Earlier today, India announced it will be joining the US-led diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing after China included a soldier involved in the 2020 Galwan valley clash between Indian and Chinese troops. Qi Fabao, will be one of the torchbearers at the Opening Ceremonies. He is a PLA officer and back in 2020 served as a regimental commander in the Xinjiang Military Command. He suffered a considerable head injury in the Galwan skirmish. After learning of Qi’s inclusion, the Indian Foreign Ministry announced that its senior envoy to Beijing will not attend the Olympic ceremonies.
The US, Britain, Australia, and Canada are the core members of the diplomatic boycott with a number of other countries such as Denmark and Japan also refusing to send diplomats, ostensibly due to COVID-19 fears. Beijing has accused the US of politicizing sports with the boycott and vowed Washington “will pay a price for its erroneous actions.”
India’s decision to join the boycott, as well as China’s decision to include Qi Fabao in the Opening Ceremonies, threatens to shove the still-simmering border standoff and subsequent military buildup to the front burner. Chinese officials have not yet responded to India’s announcement, but this will change at some point soon, most likely. With China now on the center stage, Beijing will remain on guarded behavior, yet once the games end, it will react to India’s slight.
With the world’s attention focused on Taiwan lately, Sunday’s talks between Indian and Chinese military commanders slipped beneath the radar of many newsreaders across the globe. The discussions were the latest in a series of corps and army-level talks aimed at defusing a standoff at the border which has gone on for over a year. Since the clashes between Indian and Chinese troops along their disputed border, both nations have claimed they desire a resolution to the standoff. Their actions, however, tell another story as the military presence on both sides of the border continues to increase.
Sunday’s talks failed to make progress and on the following day India and China pointed fingers at each other. The Indian Defense Ministry placed blame on “unilateral attempts by the Chinese side to alter the status quo.” Indian commanders put forward reasonable suggestions at the latest round of talks but China’s representatives were not in agreement and resisted them. A spokesman for the People’s Liberation Army placed responsibility for the lack of progress on India, claiming Indian demands are unreasonable and unrealistic.
Both nations have raised the number of troops stationed in the border region and are actively building up infrastructure intended to keep large forces stationed there during the dangerous winter seasons. Current Chinese troop levels are estimated at 50,000 near the border with tens of thousands more men, and their equipment, within a day’s travel. India has kept pace with the buildup, deploying tens of thousands of its own troops, and weaponry to the border.
Things have been a little hectic on my end for the last few weeks and I want to apologize. My book deadline was looming and there were some other issues that also crept into my blog time. As a result, I have not been posting as often as I would like. I apologize for that.
On the bright side, I’m happy to say that I met the deadline, submitted the manuscript and now have considerably more free time on my hands. Therefore, as of Saturday I plan to go back to the every-other-day schedule for postings. Or every third day at the very most.
Outside of regular updates on present situations and posts about potential upcoming hot spots, I want to get back to the North Korean Collapse project. I should’ve known that I’d jinx myself when I promised in late July to post entries every weekend or so, provided no major event or war came into the picture. A week or so later Afghanistan started to crumble, I devoted my DIRT time to monitoring and writing about that, and the NK Collapse project went by the wayside. I intend to brush it off and resume towards the end of September, war or peace.
Short term, I think we’re going to stay in the Western Pacific region. There’s been considerable activity in that area with regards to China’s diplomatic moves and military posturing. Also, when the time allows for it I want to discuss the present crisis in confidence that is looming for the US military. Some folks are starting to recognize it, but it has not been discussed much up to the recent revelations about the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff contacting his Chinese counterpart and discussing potentially secretive subject matters in January, 2021. There’s a lot more happening underneath the surface. Definitely worth talking about more.
Yesterday’s decision by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to step down at the end of the September came as a shock even though it was widely expected. Suga’s handling of the latest COVID-19 outbreak in Japan has been seen as ineffective and his public support has plummeted. Suga’s own party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has lost confidence in him, a death knell for any prime minister. To be fair, Suga was never expected to become more than a placeholder. His time in office followed the tenure of Shinzo Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister.
The prospects of a Quad Partnership summit in Washington later this month are rapidly dimming now, owing to the return of Japanese political instability. Even though some sources claim there is still a possibility of a meeting happening, it doesn’t seem likely at this time. However, there are growing indications that India’s leader Narendra Modi will visit the United States this month. There has been no official confirmation, yet Today’s DIRT has learned from friends within the Indian government that preparations for the trip are underway.
A visit to Washington and subsequent meeting with President Biden could occur on September 23-24, followed by Modi traveling to New York City for the UN General Assembly.If the trip does happen, it will mark the first in-person meeting between Modi and Biden, coming on the heels of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan as well as rising tensions in the Western Pacific.
Last week we discussed the new strategic realities India is contending with at the present time as China is replacing Pakistan as the nation’s primary adversary. The solidifying Chinese military footprint in areas near the Sino-Indian frontier was touched upon, as was the absence of a similar response by India. Whatever the hesitancies were that prevented New Delhi from formulating an effective countermove appear to have disappeared. The Indian military will be shifting 50,000 troops towards the border region in an effort to increase the number of options available to Indian commanders. The shifting of these forces to the north will reduce the number of troops allocated to the defense of India’s western border with Pakistan. This is a prime indication of the shift in strategic focus from Pakistan to China.
The timing of this move must be taken into account as well. India has just been ravaged by a recent wave of COVID-19 cases and the economy is contracting at a dangerously rapid pace. There will be less money available for defense in future budget cycles, meaning this shift of troops needs to take place now. However, even as this troop movement plays out and India continues to realign its strategic priorities, China continues to hold an advantage along the border.
This is an area that we will certainly explore a bit later in the week, along with today’s drone attack on an Indian Air Force installation in Kashmir. Tomorrow’s post will take a look at the dueling NATO and Russian naval exercises now kicking off in the Mediterranean and Black Sea. Hope everyone has had a good weekend!