With an eye on China, India renews outreach to Seychelles

An archipelago of 115 islands off the coast of East Africa, Seychelles virtually disappears when the world map is zoomed out. However, its strategic significance for India’s diplomatic endeavors in the Indian Ocean maritime space is only set to increase, especially against the backdrop of China’s increasing forays in the pristine islands.
In this context, the recent visit of India’s Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar to Seychelles on October 10 was significant to allay some of the concerns raised by the Seychelles government over the agreement on India’s build-up of military infrastructure on Assumption Island.
There have been reports floating around that suggest that there are forces within the Seychelles government who are trying to hinder India’s infrastructural ambitions in these islands. In his last press conference in August, Seychelles’ President Danny Faure had said: “We would like to relook at the agreement which does not have a legal statute on the Seychelles side. But for India, it has a legal statute. We have to go back to the drawing board.” The reason for that could be attributed to the growing intimacy with China Read more..

Read More

Namaste, Ni Hao! Sitharaman’s charm offensive signals improving India-China ties

Namaste, Ni Hao! It’s time for bonhomie and friendly gestures between India and China, who are trying to put the bitterness of the Doklam standoff behind. India’s Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s visit to Nathu La in Sikkim and her informal interaction with the Chinese troops across the border has been hailed in China as a warming signal for better India-China relations.

A video clip showing Ms. Sitharaman teaching the meaning of ‘namaste’ to the People’s Liberation Army soldiers has gone viral with several Chinese media groups sharing it widely as a positive gesture from the Indian side. “Do you know what ‘Namaste’ means?,” Mrs Sitharaman is seen asking in the clip to which one Chinese soldier responds saying: “Namaste means nice to meet you” before greeting her with a “Ni hao” in Chinese. Soon after the exchange of greetings, Ms. Sitharaman tweeted saying, “Acknowledged a row of Chinese soldiers from across the fence who were taking pictures on my reaching Nathu La.” Nathu La border post is around 30 km from Doklam where the two countries were engaged in a prolonged 73-day standoff.

Read More

With China on mind, India’s Navy Chief steps up Vietnam connect

India’s Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba is on a five-day visit to Vietnam to step up defence and security cooperation with the South Asian nation which has emerged as a pivot of India’s Act East policy.
Given the fast changing geo-strategic dynamics in the Asia-Pacific region, marked by China’s increased assertiveness in the region, the Navy Chief’s visit is being watched closely in Beijing.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s landmark visit to Hanoi in September 2016 was transformational and placed the expanding India-Vietnam ties on a new footing. During his visit, the Indian leader pledged $500 million in Lines of Credit for a host of development and defence-related projects in the Southeast Asian nation.

Read More

Chinese envoy’s post-Doklam formula for India-China ties: 1+1=11

More than a month after India and China ended their embittered standoff at the Doklam plateau, followed by a defrosting meeting between the leaders of two countries in Xiamen, China’s ambassador to India Luo Zhaohui has conjured up a new formula for improving India-China ties that envisages reconciliation and proactive cooperation between the two Asian giants. In his formulation, Doklam, with its connotations of hostility and one-upmanship, should be replaced by a synchronous dance between Asia’s leading economies.
Alluding to the defining meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in the coastal city of Xiamen on September 5, the Chinese envoy said: They sent a clear message to the world, “reconciliation” and “cooperation”.
“We should turn the old page and start a new chapter with the same pace and direction. We should dance together,” the Chinese envoy said at the National Day celebrations to mark the 68th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
“China is the largest trading partner of India. We have made a lot of progress at bilateral level, as well as in international and regional affairs. I am quite sure that with joint efforts, we will focus on cooperation, handle the difference properly, enhance mutual trust, and move forward our relations to a new height,” he said at the premises of the Chinese embassy in New Delhi on September 29.
The Chinese envoy’s 1+1 formula indicates an emerging thinking among China’s top political establishment about proactively partnering with India with a view to blending strengths and core competencies to realise dreams of national rejuvenation by both countries.

