Saturday 27 February 2021

Euro-Atlantic Quad takes shape under Macron ( Sunday Guardian)


A ‘coalition of the willing and the able’ should be formed from within the European members of NATO that would, in effect, form a Euro-Atlantic version of the Quad.

The Quadrilateral Alliance, a partnership that dare not speak its name in public, was formed in recognition of the need for select countries in the Indo-Pacific to work in unison, so as to ensure the maintenance of free and open access in its expansive waters. The Quad is not directed against any particular country, unless that country seeks to claim key waterways within the merged ocean as its exclusive territory and seeks to use coercive methods to keep others out. A PRC military analyst has correctly said that “the Indian Ocean is not India’s ocean”. Neither are the China Seas a part of the PRC. Both belong to the global commons. In such a context, seeking to establish choke points and control access through methods such as the occupation of uninhabited islands or rock formations, or creating artificial formations within the waters, goes against the “free and open” concept and seeks to establish ownership much the way colonising powers did over others in previous centuries. Any Code of Conduct on the South China Sea, for instance, needs to be based on the fact that the waters of the sea belong to all nations, although it may be said that by their location, the members of ASEAN have a special interest in the South China Sea remaining beyond the control of any single power or combination of countries. The Quad may find it of value to work on its own Code of Conduct ideally with ASEAN for the South China Seas that reinforces the centrality of the tenet of free and open access to the ocean. In case some members of ASEAN hesitate to sign on to such a view, individual member states such as Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines may be contacted to secure their assent to the proposition that the South China Sea belongs to the global collective, with ASEAN having the privileges associated with territorial congruence with its waters. Such a stance would be more likely were the Quad to itself become less ephemeral and tentative. It is clear which country some of the Quad members seem to be nervous about annoying through such an inevitable process, especially in the context of their experience over the past years. The years since 2013 in particular have demonstrated the need for an operationalisation and formalisation of the Quadrilateral Alliance in order to ensure that its objectives in the Indo-Pacific are met.

Just as there are Dialogue Partners in select country groups, there need to be Dialogue Partners in the case of the Quadrilateral Alliance. Vietnam and Indonesia need to be in such a list at the earliest. Many countries in Europe have almost as strong an interest in maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific as they have in ensuring the same set of conditions in the Atlantic. Merging NATO with the Quad or within an expanded security and defence construct in Asia may not be the best way of ensuring its smooth functioning. Rather than expanding the Indo-Pacific Quad by adding outside countries such as the UK and France into the alliance, it would be better for a “coalition of the willing and the able” to be formed from within the European members of NATO that would, in effect, form an Atlantic version of the Quad. Joint meetings of the Indo-Pacific Quad and the Atlantic Quad could take place at regular intervals, sometimes among the members of the two blocs, and on other occasions, with Dialogue Partners of both sides participating. Given that it is also an Atlantic power, the US may join such a Euro-Atlantic Quad besides the Indo-Pacific Quad of which it is already a part of, with a grouping of the UK, France, Germany and the US. Such an innovation should be accompanied by an expansion of the G-7 into the G-10, with the addition of Australia, South Korea and India as suggested by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. It has been said that Canada and Japan are unhappy at Johnson’s proposal to expand the G-7, but a G-10 would carry much more heft in the global community than the G-7, and make better sense in the context of evolving realities. Reports of the opposition of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga are hopefully exaggerated or inaccurate. The CCP under General Secretary Xi Jinping has understood the importance of regarding the Eurasian continent as a single entity for strategic purposes. Such comprehension has been the basis for Xi’s moves such as the Belt & Road Initiative and the establishing of the Sino-Russian alliance together with geopolitical chess grandmaster Vladimir Putin. Both Putin and Xi know that the path of their alliance towards primacy over the waters of the Atlantic needs to follow the establishment of primacy of the Sino-Russian alliance in the Indo-Pacific. Once this is established, the way is clear for the launch of a drive by the Sino-Russian alliance to establish a similar primacy over the waters of the Atlantic as well as intensified land pressure on the Baltic states and on other countries that were once part of the USSR. While the PRC would have the lead role in the Indo-Pacific, in the case of the Atlantic, it would be Russia that takes on the leadership.

