Sunday 25 September 2022

At SCO, Xi and Modi differed over their views on Ukraine (The Sunday Guardian)


Given their record of mistaking what they wish for as what is, Atlanticist media immediately reached the conclusion that Xi’s concerns were the same as Modi’s.

NEW DELHI: Months before he initiated the Special Military Operation (aka war) against Ukraine, Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin came to Delhi on a visit that barely lasted nine hours. Even during that brief period, it became clear that Putin was losing patience at the way in which the Ukrainian military and irregular “nationalist” groups such as the Azov Regiment were taking kinetic action against those parts of Ukraine that had broken away to form the Donetsk and Lugansk “republics”. Such activities were being backed by NATO, which since 2014 had been conducting a proxy war against Russia, through the generous provisions of training, intelligence, weapons and other battlefield requisites to Ukrainian forces. Together with what may be called either mercenaries or “guest fighters” from parts of Europe, Ukrainian units sought to win back the territory lost to Russian-speaking separatists in 2014, the year that saw the forced exit and exile of President Viktor Yanukovych. The disquiet over developments in Ukraine manifested by Putin during his nine-hour 2021 visit to Delhi was interpreted in Washington, London, Berlin and Paris as evidence that his confidence was getting shaky. Rather than hold back the Ukrainian forces from their assault on the newly declared Lugansk and Donbass republics, they were encouraged to deliver blow after blow, with artillery shelling and military probes into Russian-speaking territories multiplying as a consequence of the misreading  within NATO of Putin’s determination to not repeat his earlier example of doing little when Kosovo was formally detached from Serbia in 2008. That same year, Putin launched a military campaign against Georgia by annexing South Ossetia and Abkhazia as separate “republics”.
Encouraged by NATO in his desire to reconquer the eastern territories lost to separatists in 2014, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy began a military campaign that was explicitly designed to extinguish the separate status of the territories earlier lost to the Donetsk and Lugansk “republics”. In days, these and additional territories gained by the Russian advance during 2022 will be recognized by Putin as becoming part of the Russian Federation. Thereafter, an attack on them would be regarded by the Kremlin as an attack on the Russian Federation itself. Assistance by NATO to Ukraine in kinetic action against such territories would be regarded as a direct attack by the alliance on Russia for the first time in that organisation’s history. NATO’s serial misreading of the intentions of the Kremlin appear to be leading the world towards an unprecedented escalation of the Ukraine conflict. In 2014, the misreading of the intentions of one side by another converted what was to be just a Balkan war into a European conflict. In that conflict, Serbia was the catalyst. In this, it could be Ukraine.
Much of the misreading of Putin has come through reliance on information provided by oligarchs who claimed to know his mind. They fed policymakers in Washington particularly with the impression that Putin was deeply unpopular, and that there would soon be a public revolt against him. They were wrong. Just as the June 1941 attack by Germany unified the Russian people behind Stalin, the activation of a proxy war by NATO on Russia (in an echo of Cold War 1.0) is mobilising the Russian people behind their leadership. For Vladimir Putin, either he is seen to succeed in his mission, or he will be removed from the Kremlin.
After the Samarkand meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a public admission was made by President Vladimir Putin that CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping had “concerns” about the war in Ukraine that Moscow “understood”. Unlike Xi, who even in this interaction was predictably reticent in public in matters of detail, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in full view of television cameras expressed to President Putin his view that “this was not the era of war”. It was a rebuke addressed as much to the Chinese as to the Russian leader, given that over the past six years, Xi Jinping has consistently upped the ante by taking aggressive actions in multiple theatres, including the Himalayan massif and more recently, Taiwan. Given their record of mistaking what they wish for what is, Atlanticist media immediately reached the conclusion that Xi’s concerns were the same as Modi’s, namely seeking a speedy end of a war that has raged since February. According to impeccable sources in the capitals involved in the Xi-Putin conversation that took place on the sidelines of the SCO Summit, what had been conveyed by Xi to Putin was that he should adopt measures that would in a much faster way ensure an end to the war on terms favourable to Moscow. The mobilisation of 300,000 more troops and changes in the tactics and weaponry used thus far in the conflict indicate that Putin has operationalised this advice from his “no limits” partner. Such a mobilisation was ordered for the Russian Army only twice before in history, first in July 1914 during World War I and subsequently in June 1941 after Germany invaded the USSR. Rather than going against Xi’s wishes, such a move only confirms that the CCP General Secretary advised President Putin to go all out in ensuring a rapid and favourable outcome to the conflict. Not a surprise, considering that the conflict is giving the PRC access at discounted prices to oil, gas and food grains, the prices of which have shot up worldwide as a consequence of the sanctions by NATO powers against Russia. Not for the first time, media pundits in Atlanticist outlets got a story wrong, in this case by making the erroneous assumption that Xi told his Russian counterpart to cut his losses and end the war immediately in the way that Prime Minister Modi had.
In the face of the logic of the Sino-Russian alliance, pundits in US and European media, government and academe continue to believe that Putin did not divulge to Xi his plan of beginning an outright war on Ukraine, in the meeting they had just a couple of days before the President of the Russian Federation launched the 2022 Ukraine-Russia war. In actuality, Putin got an assurance from his Chinese counterpart that, no matter what the public posture, the PRC would provide a lifeline to Russia sufficient to overcome the impact of Atlanticist sanctions. But for massively increased purchases by China of Russian resources, Putin would have been unable to finance what has become a long and costly conflict. Even while delighted at the misreading of western media of the CCP leadership’s position on the 2022 war, briefings and statements designed to mislead Atlanticist countries in particular have continued from Beijing in a steady flow. These have obscured the reality that Xi has been in favour of the NATO-Russia proxy war in Ukraine continuing until any chance of reconciliation between Russia and the Atlanticist powers ends, thereby making Moscow even more dependent on Beijing than it already was.
