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INDIAN OCEAN REGION WATCH

In 2009, Robert D Kaplan noted that geography dictates and determines the “critical trend in world politics”. Anyone looking at the map of the Indian Ocean would not miss the geostrategic location of peninsular India whose three shores are lapped by the waves from the seas in the Indian Ocean. A keen politico-economic observer would also notice that India and many of the region’s other littorals are home to some of the largest consumer societies in the world. 

For long, China has felt contained and boxed within the limited sea room in West Pacific inside the series of island chains to China’s east. To a large extent, this ‘centuries of containment’ has fueled Beijing’s strong desire to gain access to the wide and open expanse that is offered by the Indian Ocean. It has manifested into her two-ocean strategy which has been in play for nearly two decades. Thus, with a long-term business and colonial interest in mind, when Chinese naval vessels arrived in the Gulf of Aden in 2009, they ruffled the largely peaceful waters of the Indian Ocean, sans piracy in the western seas. Their arrival added fuel to fire as they sold missiles systems to competing littoral states, who until then had been balancing well between peace and turmoil. Looking out for ‘friends with benefits’, China found a natural ally in Pakistan whose relationships with the United States were rapidly souring at that stage. Business relationships were consolidated quickly into strategic ties, with Beijing’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI) touted as a jewel in China’s ‘string of pearls’ strategy in the Indian Ocean. Even after being in play for five years and not accruing any economic benefit, Pakistan continues to dream that its subscription to BRI provides it strategic depth against India. 

China remained fully cognizant that in comparison to India or United States, it is in a weaker position in the Indian Ocean. Its official dismissal of any plans for creating military bases overseas has been a ploy to buy time. Many Chinese scholars have argued that use of port services and ad hoc logistic support facilities in ports, such as Gwadar, is only a step towards establishing permanent naval base(s). Given their economic benefits, scholars in Beijing are now advocating that establishment of overseas naval bases is China’s right. Under guise of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), China is today deeply entrenched in Pakistan’s affairs and has entangled the host nation in its economic fishnet. Blinded by its relationship with China and its deep-seated hatred towards India, Pakistan is under completely misplaced impression that the sales of warships, aircraft and submarines from its ‘all weather friend’ is for Pakistan’s good and for bringing peace to Indian Ocean!

As recent as June 25 this year, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) yet again denied removal of Pakistan from its ‘grey list’ because of ‘deficiencies’ observed in Pakistan’s mechanism to pluck terrorism financing. With Pakistan’s continuation in the ‘grey list’, Islamabad is unable to receive any substantial financial aid from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB) or the European Union. This has further aggravated problems for the debt-ridden nation, whose already precarious financial situation is nose-diving into Beijing’s debt trap. Islamabad is finding itself in a perilous state in dealing with China. Pakistan’s debt-ridden diplomacy has jeopardised even its territorial integrity as land and infrastructure has been doled out freely to multiple Chinese State Managed Enterprises. It is unfortunate that the country is now also becoming devoid of strategic autonomy in thoughts and action. 

Earlier this year in January, one of Pakistan’s Naval Ship Nasr had set sail from Karachi to visit Djibouti and Sudan, both along north western coast of Africa. Media in Islamabad was prompt to tout this deployment as an initiative to explore new options for engagement. Presumably the deployment was a part of a previously unheard foreign policy initiative called ‘Engage Africa Policy’! Most surprising was the media’s statement that the deployment was tailored to assist the vulnerable population affected by natural disasters in the host countries! For a country whose economy is unable to make ends meet without grants and capital investments from Beijing, and where at least 10 million people have been added each year in below poverty line status for the last three years, to deliver provisions to countries presumed to be in destitute, didn’t stand to any logic unless Islamabad’s hands were tied and their lips sealed. Perhaps the deployment of Nasr to the two African nations was dictated by Pakistan’s ‘all weather friend’. Given the exponentially high degree of economic debt that Islamabad has today from China, the likelihood of Beijing directing Islamabad to act in its subjugation remains high!

