Interview with Indian General Asthana (ret.): “The Cold War 1.0 should have ended with the disintegration of the USSR, but some politicians in the USA kept it alive by eastward expansion”
Global Review had the honor to have another interview with Indian General (ret.) Asthana about the Russian Ukraine war, the Indian perspective and its meaning for the Indopacific strategy and related questions.
Global Review: General Asthana, the USA have a problem. Its power eroded in the last decades, partly because of some major strategic wrong decisions, be it the Iraq war, the Libya war or its neoliberal version of predator capitalism which lead to the financial crisis and exploding state debts. And there were at least 2 factions in the US administration, the Pentagon, the State Department and the CIA which thought that the USA have to fight Russia and China at the same time as the Sino-American axis for a new multipolar world order couldn´t be separated, while the other faction thought about appeasing Russia to bring it in distance to China or even become neutral or a junior partner of the USA and the West in the coming Sino-American conflict and the USA could focus then on the Indo-Pacific and Asian Pivot. It seems that the last option is wishful thinking of the past after Putin´s Ukraine war. How does India perceive this US dilemma and the Sino-Russian axis and the future of the US Indo-Pacific Strategy after the Ukraine war and the withdrawal from Afghanistan??
Major General S B Asthana
In my opinion, USA despite having largest numbers of think tanks in the world continues to make some major strategic miscalculations. After successful disintegration of USSR, the USA as the sole superpower went into an era of complacency, to some extent, leading to rise of China as a global factory aided by the USA, becoming an economic challenger. It also lost out in some niche technologies like AI, hypersonic weapons to name a few. Today the USA by itself doesn’t have the capability to fight Russia and China together at the same time, and many of their strategist had warned against such an attempt. The Cold War 1.0 should have ended with disintegration of USSR, but some politicians in the USA kept it alive by eastward expansion.
The Cold War 2.0 with China intensified in last decade, after Xi Jinping assumed power. the USA under President Joe Biden, embarrassed after botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, over-dependent on China for trade, found it difficult to pursue Cold War 2.0 and switched to Cold War 1.0 to up the ante against Russia through a willing partner President Zelensky of Ukraine and an opportunity of using annexation of Crimea to raise insecurity issue with EU to garner their support. Economic sanctions on Russia were not thought through as it pushed Russia in the orbit of China further. Now there is no chance of appeasing either to checkmate the other in near future; hence, there is hardly any dilemma or choice, but to attempt weakening Russia at the cost of EU and Ukraine. US is therefore attempting that China doesn’t join the war in favour of Russia, and try to woo countries like India and Japan to join West in condemning the two, in Ukraine or Indo-Pacific respectively. The reliability of USA in Indo-Pacific has certainly taken a big hit in the recent events with Taiwan, Japan and India looking more towards self-reliance than ever before.
Global Review: You similar to Modi and most parts of the Indian elite see the Ukraine war as the result of a great power game by the USA and Russia about Ukraine in the tradition of realism and Mearsheimer´s great power offensive realism, don´t want to condemn Russia or propose sanctions against it as the USA also didn´t care about sovereignty or the international order when invading Iraq and causing human tragedies and chaos in the Greater Middle East. You like Modi seem to think that a neutral Ukraine would be the best solution for all sides, the Russians, the USA, the Ukrainians and the rest of the world, that NATO expansion, missing security guarantees for Russia is the underlying motive. The Ukraine war is also criticised in the sense that after the withdrawal of US troops in Afghanistan, the USA focuses now more on Europe and maybe can´t manage the Indo- Pacific and counter China as the main competitor for itself and India. Also the global effects of the sanctions against Russia and the world economy. However, like Mearsheimer and other experts you seem to think that the conflict between Russia and the USA and NATO could be resolved by a neutral Ukraine, while many other experts think that this would only appease Russia in its ambition to drive the USA out of Europe and destroy NATO and the EU, starting with support of nationalist and right-winged parties and an attack in the Baltic states or a nuclear demonstration off the coast of Finland to deter it from a NATO membership. Russia´s draft treaty which wants a roll back of NATO before the borders of 1997, the date of the NATO-Russia Founding Act and before the Kosovo war are not mentioned or that Russia´s goal is far beyond just Ukraine. And that Putin just would not stop in Ukraine and use the ceasefire to regroup and strengthen his army with new recruits and transform the Russian economy in a war economy like his strategic partner Xi´s transformation of the Chinese economy and society for a “protracted war”. And it´s not just about Ukraine: The Sino-Russian strategic axis for a New multipolar world order which wants to push the USA out from Europe and the Indo-Pacific, the Xi-Putin meeting with the rumour that Xi asked to start his invasion after the Winter Olympics and that China with its new pipelines and energy treaties gave way to the Russian invasion in Ukraine as Putin knew that China would compensate the loss of his European market. Maybe Xi just used Putin as the „useful idiot for China“ to bind the USA to Europe. The fight is not about Ukraine, but about the new world (dis)order. Or as Lavrov said at the Munich Security conference: It´s wrong to assume that you can resolve regional conflicts first. First there has to be a new international security architecture and then you can solve the regional conflicts. Is India supporting Russia and China in its pursuit of a new multipolar world order or to which extent?