In this 2022 version of the 1962 game of “chicken” played between the US and Russia, it is disconcerting but unsurprising that senior levels within military HQ in Moscow are examining the possibility of using tactical nuclear weapons on the battlefield not only in Ukraine but in Poland, the country that in 1939 was influential in persuading Neville Chamberlain and Eduard Daladier to ignore Joseph Stalin’s request that France, the USSR and the UK immediately join forces against Germany, a situation in which Soviet troops would need to march through Poland to attack Germany. Among the more hawkish elements of the Russian military, the calculation is that NATO would lack the will to respond in kind to the use by Russia of nuclear weapons, a move that would achieve Xi’s objective of permanently fracturing the relationship between Moscow and Paris, Washington, Berlin and London. Given the pressure that Putin is under from those around him who seek a Chechenesque conclusion to the conflict, warnings of a possible use of nuclear weapons may not be a bluff, according to those aware of the thinking in the Kremlin. These are the sources who had first warned in the closing months of 2021 that Putin was losing patience with the way in which NATO was seeking to ensure that Ukrainian forces re-occupy the Donbass and Lugansk “republics” that have now been marked for incorporation into Russia on the Crimea model. While the leader of a democracy may on retirement face pesky prosecutors levelling mostly unprovable charges against him, the leader of an authoritarian state may after a fall from grace lose his freedom, if not his life. The manner in which military planners in NATO ignore the fact that they are dealing with a Head of State & Military who has a briefcase with nuclear codes always close by may prove to be their most consequential error in the saga over the future of Ukraine that began with the ouster of President Yanukovych in 2014 and the grooming of Ukraine to be to Russia what GHQ Rawalpindi-controlled Pakistan is to India.
Atlanticist media narratives, despite freedom of the press, usually hew closely to the spin that their governments seek to communicate to their public. For months, this analyst has cautioned that the Atlanticist view that Putin is the hard-liner is wrong. In fact, a complaint since May 2022 that is finally coming out in the open is that he has been too cautious in his war aims and in the way in which he achieves them. The Putin who oversaw military operations in Chechnya (the factor that secured him his present job) has been absent in the Ukraine conflict. Outlets such as BBC, DW or CNN are filled with horror stories about Russian “atrocities” on civilians, the reality is that the President of the Russian Federation has sought to hold back his troops from going all out against the opposing side. The argument taking place within the precincts of the Kremlin is that Russia under Putin is anyway being demonised for its “brutality”, so why not let loose the dogs of war and actually earn the reputation that has been placed on Putin’s head from the very start of this conflict? An early sign of such a shift may come from the planned Russian response to efforts by Ukrainian forces to sabotage efforts at holding a vote in the referendums that are planned as a preliminary to annexation of those territories by Russia. Such a response is unlikely to stop at the boundaries of the Russian-speaking zones sought to be absorbed, but is likely to be witnessed in other zones as well, especially those that are the strongholds of the Ukrainian “nationalists”. Once the territories holding the referendums get formally incorporated into the Russian Federation, any attack on them would be taken as an attack on Russia, an attack in which NATO would be considered as no longer an accessory but a combatant. The danger to Putin is not from those wanting “peace at any price” with NATO, but from those unhappy with the constraints that he has imposed on Russian forces during their operations in Ukraine. The CCP leadership anticipates that such an escalation of the conflict and its consequence on future relations between Russia and NATO would drain the energy away from any moves by the Quad and other formations to seriously challenge China, should the PLA mount an effort at subduing the island country by force. Which is why adulatory reports of “Xi the peacemaker” that have been appearing since the start of the 2022 conflict are exercises in delusion.
The stated desire of Prime Minister Modi from the start of the 2022 Ukraine war was to see an early end to it. In contrast, the intention of CCP General Secretary Xi has been to ensure that the faultiness caused by the war between Russia and the Altaicists become permanent. This is an objective in which Russophobic policymakers and commentators across both sides of the Atlantic are helping to achieve. Among the reasons why Putin had thus far held back substantial elements of his fire in the conflict was the influence of the St Petersburg school of strategic thinking in Russia, which has remained obsessed with the possibility of Russia and both sides of the Atlantic coming together in a repeat of the 1941-45 USSR-US-UK Grand Alliance. Among the casualties of the war has been the hold of the St Petersburg school on strategic planning by the Russian leadership. The war has, to the delight of Xi, majorly widened the faultiness already present between the Atlantic Alliance and the Russian Federation.
Where India is concerned, from the start of the conflict, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, assisted by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, stressed that by far the most significant theatre of potential threat to the democracies was in the Indo-Pacific and no longer in the Atlantic, and implicitly that the country to watch out for was not Russia but China, especially under Xi Jinping. Those who seek to avoid the abyss of war and economic distress back Modi’s counsel to Putin at the SCO to end this war soonest. However, such a view conflicts with the logic of Communist China, which sees in the Ukraine conflict an opportunity to realise several of its most important strategic goals, including a permanent rift in relations between Moscow and the Atlantic Alliance, and a de facto extinguishing by the PRC of the sovereignty of Taiwan. All this by taking advantage of a world in which the US and the rest of NATO have become embroiled in a global disaster, in the magnification of which their own contribution has not been trivial.

