The year 2019 saw an upward momentum of China with its risen economy to Number Two in the world, vigorously attempting to force a transition from an ‘unprecedentedly unipolar’ world which was led by USA as its policeman, especially in the Middle East for two decades after it sank the Soviet Union in the Cold War. It has left Middle East in a mess, and US sanctions on Iran and Russia has drawn them closer with China, to attempt a grouping as the year ends with a first ever Naval Exercise in the Gulf where a US carrier is operating. Iran showed up a submarine and Indian Navy must be tailing!
Today USA is looking at askance with Carapace, which is the noun for the protective shell on the back of some animals such as tortoises, and India Defence Forum refers to it as an attitude of arrogance by Republicans in USA and more recently President Trump of USA who thought he had a protective shell to do as he pleased, and even entered into a un winnable Trade War with China. Trump was hoping to throttle China’s technology rise unaware China had already absorbed, bought and poached major technologies like 5/6G, Robotics, AI and Space which are now maturing in China to threaten USA, also in the military sphere of Cyber. Future wars will be cyber and space based.
This situation and attitudes of USA has led to a weakening of NATO and a new 21st century ‘international balance’ characterized by multi-polarity and co-governance with China in International Affairs and Climate change. In the Far East it is evident as China grabbed the South China Sea without a challenge, despite currently the United States remains the world’s only military superpower. War as a means has receded, and China has emerged as a critical player in this rebalanced world of diminishing U.S. power and influence, with a show of latest weaponry on 1st October celebrating its 70th anniversary with a massive parade, and never seen before with DF-17 Hypersonic missiles, that USA and the world has noted. Russia has followed up with showing of its Avanguard missile and a new class of submarines, with a better foreign policy and Oil led economy !
India’s economy too arrived on the scene as PM Modi took reins, after PM Manmohan Singh inked a Nuclear Deal with USA. President Bush and Condelezza Rice in a Quid Pro Quo facilitated an approval by China in the Nuclear Suppliers Group(NSG) with China’s top leadership, with a favour to Pakistan. China cited its Grandfather NPT agreement for another nuclear plant to Pakistan which fact is still doubted in India. China and Pakistan are close partners.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi mesmerized the voters in 2013 with his wonderful idea of a new India sans corruption and return of stashed FFE. Modi’s appropriate local wardrobe for every occasion, growth from humble beginnings as a RSS Pracharak and powerful oratory. He was supported by Non Resident Indians(NRIs), especially in USA with the use of powerful messages on Social Media, especially by Gujararatis longing for a Gujarati leader after Gandhi and Sardar Patel. Modi arrived with a well deserved powerful showing at the hustings in 2014, and a more decisive one in 2019. PM Modi had and has, the full support of his party and compatriot Home Minister Amit Shah colleagues from Gujarat who tided the killings in the state in 2002 with the mixed BJP/RSS right wing cadres.
Slowly Hindu Nationalism got revived among the majority belt of India who revere Ram as the main Hindu character God who showed the path of righteousness. Ram is the central figure in the mythological Ramayana recited from ancient BC times and in Hinduism. It puts Vishnu the God that provides in the Hindu Triumvirate of Bramha The Creator, Vishnu the Giver and Shiva the Destroyer as Ram’s incarnation. BJP made Hindus feel they are main inheritors of India and RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat regularly makes it clear to all who live in India, they should follow Hindutva alongside their faith and demanded actions to please Hindus like one to make a Grand Ram Temple at the site of the Babri Masjid destroyed by BJP supporters in 1992. BJP put much into BJP’s Election Manifesto.
PM Modi told US Congress India had put away the baggage of the past with USA. The composition was working and undoubtedly India has moved on the world stage with PM Modi’s ‘one to one’ meetings with World Leaders and foreign policy maneuverings and a beefed up military that Pakistan tries to de-rail. China fears India’s rise can be threatening and a QUAD poses challenges especially to its trade in the Indian Ocean Region and India’s truck with USA with large military supplies. India has risen militarily and soon a CDS may harness the kinetic and deterrent power of India with jointness, to truly bare Indian Armed Forces capability.
Yet much energy and economy of BJP was spent by the Government on fulfilling the manifesto promises after galloping the economy to over 7.5 % with low Oil and Gas prices globally. Golden opportunities were available to amend Non Alignment policies with liberal economics permitted by Globalisation. Like in 1991-3, BJP could have opened the flood gates for Foreign Investments that the world looked to, and still does, but the Government lost its eye on the economy with RSS encouraging Swadeshi (Make do in India) so jobs did not expand in the manufacturing sector for a burgeoning youth bulge to indulge. Instead BJP Government with hard hold on Institutions tightened action on checking every business and defaulter payees. Good business lost confidence to take risks. Economy spluttered in 2019 and the spending for defence has consequently suffered most, and Government implemented no measures on fruitless spending best depicted by the galloping Rs 35,000 cr($ 5 billon) loss in Air India and growing, as oil and gas prices have soared.
China allowed its stashed wealth in Hong Kong into Shenzen and SEZs and capitalized on the opportunities presented by globalisation and the informatisation of a controlled society with Internet and AI and one party rule with technocrat leaders, to propel itself forward, economically, socially and technologically. China baited North Korea to take on President Trump and in the geopolitical context the security and defense implications for the region looked askance to China. ASEAN changed the contours of the Code of Conduct to maintain status quo in the South China Sea dispute with Laos and Cambodia backing away. Vietnam concentrated on its economy, to gain from Industries moving out of China with the US Trade War.
China sees a change in the types of conflicts for which it needs to prepare and in the domains in which it will be required to compete and potentially contest with nations and uses cheque book diplomacy in Africa. China has become a critical player in this rebalanced world of diminishing U.S. power and influence. In this geopolitical context there are security and defense implications for India and for the region.
India has targeted a challenging $ 5 trill economy by 2024 and will need immediately to grow at 8% to 10% at least to add to its $ 3 trillion GDP. China has again begun to grow at above 5% with some BRI investments and sale of defence goods paying off, and could add $ 750 bill a year to its $ 13 trillion GDP.
Hence India has to accept that with a slowing economy it has considerable limitations to what the Indian leadership can do.
So IDF feels India must employ Indian talent and business to deliver with a massive opening of its economy to private sector as it has FFE reserves, and let some un-actionable bygones be bygones and explain to RSS that is true SWADESHI ………..i.e Foreign investment and Technology with Indian labour and leave it to India’s brilliant managers to deliver. It is not too late to postpone other issues in the Manifesto, and such deep nationalism. There can be Unity in Diversity with the laws India already has, and IDF hopes the Election Commission and the fine Judiciary remain true to the ideals of the Constitution to guide India high through choppy waters.
HAPPY NEW YEAR ! Shan No Varuna.