Major General S B Asthana
With your question I find that Mearsheimer and many experts in West hold similar views as expressed by me, highlighted in the initial part of the question. It’s a reality that Ukraine is geo-strategically so located that a neutral Ukraine was best configuration for peace between NATO and Russia, which ideally should not have been disturbed. While China and Russia may have been harbouring a Eurasian dream, it was nervousness of USA, struggling with loss of face, post annexation of Georgia, Crimea, botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, losing most of West Asia, wanting to checkmate Russia by taking up sovereignty issue of Ukraine in terms of freedom to join NATO or otherwise. USA was concerned that if Nord Stream 2 pipeline project succeeds many more NATO allies will be dependent on Russia, which will strategically weaken its hold on NATO and EU. I agree that it’s not only Ukraine but a big power contestation in which Ukraine is just a test bed. An escalation before commissioning of Nord Stream 2, was in best interest of USA as it benefits its arms and energy industry, creates opportunity to rebuild Ukraine, encourages EU to cut down energy dependency on Russia, thereby retaining its stronghold on NATO. The narrative, therefore was build up accordingly and overhyped by all instruments of information warfare, to create fear of insecurity in Europe, leaving them with no choice but to cuddle with US under NATO architecture.
In my opinion USA led NATO has overhyped Russian threat to Europe as Russia by itself doesn’t have the economic muscle to reconstruct erstwhile USSR by westward expansion. China views Europe as major consumer market, which it is reluctant to lose. While China and Russia may have declared that their partnership has no limits, but their interests in Europe are not the same, as China doesn’t face any imminent threat from NATO. NATO’s expansion was not overstepping China, so it’s reasonable to assess that threat of Sino-Russian nexus wiping out Europe was an unrealistic narrative played up to seek US interest in Europe. Unfortunately EU seem to be buying it, overlooking the fact that prolonging this war will sacrifice peace and energy security of Europe, trigger refugee crisis, and related internal security issues with so many mercenaries, armed volunteers licensed to fight, who may continue their activities in Europe, even after the war
India doesn’t support anyone in big power contestation and maintains its strategic autonomy. Multilateralism and multi-polarity is a reality of future, even if big powers continue to contest for superpower status. In my opinion India also sees EU as a pole in future multipolar world order, along-with US, China, Russia and many others, which is not the same position as that of some countries contesting for superpower status. I see Russia and China as two separate poles, compulsorily embraced into strategic partnership with no limits by ill-conceived sanctions from the West, and having scored a self-goal, getting worried of self-created threat.