Saturday 24 September 2022

Iranian women have the right to choose their dress (The Sunday Guardian)


A young Iranian woman died simply because she refused to accept the dress code commanded of her by clerics.

Mysterious are the ways of the human heart. If the Iranian Moral Police are to be believed, a 22-year-old woman with a normal heart suddenly died of a heart attack. There was no independent post mortem done on Mahsa Amini, a young Iranian who had spent her entire life in a country controlled by clerics who have abandoned the spiritual for the temporal. Since the 1980s, the clerical aristocracy in Iran see more value—,or in their words virtue—in influencing state policy rather than in the study and contemplation of the theology they claim to be the champions of. Mahsa had been detained and taken to a “Moral Police Station’’, an abomination that is incongruous in a country with a civilisation that can compete with those of the Greeks and the Romans, not to mention Indic and Sinic traditions in antiquity. “Moral Police” worldwide believe virtue to be only as deep as cloth that, once it cloaks the body and much of the face, doubles as a certificate of morality. Mahsa’s offence was that she had been seen without the abaya, a dress dating back nearly two millennia. Judging by the treatment meted out to women who show a lack of regard for a dress that is not among the five pillars of the Islamic faith, it is clear that the justification that Iran’s Moral Police rely on to enforce the wearing of the abaya is not from that faith but from pre-Islamic customs. Soon after Mahsa’s death in custody of a “heart attack”, social media posts emerged showing the barbaric treatment meted out to women who had for a time dispensed with the abaya (for in Iran, the clerical overlords believe as does the Taliban that not wearing just the hijab but a full abaya is the definitive proof of a woman’s high moral standards). Judging by such an edict, men are so uncontrollable in their impulses that the mere sight of a partly uncovered woman leads them to horrible acts of violence against the lady in question. According to this belief, Bondi Beach and similar other seashore getaways must experience an epidemic of assaults against women, something that the media appear to be covering up. The clerics believe that Iran would fall apart, were women to go about wearing an abaya in the way Mahsa sought to do. According to the version of the death proffered by the Iranian police, the Moral Police were so gentle in their behaviour to Mahsa that there was no “physical encounter” between them and her. They apparently believe that beating a prisoner with a stick would not constitute “physical” contact. So civilised are the Moral Police that they never beat up a prisoner with their bare hands, but only with “moral” implements such as a stick or a whip.
The Moral Police imply that Mahsa Amini was given the comforts of a 5-star hotel while in their company. What is implied is that the luxurious treatment given to Mahsa so overwhelmed the young woman that in ecstasy, her heart stopped beating, killing her. Grand Ayatollah Khamenei has been known to speak out whenever the police in the US commit an atrocity, as took place during the murder of George Floyd by a policeman two years ago. Given his sensitive soul, the fact that Ayatollah Khamenei has not this far publicly commented on Mahsa Amini’s death indicates that the Supreme Leader of Iran is convinced that Mahsa died not as a consequence of police brutality but of natural causes brought out by the sheer joy experienced by a woman who falls into the custody of the Iranian Moral Police. Meanwhile, President Ibrahim Raisi announced a police probe into the death at the hands of the police, in a bid to damp down public anger at the manner in which a young woman was killed by philistines in a country once famed for its culture.
A young Iranian woman died simply because she refused to accept the patriarchal commands of clerics who in their behaviour showed none of the compassion, mercy and benevolence that are repeatedly enjoined in the Quran as divine virtues. The murder of an innocent by the country’s Dark Ages police force motivated several young women in Iran to come out into the streets. They came without wearing according to clerical codes the full-length tunic that was in vogue among women in the sandstorm-prone Arabian desert nearly two thousand years ago. Stony faces and vile behaviour seem to be essential requisites for getting admitted into the ranks of the Moral Police in those countries that have such elements in their gendarmerie. The forgiving attitude of Ayatollah Khamenei towards the Moral Police indicates that the Supreme Leader of Iran trusts wholeheartedly in the correctness of the actions of the Moral Police. Perhaps the Supreme Leader has adopted an “If you don’t ask, you don’t need to know” attitude to the way in which elements of the Iranian police have adopted the Standard Operating Procedure of the worst elements of Savak, the brutal force that terrorised people in Iran before the Shah was deposed in 1979? Aware of the anger in the streets caused by the murder at the hands of the Moral Police of Mahsa Amini, President Raisi has ordered an inquiry into her death. An inquiry by the police, for the police, that is on track to find out that the young lady had a rare heart condition that was suddenly and triggered by the limitless hospitality of her jailors, sorry, her educators. For the story given out is that Mahsa was forcibly brought into a police station in order to be educated in how to be a virtuous woman. Or rather, to dress in a manner that would be sufficient to deem her a virtuous woman in public, no matter what her behaviour in private was.
When an educational institution in Karnataka banned the use of the hijab (headscarf) in its precincts some time ago, this columnist was of the view that a headscarf worn voluntarily (whether black or saffron) was not sufficient grounds for a ban, although wearing an abaya would be. The operative word is “voluntarily”. Young women who get coerced into wearing the headscarf (hijab) or even the abaya is a different matter. Wearing a uniform is all that is needed in an educational institution. To equate an additional item of clothing with piety or with virtue is fantasy. To remain healthy, society must deny freedom to elements that seek to coerce others in the way that Iran’s Moral Police do. Their actions are an infringement of rights, and should be opposed, as they are being after the murder of a hijab-less 22-year-old. The people of Iran want their lives back from the grip of a clergy still frozen in extreme patriarchy. Mahsa Amini is a martyr in the battle of the women of Iran to ensure that freedom and not coercion prevail in their ancient land. She will not be forgotten.

Saturday 17 September 2022

At SCO meeting, PM Modi navigated India through stormy seas (The Sunday Guardian)


For China and Russia, any reduction within the Atlantic Alliance in their level of trust in the reliability of India as a security partner would come as a bonus, and it must therefore have been a disappointment that PM Modi avoided such a trap at Samarkand.

