Some events and people are remembered more than others, which is likely the natural flow of history. The struggle for independence in India is no different. While famous leaders and the movements they led are revered, there are many unsung heroes whose contributions have only been documented in scholarly works. The Royal Indian Navy (RIN) Mutiny, which began on February 18, 1946, and ended five days later, dealt a fatal blow to the British Raj’s entire structure, is an oft-forgotten tragedy. It deserves to be remembered.
The 1946 Royal Naval Ratings Mutiny began in a similar manner to the 1857 Royal Naval Ratings Mutiny. However, it was not an overnight affair, since resentment among the naval ratings and other Indian Army troops was already building up. The INA rebellion was the most serious of them all, and it seriously damaged the British faith. The Royal Air Force Mutiny, which occurred in 1946 over working conditions for Indians in the Air Force and the demobilisation of British forces following the war, is less widely known.
The Royal Indian Navy (RIN) Mutiny of February 1946 was possibly the single most important incident in pushing the British to hurry their leave from India, despite the fact that it lasted less than a week and is mostly forgotten in popular memory today.
The mutiny began with a group of 20 young Indian ratings (low-ranking sailors) of the RIN stationed on the His Majesty’s Indian Ship (HMIS) Talwar, and spread to 74 ships of the British Royal Navy—from Indonesia to Aden, 20 shore establishments—and brought together nearly 20,000 of their fellow Indian sailors across mother tongues, class, caste, and creed.
These young men, known as ‘Azad Hindi’ (Free Indians), were united by the same goal: the British evacuation from India as quickly as possible. But what prompted 20 young Indian ratings to take such a risk on the morning of February 18?
There are numerous answers. The British coffers were practically empty at the end of World War II. They couldn’t afford to keep a huge Navy in India, therefore they let go of a lot of Indians, especially ratings, despite their valour in the war.
Those ratings who continued to work were paid badly, given substandard housing, forced to perform unpleasant chores like cleaning toilets, sweeping floors, and bringing tea for British officers, and then subjected to racist remarks. With a brutal and insensitive commander like Commander Arthur Frederick King commanding the HMIS Talwar, the insurrection was inevitable.
Even when inflicted on divergent individuals with a common cause, torture and injustice can act as powerful glue. The young ratings—Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Dalits, Brahmins, of all classes and castes—were forced to sit around a big wooden vessel filled with indigestible daal and were given half-cooked rotis to dip into the common vessel and eat as a communal meal. Regardless of their religious or social divides, eating bread together united them as brothers in arms. Inadvertently, British naval commanders had brought them together to make them rebels.
Their experiences in the War, however, sparked a rising discontent with the institution, which was further infused with an anti-colonial and anti-imperialist mentality.
Serving Indian servicemen observed various countries fight for independence from their colonial overlords while liberating different countries from fascism. BC Dutt, one of the mutiny’s primary characters, pondered questions such as “What did I fight for?” and “Whose battle did I fight?”
The mutineers’ main demand was the removal of Indian troops from Indonesia, which was fighting its own independence war. Another major demand was the release of soldiers from the Indian National Army who had served under Subhash Chandra Bose. Because they were as much sons of the soil as the nationalist Indians striving for independence, their goal was ‘revolutionary action’ against the British.
In the early hours of February 2, 1946, Dutt painted phrases like ‘Quit India’ and ‘Jai Hind’ on the wooden platform leading up to the HMIS Talwar, where the RIN’s commander-in-chief was to address the officers and troops, laying the groundwork for insurrection. Dutt was apprehended but held on board, raising tensions between the commanding officer and the crew.
Meanwhile, Dutt and his colleague’s conspirators, including MS Khan and Madan Singh, persuaded his fellow ratings to join them in a hunger strike. Finally, on the morning of February 18th, 1500 ratings went on strike at the HMIS Talwar mess, chanting “No food! No job!”
Madan Singh tells how the rebel ratings conveyed their message of rebellion to colleagues embarked on different ships in an interview with The Tribune.
“With the support of our wireless system, we were able to do this.” We were able to get control of nearly all of the 70 ships and 20 beachfront facilities. “We had taken control of the civilian telephone exchange, the cable network, and, most importantly, the Navy-manned transmission centre at Kirkee, which served as the line of communication between the Indian government and the British,” Singh explains.