Global review: Is NATO expansion and would a NATO membership of Ukraine really a military threat, an encircling of Russia, an existential threat (Mearsheimer) in any military sense? Isn´t this nonsense as Russia would start a nuclear war if any NATO soldier would cross the Russian border from Ukraine, Poland or the Baltic states? Or is it a military threat as Russia might lose its Black Sea Fleet (which is also questionable as it is building a navy base in Abkhazia) and its Mediterranean Fleet during the Arab Spring in Syria? Was the Ukraine war just about losing these military bases and pillars of its Mediterranean and Black Sea policy? However. Putin held a speech in which he spoke of Novorossiya, that there are no Ukraine people, but a Russian world and an Eurasian Union. Other experts say it´s a systematic fight between democracy and autocratism and it is the freedom spirit Putin fears, not NATO expansion. Some even say that Putin as he declared the dissolution of the Soviet Union as the biggest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20st century that he wants a roll back in whole Europe. Therefore the question is: Is the Ukraine war just a defensive reaction of actions by the USA, NATO and the West as Putin and Xi claim or is it an offensive war of aggression to stop the proliferation of democratic movements and in pursuit for a Sino-Russian new multipolar world order?
Major General S B Asthana
There have been security concerns and insecurities with Russia and NATO and both sides have overplayed it to justify their actions. While Russia can be accused of launching pre-emptive ground offensive on Ukraine, breaching territorial integrity of sovereign nation, to ward off its existential threat, NATO can also be accused for creating conditions threatening Russia by eastward expansion to a point well beyond collective security, rightly pointed out by Pope of Vatican as “Barking at the door of Russia”. Unfortunately this provocation continues with Finland and Sweden making a bid to join NATO, thus extending the direct land border with Russia by over one thousand km and expecting Russia to do nothing.
President Zelensky would have expected a violent action from Russia after signing decree aimed at de-occupation and reintegration of the Crimean Peninsula on 26 February 2021. Joint exercises with NATO gave up his and NATO’s intentions, adequate to alarm Russians, even if such acts were aimed to impress domestic audience. Russia will claim it as compulsion to reduce vulnerability of Crimea amidst reports of US involvement in the region in terms of trainers, exercises, alleged support to non-state actors like Azov regiments and establishment of biological laboratories with clandestine intentions. Russians could thus be looking at an end state with Donbass region liberated to act as buffer, and a landlocked Ukraine to safeguard free movement of its Black Sea Fleet, with Odessa and Transnistria as aim plus. The nuclear threat is to deter NATO away from contact battle in Ukraine. I don’t think Russia will use nuclear arsenal unless NATO attacks Russia. I would view President Putin’s sentimental speech just as a motivating speech for preparing domestic audience for tough times ahead.
Many in Asia including myself don’t buy the argument of NATO fighting for democracy against Autocracy, because for decades USA and EU have been supporting communist China, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan (sham democracy) to name a few. In fact US in Afghanistan side-lined democratic government to strike a deal with terrorist outfit Taliban, ending up with a government of the terrorists, for the terrorists and by the terrorists. The logic of democracy is being played up as opportunist card, to encourage countries like India follow NATO’s narrative, while the same logic was forgotten in condemning China when it violated territorial integrity of India, resulting into ongoing standoff. Ukraine war is therefore a big power contestation where Russia and Ukraine are fighting kinetic, contact, hybrid war and NATO is fighting Economic, Information, political and diplomatic war for gaining more influence and weakening Russia. China is happily observing both sides to learn lessons in progressing its contestation with USA.