China is well entrenched in Pakistan’s affairs and is leaving no option aside to enhance its footprint in Indian Ocean. After making a windfall in politics, business, infrastructure and even agriculture inside Pakistan, Beijing is now persuading, directing and dictating tunes for Islamabad to dance too. So blinded is Pakistan in pursuing its single point anti-India agenda, that it is unable to see that the Chinese ships, submarines and aircrafts which it is (will be) receiving at ‘friendly prices’ are coming at a huge price of losing its own independence of thought and actions. The comments of the Chief of Naval Staff of the Pakistan Navy, Admiral M Amjad Khan Niazi, published in the Chinese daily, Global Times, in early February this year prior hosting a multi-lateral exercise, Aman-21, were seminal in this context. The Admiral was all praise for the Chinese Navy and championed the presence of this extra-regional naval force in the Indian Ocean to meet region’s maritime security requirements. He elaborated on series of weapons, sensors, combat systems and platforms which are being doled out to Islamabad. He, however, remained blaringly silent on the cost of these expensive toys and how his country’s debt-ridden economy would pay for them. The Admiral surely couldn’t be so naïve to not realise the cost of autonomy to his navy for such deals!!

Beijing’s model for investing in projects using own overcapacity, establishing port facilities, and doling out military hardware is now a well know colonialism ploy through economic debt. And the polity in Islamabad is simply choosing to ignore the consequences of Beijing’s ‘friendship actions’ to Pakistan’s sovereignty. Perhaps, we are witnessing the first stage of Pakistan’s Navy being re-established as “China’s Flotilla of Pakistan”!!

This article has been sent to the editor by Shree Pandey, who is political analyst and a keen observer of South Asian region.

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Defence

India US Military Exercise Amidst China’s Taiwan Conflict

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India US military exercise

Indian and American military forces will conduct the periodic ‘Yudh Abhyas’ or ‘War Practice’ from October 14 to 31, 2022 at Auli in Uttarakhand, which is 95 km away from the Line of Actual Control. The India US military exercise is undertaken to enhance the interoperability between the two armies, and the joint exercise will carry out maneuvers to exploit the full scope of high-altitude warfare.

The occurrence of 18th edition is happening at a very crucial moment as both countries have strife relations with China. The Indian side will showcase its high-altitude warfare strategies and US forces will complement them by exposing various technologies that can be used in challenging scenarios.

This edition will witness the participation of the Indian Air Force in the effective utilization of aerial and ground assets. Also, the India America Military Exercise develops the social relationship with country.

More About India America Yudh Abhyas in Uttarakhand

India US Military Exercise in Uttarakhand

Yudh Abhyas is the largest running joint India US military exercise and defence cooperation between the countries. The program was started in 2004 under the US Army Pacific Partnership Program.

It is hosted alternately between both countries. The 17th edition was held in Alaska in October 2021. The exercise aims at enhancing understanding, cooperation, and interoperability between the two armies.

Also, the moto of India America military exercise is successfully achieved in Auli Uttarakhand. Also, the impact of this social training is shown on different countries, and various controversies has been made.

Why India-China Standoff? Facts & Statements

India China Stand Off

In the last two years, there has been a constant rise in tensions between India and China, as the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) made an effort to unilaterally change the status of LAC. Also, the good relationship of India with powerful countries, terrify the China government, and such social activities such as joint India US military exercise, helps to more strong relations.

The Indian army struck back and thwarted the Chinese attempts. The External Affairs Minister while describing New Delhi’s efforts had said, “We’ve been resolute when challenged in border areas. 2 years ago, in the middle of COVID, we had China move forces in violation of an agreement. But we stood our ground and have been working it out without making concessions. The world recognizes that a country is capable of defending its interests”.

As per the latest news reported on 13 September 2022, the armies of both countries have confirmed their return from PP-15 (Patrolling Point) in the Gogra-Hot Springs area of eastern Ladakh, and Indian officials are hopeful for further negotiations on more crucial face-offs of Depsang Plains and Demchok.

US-China Tussle

Following the controversial Taiwan visit of the Speaker of the United States’ House of Representatives Ms. Nancy Pelosi, and the support extended by China to Russia in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, the US-China relationship has also deteriorated further. The two economic superpowers are generally also involved in a cold war in the

China’s Reaction on India US Military Exercise

China's Reaction on India US Military Drills

Chinese officials strongly opposed the military exercise, referring to it as a violation of past agreements between New Delhi and Beijing, and following conversation has been made:

“We firmly oppose any third party to meddle in the China-India border issue in any form”, Senior Colonel Tan Kefei, spokesperson for the Chinese defence ministry said. “In light of the relevant agreements signed by China and India in 1993 and 1996, neither side is allowed to conduct military exercise against the other in areas near the LAC”, Tan said.