MANIPAL: During his meeting at Samarkand with President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated what he had been saying from the start, which is that the sooner the proxy war between NATO and the Russian Federation in Ukraine ended, the better for humanity. The same message would have been conveyed to the key members of NATO as well, as unless NATO persuades the Ukrainian leadership to follow the 2008 Georgia example by accepting a ceasefire, the conflict with its human and material cost will grind on. As will US-UK-EU sanctions on Russia that do not punish the Kremlin but ordinary people in every continent, including North America and Europe. In his pursuit of India’s national interests, Prime Minister Modi met Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi, raising expectations that Iranian oil will once again be added to the increase in supply of Russian oil since the beginning of the year. Being a reliable customer of Iranian oil is key to the unfettered availing by India of access via Chabahar to Central Asia and Afghanistan. Otherwise, Chabahar, would join Gwadar as a PRC outpost in waters close to the west coast of India. Unless freedom of the seas in the Indo-Pacific (including the South China Sea, now beginning to be known as the ASEAN Sea) is assured, the security of India would be affected. It is this imperative that explains why Prime Minister Modi has ensured a steady acceleration in military-to-military contacts between the Quad members, in particular the US.
While retaining the traditionally friendly ties that have long existed between Moscow and Delhi, Prime Minister Modi has been active in ensuring a close relationship between India and key countries within NATO. In the UK, the highest functionary of the Government of India, President Droupadi Murmu, will represent what is by far the largest country in the Commonwealth at Westminster Cathedral on September 19 in the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. President Murmu is what John F. Kennedy would have termed a Profile in Courage, who has faced with fortitude personal tragedies and other problems without slowing down on her life’s mission of seeking to ensure economic and social justice to some of the most disadvantaged citizens of India. Such work would have come to the attention of King Charles III, who has himself long been active in promoting similar causes. Should there be a personal meeting between President Murmu and King Charles, that would showcase the improvement in India-UK relations that Prime Minister Liz Truss has been seeking to promote, including through the signing of an FTA. Under Prime Minister Modi and President Emmanuel Macron, relations between India and France have become even closer than in the past. From 1998 onwards, when President Jacques Chirac declined to join his partners in Ottawa, Washington and Canberra in their vitriolic abuse of India after the Pokhran II nuclear explosion, Paris and Delhi have had a relationship of mutual trust and support. So far as Germany (the other powerhouse of the EU) is concerned, the SPD-led government has adopted a CDU-CSU line on the conflict in Ukraine. This has resulted in Chancellor Scholz departing from the policy of SPD predecessors such as Willy Brandt or Gerhard Schroeder, although this has not impacted the close relationship between Berlin and Delhi which was developed as a consequence of the cordial relationship between PM Modi and Chancellor Angela Merkel. Turning to Japan, another treaty ally of the US, the friendship between Narendra Modi and Shinzo Abe developed even while the former was CM of Gujarat, and the Abe legacy lives on in Tokyo, as a consequence of which even hitherto absent military-to-military ties of Japan with India are visibly becoming strong.
For China and Russia, any reduction within the Atlantic Alliance in their level of trust in the reliability of India as a security partner would come as a bonus, and it must therefore have been a disappointment that PM Modi avoided such a trap at Samarkand. Ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific free of monopolistic control by any power is needed for the security of India, and this was in no way compromised at the SCO Summit. Indeed, the need to ensure transit access especially across land by SCO members to other members was stressed by PM Modi. His remarks were an implied rebuke towards Pakistan and its mentor China for denying India access to Afghanistan and Central Asia for traffic originating or heading towards the world’s most populous democracy. Giving of such access to India in the manner that Bangladesh has done would boost the Pakistan economy, although neither GHQ Rawalpindi nor the PLA is likely to permit any such move by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. Where other countries are concerned, now that India is taking over the formal leadership of the SCO, India could seek to put on a fast track SCO membership to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, all three of whom are important where security for the Central Asian Republics is concerned, ideally before a year has passed.
After the Ukraine conflict broke out in February, Prime Minister Modi refused to follow some of the partners of India in imposing sanctions on Russia that have ultimately ended up harming themselves, including in unexpected ways. The favouritism shown to Ukraine by NATO in terms of free supply of weapons or entry of its people into the US, UK or the EU are contrasted by several policymakers to the parsimony of weaponry supplied by the US to Taiwan where supply of weapons is concerned, and South America where migrants are concerned. An unfortunate perception that the policy of the Biden administration on such matters is literally skin deep has taken root within Asia, Africa and South America, to the advantage of the Sino-Wahabi and the Sino-Russian alliance. Efforts by the White House to water down the measures being proposed by the US Congress to assist Taiwan in its confrontation with China are in contrast to the way in which the White House has assisted Ukraine by giving tens of billions of taxpayer dollars that would otherwise have gone to disadvantaged US citizens who voted for Joe Biden against Donald Trump in 2020. President Biden has yet to shake off the influence on his policies of the hangover of Cold War 1.0, when China was the most important ally of the US against the USSR. The US administration’s inability to adjust to changing needs has played to the advantage of the far more formidable foe that the US faces in Cold War 2.0
Central Asian Republics that are part of the SCO face an increased risk of Wahabi sabotage as a consequence of the alliance between the PRC and countries such as Turkey and Pakistan, where those loyal to that ideology run the government. In such a contest, India and Russia are on the same side as the leaders of the Central Asian Republics, as both are seeking to strengthen the moderate majority against attempts by the fringe to take control away from them. As during 1996-2001, when the Taliban was in control of Afghanistan, Iran, Russia and India are on the same side, whereas Pakistan, Turkey and China favour a Wahabi takeover. Given such a clash of security interests, it was essential that PM Modi go to the SCO meeting and to accept the Chairmanship of that body. Now that he will soon head both the G-20 as well as the SCO for a year, it is expected that several initiatives will be launched by Modi in these two bodies as a consequence of working with like-minded colleagues in other countries. The presence of India in the SCO, followed soon after by the entry of Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, would be a substantial net security provider in the task of ensuring a multipolar world free of the dominance of fringe ideologies at the expense of moderate alternatives. Steering the ship of state in geopolitical waters that are likely to get even stormier is a complex task, yet one that Prime Minister Modi and the people of India have the 
capability to accomplish.

India is the ideal producer for Democracy Chips (The Sunday Guardian)


Computer chips made in democracies may be termed ‘Democracy Chips’. And to make Democracy Chips, many tech companies are looking at India.

