By Dr Subhash Kapila
Geopolitically significant was China’s switch to lift its veto in United Nations blocking designation of Pak Terror Chief Masood Azhar after years of resistance. It marked of China no longer being impervious to geopolitical pressures. China had come under immense pressure led by United States and France.
Notably, this Chinese climb-down from its unstinted permissiveness of Pakistan Army affiliated Jihadi Terrorist Organisations operating against India maintained for decades also marked two other significant pointers.
Importantly, this United States, France and British sustained pressures on China upholding India’s demand that UN designate Masood Azhar as ‘Global Terrorist’ was an acknowledgement of India’s geopolitical rise under Prime Minister Modi and his personal rapport and outreach to Major Power leaders. India under PM Modi seems to have arrived in that Major Power leaders were alive to India’s strategic sensitivities.
China’s climb down on its long held obduracy in United Nations on shielding Pakistan Army’s terrorism adventurism should be strategically noteworthy for United States and Western Powers that China is no longer impervious to Global Power pressures as long as they stand unitedly in any face-off against China.
In terms of US-India Strategic Partnership, President Trump is reported to have put China under a virtual ultimatum that China resile from obstructing India’s case in UN on behalf of Pakistan soon or face stern exposure and global condemnation by other UN procedural processes in United Nations as supporter of Pakistan Army’s Jihadi Terrorist Organisations and leaders.
China seems to have in preceding weeks before its decision indicated to Pak PM Imran Khan during his Beijing visit that it would have to yield to global pressures. What long-range impact this has on China’s critical strategic alliance with Pakistan and Pakistan Army has yet to unfold. One thing however is certain that both China and Pakistan cannot let go of each other. A dent would have been made in the China-provided ‘Iron Brother’ Shield.
The contextual background having been laid out, one can now proceed towards an analysis of China buckling to Major Power pressures in terms of its global and regional relationships.
Globally, so far the United States and Major Global Powers of Europe were virtually deferential towards China for both strategic and economic considerations. Strategic deference arose from counterbalancing of the Russia factor. Economic deference emerged from considerations of exploiting the vast markets that China offered.
For decades, the United States was in the lead of trying to convince the global community that China deserved patience so as to ease China into the role of a ‘responsible stake-holder’ in global security and stability. In the immediate run-up to 2019 , China’s sheen has now worn thin for the United States and other Major Powers. The significant trigger for change of attitudes towards China was China’s wanton stamping of United States sovereign toes in the South China Sea, illegal occupation of Islands belonging to Vietnam and the Philippines followed by construction of ‘Artificial Man-Made Islands for Chinese military fortifications to establish ‘Full Spectrum Dominance’ over the South China Sea expanse.
The above also seriously impacted on United States global predominance of switching US Navy Fleets from the Pacific Ocean to Indian Ocean and The Gulf and vice versa. The China maritime challenge in the making was a military gauntlet thrown directly at the United States.
US President Trump has significantly changed the American narrative of policy approaches towards China. The United States decades-old China-Policy of ‘Risk Aversion’ and ‘Hedging Strategy’ seems to have been finally dispensed with. Indicative of this is the US-China ongoing ‘Trade Wars’ which virtually amounts to downsizing China by means short of war.
Major Powers of Europe which earlier felt stifled by US approaches to China and wanted their share of the Chinese markets also seem to have reconsidered their China-Policy approaches as countries like France and Britain felt concerned by China’s aggression in South China Sea and growing intrusiveness in the Indian Ocean.
Most notably are the changed perspectives of the United States towards Pakistan based Jihadi Terrorist Groups which have not only plagued India but more significantly attacked US Military Embedment in Afghanistan directly or indirectly. Consequently, Pakistan’s strategic utility to United States has waned.
Notwithstanding United States dependence on Pakistani road-routes for logistics resupply of US Forces in Afghanistan, President Trump has chastised Pakistan’s reluctance to liquidate Jihadi terrorists’ havens in Pakistan. Obviously, lurking behind United States revised strategic calculations is the premise that China has overplayed its hand both in terms of global face-offs and its unstinted support of Pakistan’s terrorism misadventures against its neighbours.
In terms of global impact of the above developments it can be summed up that China’s and Pakistan’s misperceived centrality in United States and other Major Powers strategic calculus stands dented. No longer will strategic deference to China flow from Washington and Western capitals. China will henceforth be on a short leash.
In terms of global balance of power it should be evident that while China can still be expected to challenge United States and Western predominance with Japan and India in tow, it can no longer expect ‘soft retaliatory responses’.
In terms of regional implications of China no longer being impervious to Major Powers’ geopolitical pressures the impact will be of consequence in terms of Indo Pacific security and stability. China after its aggression and brinkmanship in South China Sea unchallenged by United States in terms of strong retaliation China became endowed with a larger than warranted military image.
Perceptions started flying in Asian capitals that United States power was really on decline and doubts commenced arising whether the United States in face of growing Chinese military power would be a credible provider of security in the Indo Pacific. With the present context of China yielding to Major Power pressures in the United Nations this prevailing misperception would no longer be valid and restore United States credibility in Indo Pacific.
Regionally, the present Chinese switch from obstinate and stubborn Pakistan Army’s strategic delinquencies against India to a more pragmatic approach to South Asian political dynamics and the reality of India as South Asian regional power and an Emerging Major Power transforms the existing equations in China-India relations and Pakistan-India relations.
Pakistan and the Pakistan Army should be prudent enough to recognise this transformation of South Asian geopolitical landscape and reset their proxy use of Jihadi terrorism against India more pointedly in Kashmir Valley.
Coupled with China not being impervious to United States and Major Powers pressures China is slowly realising that India under PM Modi is no longer a ‘strategic pushover’ of past Indian Prime Ministers. PM Modi enjoys the nationalistic support of India-at-large. This was exhibited in the Dokalam Military Stand-Off a year back and India’s resolute refusal to attend OBOR Summits in Beijing as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is a centre-piece of China’s OBOR strategy traverses Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, legally part of India.
Presumably, the above may have also been a factor in United States and Western Powers pressures on China having come alive to geopolitical reality that India indeed is an existential counterweight to China and needs to be supported substantially against China’s pressures in South Asia.
Concluding, as reflected in my Book and my decades on writing on China was the reality that China may be militarily overpowering on India’s peripheries around India but China also has glaring strategic vulnerabilities which provide India with windows of opportunities to drive hard bargains with China on contentious issue bedevilling China-India relations. China’s current yielding to global pressures by United States and Western Powers, perceptionaly favouring India should logically stiffen India’s bargaining powers with China. This should be a reference point for India’s policy establishment.