President Emmanuel Macron of France is the closest of his predecessors to resembling Jacques Chirac, who in many particulars was similar in his approach to Charles de Gaulle. While the merit of some of the Macron initiatives may be the subject of debate, what is clear is that he is a strategic thinker who is unafraid to do what he believes is good for his country. President Macron has further reinforced France’s ties with India. Within the European Union, the unimaginative if steady Angela Merkel helped ensure that (with the UK no longer present), it is France that is in the driver’s seat on ideas. Creating an Atlantic Quad is essential in a context where sooner or later, the Atlantic is likely to witness the same contest for primacy that is presently being waged in the Indo-Pacific between the Sino-Russian alliance and those countries that are challenging their claim to primacy, such as India and the US.

Euro-Atlantic Quad takes shape under Macron - The Sunday Guardian Live

Tuesday 23 February 2021

Disha arrest fuels false narrative on India ( Sunday Guardian)

To assume that incarceration enhances the ability of police to glean actionable information from an individual may not be correct in several instances.

Greta Thunberg revealed a protest “toolkit” that contained a plan designed to ensure that the “Chai and Yoga” image of India got replaced with less benign alternatives. Print as well as visual media have been ecstatic about the uncovering of the toolkit outed by the Swedish climate activist. What should not be forgotten is that there will not be one but several “toolkits” giving directions in detail about how to derail societal stability and economic growth in India. Unlike this “toolkit”, many may contain instructions that, if followed, would lead to the deaths, not by accident as on January 26 but by design. Even the “toolkit” now occupying so much attention would have remained undiscovered but for the itchy fingers of two young activists, one in Sweden and the other in India. The priority is to discover these other (more toxic) “toolkits”, else it may be too late to prevent the operations planned in them from being carried out. It was obvious that there was funding and forethought in the manner in which truckloads of protestors were ferried back and forth from their villages and the Delhi border. After a few days, those camping at the border would get a ride back home, and a vehicle return with their replacements. From 2015 onwards, there has been systematic planning and execution by GHQ Rawalpindi of a design intended to ensure that global opinion replace Pakistan with India as the epicentre of hate. Those who then wrote about some of these plans, and gave details accessed through their sources in India and abroad, were not taken seriously. Not even as late as November 2019, when information was received that plans were afoot (including from afar) to cause violent disturbances coinciding with the February 2020 visit of the 45th President of the US to India. The scrimmage in the national capital that accompanied that visit and continued after Trump departed went on for months, with the authorities unable to rectify a situation where several roads into and out of the capital were blocked by the protests. Only now is the extent of the planning that took place before and during those protests becoming clearer, at least to the general public. Similarly, it may take months for the connections behind the 26 January violence to be fully visible. What is clear is that the mastermind behind even the “toolkit” was not Disha Ravi, but known and unknown people from countries that are friends of India: Canada, the US and the UK. Several of them have valid papers to freely enter India, despite not concealing their activities or their association with elements close to GHQ Rawalpindi and thereby its mentor, the PLA.

Sending a suspect to prison has long been the favoured option of police in our country. Given that several civil and police procedures date back to the 19th century, it is not a surprise that these are proving less than effective in discovering and handling the security challenges thrown up in the 21st century. Were this columnist the decision maker in the situation involving Disha Ravi, the activist would have been quizzed in her home (in the presence of her parents) about the toolkit. About its provenance and the extent to which Disha understood its implications and the linkages of the sponsor with the externally-created violence that devastated Punjab in the 1980s. Not that the fault for such lack of awareness is entirely hers. Neither the forced removal of the Pandits from the Kashmir valley nor the mayhem caused in the 1980s by the GHQ-crafted “Khalistan” movement has been adequately covered in schoolbooks. Had they been, young people would have been better aware of the toxic nature of the impulses and forces behind such tragedies, rather than serve (wittingly or otherwise) as their accomplices in the present. To assume that the degradation and deprivation caused by incarceration enhances the ability of police to glean actionable information from an individual may not be correct in several instances. Disha Ravi is small fry. The hubbub created by the circumstances of her arrest has almost certainly led others higher up the causal chain of the “toolkit” conspiracy to cover up traces of their activities, thereby making the identification of more of the principal conspirators more difficult. There is a false narrative doing the rounds in friendly capitals that India is no longer a democracy. Spectacles such as the arrest and jailing of the 21-year-old climate activist from Bangalore will not help to dispel such a falsehood. Neither will social media posts from those who are regarded as being close to the ruling party, and which point to the presumed faith of Disha Ravi. Since his swearing-in, Prime Minister Modi has established far closer ties than Manmohan Singh did with countries in the Middle East that are overwhelmingly Muslim. He has done the same with countries in Europe and elsewhere that are overwhelmingly Christian. This reflects the reality of India, which is that Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians as well as citizens belonging to other faiths have unitedly made immense contributions to progress. It has been seen that several NGOs headquartered in distant shores seem always to be in a rush to search for horror stories about India. This is partly explainable by the competition for funding. Unless such horror stories be told about our country, big cheques by unwary philanthropists to “rescue it and its people” may not get written out. The people of India have made substantial strides, and have made the country very different from what it was. However, if such beneficial change gets reflected more in the New York Times, the Guardian or Le Monde than less flattering (and accurate) reports, the pulling power of select NGOs to get donations would be less than what would get created were Katherine Mayo-type stories to be generated about the situation in India. Those engaged in fund-raising have an incentive to ensure that the journalists they feed paint a dismal picture of the world’s biggest democracy. Going through the pages of global newspapers replete with tales from sources with a financial interest in going the Mayo way, one may be forgiven for believing that it is India (where the minorities have risen to 230 million) and not Pakistan (where the Hindu population has fallen from 38% in 1947 to less than 1% now) where the elimination of minorities has taken place. That it is India (where protests that choke the national capital linger for months before finally dispersing on their own) and not the Peoples Republic of China (where those who gave early warnings of the Covid-19 pandemic were locked up) that is authoritarian.