He further added, “It is hoped that the Indian side will strictly abide by the important consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries and the relevant agreements, uphold its commitment to resolving border issues through bilateral channels, and maintain peace and tranquillity in the border area with practical actions”.

New Delhi’s Reply to China’s Allegations

Delhi Gov

In response to China’s allegations, “I do not understand the reference to third party interference. The India US military exercise is something completely different and I do not know what color has been given that it is targeted there or it is violating any existing agreement”, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.

“The two sides should stick to the agreements (signed) in the past and obviously that did not happen”, Bagchi said, referring to China violating the agreements which led to the face-off in eastern Ladakh.

After the coming together of like-minded countries for informal dialogue, namely Quad (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue), China’s apprehension has increased and it has levelled the grouping as an ‘Indo-Pacific NATO’.

“The Indo-Pacific strategy cooked up by the United States, in the name of ‘freedom and openness,’ is keen on forming cliques”, Foreign minister of China, Wang Yi had said. He further criticized the grouping as ‘it claims that it intends to change China’s surrounding environment, but its purpose is to contain China and make Asia-Pacific countries serve as pawns of US hegemony’.

All the members of Quad had cleared their agenda and said they are committed to cooperation with partners in the region who share the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region. India being an essential part of the grouping has always put its best efforts to maintain peace and stability in the region.

India’s Prospective with All Countries

India has always called for peace and co-operation in the region, that’s why the concept for India US military exercise has been conducted. Being a member of SCO, the two Asian giants have resolved their misunderstandings.

New Delhi has always asked countries to respect each other’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and international agreements. In the coming years, one can hope for a free and open Indo-Pacific region which will be beneficial for all the countries situated in this region.

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Is China’s Global Security Initiative a future security hazard?

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In April this year, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) laid out a new vision to re-establish the primacy of the Middle Kingdom (or zhong guo, 中国) by adapting the ancient concept of Tianxia (天下) which literally means “all under heaven”. In typical Beijing-style misdirection, this plan was disguised under the moniker ‘Global Security Initiative’. When he announced the Initiative, at the Boao Forum on April 21, Xi Jinping asserted that this effort was based on dialogue, partnerships and win-win situations – or is this initiative just another case of standard CCP hypocrisy lexicon?

 

But before we discuss the Chinese proposal for GSI, lets glimpse into the other major decisions of Chairman Xi and the underlying factors which have necessitated Beijing’s new gambit:

1. Xi’s win-win developmental myth aka Belt and Road Initiative – As the CCP prepares to mark its 101st anniversary, global opinion and trust in China is reaching record low levels. With each passing week countries which bought into the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), all face crippling loan repayments. Notably, China’s banks are never willing to re-negotiate payments, and almost always have a ‘debt-for-ownership’ deal on hand – take for example the situation of Sri Lanka and Pakistan! So, even the CCP’s friends are getting wary of making any new deals… which is casting a deep shadow over Xi’s legacy. 

2. Zero-Covid Mismanagement – The loss of faith in Beijing has been exacerbated by Xi’s refusal to recalibrate response to COVID in multiple Chinese cities. Extended lockdowns and mass quarantines have impacted global supply chains, with less developed countries facing the brunt of the economic hardship. Moreover, the complete failure of the much-touted Chinese model in containing COVID for over two months, even as the rest of the world regains a modicum of normalcy, has raised several questions about governance with CCP characteristics. Such doubts among political circles, where the CCP sought to expand influence, is deeply troubling for Xi and his party men.

3. China’s assistance to Russia’s Ukraine war – China has not been able to establish itself as a neutral player in the ongoing Russo-Ukraine conflict. Perceived by the West as supporting Russia, Beijing has faced strong headwinds across capitals in Europe. Moreover, coordinated Russia-China provocative military manoeuvres during the Quad Summit in Japan have reinforced the Western belief that Beijing and Moscow are cooperating militarily in the ongoing conflict. As a result, widespread resistance is being faced by Chinese commercial and political entities across Europe and America.

