s perspective, the Chinese military aggression on the disputed border is the price India is paying for joining hands with the Western alliance. New Delhi takes pains to portray its independence, even turning down an American offer of assistance against China at the time of the 2020 intrusions in Ladakh. New Delhi has restricted Indo-U.S. cooperation to the realm of intelligence and privately asked Washington to lower the rhetoric over China. This is unlikely to change.
Within India, Mr. Modi’s strongman image has taken a dent from the confrontation with China. His insistence that India has not lost territory to China provides ammunition to his supporters, but the numbers of his blind supporters have dwindled. The Chinese military’s most recent aggression shows that Beijing continues to fuel the confrontation, and relations between India and China face a negative spiral without a predictable end. The political cost to Mr. Modi, it seems, will eventually be decided in Beijing as much as in New Delhi.