Disha Ravi and several more like her appear to have accepted the false narrative of India having been converted into a “fascist” state run in a dictatorial fashion. What has happened to her does not dampen such propaganda but gives it fuel. It is time that the 19th century governance practices still lingering in an India filling up with hundreds of millions of young people were replaced with procedures better suited to the 21st century.

Saturday 13 February 2021

Sasikala could be the decider in TN polls ( Sunday Guardian)


Will AMMK and AIADMK collide and make certain a DMK victory, or will they form an alliance?

The All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, together with its electoral ally the BJP, faces a moment of decision now that Vivekanandan Krishnaveni Sasikala is out of prison. There was indeed a period of estrangement between her and Jayalalithaa, although the friction was caused by the influence of Sasikala’s husband Natarajan, who is no more. It may be remembered that Natarajan was a favourite of Muthuvel Karunanidhi, the DMK leader who was—to put it mildly—no friend of Jayalalithaa. The AIADMK supremo wanted V.K. Sasikala as her life partner, and not Mrs Sasikala Natarajan, although understandably, the friend and confidante of the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu could not entirely sever the emotional bond that she had with her long-time husband. It must have been difficult to navigate between these two relationships, but it must be said that Sasikala remained almost the only emotional anchor that Jayalalithaa had for much of her life. It was Jayalalithaa herself, a remarkably charming and brilliant individual, who introduced this columnist to Sasikala in Poes Garden, saying that “the relationship between me and her is as close as the relationship between you and Lakshmi”, my wife. They were very close indeed, which is why it is going to be problematic if the AIADMK were to ignore her in the manner the DMK ignored M.G. Ramachandran, that most popular of Tamil Nadu Chief Ministers. Should the AIADMK-BJP alliance not effect a reconciliation with V.K. Sasikala, the path would be clear for DMK leader M.K. Stalin to be the next Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu in alliance with the Congress Party. As for her lifestyle choices, those who found fault with Jayalalithaa about this exhibit a Victorian mentality that was out of place in the 20th century, leave alone the 21st. It was a victory for human dignity and rights when the Supreme Court decreed on 6 September 2018 that consensual same sex relationships cannot be treated as criminal the way India’s Victorian-era Section 377 made them out to be. That was among the finest judgements made by the Supreme Court of India, which should at all times play the role of guardian of the rights and freedoms of the citizen in our democracy.