 

4. Rise of QUAD and Failure of Chinese Diplomacy – The deepening of the relationships among the Quad nations, as well as the declaration of multiple Quad projects and initiatives has impacted the CCP’s self-belief. Beijing was so confident of its ‘sea foam’ narrative of the Quad, that it seemingly ignored the positive effect its own provocations were having in binding together like-minded countries of the region. The Quad, today, is an accepted, welcomed and respected arrangement, which has both the capacity and capability to ensure the requisite degree of security across the Indo-Pacific, needed for inclusive growth and shared prosperity. The rise of a credible alternative, in an area which Beijing had assumed was its own backyard, has significantly undermined the CCP’s claims to absolute pre-eminence in the region.

Xi Jinping’s Global Security Initiative – overlook

Aimed at building an Asian Security Framework (with Chinese characteristics), the GSI is being touted as an alternative to confrontational alliances which seek zero-sum outcomes. The “six commitments” promised under this initiative as issued by Chinese Ambassador to Somalia, Ambassador Fei Shengchao, are staying committed to – 

  1. the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security
  2. respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries
  3. abiding by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter
  4. taking seriously the legitimate security concerns of all countries
  5. peacefully resolving differences and disputes between countries through dialogue and consultation
  6. maintaining security in both traditional and non-traditional domains 

Packaged as a utopian, inclusive construct which promises to better serve Asian interests (than Quad/ AUKUS) the GSI makes a wonderful read… as a work of fiction.  Some issues included in the GSI which jump out at the reader, particularly considering China’s recent track record in these areas, are – trust deficit due to irresponsible actions of nations, cold-war mentality, (dis)respect for territorial & maritime integrity, rising extremism and lastly zero-respect for international law!

To put this hypocrisy in perspective, consider the following 

  • China’s all-weather friendship with Pakistan, including political support for proscribed terrorists, is the best example of a confrontational alliance anywhere in the world! Even today, extensive Chinese support to Pakistan’s deep state is resulting in extremist attacks across India, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

 

  • China’s undeclared launch of a missile by a submarine (which almost hit a passenger plane), dangerous manoeuvres and tactics by Chinese jets over international airspace which could have collided with an Australian warplane, and clear records of essential commodity hoarding (wheat, oils, etc) by Chinese businessmen (while countries across the world grapple with supply shortages) – these are some of the recent examples of how China is among the biggest contributors to the global trust deficit. 

 

  • China’s blatant violation of international laws, manipulating markets and supply chains, disrupting legal economic activities outside its jurisdiction, etc – Beijing has forced a gathering of like-minded countries, which share concerns and agree on the manner these illegal actions must be countered. Moreover, the calls of war from Chinese ‘hawks’ have become far more explicit, frequent and extreme, espcially since Xi Jinping has taken over the command of CCP. 

 

  • China’s claims of respecting territorial integrity are possibly the most ludicrous of them all. From South China Sea to Tibet, and Taiwan, Beijing’s insatiable greed for territorial acquisition and disregard for opposing perspectives is well established. It is, therefore, laughable to see this point being championed by Xi, in his idea of GSI.

 

  • China was the first country to engage with the Taliban post the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, and it continues to shelter Pakistan’s booming terror industry. Significant proof has also come to light about Chinese support to extremists in Myanmar, Maldives and Northeast India. It would consequently be appropriate to say that China’s concern of rising extremism is another hypocritical feint by the CCP.

Will the world accept China’s Global Security Model? 

Despite the obvious hypocrisy in the GSI proposal, Beijing does have a fair chance of success in areas where the US’ influence is resented. Some countries in South America, in particular, will welcome it as a medium to hedge their bets, thereby extracting more from the West. Closer to China, however, nations would do well to be more circumspect. 

Alternatively, the GSI could be a way to distract the Chinese people from the widespread failures of the CCP in recent years, as well as China’s declining influence in multiple regions. A big, grandstanding announcement, notwithstanding limited capabilities to ensure success, would provide enough short-term political gains for Xi and his men to retain a favourable narrative during the CCP’s 101st birthday party. This may well be the true motive behind the GSI. 

