Millennium Post

Cold war brewing

Cold war brewing
The dragon seems to be showing its reluctance, once again. While the increasing presence of China's armed People's Liberation Army (PLA), near Doklam, does not constitute an immediate threat of escalation, it clearly manifests that the issue has yet not been entirely written off. The recent agreement ending the stand-off did not lead to a complete withdrawal of troops from the Doklam plateau as Beijing abides by its old habit of delving into all options to regain its upper hand. As a result, the PLA has strengthened supply lines and raised troop levels in the surrounding areas. India, too, has done the same on its side of the border, in the recent weeks. But, as such deployments on both sides do not change the status quo, the chances of a re-escalation cannot be ruled out. Notably, at times, it seems as though both countries are getting along well and at other times, not so much. The tactical doubt between both the countries has been illustrated by military standoffs on a number of previous occasions too. Doklam will count only as a part of the initial series of incidents – alongside those at Depsang in 2013 and Chumur in 2014, both along the Line of Actual Control in the western sector of the disputed boundary – that marks a change in the nature of engagement between the Indian and Chinese armed forces and governments. It is, undoubtedly, the result of a rise in the economic strength, military strengths, and regional and global political ambitions of the two countries. And, it calls for a re-evaluation of the prevailing bilateral agreements as well as an arbitration on the boundary, if bilateral ties are not to decay. While New Delhi believes that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and China's opposition to Indian entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group threaten India's national security, Beijing thinks that India is using Taiwan, the Dalai Lama, and the ongoing South China Sea issue as bargaining chips. Though the US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, in his recent visit to India, promised to deepen strategic and economic ties in the face of China's growing influence in the region, it was merely Washington's tactics of seeking support from countries like India, Japan, Australia, Philippines and Vietnam to build formal alliances against China. In fact, the US had always planned to use India as a proxy against China, hoping to use a divide-and-rule strategy. India agreed to become a part of this military strategic partnership in 2016 by signing a Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement with Washington. Time has now come that India would have to understand the US's strategic double game. Amid the prevailing geopolitical reality of US-China interdependence, it appears farcical when the US claims that strong defence ties with India can challenge China's rising regional influence. In a clear display of Beijing's precedence for the US, President Donald Trump's first visit to Asia in early November would also start with China. Back home, a confused New Delhi is just watching the US choreography with Pakistan and China carefully unfurl itself. While it is an established fact that America's relationship with India would never come at the expense of Pakistan, why would India waste its energy on this issue? Not to forget, the US courted China against the Soviet Union during the Cold War and now it is aiming to make a sequel of that with India against China in the new cold war. It may be noted that China has frequently warned India and other Asian countries about forming alliances against it, asserting that Trump's policies are paradoxical and unreliable. Beijing has also cleared its stance that an informal alliance, contemplated during the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore in June this year, would compel it for a war – cold or hot. China also believes that India's US-backed conspiracies against Beijing are needless because Beijing poses no national-security threat to New Delhi. But, since India cannot change its identity as a democracy – which millions of Indians are justifiably proud of, New Delhi would have to realise the pros and cons of shaking hands with the anti-China axis. Remember, in the recent past, despite escalating tensions on the border, Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has been appreciated as a strong leader on a number of occasions, by the Chinese people and the otherwise hate-billowing Chinese media. And, any move in an unanticipated rush would generate suspicion and prejudice at the people-to-people level, on both sides. Nevertheless, any alliance against Beijing would lead the dragon towards building a firm, sustainable and comprehensive security plan for developing a win-win cooperation in the changing world. And, since repression and conflict would be in the dark-room, it would give birth to an illegitimate child, the 'cold war'.

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