Changing Geopolitical World Order
- PM Modi is scheduled to visit Beijing soon for the “Shanghai Cooperation Organisation” (SCO) summit.
- And an informal bilateral with China (on the sidelines) is on the agenda, which assumes significance in the current global geo-political context.
What is the emerging geopolitical world order?
- Turbulence in global politics and some domestic concerns about India “softening” its China policy.
- Tensions between major international players has been mounting with the “US (and allies) vs. Russia” standoff arguably getting worse.
- Both countries have been confronting each other through proxies in major conflict zones like Ukraine, Syria and Afghanistan.
- The recent U.S.-French-British missile strikes in Syria were a significant flare up although it has now emerged that the Russians were intimated in advance.
- This prompt intimation helped in moving out people and equipment in time.
- But there is always a serious risk of miscalculation at the local level that might spark off a direct confrontation between the major powers.
- The U.S. has passed a new law called “Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act” (CAATSA).
- This empowers the US President to impose sanctions on any company/entity which has business ties with a country that is already facing US sanctions.
- Notably, Russia is currently under US sanctions which implies that counties like India, which have deep defence ties with Russia, could also be implicated.
- Significantly, US had recently widened its sanctions ambit by cracking down on Russian multinationals whose stocks are internationally traded.
China’s Detente –
- While the U.S. has been increasing pressure on Russia, it has strikingly started soft peddling its dealing with China.
- Notably, India is being asked sternly to make efforts to address its trade surplus of about $25 billion with the U.S. repeatedly.
- But on the contrary, China holds a humongous $375 billion trade surplus with the US, which is now being meekly requested to addressing this issue.
- More at odds is the fact that 2017 alone saw China enhance its trade surplus with the US by about $28 billion.
- USA’s decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has effectively benefited China in the “Pacific Rim”.
- This has given China more leverage in negotiating the “Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership” (RCEP) to its advantage.
- Notably, RCEP is being envisioned as a trade block comprising of the “ASEAN + six” countries of which India is also a part.
- Uncertainty prevailing in the seemingly impulsive U.S. foreign policy is driving even its closest allies to hedge their options.
- Japanese PM Abe and Mr. Xi are to exchange visits soon, which is a significant development for the countries that were at the brink of war some 5 years ago.
- Japan (like India) is also concerned about China’s global assertiveness and the geopolitical implications of its “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI).
- Yet, Mr. Abe seems to have seen merit in engaging with China as US is has been very inconsistent in its commitment to the region.
- China on the other hand derives a positive from the fact that a longstanding stated close US ally is open to engaging with it on significant domains.
How is it going to affect India?
- The escalation of the US Russia acrimony could put India under intense pressure, which could prove detrimental in sustaining its defence arsenal.
- Russia has already upgraded its defence ties with Pakistan and China, and it could become bilaterally catastrophic for India to disengage with Russia.
- As the Russia-China axis has strengthened lately, it is prudent for India to engage now China to hedge its diplomatic manoeuvres.
- Additionally, it is also a positive that, the US policy focus is presently engaged elsewhere, and that the Chinese frontier is seeing a worldwide easing.
- A softening stand towards China doesn’t mean that India will have to compromise on its core economic and strategic interests.
- We can’t overlook China’s foray into the Indian neighbourhood, the border skirmishes, and the China-Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC).
- But we can seek to cooperate on other areas despite these thorny issues with, which could eventually help in resolving these core concerns too.
- While asymmetries in relationships are inevitable, it is the responsibility of the policymakers to address them which is often better when done discreetly.
- The course of India-China relations in the past couple of years had created a politicised narrative of bilateral frictions.
- CPEC, Doklam, NSG, BRI and confrontations at the UNSC have all been areas led to the build-up of a strong anti-China opinion among the Indian masses.
- There is hence a public disconnect to India’s current political outreach towards China, which needs to be addressed through people-to-people engagements.
- The geopolitical reality demands India to maintain an equidistant engagement with all major powers for the time being.