China’s response to the signing of the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (Beca) between India and the US is reminiscent of the old trap that the dragon used to ensnare our leaders in the past—the narrative of an Asian or Third World comity of nations which were exploited by imperialist and/or ‘neo-imperialist’ powers (read Western countries, especially the US). That narrative was a trap which is gradually being eroded.
It was surely galling for Beijing to see the world’s two biggest democracies coming together. As Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his US counterpart Mark Esper signed Beca during the third India-US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue in New Delhi, US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo minced no words in slamming the perfidy and villainy of the Chinese Communist Party.
Pompeo said: “The US and India are taking steps to strengthen our cooperation against all manner of threats and not just those posed by the Chinese Communist Party. Last year, we expanded our cooperation on cyber issues, our navies have held joint exercises in the Indian Ocean.”
He also castigated China for “instigating” a clash with India in eastern Ladakh: “The recent clashes initiated by the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] are just the latest examples of the Chinese Communist Party’s unacceptable behavior. It is important that democracies like ours work together, especially as we see more clearer than ever the true scope of the challenge posed by the Chinese Communist Party.”
Further, the next Malabar naval exercise by the navies of four major democracies—the US, Japan, India, and Australia—in November has greatly upset CCP bosses.
So, China’s reaction to Beca and the Malabar exercise is an essay in subterfuge: it tends to resurrect the Cold War era of Third-worldism. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said, “These are groundless accusations which reflect that he is clinging to the Cold War mentality and ideological biases. We urge him to abandon the Cold War and the zero-sum game mentality and stop sowing discord between China and regional countries as well as undermining the regional peace and stability.”
Devil quoting scriptures may sound more convincing than Wang’s rant. For it is Beijing that believes in the zero-sum game: it believes that it can become economically and militarily strong only by making other nations poor and weak. It sees India as a rival. Accordingly, it abets Pakistan’s bellicosity against India, tries to strategically encircle India, dumps its goods in India, and checks by means fair and foul India’s economic development (e.g., funding anti-national NGOs).
It is China which is a threat to Asia, and yet it has the cheek to blame Pompeo for “sowing discord between China and regional countries as well as undermining the regional peace and stability.” Its mendacity and sanctimony are stupendous.
To be sure, Beijing has always been mendacious and sanctimonious—telling lies to Jawaharlal Nehru and his successors, while pretending to champion the cause of the victims of imperialism. This worked for a long time, even after Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government signed the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement in 2008, much to the annoyance of the coalition’s Left allies who left the alliance following the deal.
“The UPA returned to power without the Left, but with little political enthusiasm for deepening ties with the US. The focus was on keeping visible distance from the US in the name of non-alignment, strategic autonomy, and the quest for a multipolar world. The relationship survived those years, thanks to the US’s perseverance,” wrote C. Raja Mohan, director, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore, in The Indian Express today.
It needs to be mentioned here that the Leftist doctrines of “non-alignment, strategic autonomy, and the quest for a multipolar world” have been the bane of our foreign policy. In fact, for the Left-liberal establishment these abominations are still an article of faith. Defence expert Pravin Sawhney wrote in the Left-leaning news portal The Wire that by signing Beca “India has potentially mortgaged the digitised military capability of its three services—army, air force and navy—to the United States. If this sounds startling, it is.”
A couple of points need to be made here. First, it was not some imaginative and facts-based thinking that has brought India and the US closer; it is the force of events—China’s military aggression, its role in the spread of the novel coronavirus, its support for Pakistan, and other anti-India activities—that has brought India close to the US and other Western democracies.
Second, there are still many elements, many of them entrenched in the system, that are doctrinally and temperamentally opposed to the West in general and the US in particular.
Therefore, it would be sanguine to believe that the leading democracies will continue to come together to promote the ideals and values of liberty, human rights, and international peace in the face of aggression by illiberal, barbarous, and roguish regimes like those of China and Pakistan. The path towards a coalition of democracies remains long and arduous, despite the achievements like Beca.