Not having any children of her own, Sasikala has been a doting aunt to her nieces and nephews, among whom the most prominent is T.T.V Dhinakaran, who is the effective head of the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK). The family has in the past shown a propensity to acquire wealth and political power through their aunt, and this needs to be curbed in the future. Unless such an abstention from using their closeness to a VIP takes place in the manner that the family of PM Modi has shown, Sasikala is likely to again land in trouble, and for the same reason as formerly. Given that it is unlikely that E.P. Palaniswamy would agree to step down as Chief Minister were his party and its poll partners to carry the day in the forthcoming Assembly elections, for a reconciliation to take place, Sasikala would need to ensure that her nephew Dhinakaran places on hold his ambition to be the Chief Executive of this very consequential state. Whether there will be an alliance with the BJP-AIADMK or the AMMK will go its own way and give an unsurmountable advantage to the already bright prospects of the DMK is an open question. The BJP and its ally have not acquitted themselves well in the fiasco involving Rajinikanth, when it was assumed (including by this columnist) that the thespian had finally given up his habitual indecision and prevaricating ways and would soon join the AIADMK-BJP alliance. Those around Rajinikanth had been emphatic in private that this was what their hero was about to announce. It is not known whether it was dread of the DMK reaction to such a move should the party come back to power, or just cold feet about dipping into the rough and tumble of political life that motivated the sudden withdrawal from politics of an individual who has long been given far too much media attention than was merited. At least Kamal Haasan is staying the course, unlike Rajinikanth, who seems to differ in the degree of his courage from M.G. Ramachandran. This columnist met MGR more than once while much younger, and it must be said that the long-time CM of TN never lacked the spine to join in a fight, usually giving much harder than he got, especially to the DMK. Jayalalithaa was the same, bold and unafraid when challenged, even when she seemed to be on the ropes and close to getting a knockout blow from her opponents. Sasikala was with her throughout those days, spending years in prison as a consequence of that friendship.

After the fizzling out of that firecracker Rajinikant, the AIADMK-BJP alliance needs more allies if the coalition is to escape the effects of the less than spectacular performance of Chief Minister Edapaddi K. Palaniswamy and Deputy CM O. Paneerselvam. It is clear since her release that Sasikala still retains a hold over voters in view of her close association with Jayalalithaa. Will the AMMK and the AIADMK collide and make certain the victory of a DMK that has largely broken free of the corruption cases against some of its senior leaders, or will they form an alliance? The sticking point may be Dhinakaran, but it may be best for Sasikala’s nephew to prove his mettle as a minister should the AIADMK-led coalition emerge the winners in the TN Assembly polls. Rahul Gandhi was unwilling to take that test during 2004-14, and as a consequence has failed to emerge as anything of a challenge even to second rung leaders of the BJP, much less to that continuing national favourite of voters, Narendra Modi.

Thursday 11 February 2021

How Modi's Vaccine Diplomacy is a Huge win for India as Canada requests vaccines| Prof M D Nalapat ( PGurus)

Overlooking the venom spewed by some in the Canadian Government, Prime Minister Modi and MEA S Jaishankar showed immense alacrity and generosity by responding positively to the request of the Canadian government for vaccines. A must watch on some more such initiatives of the Modi govt., as described by Prof Nalapat. #VaccineMaitri



Saturday 6 February 2021

Melt- India external nexus using innocents as cover for operations ( Sunday Guardian)



Even though a small portion of the farming community appeared to be unhappy with the three farm laws, their agitation was labelled as a national farmers’ protest by media, both domestic and international. This has misled several influencers and policymakers in multiple countries into believing that the agitation taking place on the Delhi border is pan-Indian in scope.

New Delhi: Farmers are a community highly valued in India for their service and dedication to the national interest. The agitation launched in the final months of 2020 with the declared intention of making Prime Minister Narendra D. Modi scrap the three farm laws passed late last year involved only volunteers from a particular state before a trickle of support came in subsequent weeks from a few other states (including Tamil Nadu, where the Congress-aligned DMK is strong). Despite the fact that only a small portion of the farming community in the country appeared to be unhappy with the three farm laws passed last year, their agitation was labelled as a national “farmers’ protest” by media, both domestic as well as international. This has misled several influencers and policymakers in multiple countries into believing that the agitation taking place on the Delhi border is pan-Indian in scope. This mischaracterisation has remained uncorrected abroad, so far as the media is concerned. The other characteristic is that it is not only just food grain cultivators of a single state and a smaller number from a few other states who are active in fuelling the protests. A prominent role is getting played by the “aartiyas”, the trader-moneylenders who stand to lose once they lose the monopoly over produce that has been enjoyed by them till now. Another problem that vexes them is the need to register themselves under the Income-Tax and GST laws even where their grain business is concerned. Till now, the income stream of the “aartiyas” from handling farm produce went almost entirely unrecorded. Given the extreme nature of the punishments prescribed under these laws, combined with the manner in which laws and accompanying regulations have been used by corrupt officials to collect bribes, it is not surprising that the “aartiyas” are resisting coming under the tax scanner. However, a modern economy mandates that transactions get recorded fully and accurately, and it is to be hoped that the Ministry of Finance will, in the next round of tax proposals, give up the obstinate stand that the income-tax rates first introduced under the Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda in 1997 (and which were a substantial reduction from earlier rates) be retained. Instead, they have seen incremental increases over the years rather than brought down further. Rate reductions need to happen at least for those with incomes below Rs 1 crore annually.


