Protests broke out in different areas of India on Friday as crowds protested anti-Muslim remarks made earlier this month by officials of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The two officials were disciplined by the party, however, that has not quelled the anger brewing inside of India’s Muslim community. The remarks are seen as another example of the pressure being placed on them by the BJP party. Indian Muslims have complained about the ruling Hindu nationalist BJP restricting aspects of their lives from religious worship to the wearing of hijabs. On Friday, protests grew violent in the cities of Prayagraj and Ranchi. Over 100 protesters were arrested in clashes with riot police. The situations in both cities are now reportedly under control. In the Kashmir region protests and demonstrations were calm and peaceful for the most part.
India has faced backlash over the comments on the geopolitical front as well. A number of Gulf states criticized the weak response of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the offensive remarks made by members of his party. Earlier in June, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke against the decline of religious freedom in India. The Indian government called his comments ‘ill informed’ and suggested the United States get its own house in order.
The incident, as well as India’s handling of it, marks a shift of India’s strategy back to Cold War times as it attempts to maintain a closer relationship with Russia at the cost of its close ties with the US. India’s refusal to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its continued purchase of Russian oil does not sit well with Washington. Indian government officials claim they are simply acting in their national interests with regards to Russia even though their long term strategic interests remain tied to the United States.
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.
With the prospect of a Biden presidency becoming increasingly likely after the US media projected him the winner of the 2020 US Presidential Election, it is time to begin examining how a Biden administration might approach US foreign policy and security matters. There is much on the table ranging from China and Russia, to Iran and North Korea. Tonight, we’ll take a glance at what the future could hold for US-India relations, and more specifically the security cooperation forged between the two nations in the last two years or so.
The Modi government and Trump administration have gotten along magnificently. US-India relations have been strengthened in nearly every sector. The two nations have been working closer since 2017. The 2018 pledge by President Trump to create a ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’ brought new life to the 2007-2008 Quadrilateral Security Dialogue. Along with a new emphasis, the Quad also received a new label, now being referred to as the U.S.-Australia-India-Japan Consultations. Supporters of the Quad regard it as a growing ‘Asian NATO’ revolving around nucleus of the present four members and intended to contain China. Its detractors consider it a false start for Indo-Pacific cooperation and fated to do more harm than good. Beijing, of course, considers the Quad to be little more than an anti-China alliance, and the premise is not entirely false. China is regarded as an expanding threat to the security of region.
How a Biden administration will approach US-India relations and cooperation is unknown. The fact of the matter is that Biden has not revealed too much about his foreign policy designs. Given that he spent eight years as Barack Obama’s vice president, this could mean Biden’s own foreign policy will mirror Obama’s. His India policy will be inextricably tied to how his administration contends with an increasingly restless China. Given that India and China are embedded in their own stand-off in the Himalayas, a Biden administration might not want to appear as if it is favoring one over the other. Beijing can certainly point to the Sino-India standoff as a thorn in the side of its relations with the United States to gain concessions. The move did not work with the Trump administration but given the fact Biden will probably adopt a less confrontational stance with China, a move like that could be handsomely rewarded.
The disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC) separating India and China was the scene of a flare over the weekend and into today. The area of contention is Pangong Tso Lake, which has traditionally been considered to be inside of Indian territory. On Saturday night the Chinese attempted to land troops on the southern bank of the lake, prompting a buildup of Indian troops, and a standoff. So far, the confrontation has not turned physical. Troops from both sides stood in close proximity and yelling at each other. There have been no reports of injuries. The Indian Defense Ministry described the incident in a statement released earlier today, saying the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had “violated the previous consensus” and “carried out provocative military movements” near Pangong Tso Lake, in the remote Ladakh region.
China claims it has done nothing wrong. A representative from the PLA’s Western Theater Command accused the Indian military of a “blatant provocation” and wrecking the agreement both sides had reached over illegal incursions in the area. The officer demanded that India withdraw its forces and maintain control of its frontline troops.
Although this incident was nowhere near as deadly clash that occurred in June between Indian and Chinese troops along the same area of the LAC, it is disconcerting. A considerable amount of diplomatic effort has gone into calming tensions and establishing a sincere dialogue between the Indian and Chinese militaries. However, this latest flareup shows us that the LAC area remains a point of contention. It also leads to questions about how much influence China’s internal troubles are having on Beijing’s recent moves abroad.
That is a subject worth exploring more later this week. 😊
The fourth round of corps-level commander negotiations between Indian and Chinese general officers took place on Tuesday. The talks turned into something of a marathon, lasting almost ten hours as both sides worked to finalize the groundwork for a “time-bound and verifiable” disengagement away from all of the potential flashpoint areas in eastern Ladakh. The day’s focus was set on withdrawing large numbers of troops, and weapons from bases along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). China has moved troops 1-2 kilometers away from Pangong Tso and Hot Springs in recent weeks, but the numbers involved has been limited, and the act deemed as purely a symbolic act intended to appear meaningful. Still, India is now looking for a further pullback to 8 kilometers to beyond the Finger 8 point where the LAC runs north to south.
During today’s negotiations, India has insisted on complete restoration of the status quo ante along the border prior to the beginning of the standoff on 5 May. It is unclear if progress was made on this matter, however, it is unlikely that any. Agreeing to India’s demand would negate practically all of China’s efforts since early in May. As the situation stands for the moment, Chinese troops remain encamped on Indian territory. The Indians have made no attempt to remove them by force, opting for diplomacy, and controlled sabre rattling to reestablish the pre-May frontier.
Meanwhile, as India and China work to disengage, the United States is ramping up pressure on China over its actions in the South China Sea. That will be discussed tomorrow.