Global Review: In your articles you also think, that the Ukraine war and the sanctions will accelerate the decline of the US world power, especially as it would create an alternate financial and currency system and undermine the hegemony of the dollar. Some Russian Eurasian thinkers in the tradition of Orientalists, Primakov´s RIC or RIAC-Kortunov´s Eurasia hope for the dawn of a new international currency bloc, an Eurasian finance system with Yuan, Indian rupee, Turkish Lira or Russian rouble as a currency basket. That Saudi Arabia wants to use some yuan for Chinese oil imports or India rubble for some very limited oil imports from Russia, maybe Turkey will use the Rubel for Turkish energy imports etc. are seen as the dawn of a new Eurasian unity and order. The Global Times also praises India loud for not condemning Russia in the Ukraine war, praising India´s neutrality and sovereignty which doesn´t engage in the Democratic alliance of Biden- USA. General Asthana thinks that a new Eurasian finance and currency system is in the baby phase with the BRICS bank and the Chinese Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). But even if these babies are directed against the dollar, their volume and scope is still very limited and the Yuan would be the dominant currency under which the Indian rupee, the Turkish Lira, the Russian rouble or other weak currencies had to subordinate. Maybe the former European Currency Union and its currency the ECU could be a model as it was the baby phase of the Euro, but a currency basket with a oscillation spectrum which was limited to 15% while many currencies often dropped out. It became no real challenge for the dollar. However it is very unlikely that there will be a Eurasia like the Euro. A sort of Eurasian Euro. Which role a falling rouble or Turkish Lira would play in such a construction, which terms of trade, fracturing and currency relations and compensation mechanisms could be the base for such a construction is questionable. A finance and currency bloc of mostly bankrupt and sanctioned states , which have only the hope that China will come to their relief and become not only a currency Yuan colony, but neo-colonial for sale by China embedded in the New Silkroad and it would also mean that they will lose most of their so much praised sovereignty. And even the construction that the falling Turkish Lira could stabilize the falling rouble if Turkey bought gas from Russia is not an automatism as Israel and the USA want to replace Russian energy exports to Europe and Turkey by the Mediterranean Gas Forum which was founded under Trump and Pompeo and US fracking gas and oil. While India is part of the BRICS and the BRICS bank which has neither a general secretary nor a real big budget or famous investment projects. India is like the USA and Japan not member or investor of the Chinese AIIB which only finances a part of the BRI, but all three have their own projects like the Asia- Africa- Economic Corridor, B3W and they oppose the Chinese New Silkroad, India especially the China- Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) like the EU started now its own Global Gateway initiative. India and you seem to be worried that after the withdrawal from Afghanistan and its new US engagement in Europe and the Ukraine war, the USA might forget about the joint fight against China in the Indo-Pacific and might be not see a defence obligation for the Quad while the AUKUS is weakened by the new focus of the USA and GB on Europe. What about the Asian pivot and the Indo-Pacific and China and India? But in India there are some elite experts who discuss if the Quad will not become an Asian NATO and India in this framework hadn´t an US defence guarantee, maybe the USA and India should sign a bilateral security treaty like it exists between the USA and Japan. Do you think this is a perspective? Or does India see its future in an Eurasian axis with China and Russia in the BRICS and the SCO and an own finance system and currency bloc?
Major General S B Asthana
World is yet to witness any country collapsing because of sanctions although few are on the verge of collapse due to debt trap. Economic offensive, economic coercion and excessive use of sanction will surely lead to birth of alternatives. Its true that US led West has firm grip of global financial system and the scope of any alternative is very small in near future, but the beginning of alternate systems is a reality, which will impact dollarized economy adversely in the long run.
The excessive involvement of USA against Russia will dilute its response against China, although it may not admit it. Its reluctance to take risk and fight through proxy has been noticed globally in Russia Ukraine War, where its firing the gun from Zelensky’s shoulders, bearing no burden of casualties. Not very many are hopeful of a strong response by USA on any of Chinese action. In my opinion, India is unlikely to be part of any military alliance/axis, although it will have strategic partnership with many countries. India doesn’t look at Quad to protect itself from Chinese aggression, but a collective platform to face non-kinetic challenges in Indo-Pacific for global good. India certainly looks at its strategic partners for its capacity building and self-reliance, which is also in global interest of rule based order being frequently challenged by China in Indo-Pacific. This partnership between India and West is of mutual interest and valuable for both, as India’s location is crucial to meet future challenge from China, as Chinese shipping is most vulnerable in Indian Ocean.
The war in Ukraine has given a major lesson that numerical superiority of military assets by itself may not deter a determined adversary, which is using the terrain friction like use of built-up area by Ukraine, which favours defender out of proportion. It also proves a point that peoples resolve to fight for their country is a force to reckon with, which can derail the plans of a much stronger adversary out of gear. The lesson equally holds good for India, which can overcome Chinese superiority of numbers by skilful use of terrain friction of Himalayas in North, choke points of oceans in the South, taking advantage of relative distances from China, by its professional military, backed by national resolve, strong leadership and nuclear status.
