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The week ahead

Donald Trump must have allowed Xi Jinping win the golf games they played.

The week ahead
Two developments. Seven days. By the end of this week, the foreign and security policy elite of the country will find the world a vastly different place. Now, this seems a little like a riddle. Winston Churchill, the wartime Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has been paraphrased here, only to point that either a nation-state is a realist in the classical sense or in the sense Kenneth Waltz used the political philosophy of realism to call it neo-realism.

Let me clarify. On Friday (12 May), the so-called fire-breathing Trumpeteering USA concluded a trade agreement with China. It was so under the radar that if the Washington embassy of New Delhi had not given a heads-up to South Block, a Sino-Pak centric Narendra Modi government would have missed the potentially far-reaching development. Of course, the agreement was not so big: it was about removing a non-tariff barrier for American beef to be sold in Chinese markets and cooked Chinese fowl to be sold in US supermarkets.

Those in India who believed that US and China would be at each other's throats following the scripts of Trump during the poll season, and they would play out the Chankyan principles and get to have the middle ground for themselves, truly sold a lemon to the country's people.

New Delhi clearly did not follow the dictum that former Guyanaese President and a Marxist, Forbes Burnham had imparted during the 1982 NAM summit. He had said when one owes a million dollars, one is a creditor; when one owes a billion dollars, one is a partner. With $ 3 trillion dollars worth of T-bonds in Chinese custody, the USA is clearly a partner!

As if to rub salt on the wound that had opened up for the Indian policy elite, the trade agreement has provisions that the Chinese have chosen to receive liquefied natural gas – possibly obtained from the extremely environmentally harmful process of fracking – from the US while Beijing even has accepted to remove some market regulations for US investors.

Clearly, Donald Trump must have allowed Xi Jinping win the golf games they played at Mar-a-Lago resort that was Trump's playground for long. Not for him the salubrious Camp David to do business!

For the Indian policy-makers, Sunday (14 May) and Monday (15 May) must have fast disappearing fingernails; and potentially on Monday, when 110 nation-states congregate in Beijing to sign on to the BRI (Belt-Road Initiative), the policymakers will understand how facetious is the 'sovereignty' issue considering the country is not mobilised to march into Gilgit-Baltistan right away waving a Parliamentary resolution and the flag.

Just in Pakistan, Beijing would be investing $48 billion for the BRI project, which included the so-called China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, (CPEC). Astonishingly, a young representative of the Pakistan government told the global audience on CGTN –p the new English language television channel - that they would ensure 18 per cent return on investment (RoI) annually on that largest single tranche spending bill China has promised our Western neighbour. A question seems moot for now: has the Sharif Family Inc decided to be less kleptocratic than before? Or have the 'Pindi folks controlled their appetite for new 'toys for boys.'

An informed friend was of help to this writer who is far away from the boiling pot of New Delhi, which the bureaucracy barely notices, considering they are not sure whether the country extends east of the Ganges.

He talked about three sets of facts: (a) Foreign Secretary (FS) S Jaishankar, though serving on an extension of service, is setting policies on his own despite having a Foreign Minister in Sushma Swaraj (though she is recuperating from a kidney ailment) and having the Prime Minister's National Security Adviser, Ajit Kumar Doval who could have loomed over him. Only Pakistan policy is with the PMO.

Fact (b): On internal security issues portfolio, Kashmir policy has been detached from the first floor office of Doval – a lifelong senior intelligence official who dealt with Kashmir at an operational level for long, and theorised about it for even longer since he headed, currently the think-tank of think-tanks, Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) that has an RSS affiliation. The PM is running the Kashmir policy directly, albeit in a collegial manner.

Fact (c): No one knows who is running the China policy for if it is Jaishankar, this major gaffe by which India by the end of this week will find itself totally isolated, would not have happened. For a highly skilled diplomat, the sophistication of thought the FS brought to South Block, should have accounted for an understanding of the geopolitical target board. He would have surely got the geoeconomics of the Chinese dollar reserve, the inclusion of the Yuan as a reserve currency by the IMF, and its reach.

Meanwhile, the new army chief, General Bipin Rawat has clearly been told that he is the chief of army staff (COAS) of the third largest force in the world. He is all fire and brimstone now. He appeared looking askance when two brave soldiers were killed and their heads severed by the Pakistan armed forces in a manner that does not find support any statute of the laws of War.

Instead, he has told us we would choose the time and place for our riposte. What should differentiate us from Pakistan – as a regional main power who has civilisational values to maintain – if we follow the various Conventions signed at Geneva in the period soon after the WW II upholding laws of war.

(The views expressed are strictly personal.)
Pinaki Bhattacharya

Pinaki Bhattacharya

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