Greta Thunberg perhaps unwittingly revealed a few details of what had been obvious to a few observers of the situation at least from November 2020. This was that no concession short of full and immediate withdrawal of the farm three laws is acceptable to those who appear to be functioning behind the cover of a noble and patriotic community. Many of those taking part in the protests are patriotic citizens, who genuinely believe that their futures are being threatened by the new laws. Unfortunately, it takes a single drop of ink to make inedible a glass of milk, and the nature of the mindset behind just such a drop was revealed by Ms Thunberg before those who briefed her the first time around got her to delete her earlier tweet and replace it with an anodyne substitute. Meena Harris or Rihanna too may be unaware of the mayhem that was caused in the national capital of the world’s most populous democracy on 26 January, when an army of tractors entered and forced their entry, including into zones close to where diplomats from across the world reside. It may be remembered that several tens of thousands of farmers died not by accident (as was the case in the 26 January incident) but by committing suicide. These occurred during the decade when AICC supremo Sonia Gandhi remote-controlled the Central government. Finally, after all these years of silence at suicides and privation at the hands of middlemen in league with politicians, the death of a farmer so touched the heart of the admittedly charismatic and telegenic daughter of the “CP” (Congress President) that she rushed to his home village in UP to console the bereaved family.


The bigger the aartiya, the greater his motivation to ensure freedom from the tax net through mandatory registration under the Income-Tax or GST provisions as prescribed by the farm laws. Several of the bigger aartiyas are involved not only in grain procurement but in distribution of FMCG fertiliser, farm machinery and equipment, building materials, cement, hardware and in real estate. So far, none of the suppliers of such business have interceded with their aartiya  distributors to ask them to concentrate on business rather than mobilise groups of protestors to go to the Delhi border or involve themselves with the protest in multiple other ways. Several of the farmers are in debt to the aartiyas and it needs to be checked if the interest rates being charged are beyond the legal limit. For those who are outside the comforts of the Lutyens Zone, it is inexplicable why thus far no discernible effort has been made by the government to identify and persuade the aartiyas to focus on business rather than street protests. This seems not to have been attempted by either the government or multiple entities that are giving them other business. Since 1947, farmers in a few of the northern states have been under the yoke of the aartiya system, and have fallen into debt through various ways. Once those aartiyas behind the turmoil understand that not only the economy of the entire country but their own incomes will be affected by it, enough of them will come around to the view that getting involved in protests at the cost of business is unwise. Under the new laws, farmers will have the right to sell their produce through multiple platforms, including APMC. They can also use digital platforms, E-NAM or physical aggregation of supply chains, as pointed out by agricultural experts concerned about the future of farmers in India, a country where the producer and the consumer often get short-changed by the middleman, who till now seems to have escaped the attention of the revenue authorities.


