Funny how things turn out! The recently completed BRICS Summit in South Africa was supposed to be a sort of de facto coronation of China’s President Xi Jing Ping as the leader of BRICS. Look what South Africa’s President Ramaphosa said on August 22 while bestowing South Africa’s highest honor on President Xi Jin Ping:
- “People of South Africa Salute you, President Xi Jin Ping“
A day later India’s Chandra-Yaan soft-landed on the South Pole of the Moon, the first ever such landing. And it seems the mood totally changed at the BRICS conference. India’s Foreign Minister, Dr. JaiShankar, told his audience what President Ramaphosa had said after the ChandraYaan landing
- “I am going to sit next to PM Modi & hope some of it will rub off on to me” .
Dr. JaiShankar elaborated further about the evening after the ChandraYaan landing:
- ” .. this was a BRICS Summit; … there were about another 50 countries, 70 countries who were invited; about 45-50 were at the President, Prime Ministerial level; but that evening there was only one topic of conversation – that topic was the Chandra-Yaan landing; but to me …. the greatest satisfaction for me was this sense from all the leaders that India has done it but we, the leaders of Africa, Asia, Latin America, we also see this as motivating; it is your success but we also feel somewhere it is our success; we share it, we are happy; it is like a family member doing something very well; ”
Prime Minister Modi has declared India’s primary stand to be One Earth, One Family, One Future and that will be the Theme of the G-20 Summit next week. The core stand of China & President Xi Jin Ping is diametrically opposite – China is the new Middle Kingdom & all nations must heed it.
Frankly, everyone has known this for several years. But noble words from India did not carry much weight given the perceived disparity between the strengths of China & India. Then they all saw India’s Chandra-Yaan land successfully on the Moon’s south pole.
This stunning & previously unimagined success of India & its Chandra-Yaan has in one stroke elevated Indian strengths, Indian technology & Indian prowess to China’s level or even beyond. After all, everybody at BRICS knew that Russia’s lunar module had crashed while trying to land at Moon’s South Pole.
And PM Modi has followed up with his ask that the African Union be added to transform the current G20 into a new more-inclusive G21 under his One Earth, One Family & One Future theme. No wonder Xi Jin Ping has not affirmed his attendance at the G-20 in India. Both the motto & the leadership of PM Modi is anathema to Xi.
Russia & the China-India struggle
There is another central angle to the issues between India & China. Not only did President Putin congratulate PM Modi after the successful landing but he also personally called PM Modi a few days later. What many don’t realize is that China is trying hard to drive a solid wedge between Russia & India. That is actually an understatement. China’s goal is to achieve a power division of the world – a united China-Russia with their own subordinate regions vs. USA & EU, possibly with India (whom they still don’t take seriously).
This would be a disaster for Russia & Putin. The best and the easiest choice they have to avoid that is to maintain their close relationship with India & Modi. And that is equally true of India & Modi. A close semi-strategic relationship with Russia is crucial for India. Just look at a map – India & Russia are two major powers with a long land border with China, perhaps the only two countries that can limit China’s land growth.
This is now China’s key problem. Given India’s technological & financial success and the current financial semi-crisis inside China, the gap between India & China is narrowing and the entire world is beginning to take notice. So does China allow this trajectory to extend or do they do something to educate the world that India is a pretender while China is the real power.
Think back to 1962. China faced a similar problem with India. And they decided to wage a small contained war to cut India & its image down to size. And they did. What if they try to do so again?
China vs. India – like 1962 or totally different?
Remember that China has been staging military incidents against India every few years or so. The most recent one was in 2020 in Galwan, Ladakh on the eastern Himalayan boundary. China has not won anything but they haven’t lost anything either. And they have been strengthening their fortifications in the Ladakh line of control area & prodding India with crazy maps.
Will China launch a military incident next week while the G20 is underway in India? Will they force NaPakistan military to participate in a joint 2-sided incident? Note that China & NaPakistan are currently in the middle of a large joint military exercise called Shaheen X. And China has begun building underground bunkers near the line of control to presumably protect their troops from the Indian Air Force (IAF).
India seems to be taking this seriously, especially with the G-20 summit in India. Two weeks ago, India activated its third forward air base NYOMA (about 50 km from the line of control) to handle front-line fighters like Rafale & SU-30s. On September 4, the Indian Air Force will begin a large 11-day “exercise” in five northern states bordering both China & NaPakistan. Reportedly, it will dwarf the size of the current Shaheen X China-NaPak exercise.
And about a month ago, India completed a “massive exercise to conduct special military drills, carried out by Indian Army’s tank formations, focused on tackling enemy positions in the Eastern Ladakh area“. And what is in Eastern Ladakh? Chinese Army’s forward positions!
According to an interview 5 days ago by StratNewsGlobal with the previous commander of India’s Northern Army, a figure of 90,000 troops was mentioned about Indian Army’s troop strength in Ladakh. If this is anywhere near reality, then any serious conflict in Ladakh will not be a small affair. And all signs indicate that, this time, India might not restrict its military from taking offensive action.
That brings us to India’s neighbor & China’s ally whose friendship was glorified as higher than the Himalay.
You can’t discuss Ladakh without discussing the disputed territory of Gilgit-Baltistan. This is Indian territory that was illegally occupied by NaPakistan in 1948. PM Modi has sworn to unite Gilgit-Baltistan with India.
Clearly NaPakistan will go to war if possible to keep this territory that connects it with China via the Karakorum pass & China will most likely come to NaPak’s aid if possible.
That has been the status quo. Now look what is happening in Gilgit-Baltistan?
The people of Gilgit-Baltistan are in a massive revolt. They have always hated their Sunni Muslim occupiers from the rest of NaPakistan. But now they have had it. The Military regime has imposed a new blasphemy law that might actually label the Shia Faith as blasphemous. So the people are revolting not just to abolish the new law BUT to join India. Yes, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan are revolting to be allowed to rejoin India.
The NaPaki military is getting pressured on all sides with lack of money, massive food inflation and, to make matters worse, a public condemnation of the military government. It seems the success of Chandra-Yaan has gone viral inside NaPakistan. A pair of anchors said on air that they have the same color, the same language , the same heritage as Indians yet they remain so backward while India has gone to the moon. Another couple of young men said in a TV interview that NaPakistan is the same as the moon – Moon doesn’t have water, Napak doesn’t have water; Moon doesn’t have gas; Napak doesn’t have gas etc.
And terrorism from TTP continues unabated with a dozen soldiers killed this week by a suicide bomber:
So you have to wonder whether the NaPaki generals would prefer a brief joint China-NaPak military conflict with India to gain some respite from these insurmountable domestic crises?
China’s strategic experts have always claimed that China has time on its side in the fight against America. But the same experts have also claimed that one nation that has time on its side against China is India. So would China prefer to take down India a peg or two by waging a war now instead of waiting for India to get stronger?
Strange how one soft landing on the moon by Chandra-Yaan has created so much geopolitical uncertainty in Asia!!!
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