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.
It was only a matter of time before growing anxiety over food supplies and prices across the globe induced action by nation-states and citizens alike. As 2022 motors along, concerns about the health of the global economy, the lingering hangover of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as its recent return to China, and the economic consequences of the war in Ukraine have come together to create a perfect storm. Food prices are going through the roof in a number of nations, and it was only a matter of time before citizens took to the streets and protested.
Over the weekend Iran saw a wave of protests break out across the country over cuts in state subsidies on food. To be fair, Iranians already have a laundry list of grievances with their government and economic conditions always serve as a barometer of the population’s feelings. It comes as no surprise to see Iranian citizens come out in large numbers to protest the subsidy cuts, as well as other issues. The swift and brutal response by the Iranian government, however, has raised some eyebrows around the world. Tehran’s readiness to clampdown on and make an example of anti-government protesters is an indication the government expects prices to rise even more in the coming weeks. With the cut of subsidies last week, prices on a number of flour-based food staples rose in excess of 300%
There are also protests and street violence over rising food prices and inflation going on in Sri Lanka and Tajikistan. Those situations will be discussed in more detail later in the week.
Then there is the increasing worry over food supplies. India is moving to take pre-emptive action by restricting exports of wheat to create a safety cushion of sorts for its own population. The Indian government seeks to control rising prices and diminishing output due to global economic conditions and the extreme heat wave that has affected Indian wheat production. Predictably, India’s move has sent global prices skyrocketing and prompted the US and European Union to begin searching for solutions to improve food supply chains. Given the current conditions, Washington and Brussels need to hurry. At the present time, the situation worldwide appears fated to become significantly worse unless measures are taken within weeks.
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!
It has been just over a year since the bloody clash between Indian and Chinese troops at the Galwan Valley. Since then, despite the partial disengagement between Indian and Chinese forces in the Galwan area and other parts of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), as well as complete disengagement at Pangong Lake, tensions remain high. The risk of conflict, inadvertent or otherwise, continues to persist. On some levels that danger is even more pronounced at the present time. China’s current troop deployments and dispositions in the LAC area has increased Indian uncertainty about Beijing’s commitment to make troop reductions in the region. At the Qatar Economic Forum today, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said that despite promises made, China’s “close-up deployment still continues, especially in Ladakh.”
China is improving its military and civilian infrastructure in Tibet and Xingjian, two border provinces along its border with India. China is upgrading five airbases in that region and building three new ones as well. Logistical facilities for the Chinese military are also being expanded at a hurried pace. Simultaneously, new civilian infrastructure links which would be invaluable to the military in times of crisis and war are being constructed. Highways and rail links in particular.
The purpose behind these preparations is clear: In the event of a future Sino-Indian conflict China intends to bring overwhelming force to bear in a minimal amount of time. What remains is determining if the nature China’s moves here are defensive-minded or offensive.
For India, the writing on the wall was made clear after the Galwan clash. China, not Pakistan is now the main enemy. This realization has caused India to increase its partnership in the Quad, an informal anti-China alliance of sorts that also includes the United States, Japan and Australia. Further, China’s new assertiveness has also turned Indian foreign policy and defense priorities upside down. Beijing is not going to ease the pressure and it will probably expand farther into the economic realm in coming months.
This is where India is facing its real predicament. Excluding Chinese companies from doing business in India is nearly impossible. A large part of this is because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The increasing demand for pharmaceutical ingredients and India’s present dependence on China for antibiotics and painkillers means New Delhi will not be able to adopt stringent anti-China policies in the foreseeable future. This economic dependence runs the risk of becoming India’s Achilles’ heel in its growing competition with the People’s Republic of China.
The standoff between India and China along their shared border area in the Himalayan region continues. The mutual troop withdrawals which took place earlier in the year, and subsequent rounds of negotiations, have failed to bring the crisis closer to a conclusion. In fact, negotiations have stalled and do not appear to be going anywhere. India’s attention is not on the northern border at present. The COVID-19 resurgence has gripped the national focus while Sino-Indian relations continue to worsen.
Meanwhile, on the Chinese side of the border, the People’s Liberation Army is reinforcing military positions and rotating troops along the border. The number of soldiers at the border has not changed, but China’s shift to ‘depth-areas’ has made reinforcing the border with additional forces much easier. This makes clear that China is in no hurry to de-escalate tensions. Quite the opposite. China has paid considerable attention to the military infrastructure in the Line of Actual Control (LAC) region. Beijing is constructing roads, military encampments, air defense positions and more. Several PLAAF airbases have increased their ability to bed down more combat aircraft.
India has not responded in kind. Its present forces in the region, including the Galwan Valley, have not been reinforced this year. Nor have they been rotated. Diplomatically, India has not made a major issue of the Chinese military activity. Given the present situation on the sub-continent, it is unlikely to do so any time in the near future.
Author’s Note: Apology for the short post. Allergies have been a major problem this week, but are beginning to improve.