Read More

Modi’s China visit: Issues and unresolved questions

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the coastal Chinese city of Xiamen was important for several reasons. For one, this was the first time PM Modi and President Xi Jinping were meeting face-to-face since the standoff at Doklam, which saw an unprecedented sabre-ratting from the Chinese side. Scheduled ahead of the 19th Communist Party Congress, whose dates – beginning 18 October, 2017 – were announced just after the disengagement agreement, the 9th BRICS Summit – attended by the leaders of India, China, Russia, Brazil and South Africa – was showcased by Chinese President Xi Jinping as a platform for his global leadership. A combination of these circumstances, in addition to concerns expressed by the US and other powers, probably including Russia, the highly tense Korean peninsula and some quiet diplomacy by the Indian side led to the disengagement where the CBMs between the two armies firmly held, despite the jingoistic noises.
On the eve of the Chinese Communist Party Congress, the Chinese leader’s sensitivity about his projection as a global leader, with the new US president becoming less globally engaged, remains a significant domestic political factor. The post-October emergent shape of the Chinese leadership would make considerable difference as to how stable global situation would be where India’s vital interests – and its multi-vector international relationships – remain at stake. Read more….

Read More

Chinese media to India: Don’t try to use Japan to contain China

There is nothing like the India-Japan connect that gives an ascendant and assertive China jitters. Given the bonhomie and bonding that was on display between India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe in Ahmedabad and transformative outcomes that emanated from the summit meeting on September 14, the Chinese media’s backlash hardly comes as a surprise.
Dismissing the “growing intimacy” between India and Japan, the Global Times, the hawkish Chinese tabloid which led the propaganda blitz during the Doklam standoff, has warned India not to get into containment games with Japan.
“After the Doklam standoff, more voices in the Indian media instigate the country to step up cooperation with the US and Japan against China and exaggerate the geopolitical significance of closer India-Japan ties. Yet this to a large degree has exposed the vulnerable feeling of the Indian strategic circle in front of China”, the Global Times said in an op-ed article. It attacked Japan by saying “… Japan has been more narrow-minded in looking for allies globally to encircle China.”

Read More

Competitive cooperation, not rivalry for India-China ties: Bhadrakumar

After more than ten weeks of posturing and charged rhetoric during the face-off at Doklam plateau in Bhutan, India and China have signaled their intention to start afresh and improve their relationship. This was reflected in the meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the margins of the BRICS summit in Xiamen on September 5, when they decided to take a forward looking approach to the bilateral relationship.

In an interview with Soumya Nair, former diplomat M.K. Bhadrakumar talks about India’s options in dealing with a rising China and the course of India-China relationship, post-Doklam.

Read More

Strongest-ever UN sanctions on North Korea: Will it work this time?

Days after North Korea trumpeted its successful testing of a hydrogen bomb, the United Nations has slapped the strongest-ever sanctions to punish the rogue regime in Pyongyang, with the larger aim of resuming six-party talks to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.
The 15-member United Nations Security Council approved new sanctions after the US struck a deal with China and Russia, veto-wielding members of UNSC and North Korea’s top economic partners, and relented on its demand for a total ban on oil imports. Washington abandoned its hawkish stance after China and Russia cautioned about dangers of taking a harsh stand.
China and Russia, key economic allies of North Korea, fear that harsher sanctions will only worsen the crisis and a regime collapse would be a major destabilizing force for the region. China has also expressed its concerns over the deployment of Thaad, the anti-missile defence system, that poses a security threat and will only push North Korea further towards its nuclear ambitions.
The new sanctions are set to put onerous economic pressure on the deviant North Korean regime, but given President Kim’s mercurial way of functioning and his penchant for brinkmanship, it’s not clear whether this will work to bring Pyongyang to the negotiating table.
The North Korea nuclear threat will also figure in talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe in Gujarat’s capital on September 14.

Read More