Several among those taking part in the protests are Sikhs, a noble and patriotic community. Religious figures and other influencers (such as Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, an acknowledged expert on the military) need to be briefed on the efforts of aliens to derail the future of the youth of India through generating tumult. Not just Sikhs but North India’s Jat community are intensely patriotic, and those within the Jat community who are genuine community leaders should be contacted and given the facts, so that the context becomes clear. Diplomacy needs to be carried out not only in conference rooms or through the mass media but individually as well. Sarpanches of villages active in the protest as well as panchayat BDOs are others who need to be individually contacted in order to get the facts across rather than leave them to the messages suggested in manuals such as the toolkit disclosed by the Swedish activist.  Laws ensuring continuance of Minimum Support Price and APMC need to be introduced, while legislation removing such features of the laws already passed as absence of judicial involvement or freedom to hoard without limit needs to be initiated. The present move of having a hiatus for 18 months while an expert committee goes through the clauses is another example of the manner in which the football of reform is constantly being kicked outside the field. Another tweak to the farm laws should be to place responsibility for their implementation on state governments rather than impose an omnibus “one size fits all” Central edict. Should such changes be made, it is difficult to see why the farmers’ agitation on the Delhi border should continue, at least in the case of the overwhelming majority. Only the few external actors and their agents would be upset at the protest cooling down, as they seek to use the cover of the farmers to create a situation designed to lead to a meltdown in the credibility and therefore the efficacy of the Central government as an instrument of reform. It needs to be emphasised that while the number of those who have been involved in the “Melt India” operation are very few, several of them were given OCI cards and visas by the present government, as a Gandhian gesture of reconciliation. The bitter fruits of the policy error of the NDA scrapping the earlier Khalistan blacklist have started pouring down in some locations. The need is to bring an “all hands on deck” approach by reaching out to the state governments and opposition parties involved. An innovative idea suggested by concerned agricultural experts is to set up an independent Agricultural Tribunal that would look into matters relating to exploitation of farmers from any quarter, including predatory corporates. The few (almost entirely external) rotten apples need to have their OCI cards and visas revoked immediately. Care should be taken to avoid giving such documents to those with a history of support for secession in India who live in countries such as Canada, the US and the UK. Their activities end up pleasing the GHQ Rawalpindi-PLA partnership at the expense of the people of India. They are particularly active in seeking to poison ties between India and other major democracies. To give a religious tag to the present protest is erroneous, as this only helps the Melt India operators. Whether the citizen of the world’s most populous democracy be Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Christian or Hindu, the believers on each of these faiths are committed to the integrity and progress of India and have demonstrated their loyalty to the tricolour numerous times.


The Lutyens Zone had been warned in advance about the Melt India plan, facets of which were most recently revealed in the detailed toolkit fortuitously revealed by Greta Thunberg. The campaigner for a clean planet seems to have acted in good faith without being aware of the provenance of the information that was fed to her. The same can be said of Meena Harris, Rihanna or many others who joined in the Twitter war. After the failure of the 26 January ruckus to get the government to repeal the laws, the global Twitter storm was, it was hoped, force the hand of Prime Minister Modi into withdrawing the three farm laws. Once this got done, next would follow agitations on other pretexts, such as the removal of Article 370, and this particular movement was planned to gather pace by mid-May. Rather than the passive-reactive policy favoured in the Lutyens Zone, what is needed is to identify the handful of individuals who are hiding behind the farmers and carrying out their “Melt India” operations. In this task, the innocent farmers and others who have temporarily been led into being part of actions that in effect go against their own interests need to be treated as friends and not as adversaries. We are all Indians together, and in case an all-out effort is made by the authorities to make clear, especially to local influencers, the dimensions of what is taking place, even Rakesh Tikait may come to favour a reasonable solution. A few foreign nationals have been allowed to freely enter India since 2015 despite working in sync with GHQ Rawalpindi-PLA and their game plan of weakening the country from inside preparatory to invading it from the outside. The sooner the present situation is rectified through reasoned dialogue, behind the scenes diplomacy and intercession, as well as substantive gestures of accommodation, the better. Even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will in time understand the importance of India, the US and other major democracies that form the G-10 working together in furtherance of the common security of the group. G-10 leaders need to avoid gladdening the hearts of those no longer secret capitals that seek to replace secular and liberal democracy with extremism and authoritarianism as the dominant ideology of the times.

Beijing looks to Biden going the Nixon-Kissinger way ( Sunday Guardian)



China’s offer in effect is cooperation on climate and trade matters in exchange for recognition of Beijing’s overlordship of the Himalayan massif, the South China Sea and both sides of the Taiwan straits.