Global Review: The Russian nuclear strategy is unique in the world as it relies on the “escalate to de-escalate” doctrine. Could you explain what is the difference between first use, first strike and how the Russian escalate to de-escalate approach relates to them, also in comparison to the military strategies of other nuclear powers? It will also be seen what deterrence strategy NATO will choose at its June 2022 summit, as some strategists and ex-generals believe the old deterrence strategy needs to be adjusted in the face of Russia’s escalate-to-deescalate nuclear doctrine, some US Generals also want to revive the doctrines of limited nuclear war and Airland Battle of the Regan era and Colin S. Gray, with the frontline and space for limited nuclear war now migrating east, right to the border of Russia, and the question is whether these concepts would still be suitable at all. In addition, the question also arises as to whether the NATO-Russia Act of 1997 will now be revoked in order to build permanent military bases, deploy permanent war equipment and NATO troops in Eastern Europe.
Major General S B Asthana
Taking a lesson from NATO’s intervention in erstwhile Yugoslavia, in 2000, Russia released an updated military doctrine in which it outlined the concept of de-escalation through a limited nuclear strike. This idea put forth the notion that if Russia were subjected to a major non-nuclear assault that exceeded its capacity for conventional defence, it would “de-escalate” the conflict by launching a limited—or tactical—nuclear strike. In Russia Ukraine war, I don’t think this threshold has been crossed, the conventional war is still within the capability of Russians; hence, use of nuclear weapons even of smaller yield is premature.
No First Use (NFU) is a matured policy like the one followed by India, to assure the world community that the country will not be the first one to start a nuclear war, leading to Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). It commits a country to never use nuclear weapons first, under any circumstances, whether as a pre-emptive attack or first strike, or in response to non-nuclear attack of any kind. This concept is also applied to chemical and biological warfare in case of the NFU policy of India. The policy is a mature assertion to reduce the threat of nuclear escalation. India asserts that nuclear weapons are solely for deterrence and that India will pursue a policy of „retaliation only“, but will respond with punitive retaliation should deterrence fail“. NATO has repeatedly rejected calls for adopting NFU policy and never criticised Pakistan, which also doesn’t support it and frequently makes irresponsible threats to use it against conventional forces. By the same logic Russia also has apprehensions about collective might of NATO in conventional forces and has chosen the kind of nuclear policy, which it has.
In nuclear strategy, a first strike or pre-emptive strike is a pre-emptive surprise attack employing overwhelming force. First strike capability is a country’s ability to defeat another nuclear power by destroying its arsenal to the point where the attacking country can survive the weakened retaliation while the opposing side is left unable to continue war. The preferred methodology is to attack the opponent’s strategic nuclear weapon facilities (missile silos, submarine bases, bomber airfields), command and control sites, and storage depots first. The strategy is also referred as counterforce.
I don’t think that Russia will use nuclear weapons but with increasing tendency of NATO to send heavier weapon platforms in Ukraine, an accidental trigger could escalate war. If NATO enters into contact warfare with Russia, then such speculations may not hold good. I don’t contribute to the idea of limited nuclear war, as its too serious alternative to experiment with. It is in everybody’s interest to terminate conflict and get on to diplomatic talks. Instead of revoking NATO-Russia Act of 1997, Section III of which envisions talks between NATO and Russia, to include conflict prevention, peacekeeping, prevention of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and exchange of information on security policies and defence forces needs to be pursued in talks instead of revoking it, for the sake of global good.