Any security framework with CCP characteristics would ultimately have a hierarchical architecture, with Xi enthroned at its summit. The GSI’s concept of an Asian Security Framework would yield an Asian order where Beijing commands the loyalty of all regional countries, and peace prevails at the pleasure of the CCP’s top leadership. With Chairman Xi all but certain to stake a claim to the ‘CCP Chairman for Life’ position during the upcoming Congress, he would ultimately become the ‘de facto’ emperor of the new Tianxia… the true goal of the CCP, particularly since Xi’s ascension in 2013-14.

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Ladakh Gets New and Gleaming Gadgets: Military Development in the Pangong

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The Indian Army deployed a new assault vessel in Pangong Lake along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China as the country of India celebrated its 76th Independence Day. Operations along the LAC will improve with the Landing Craft Assault (LCA). To help the nation’s defence, even more, Rajnath Singh, the defence minister, delivered a variety of indigenous weapons and ammunition on Tuesday. This shipment of armaments includes the “Nipun” anti-personnel landmine, as well as infantry combat vehicles, landing attack craft, and many more weapon systems. The force will receive about 7 lakh of these mines, which were produced by the Indian private sector.

 

The Landing Craft Attack for operations in Pangong Lake, infantry combat vehicles, and numerous other systems was among the locally produced weaponry that was provided to the Army in part. Online images also showed Army servicemen demonstrating to the Union Minister the capabilities of a Landing Craft Assault positioned at Pangong Tso near the Line of Actual Control. The boats are capable of transporting 35 combat personnel at once and can quickly go to any lakeside location. Economic Explosives Ltd. (EEL), a private company with its headquarters in Nagpur, as well as other Indian defence manufacturing firms, developed the new weaponry.

 

An indigenously made drone system was given to the Indian Army so that its soldiers could keep a watch on enemy forces in the LAC’s forward areas. Singh also gave the troops stationed in these locations the infantry combat vehicles made in India. The launch, speed, and capacity restrictions have been overcome by the Landing Craft Assault, which is far more adaptable. In Eastern Ladakh, the LCA has improved its capacity to operate across water impediments. According to Goa’s Aquarius Ship Yard Limited, LCA was created locally.

 

The action follows the Make in India campaign, which was started by the Center to increase domestic manufacturing of goods.

 

Earlier, on August 15, during the nation’s Independence Day festivities, the indigenously developed artillery gun known as the ATAGS (Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System) prototype was fired from the Red Fort for the first time in India’s history.

 

Along with the “25 Pounder British guns” that are currently discharged ceremonially, the entire indigenous gun created and produced by the DRDO will do so. This has been made possible by a group at the DRDO’s Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE), Pune, led by scientists and artillery officers. “The major feature is that Bharat Forge is the first to claim that it is Made in India. The 21-gun salute on July 4th is being performed with a native artillery gun. DRDO constructed the ATAGS, which is currently located at the Red Fort. This will greatly aid the Indian Army ” he added.

 

In order to replace outdated guns currently in use by the Indian Army with a cutting-edge 155mm artillery cannon, DRDO launched the ATAGS project in 2013. For the production of this specialised gun, ARDE collaborated with two private companies, Bharat Forge Limited and Tata Advanced Systems Limited. China’s concerns are expected to grow in the coming weeks and months. The 15th iteration of the joint military exercise Yudh Abhyas between India and the U.S. will take place at Auli in Uttarakhand, less than 100 kilometres from the LAC. This is located in the LAC’s quiet centre region.

 

Significantly, the high-altitude mountain warfare-themed military drill will take place from October 14 to October 31. In addition, India will be commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Sino-Indian border war at the same time as the joint exercise. The Aksai Chin War in Ladakh, which saw the Chinese control a sizable portion of the region, lasted from October 20 to November 21, 1962.

 

We can anticipate more vehement Chinese rhetoric and actions along the LAC.

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Defense Cess – The Need or The Want of Need

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With the Finance Ministry coming down heavily on the Fifteenth Financial Commission on the latter’s suggestion for creating a ‘Defense Modernization Fund’, the question pesters the general public at large as to whether a separate defense cess is really required. Seemingly, the capital needs of the Indian military do not seem to be a problematic scheme. It rather appears to envisage a separately structured funding program in furtherance of enabling the Indian military to work in a more well-ordered manner.

WHY THE FUSS?