Losing Taiwan to the PRC would be a far more severe blow to the security of the world than the loss of (what remains of) Ukraine to Russia. While the island country may be relatively small in size and in population to India, the US, Russia or China (the Big Four within the global order), it is a knowledge superpower. This reality is best illustrated by pointing to its domestic companies, such as Foxconn, TSMC and UMC. Back in the 1990s, this columnist visited Taiwan and South Korea and told several entrepreneurs that they would regret it were India to not significantly figure in their investment plans. Thereafter, Taiwanese companies sent senior management to India to scout out possibilities. In contrast to the PRC, where they were met at the door of the aircraft when it landed in a Chinese city, in India very often it proved impossible to locate the car that had been sent to ferry the senior manager of the company to his hotel. After finally flagging down a taxi and somehow making himself understood to the cab driver, finally the hotel came into view. Only to have the man at the front desk say that the fatigued guest would have to wait with his luggage in the lobby for as many hours as it took for a room. What a contrast such tales of horror were to their PRC experience, where a limousine was sent free of charge together with an escort for a comfortable ride to the hotel, whose manager would wait at the doorway of the hotel to welcome the company manager. South Korean companies were more canny. They first sent junior staff to India, who scouted out the lay of the land and in a few weeks, knew how to ensure that when a senior manager from their company finally came for a visit, he found no difficulty in locating his car or, later, checking in to his hotel suite no matter what the time of arrival was.
By the close of the 1990s, South Korean companies dotted the industrial landscape in India, while Taiwanese companies were absent. That was the period when President Lee Deng Hui rejected an informal request from India during the period when Narasimha Rao was Prime Minister to give a loan of $2 billion to the world’s largest democracy. Fast forward to six years ago, when Tsai Ing-wen took over as President of Taiwan and sought to make India a priority for Taiwanese business. That island country has as high a per capita income as any European country, certainly many times more than the PRC. It has helped that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited Taiwan in the past, before he entered the portals of high office as Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2001, and liked what he saw of the dynamism of the island. Despite foot dragging by elements in the Lutyens Zone that cringe and freeze at the very mention of China, ties between Taipei and Delhi have been getting ever closer since 2014.
Taiwanese business, usually expert in finding out opportunities across the world, missed out on India in the 1990s, unlike the South Koreans. However, recent events indicate that they will not be miss out on the opportunities provided by India especially after the Covid outbreak in 2020 brought home the reality of Cold War 2.0, a conflict between China and the democracies that dare not yet speak its name. The effect of this is palpable, including on planning investment in supply chains. Businesses are no longer eager to come to the PRC, they are in an increasing hurry to leave. Computer chips made in democracies may be termed Democracy Chips. And to make Democracy Chips rather than Dictatorship Chips, global tech companies are looking at India. Companies such as Foxconn are already linked to entrepreneurs of Indian ethnicity who know the country and its market well. Foxconn’s new semiconductor plant will come up in Gujarat, a state on the west coast, much of which is the ideal location for such enterprises. From a city close on the west coast, the east coast of Africa and the entire Middle East are within easy reach by air or sea, not to mention the advantage provided by the rapidly growing domestic market in India. In the 1990s and beyond, India forfeited the chance of emerging as a major producer of mobile handsets, even witnessing the shutting down of a major handset plant in Tamil Nadu. The consequence is that import of such equipment, mostly from China, is causing an even bigger drain on foreign exchange than purchase of petroproducts, especially now when cheap(er) Russian oil is available. India will need semiconductors on an exponential scale, which is why the effort by PM Modi to ensure that these be made in India is necessary to avoid that item of fabrication becoming an even bigger drain on foreign exchange reserves than imports of oil or mobile handsets. Of course, tweaks in policy are needed, such as either an FTA with Taiwan or the setting up of such plants in a location that is in matters of access and taxation, a free trade zone. A semiconductor plant requires a stream of personnel and components flowing in and out of the country, and if such supplies were subjected to delays, the effect on productivity would be substantial. Given smart policy, India has the market, the brainpower and the cost advantages necessary to ensure that the country provides a better production platform than the US and even the PRC. Aatmanirbhar Bharat does not just mean “Produce of India” but “Produce made in India” as well.
Along with the US, Japan and Australia, India is ensuring that the Indo-Pacific remains free and open to all, and without any country seeking to become the gatekeeper to any part of its waters. So far as Taiwanese tech companies are concerned, Foxconn has become the pioneer, and looking at the advantages of locating in India, it is likely that TSMC and UMC may soon follow in Foxconn’s wake. Gujarat has won the first Big Tech investor of the times, and now is the time for other states to win over other tech companies through ensuring that conditions get created that result in “Made in India” becoming a synonym for quality and price competitiveness.

Saturday 10 September 2022

The crowning glory of Liz Truss is her nemesis (The Sunday Guardian)


Prime Minister Truss appears not to have understood that the hopeless hero Volodymyr Zelenskyy provides drag rather than lift to her popularity.

oe Biden turbocharged the NATO response to Russian troops in their 24 February 2022 entry into regions already outside the control of Ukraine for rational reasons. Removing Russian (and as collateral damage, Ukrainian) grain and petroleum resources from the international market would give US oil and grain exporters new and immense avenues of profit. What the Biden team omitted in their calculations was the blowback to not just the poorer nations but to the member-states of NATO from the raft of sanctions that were imposed by members of that alliance on the Russian Federation. When the Treasury Department in the US and EU “top brains” such as the clearly harried Ursula von der Leyen prove themselves unable or unwilling to calculate the actual effectiveness of the sanctions they imposed against “Putin’s Russia”, doubts about their level of competence in their present jobs is understandable. Several months ago, at a conference of Risk Managers of around forty large companies that was held in the restful surroundings of the L&T training facility at Lonavala, this columnist had said that the chill of winter would cool down NATO’s appetite for prosecuting their George W. Bush (circa “Operation Get Saddam” 2003) model war against Vladimir Putin. This has begun to take place, with more and more voters unhappy with the sacrifices they are being asked to make by their elected leaders in order to continue with NATO’s crusade against Russia. On the other side, Xi Jinping is making sure that Moscow has ample financial resources to continue the war, while at the same time coyly smiling at the leaders of the Atlantic Alliance who serially beseech him to stop a war in which Xi is the primary beneficiary. Self-sacrifice may have been the motif of the saintly leaders of India’s freedom movement, but that quality (or, in the view of a few, shortcoming) is not typical of the CCP’s leadership, something that Biden, Macron and Scholz do not seem to have yet understood, possibly due to the relevant memos not reaching their desks.
Enter Liz Truss, the latest Conservative Party occupant of 10 Downing Street. Her party appears to have come to the conclusion that as many Tory MPs as possible should at least for a while enjoy the privileges which come with being resident in that address. While Joe Biden had sound commercial reasons for prosecuting NATO’s own version of “Special Military Operations” against Russia, for Boris Johnson, the motivation was political. The now ex-PM of Britain saw in the 2022 Ukraine conflict the perfect method of diverting attention from Partygate and other peccadilloes that Boris has been known for throughout his life. Unfortunately for Johnson, being the other booster of NATO’s operations against “Putin’s Russia” could not rescue him from having to exit Number Ten. Despite the horrible cost that the operation was having on the UK economy, Johnson’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss was among the most vociferous in carrying forward and indeed further deepening UK involvement in an operation that seems on track to witness the eclipse of Europe as a location where living standards are high. Truss was clever in playing to the ordinary Tory voter in the way Margaret Thatcher, the daughter of a Grantham grocer, did. She was far more convincing in that role than Rishi Sunak, who hails from a family of millionaires and has married into a family of billionaires, and makes no effort to conceal that in either deportment or clothes. The problem is that the Biden-Johnson war is proving to be a death knell for grocery stores in the Atlantic Alliance and those who shop in them. The longer the crusade against Putin goes on, the more disastrous will the economic effects be. A US Supreme Court that acts as though “We the People” in the US Constitution means “We the Supreme Court Majority” is assisting the Democratic Party to perhaps even overcome the handicap that the White House has become to that party’s candidates in the coming midterm elections. However, the reality is that the longer Xi’s ask of Putin gets fulfilled and the Ukraine war continues, the harder will fall the popularity of Biden, Scholz, Macron, Truss and others who are the principal protagonists in NATO’s crusade against Putin.
Thus far, Prime Minister Truss appears not to have understood that the fact that it was the hopeless hero, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who first spoke to the new PM, provides drag rather than lift to her popularity. If she continues on the course favoured by Boris Johnson and continues to ignore reality by accelerating rather than decelerating the Ukraine war, Liz Truss will get replaced. Not by Boris Johnson but by some Tory leader who has shown better sense than Johnson or Truss has in this debilitating conflict.