Global Review: What do you think is the role of China? Did it agree to Putin´s Ukraine war to test the West and the USA after the Global Times already after the US withdrawal in Afghanistan wrote: “Vietnam, Afghanistan, Taiwan next?”. Did China think that Ukraine could be the blue print for an Taiwan invasion? However Taiwan doesn´t believe that China will start an invasion in the short term as it might be deterred by the Russian quagmire in Ukraine and the misjudgement of the strong united reactions of the West. It is “highly unlikely” that China would invade Taiwan this autumn, National Security Bureau (NSB) Director-General Chen Ming-tong (陳明通) told lawmakers yesterday, amid reports of a leaked Russian intelligence document suggesting that Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is considering doing so. “I believe this so-called leaked document is part of cognitive warfare targeting Taiwan,” Chen told a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee, but stopped short of naming China or Russia. As the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is scheduled to hold its 20th National Congress this autumn, the party’s main task is to maintain stability, Chen said. It is therefore extremely unlikely that China would invade Taiwan at that time, he said. Xi is widely expected to secure a third five-year term as the head of the CCP at the congress, and embark on a reshuffle that could see top party leaders replaced. The alleged document was made public last week by Russian dissident Vladimir Osechkin. Chen told lawmakers that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was a wake-up call for the democratic world to be more alert to the threats posed by authoritarian countries like Russia and China. Unlike Europe and the US, which have an existing collective security system, East Asia does not have a similar mechanism and cannot mount a swift response if war breaks out in the Taiwan Strait, Chen said. However, the US’ Taiwan Relations Act commits Washington to providing Taipei with the means to defend itself, which can serve as a legal basis for the US to assist Taiwan in case of a Chinese invasion, he said.
Chen added that he does not see China adopting a “reunification law,” as it would put too much pressure on Beijing to set a timetable for bringing Taiwan under its control, which could severely raise tensions. China has not officially proposed such legislation, which would be a follow-up to its passage of the Anti-Secession Law in 2005 giving Beijing the legal basis for military action should Taiwan secede or consider seceding from China.
However, it has been discussed in state media. Asked about a political adviser’s suggestion that such a law be enacted, a spokesperson for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office last week said that it would “carefully listen to, and study opinions and suggestions.” Adopting a reunification law would be “equivalent to setting a timetable,” Chen said. “In the past, during the Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) era, they tried to set a timetable, but in the end thought it best not to, as it would put pressure on them.”
However, do you think that China will start an offensive in the South China Sea, the East Chinese Sea or against Taiwan in the mid- or long term. Some experts think that China has plenty of time and is not under pressure and as long as the DPP is not pushing too hard for independence, nothing will happen while other experts of the so called ‘peak power theory’ think that the international constellation isn´t as advantageous for China any more, its growth rates will slow down and its power will reach its peak in the next years and therefore it might use this historic window of opportunity to start an attack against Taiwan or the USA. What do you think? Do you think the situation around Ukraine and Taiwan are similar and what would the international reactions and that of the Asians and the world be in the case of an Chinese aggression?
Major General S B Asthana
Russia Ukraine War is the happiest situation for China, as it has diverted attention of US from China to Europe, to some extent. It can derive pleasure out of awkward position of West, which through its crippling sanctions has pushed Russia further towards stronger ties with it, as never before. At the same time, it’s an opportunity for China to test Joe Biden’s administration’s risk appetite, in case it decides to take some action in Indo-Pacific. I don’t visualize any pre-agreement between Russia and China in starting this war, because China is too shrewd to get into an obligation, or incur extra cost for Russian invasion, especially in adverse situation. Chinese market size with West is more than a trillion dollars in comparison to Russia, which it may not be too keen to compromise.
In my opinion, attempting to take Taiwan by force does not make any strategic sense for China, internationally as well as domestically. It has every disadvantage and none of the advantages, and it stands to lose a lot of face both internationally and locally. There is no incentive to pursue such a course of action because the Chinese redline of „Taiwan going nuclear/declaring independence“ is still to be crossed. The US risk aversion policy of aiding its partner by pushing it to purchase its armaments and confining its assistance to the political, diplomatic, and information realms has had no effect on China. The US response to repeated Chinese violations of Taiwanese air space was insufficient to make any commitments to Taiwan, as was the international response. The ratio of combat power near Taiwan Strait is in favour of China, where its land-based arsenal is effective and its impact reduces as the distance from eastern seaboard of China increases. Taiwan will have to bear the brunt of the Chinese offensive until the international community responds, but China has other compelling reasons not to invade Taiwan.