The root of every operative that there is, is guided by the procedure laid under the Indian Constitution. Hence, a casual read of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution elucidates the responsibilities between the Union and the States.  Subjects such as defense, and foreign affairs are on the Union list while responsibilities like public order, healthcare, etc. fall under the purview of the State List. The third list, i.e., the Concurrent List is a unique, centralizing feature adopted from the British Raj, that embodies the fundamentals of federalism. The list has both State and Union play a role with powers tilting towards the latter. It was due to this provision only that the government brought in the farm laws.  However, while a large section of funds and resources rests with the Union in New Delhi, expenditure of those funds is at the behest of different States, the taxes of which is collected by New Delhi. Hence, the Financial Commission of today now distributes the revenue collected by the Centre to various States and therefore, supervises the financial commitments of the States and the Union.

Now, the problem with the creation of a special fund – in this case for ‘defense’- creates a special third category along with Union and State. Theoretically, the Finance Commission therefore will inadvertently split monies between Union, State, and the Defense Fund. It is interesting to note that the defense is a subject already under the Union List and therefore, the creation of a third category would only cause stress for States to give up funds for defense. Now much like the game of dominoes, if one separate fund is created, many other demands for the creation of special pockets for every governance function would surface, which would unnecessarily create disruption of the flow of funds to the subjects in either of the lists and therefore would go far beyond the provisions prescribed under the Seventh Schedule in the Constitution. Hence the downpour of the Financial Ministry on the 15th Financial Commission for the reasons that setting up a separate fund for a function that is already covered under the Union’s List is against good parliamentary practice is perfectly valid.

TECHNICAL OVERSTEPPING

While the Finance Ministry may have rebuffed the request to create a different fund for Defense, it is however significant to understand how such a report was allowed to be tabled before the ministry in the first place. NK Singh, the chairman of the 15th Finance Commission, when posed with similar questions, contended that as per the legal opinion he received, the defense was a “shared responsibility of the Union and the states”. Defense is explicitly mentioned as the subject under Union List and the closest thing that resembles an iota of Defense is ‘Public Order’ which falls under the State List. In no way whatsoever, can anyone with the caliber and prudence as that of NK Singh can conclude that Defense is a shared subject. Furthermore, he also remarked that Finance Commission transcends the classification in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution, which is simply an inexplicable argument. Finance Commission is in no way empowered to transcend any part of the Indian Constitution, especially something as critical as the Seventh Schedule.

Another interesting aspect here is the branding of the ‘defense’ fund as cess. Tax and Cess are two different contributions to State welfare. While Tax is already existing in the form of GST and Income Tax, a cess is imposed as an additional tax besides the existing tax (Tax on Tax). Now while the former is kept in the Consolidated Fund of India CFI for the government to use it for any purposes it deems fit, the latter, though also kept in the CFI, can be used by the government after due appropriation from Parliament for ‘specified purpose’. Now, what rebranding of ‘general tax’ as ‘cess’ does is that it brings any revenue generated through cess under the ambit of ‘specified purpose’ resulting in states sharing any of that revenue. Statistically, cesses and surcharges that were around 10% in 2010-11 are almost doubled in the year 2021 figuring around 19.9%. This increase in cesses and surcharges is shrinking the divisive pool between State and Union, leaving States bleeding out to dry. Therefore, to have a defense cess under the ‘specified purpose’ funds would only hurt the States of the Country as the gap between State and Union’s resources would further increase.

THE NEED OR THE WANT OF NEED?

The Union in 2019, empowered the Finance Commission with additional Terms of Reference to enable it to make a suggestion on how to create the fund. Defense Ministry further stressed on the need to increase focus on national security and warranted states to share the financial burden of maintaining and upgrading the security apparatus, including buying weapons from global suppliers, etc. Defense Ministry urged that subjects like Terrorism, insurgency, and securing national borders should be recognized as a shared responsibility for the Union and States, rather than leaving it just for the Union to take care of. The demand though extremely urgent goes beyond the nexus of the Constitution. Furthermore, the 10th Finance Commission also laid down the principle that cess and surcharge should be temporary and rare.