Saturday 3 September 2022

Adieu, Mikhail Gorbachev, the last CPSU General Secretary (The Sunday Guardian)

 That Russia would never be accepted as part of the ‘common European family’ by France, Britain and Germany was never comprehended by Gorbachev.

His repeated forgiving of the efforts of Mahmud Ghori to bring down his kingdom and take away his life ensured that Prithviraj Chauhan was the tragic idealist who initiated the process of destroying the India that had endured for many millennia. He failed to recognise that in Ghori, he faced an opponent who sought nothing less than the destruction of an entire system of governance and its concomitant way of life. Each time Prithviraj spared his life, Ghori went back determined to succeed against the merciful ruler the next time around. Finally, Ghori’s day came with a pre-dawn attack that caught Prithviraj’s army unawares, most being deep in sleep. The Rajput princes of the time fought wars in a manner reminiscent of cricket, with set rules designed to make the contest a battle between chivalric foes. Their error was that as a collective as well as individually, the princes of the day failed to comprehend the systemic, the civilizational nature, of the battle that their foe to the north west was intent on waging. That easy, indeed facilitated and assisted plunder, created in their implacable foe an appetite to control the land and its people. In such a conflict, only a single side wins, and eventually that was not the side of Prithviraj.
In his final moments, as he was facing death at the hands of a foe who had from the start been implacable, the luckless Samrat may have understood the fatal error he had made in sparing the life of a foe with the ambition to transform the land and the people in his own image. Even after more than seven centuries of domination by the Mughals, that did not happen. In villages across India, in minds and in the homes of tens of millions, their belief systems remained intact in a manner that had not been the case in any other country taken over by those who had linked their confidence in victory to their belief and fealty to what they believed to be the message of the Almighty. Later, the Rubicon of cruelty was crossed by Aurangzeb, who as a consequence found himself not the protector of Mughal rule but its destroyer. The Marathas in particular, led by the charismatic military tactician Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, proved to impossible to subdue.
Wars within India opened the doors to conquest by the European powers, with the British establishing dominance over the subcontinent through the use of any means that they judged to be effective for the purpose. The age of chivalric combat had perished with the defeat and execution of Prithviraj, and from then onwards, wars were fought not by another version of the Marquis of Queensbury rules but freestyle. Anything was permitted to subdue the rival. It took the blow to the loyalty towards the British Raj of the Indian armed forces effectuated by Subhas Chandra Bose through the Indian National Army to make Whitehall realise that their time was up in India. Had it been Subhas Bose who had headed the freedom struggle rather than the hand-picked lawyer chosen by Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, there may not have been a partition of India in 1947, nor perhaps the peeling away of Sri Lanka, Myanmar and other territories that had earlier been an intrinsic part of the subcontinent. Until Partition, Nehru had been adamant that he would not accept any status for the Muslim community different from that which existed for Hindus, aware of the harm that had been done by the separate electorates and partitions that had earlier been agreed to by the Bose-less Congress leadership.
Only after Partition did Nehru transition to a policy that in many ways sought the separation from the majority of the minorities in India. He instituted a difference in treatment that many regard as a repudiation of secularism while others claim that such an across-the-board separation of the Hindu majority and the rest of the population was on the contrary the essence of secularism. Thus was born Nehruvian secularism, in which rather than accept their common cultural DNA, Muslims and Hindus in particular were subjected to messaging that they were different from each other, an obviously erroneous notion that had been the foundation of M.A. Jinnah’s call to the British to divide the country before exiting it. This past quarter, the rate of growth of the economy has been 13.5%. This is the natural growth rate of the economy, given the abundant qualities of the people of India, although under its initial rulers, the growth rate hovered around 2% annually, breaking free of this only when P.V. Narasimha Rao was the Prime Minister. Incidentally, Rao was disliked, indeed despised, by the matriarch since the tragic death of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, Sonia Gandhi. Any individual who had the effrontery to argue that she should work to help Rao in his reforms rather than weaken him became an instant object of irritation and worse in her. Ultimately, the fissures in the Congress Party that resulted in the weakening of Narasimha Rao ensured the rise of the BJP. Understandably, A.B. Vajpayee had a soft corner for Sonia Gandhi throughout his six years in the PMH, the Prime Minister’s House.
Returning to Gorbachev, from the start of his ascent to the General Secretaryship of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, he refused to accept the existential nature of the USSR-US battle that was waged during Cold War 1.0. This was much the way President Biden and some of the other leaders of the Atlantic Alliance have failed to understand the existential nature of the challenge being thrown by the CCP to the US-led alliance, a challenge most visible in the era of the supremacy of Xi Jinping over the CCP. When faced with the economic crisis caused by the statist policies inherited from the Brezhnev era, Gorbachev turned for assistance to the very countries intent on the downfall of the Soviet system. While there was indeed Glasnost, greater freedom of expression, during his time, the only Perestroika (reform) introduced under Gorbachev was to preside over one unconditional, unilateral surrender of USSR interests to the Atlantic Alliance. That Russia would never be accepted as part of the “common European family” by France, Britain and Germany was never comprehended by Gorbachev, although it was by Vladimir Putin, after nearly six years of effort seeking to enter on honourable terms “our common European home” (Putin’s view at the time) proved fruitless. The USSR was eventually destroyed by its lack of substantive Perestroika, but that demise was speeded up by the folly of Gorbachev in handing over the keys to the survival of the USSR to the hands of its most implacable foes. Small wonder that the Gorbymania unleashed by the demise of the last CPSU General Secretary is not shared within his own country.

PLA needs a limited, lightning war for success in Taiwan (The Sunday Guardian)


Were the conflict to remain confined to Taiwan, the PLA would have the upper hand. Once the field of operations widens into other PLA-afflicted theatres, from Djibouti to Gwadar to Hambantota to Kyaukpyu, etc., the PRC would lose control of the military situation even across the Taiwan Straits.