Taiwan with its national spirit, modern arsenal from US, determined armed forces, enhanced defence budget (2022-2027) and US backing is unlikely to give a walkover. Ukraine war has proved how difficult it is to run over a determined country despite asymmetry of arsenal and impact of public opinion, which in Taiwan is against China. Chinese amphibious capabilities to capture Taiwan are suspect, more so if US warships are around. China unlike Russia carries a major vulnerability of its sea lines of communication, which can be exploited by USA, if it musters support to intervene. China has sufficient missile arsenals to destroy Taiwan, but such a massive destruction of Han Chinese (95 percent of Taiwanese population is Han), who have connections, investments, and inseparable ties with their relatives on the mainland and vice versa, will not sit well with the mainland’s domestic population. Over two million Taiwanese live in China, especially along the coast, and more than 20% of them have married there. This will also devastate the Chinese and Taiwanese economies, which is inconvenient for Chinese leaders who are trying to recover their economy, which has been hurt by a trade war, a failing BRI, and the recent COVID impact.
In terms of economics, bulk of Taiwan’s investments are already in China. Roughly 26 percent of Taiwan’s trade is with China, which is its largest trading partner, with Taiwanese export accounting for approximately 40% of total exports (Hong Kong included), with Taiwan having a trade surplus of over US $ 2.27 billion with China. Such an adventure, therefore, is not in Chinese economic interest. Getting Taiwanese under its wings will also bring a fresh democratic wave in China, which CPC may not be used to handle. Taiwanese people do not want to sacrifice their democratic freedom and prosperity, which is the main reason for success of Tsai. Chinese adventurism will therefore remain restricted to coercing Taiwan, by air intrusions, military drills and posturing to ensure that President Tsai doesn’t cross any redline. China will hope that DPP loses next election and Taiwan has friendly government in power.
Xi Jinping’s coercive gestures are making Taiwan stronger in capability and resolve. An attempt to unite Taiwan by force will certainly up the ante with US, prove China as irresponsible bully, may lead to loss of life of Han Chinese both ways, economic destruction of its one of the largest investors and jeopardise China’s goal of national rejuvenation. Internationally, China may have tested US resolve, but Taiwan’s resistance can be substantial and invasion may not go their way. I don’t contribute to application of ‘Peak Power Theory’ by China at this point of time, due to setbacks in its economy, upcoming CPC meetings and uncertainty over coronavirus pandemic outbreak.
Global Review: Do you think China and India could be a mediator in the Ukraine negotiations or are they too close to Russia and maybe don´t want to serve in this function?
Major General S B Asthana
Currently both sides are not looking for negotiation or mediation, instead claiming to be on doorsteps to victory. I don’t think India or China will be keen to mediate unless invited by both the parties to do so. NATO seems to be determined to weaken Russia as much as possible, even if amounts to prolonging the war, whereas Russia wants to consolidate its gain and finish liberation of Donbass and landlocking Ukraine before ending this war. Realistically it is in global interest that conflict is terminated immediately and diplomatic negotiations are resorted to, but I am not sure that the parties to the conflict hold similar view.
Global Review: China announced proudly that it was invited for the first time to the Summit of the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC). The Global Times wrote: China and the Islamic world are standing closer with each other while the world is experiencing profound changes, as the Chinese foreign minister was for the first time invited to attend the foreign ministers‘ meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the biggest international organization of Muslim countries. With recent signs such as progress in FTA negotiations between China and the Gulf Cooperation Council, and Saudi Arabia in „active discussions“ with China to price some of its oil sales to China in yuan, many significant facts have shown that US efforts to hype rumours about Xinjiang have failed to split China and the Islamic world while the two sides have chosen to explore deeper cooperation, said Chinese analysts on Tuesday.
Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in Islamabad, capital of Pakistan, Monday that China and the Islamic world have a strong desire to build partnerships for unity, justice and development. The OIC is the second largest organization after the United Nations with a membership of 57 states spread over four continents of Asia, Europe, Africa and South America which covers almost all Muslim countries. (…) With the increasing cooperation in the fields of trade, sci-tech and energy between the two sides, China has replaced the US as the biggest importer of energy resources from many main energy exporters in the Islamic world. It’s natural for China and the Islamic world to stand closer to jointly overcome the challenges and deal with increasing uncertainties around the world, said Li. In January, major members of the OIC like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey visited China, and Special Envoy of the Chinese Government on the Middle East Issue Zhai Jun visited Saudi Arabia from March 13-14 and met OIC Secretary General Hissein Brahim Taha. Ties between China and the Islamic world have not been undermined despite the US and its followers continually spreading disinformation and rumours on China’s Xinjiang. This just further shows that the vast majority of Muslim countries do not fall into the trap set by Washington, and know that it was the US who brought chaos and disaster to their lands, experts said.
„Xinjiang is the starting point of the Silk Road Economic Belt, and the US has specifically targeted this region as it needs to contain the development of the region and to ruin the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative,“ and the vast majority of Muslim countries can see the US intention, Hua said. Qiu told the Global Times that „based on the long experience of dealing with China, most Muslim countries have found China with high credibility, morality and responsibility, and the disinformation about Xinjiang cooked up by the West can’t fool them while China invited many Muslims countries to send delegations to witness the development and improvement of people’s lives in Xinjiang. „Especially with the US and its Western allies‘ role in the „Arab Spring“ that caused a huge amount of instability and humanitarian crises, these US-promoted new „crusade“ offensives made the Islamic world lose faith and a sense of security toward the West, Qiu said, noting that this makes Muslim countries believe that developing deeper ties with China serves their interests to withstand US and Western hegemonic acts. “
How do you perceive China´s role in the Muslim world . Was Huntington right when he claimed in his Clash of Civilizations that the Confucianist civilizations would join the Muslim civilization in its struggle against the liberal West? Does India attend the OIC meetings or other Western or non-Muslim states and which relations has India in the Muslim world`?
Major General S B Asthana
China has strong economic and trade linkages with most of the Islamic countries. The fact that hardly any Muslim country is critical of Chinese treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang indicates that most Muslim countries are putting their economic interests above religious linkages. There is a common factor of animosity against the western world to a varying degree, therefore, the claim that in clash of civilisations Confucianists civilizations could join the Muslim civilization in its struggle against the West has some logic.
India has previously attended OIC meetings. Except for Pakistan, India enjoys cordial relations with practically all OIC countries, and in most cases, those relations are developing. Pakistan continues to raise the Kashmir issue with the majority of them, and some of them occasionally oblige up to a point. India likewise has cordial connections with the West, and unlike the Sino-Muslim stance against the west, it has no enmity against the West. India has the world’s second-biggest Muslim population and may have the largest by 2030. As a result, I do not believe that anti-Western sentiment stems solely from religious sentiment, but rather from historical Western interference in Muslim nations, which China may use to achieve its goal of becoming a superpower by displacing the US-led West.
SHORT BIODATA: MAJ GEN S B ASTHANA, SM, VSM
Globally acknowledged Strategic and Security Analyst authored over 400 publications. Veteran Infantry General with 40 years of experience at national and varied international fields. Held various key appointments in Army and UN. TV commentator, Speaker in various Strategic, Military forums, UN Organisations, and Universities. Interviewed by various National and International news channels/newspapers/organisations on strategic, military and UN related subjects. Currently On Governing/Security Council Confederation of Education Excellence CEE, International Organisation of Education Development (IOED), and other UN Organisations. On Advisory Board of SWEDINT, Global Advisors Consultants Corporation, member Expert Group Challenges Forum, IOED representative in UN Headquarters, Vienna, Austria. Chief Instructor, USI of India, the oldest think tank of India. Former Director General Infantry. Distinguished Expert, Bharat Centre of Canada.
Awarded twice by President of India, twice by UN, CEE excellence award for Nation building by Governor of Haryana. Awarded for “International Diplomacy and Global Conflict Resolutions” by IOED twice, a Consultative body for ECOSOC and International Police Commission – IPC India, by former Prime Minister of Moldova.
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