Richard Milhous Nixon, the 37th President of the US, left office prematurely after winning a second term. There was considerable heartburn within the White House during much of his 1969-75 stay there because it was Henry A. Kissinger, rather than his boss, who was appearing on magazine covers. Kissinger was even awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for helping to prolong the Vietnam War uselessly for four more years rather than end it by 1971 on the same terms as were enforced by Hanoi in 1975. Another contributory factor securing him the prize may have been the carpet bombing recommended by Kissinger of not just Vietnam but Laos and Cambodia as well. The deaths of millions in the latter country have been laid at the door of Pol Pot, who was backed by the PRC. The reality is that much of the carnage was caused by bombing. Kissinger followed the example of Winston Spencer Churchill in himself writing the history of his years in power. In both cases, these were presented as a triumph of genius over the shoddy thinking of others, when in fact Churchill and Kissinger erred more often than not. Kissinger spent a considerable amount of time chatting up journalists and historians, and it was therefore no surprise that the credit for the opening out to the PRC was given to him rather than to Nixon, whose idea it actually was. A similar situation took place in India later, when it was Finance Minister Manmohan Singh who was given almost all the credit for economic reform rather than the actual architect, the unassuming, Pamulaparthy Venkata Narasimha Rao. The somewhat less spectacular performance of Manmohan Singh the “reformer” in his far more consequential post of Prime Minister during 2004-2014 indicates the manner in which, like a good civil servant, the gentle and intellectually gifted but unassertive economist adjusted his performance to the wishes of the  boss. Sonia Gandhi was a world apart from Narasimha Rao, and it showed in the quality of rule during 1992-96 as compared to the UPA period. Returning to Kissinger, it is a wonder that a statue of the man has not been erected in any Chinese city, for he gave away the store to Chairman Mao and Premier Zhou, so charmed was he by the titans who led the PRC during its initial decades. Concession after concession was offered by the US and generously pocketed by the secretly surprised CCP negotiating team, who of course constantly complained that the giveaways were too little, always too little even when they were excessive.

There had been no need for Kissinger to have been so generous, including in his throwing Taiwan under the bus, besides seeking to instigate war between his new ally, the PRC, and India. Mao and Zhou had for years understood that there was no option but to move against the USSR, and needed very little prodding or concessions to continue do so. In much the same way as they had used the period of struggle against Japanese occupation to build up the PLA, the CCP leadership used the concessions offered by Washington (and soon by the allies of that superpower) to begin the process of making then backward China into a superpower itself, a task which their successors achieved a little over a decade ago. By the time General Secretary Xi Jinping took charge of the CCP and CMC and through the party and its military the PRC, the country he now led was well on the way to becoming the predominant power on the planet. Small wonder that Xi discarded the camouflage of several of the CCP objectives favoured by his predecessors and adopted an unmistakable transparency about the direction in which the country was moving. From the early period of his rule, the General Secretary placed the PLA at the centre of PRC diplomacy , using the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as the facilitator of the PLA’s moves and where needed, as a lubricant smoothening the path to them. Mao ensured that the regime that he installed in 1949 developed the characteristics of permanency, and it is the intention of Xi to ensure that the ascent of Beijing to the top of the table, displacing Washington, takes place during his tenure. As this may take longer than the two terms allocated by convention to PRC leaders since Jiang Zemin, that convention was put aside.

Xi Jinping has surrounded himself with a competent team of advisors, the “best and the brightest” that this country of 1.3 billion people with its ancient civilisation has to offer. They know that for at least five or six years more, they need to prevent stoppage of the concessions they are getting from entities in the US or linked to that country in alliances. Mao and Zhou offered Nixon and the smitten Henry Kissinger the offer of collaboration in bringing down the Soviet Union, a task that they were anyway committed to. In return for the faux favour, they demanded substantive concessions, which Henry Kissinger was only too willing to recommend to his boss be given. As in the case of Shimla in 1972, one side walked away with the goodies, while the other side was left holding the bill for the bag of concessions that it had handed over. Now Xi Jinping, through the able Yang Jiechi, has offered a similar bargain to President Biden and Vice President Harris. Both Xi and Yang appear certain that there are enough friends of the Beijing nomenklatura (a charter member of which served in the Trump cabinet) in Washington, New York and San Francisco to ensure acceptance of their offer of cooperation on climate and trade matters in exchange for recognition of Beijing’s overlordship of the Himalayan massif, the South China Sea and both sides of the Taiwan straits. Of course, all that is asked for is acceptance in practice of such overlordship. The US would be at liberty to profess opposition to such moves by the PRC, as long as the opposition was verbal or comprised of media pyrotechnics without effect on the ground situation. The reality is that there is no option for the CCP leadership but to push ahead with both climate mitigation as well as trade simplification, as both are in the PRC interest. Getting any concession from Washington (much less the Kissingerian ones explicitly asked for by Yang Jiechi) would be a bonus to the plans of the CCP General Secretary. Is there a Henry Kissinger within the Biden administration who will once again play Santa Claus in the manner that Nixon’s emissary did in the past? That would depend on whether Biden and Harris understand the nature of the one-sided bargain that is being dangled before them, or get taken in and make concessions that are wholly unnecessary to secure China’s compliance on trade and climate.