Singapore: War clouds are gathering across the Indo-Pacific, caused by the rush towards domination of that space by CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping. Observers have studied the arbitrary, ruthless manner in which Xi has consolidated his grip over the higher echelons of the CCP, a political party that has over 90 million members and which controls China. Unlike Deng Xiaoping, who also worked to fulfil the goals of the CCP but was pragmatic in deciding how these were to be achieved, Xi is in what seems a reckless rush to PRC primacy, while further expanding the control of the party-directed state machinery over the population. Although Xi has been compared to Chairman Mao Zedong on numerous occasions, the reality is that behind his sometimes-blustery rhetoric, Mao was a realist, who acted only when he was forced to (as in Korea in the 1950s war) or (as in the 1962 conflict with India) regarded conditions as opportune for success. There were his ill-fated initiatives such as the Great Leap Forward in the 1950s, which ended up as a Great Leap Backward where the economy was concerned. The CCP Chairman believed that, inspired by the Chinese Communist Party led by himself, ordinary citizens could defy the laws of production and even triple the overall production of iron needed for infrastructure development. He turned out to be wrong, and infrastructure in the PRC remained in a doleful state. There was no room in Mao’s mind for himself or the PRC to play second fiddle to any country or individual except as a temporary tactic. He bristled at the assumption of Joseph Stalin and later Nikita Khrushchev that it was the USSR, not the PRC, that was the leader of the international communist movement, but kept his peace until the mid-1960s out of pragmatic considerations.

During the latter part of the 1960s, Chairman Mao intensified the sending out of feelers to Washington for a rapprochement against their common enemy, the USSR. Eventually, it was an affluent lady in Hong Kong who on behalf of CCP elements contacted an acquaintance, then Vice-President Richard M. Nixon, and gave him the idea that such a rapprochement was feasible, and that it would substantially boost Washington’s capability to hasten the fall of the Soviet Union, an eventuality that had also been pursued by Mao since the 1960s. Soon after he took over as President of the US in 1969, Nixon activated this Hong Kong channel and when a welcoming response was received from Beijing, he sent an initially sceptical Henry Kissinger to that capital. It is another matter that because of the unlimited access that Kissinger used to give key media personalities, the credit (and now the blame) for Nixon’s opening towards the PRC was given to Kissinger. There began to appear glowing reports on his diplomacy, all quoting “high-level” anonymous sources, all of which comprised Kissinger himself. He soon got powerfully influenced by Premier Zhou Enlai, who would have become a billionaire selling used cars had he been a US citizen, and charmed his US interlocutor into ensuring that numerous concessions were given to the Chinese side that were far in excess of what the CCP leadership had anticipated and would have been satisfied with.

Although troves of sensitive intelligence, including on India, began to be handed over to the PRC on a regular basis by Kissinger and his successors, it was after the ascent to power of Deng Xiaoping in 1978 before business-to-business links between the US and China grew. Among the most enthusiastic in investing money in China were Japanese businesspersons, who were followed a few years later by the Taiwanese. Fast forward to when Xi Jinping was in charge of Fujian province, from where in past times most of those who crossed the Taiwan Strait and settled down had come from. People in the province are considered to have a gambling instinct, and this may have been a factor in the exodus that began to significantly populate the island with Fujianese around two centuries ago. The next wave of immigrants from China came in 1949, and was composed of individuals from all across China, which had by then fallen to the CCP, thereby forcing KMT supremo Chiang Kai-shek to seek refuge in Taiwan. While the original settlers from Fujian are known within the island country as “Taiwanese”, those who came ashore with Chiang are referred to as “Mainlanders”. The latter began grabbing much of the land and assets of Taiwan, breeding the dissatisfaction and desire for freedom from control by outsiders that became the dominant mood in Taiwanese society across all except the very old among the “Mainlanders” by the close of the initial decade of the 21st century.
The “Taiwanese” segment of Taiwan’s population tilts towards the independence-minded DPP rather than the PRC-friendly KMT. The people of the island country want overwhelmingly to retain their freedom from PRC control, but equally they crave a peaceful future. The train of Taiwanese democracy moves along these two tracks, but the vow by CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping that Taiwan would by whatever means necessary be united with the PRC during his tenure has unsettled the status quo. That Xi will fulfil his objective of securing an unprecedented third term in office by next month is almost certain. However. in that process, Xi would have squandered almost all of the goodwill within the CCP that he had when taking charge in 2012. In his efforts at securing a fourth term in office, Xi would need to boost his popularity within the ruling party substantially, and is likely to consider the conquest of Taiwan the surest path towards that acclaim. Which is why the CCP General Secretary’s impending third 5-year term beginning in October 2022 and lasting into 2027 has created a window of risk for Taiwan unprecedented since 1949. There have been past efforts at subduing Taiwan, such as during the 1958 Second Taiwan Straits crisis that saw the massive shelling of Taiwanese territory by the PRC, a crisis in which there were several thousand casualties on the Taiwanese side, and almost an equal number on the Chinese side, as the KMT government in Taiwan responded with all the firepower they had been given by the US. The Third Taiwan Straits crisis was in 1995, when there were efforts at intimidation through aggressive posturing by the PLA. These were puny in comparison with the level of attempted intimidation caused by the Fourth Taiwan Strait crisis, which erupted during and after House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan on 2 August 2022, a visit that was used as an excuse by Xi to resort to a brazen show of military force across the perimeter of the island country.

For Xi Jinping, the key institution in China is the Central Military Commission (CMC), which he has headed from the start of his tenure as the party General Secretary. CMC planners are as eager as Xi himself to win control of Taiwan during his third term in office. Whether in the matter of economic or foreign policy, or in the way the military is showcased and used, Xi is as different from Deng as the diminutive but extraordinary leader of the CCP was from Mao. Within the CMC, Xi has steadily transferred responsibility in the planning of operations from older, more cautious senior officers to a youthful cohort of Senior Colonels and Major-Generals who share his aggressive confidence towards a future conflict across the Taiwan Straits. Through a show of force and by psychological and other covert operations in Taiwan, the US and Japan in particular, the CMC together with intelligence and asymmetric warfare specialists, is seeking to create a situation where (a) the Taiwanese population does not put up resistance to an invasion by the PLA but “accepts the inevitable by refusing to try and repel the PLA”, (b) that the Quad will remain on the sidelines of the conflict and not actively involve itself in operations designed to frustrate PLA moves to take over Taiwan, which means that (c) the conflict will remain confined to Taiwan with no recoil anywhere else. There is confidence in the CMC, especially after his 2022 decision to hand over power in Afghanistan to the Taliban, that President Joe Biden lacks a “tiger mindset”, and will recoil from putting US lives in danger should his forces join in the battle to defend Taiwan.