Union has always been seen complaining about limited resources and funds and yet does not shy away from spending money on subjects concerning the State List. Cribbing about not having enough money to fund its core function of defense and catering to the electoral compulsions by spending money on state subjects – Union has only made things difficult for itself and confusing for the public at large. A demand from the Home Ministry for a seed corpus of Rs. 50,000 crores to be carved out of dues from States for Central Armed Forces deployment is simply a result of the Union being derelict in its responsibilities. The constitutional remit of defense is often sidelined during elections and therefore, it is natural for the union to have a dry state of funds to cater to its core duty. It is therefore the job of the Finance Commission to stop the political drivers in their path and prevent populist rhetoric from influencing devolution. Instead, the Commission seems to be a puppet of the Union, to say the least.

 

 

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101 Years of CCP – Is the Chinese Dream Fading Away?

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“The Chinese charm you when they want to charm you and squeeze you when they want to squeeze you; and they do it quite systematically.”

– ‘The Revenge of Geography’, Robert D Kaplan

 

 

​It has been a century of glory, a century of turmoil, a century of single-party leadership, a century of suppression of dissent and human rights, and a century of disdainful pursuit of Mao’s Chinese dream. On one hand there has been the pressure to create a magnanimous image in front of the suppressed Chinese populace, and on the other lies the consequences of lofty ambitions of expansionism, colonisation of nearby islands, economic take-over of poorer nations in Asia and Africa, and military arm-twisting in the region. There are thousands of stagnated overseas projects, incomplete military R&D accompanied by struggling military equipment sold to other countries, and the notoriety brought in by spreadingCOVID-19 and bringing the world to a standstill for almost two years. Is Xi Jinping caught between the devil and the deep sea?

 

​Having enjoyed an absolute monopoly of power, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has authoritatively ruled China for a hundred years now. Motivated by the Bolsheviks, and sold to the innocent people as a party for peasants, workers and students in 1921, the past 100 years of CCP have been stained with brutal massacre of student protestors at Tiananmen Square in 1989, unceasing Human Rights violation and harsh repression of Uyghurs and other Muslims in the Xinjiang region, and the sudden disappearances of media activists who have voiced their opinions against the party or its members. It has been reported that the detainees in the re-education camps of Xinjiang province are forced to pledge loyalty to the CCP, forego religious (Islamic) practices and patronise Mandarin.

 

​The CCP in pursuit of Xi’s Chinese dream of becoming a global leader in 2049 has initiated manyambitious but crafty projects like the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) and has pumped many irrecoverable loans into smaller Asian and African countries. In addition, millions of dollars’ worth money has been invested in building military infrastructure and progress territorial/ seaward expansion to assert China’s illegal claims on bothland and sea. However, of late, the world has woken up to the Chinese deceit.

 

​The genesis and spread of COVID-19 from China has fuelled anger, suspicion and reluctance for the world to engage with China. The post-COVID world order, with horrific examples of economic and financial meltdown of client states like Pakistan and Sri Lanka, has further marred China’s reputation. China is being called out more and more for its illegal military aggression in the South China Sea, debt-trap diplomacy, IUU (Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated) Fishing, unauthorised spying usingcivilian research vessels, and ultimately the COVID-19 pandemic. Even its traditional clients in Asia and Africa are getting wary. The world at large neither finds China as an honest investor to expand trade and commerce nor do the bigger multi-national brands prefer to invest in China for their manufacturing/ production hubs and businesses.

 

​The years ahead look even more bleak. The humungous amount of money lent by China in most developing countries either as part of BRI or Debt-trap diplomacy are unlikely to credit their balance sheets in the years to come. While this certainly affects the Chinese banks, but it also hampers contribution of that money into their own GDP/ national economic efforts including businesses and domestic investments. As Xi Jinping is headed for an unprecedented third term in power, the country is likely to dive into rougher waters. China’s failed ‘Zero-COVID’ policy and re-emergence of widespread infection has brought the nation and the Chinese economy to a standstill. Failure of Beijing Olympics has reinforced the already shaking global confidence in a tightly choreographed China. 

 

The so-called unity within the CCP is dwindling and is likely to intensify in the days to come. Crackdown on opposition and disappearance of lawyers and human rights activists is causing massive chaos in the Chinese hinterland. Thanks to brutal control over media, China has managed to mute news reports about hundreds of protests in provinces like Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjiang etc which may trigger the beginning of a major revolution against the present order. Only time can predict tomorrow’s China, but today’s China is a grim story of political turmoil, military mis-adventures, slow economic growth, shaky reputation and an authoritative government.

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