In these calculations by the CMC, the feelings of the population of Taiwan are regarded as inconsequential. It may be remembered that in the 2019 elections in Hong Kong, over 85% of seats and 80% of the vote went to individuals and groups that favoured complete autonomy for Hong Kong from the control of the PRC. From that time onwards, “winning over the people” was dropped as a strategy by the use of the bludgeon. In mid-2020, the National Security Law was passed in the always almost wholly compliant PRC legislature. Soon after that, autonomy was extinguished in Hong Kong, and the HKSAR was converted in effect as just another province of China. A similar use of armed force is expected to extinguish any effort by the elements within Taiwan (and these account for the overwhelming majority of the population) that favour dissociation from the PRC. After the occupation, “traitors” (i.e. those known to be opposed to Beijing’s control) are to be put on trial, and most will escape with jail sentences, while a few of the “extreme independence elements” would be slated for an assisted entry into the afterlife. Hundreds of thousands of citizens are to be identified and “re-educated so that they love the Party and Motherland” i.e. the PRC. In many ways, this would be similar to what has been happening for decades in Xinjiang, where the Uygur population is being taught to “love Party and Motherland” by being put in “re-education centres” where they are being subjected to teaching methods not normally found in schools where pupils are not “re-educated” but simply educated.

Given that US bases in Japan would be within range of PLA artillery firepower were Taiwan to be invaded, it is improbable that even a US President not known for his “tiger” instinct would repeat an Afghanistan 2021 scenario in Taiwan and allow the PLA to take control of a country that is central to US and allied primacy in the Indo-Pacific over the Sino-Russian combine. What would send the PLA plans for a six is the rapid initiation, after initiation of hostilities by the PLA, of Escalation Dominance by the Quad members. This would involve broadening the arena of conflict to the whole of the Indo-Pacific. It may be remembered that in 1965, Prime Minister L.B. Shastri frustrated the plan of General Ayub Khan to grab the entirety of Kashmir by broadening the conflict across the entire India-Pakistan border. Were the conflict to remain confined to Taiwan, the PLA would have the upper hand. Once the field of operations widens into other PLA-afflicted theatres—from Djibouti to Gwadar to Hambantota to Kyaukpyu and other locations where the PLA has set up overt or covert capability—the PRC would lose control of the military situation even across the Taiwan Straits. Only in a scenario that involves the confinement of operations to Taiwan can the CMC scenario of taking control of the island nation in the 12-16 days that its planners believe is the time that they judge to be too short for the US in particular to respond in force sufficient to an invasion by the PLA. Apart from the conflict being confined to Taiwan, another calculation is that the armed forces of Taiwan would very quickly cease to resist, once it became clear to them that external help would be too late and insufficient to affect the final outcome. Similar calculations were made by Corporal Hitler when he approved Operation Sea Lion, the invasion of the British Isles, in 1940. That failed to work, and in the case of Taiwan as well, Xi appears to be making the miscalculation that CCP-resistant forces would fold as rapidly as they did in Hong Kong, a location that has been occupied by the PLA since 1997.

The glad tidings for the CMC are that the significantly Eurocentric band of senior officials accumulated by the 46th President of the US are coming up with absurd scenarios that envisions a Ukrainian-style resistance by the Taiwanese people to a PLA invasion. They are therefore discouraging the Taiwanese military from going in for the longer-range weaponry needed in an actual conflict, and are asking them to confine their purchases (unlike in the case of Ukraine, which gets all its armaments free of cost, Taiwan is made to pay for each round of artillery) to items that are designed to defend against a beach landing. Some in the Biden administration are talking of getting the Taiwanese to purchase MANPADS so that every citizen becomes a defender, as in Ukraine. The hi-tech Taiwanese are very different from the oil drilling and farming communities of Ukraine. And having seen what has been happening to Ukraine, most Taiwanese appear to be in no rush to follow the example of that unfortunate country.
Both the State Department as well as the National Security Council in the US are led by Europeanists in the Biden mould, and both are pitted against the Pentagon in insisting that Taiwan should be given only the means to launch a response to a PLA offensive on the landing shores rather than an active defence strategy in which east coast cities in the PRC would be at risk in the event of PLA aggression. The State Department and NSC’s unreal and wholly reactive strategy that is also favoured by many in the White House plays to the CMC playbook of a quick, sharp cross-strait localised war that accomplishes its tasks before any opposing force can react in force. Should the CMC be convinced that broadening of the conflict by the Quad to other theatres within the Indo-Pacific and active rather than reactive defence by the Taiwanese are outside the realm of possibility, the prospects for initiation of war by the PLA during 2023-27 increase substantially, just as they did in the 1930s as a consequence of the policy of appeasement followed by France and Britain. And even when that was abandoned, the French army did what the PLA now wants the Taiwanese military to do, which is to surrender at speed. Whether it be Taiwan or India, both the State Department as well as the NSC analyse the situation from the Europe First (when not Europe Only) perspective that was a feature of the Clinton administration. Hence the inability to understand the full impact of the economic and other consequences on the policy of the White House to try and grind the Russians down at the cost of Ukrainian lives and land, and to plead for help to Beijing when that capital is seeking to prolong that conflict for as long as needed to complete preparations for Xi’s China Dream (and Taiwan’s Nightmare) to come into operation.

Immediate escalation of a cross-strait invasion of Taiwan into other theatres and arming the Taiwanese military with the weapons needed for active defence may persuade Xi that the risks of an attempted takeover are too high for him to take. Not for the first time, policymakers in a democracy that are frantic to prevent a war end up creating the conditions for its initiation. The clock will begin ticking as soon as Xi gets his third 5-year term, and thus far, NATO appears to still believe that it is Moscow that represents the most potent threat to its membership and not China. This has, however, not discouraged countries ranging from the Marshall Islands to Tuvalu to Taiwan, not to mention the key members of ASEAN, to boost their defences against any aggressive move by the PLA. Their morale and confidence have been strengthened by the resolute manner in which India has been dealing with the threat posed by a revisionist superpower out to upend the status quo to its exclusive benefit.

PLA needs a limited, lightning war for success in Taiwan