The rebels took possession of 74 other RIN ships stationed in Bombay, Karachi, and other parts of the world within a few days. The three colours of the Congress, Muslim League, and Communist Party had replaced the British ensign on all of these “liberated ships.”
“The most notable aspect of this brief revolt was the outpouring of public support for the mutineers.” On February 22, the city of Bombay, particularly the working classes, went on strike in solidarity. For Mint, military historian Srinath Raghavan writes, “The public transportation network was brought to a standstill, trains were burned, barricades were established, and commercial institutions were shut down.”
Not just naval ratings, but also students’ unions and mill employees inspired by the Communists joined the mutiny and took to the streets of Bombay, resulting in widespread fire, looting, and vandalism of British property. The retribution was unavoidable, and when police opened fire, approximately 300 civilians died and over 1,500 were injured. The rage against the British was so deep, and the insurrection was so swift and widespread, that it took months for peace and sanity to recover… Officially, HMIS Talwar and other neighbouring ships surrendered on February 23, but the mutiny at Karachi lasted until February 25.
The Naval Central Strike Committee, which was formed on 19 February and chose Leading Signalman Lieutenant MS Khan and Petty Officer Telegraphist Madan Singh as President and Vice-President, made the decision to surrender on February 23.
They had hoped that the national leadership would join them in their fight, but they were met with a lacklustre answer. The committee, which had been abandoned and left for dead, feared that more people would die indiscriminately, so they chose to submit.
“After being pressured by Congress leaders, particularly Sardar Patel, we agreed to surrender.” We were guaranteed that we would not be victimised, and we stated that we would only surrender to our national leaders, not to British authorities. However, the promise of ‘no sanctions’ was kept more in the breach, according to Madan Singh, speaking to The Tribune.
Many were taken to detention camps, were discharged from the army, disappeared, and were court-martialed.
With the probable exception of Aruna Asaf Ali, the reason why they were left at the altar by the leaders of the freedom struggle is up to interpretation.
The Communist Group of India was the only political party to support the mutineers, while the rest simply ignored them. The mutineers’ acts were universally condemned by both Sardar Patel and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, with Aruna Asaf Ali from Congress being the lone supporter. On capitulation, the mutineers faced a court-martial and imprisonment. Worse, the mutineers received no help from either the Indian or Pakistani governments after independence.
Some claim that the Congress leadership didn’t want a walkout that had escalated into violence to disrupt the urgent negotiations for independence with the British. The commanders also realised that any major insurrection would unavoidably pose the possibility of being resistant to centralised command and control. They also didn’t want to foster indiscipline in the military services now that independence and power were in sight.
Whatever their motivations, it is past time for us to remember the brave young men who dared to defy an Empire and energised the hearts and minds of our sailors, infantry soldiers, airmen and RIAF [Royal Indian Air Force] pilots, ordinary mill hands, students, workers, and citizens, writes Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, the former Chief of Naval Staff.
The Royal Naval Ratings Mutiny only lasted four days and was quickly put down. However, the impact was far-reaching. The British had come to the realisation that they could no longer rely on the armed forces to assist them to maintain control over India. The British had only been able to hold on to India through their armed forces up until now, but as the soldiers began to mutiny, the British knew their time was up. The INA revolts came first, followed by the Naval Rating Mutiny. Add to that the revolts in the Air Force, as well as the reality that World War II completely bankrupted Britain. All of these factors had a greater impact on the British decision to leave India than the movement of 1942.
“Let people eat cake” says Pakistan Navy
In 1789 during yet another famine in France, the princess Marie Antoinette upon being told that the peasants had no bread, is said to have replied with frivolous disregard for the starving peasants with the words “Let them eat cake”. Today, the condition of the Pakistani citizens is quite similar to the French peasants of 1789.
The desperate economic conditions in Pakistan and the impact of floods has led the Finance Ministry to issue directives for implementing strict austerity measures for year 2022 – 2023. These measures aim to curtail operating expenditure and reduce the economic burden of the people.
However, it seems that these directives never reached their Navy.
Very recently, Pakistan Navy Ships Shamsheer and Nasr visited Yokosuka Port in Japan with an aim to participate in the International Fleet Review. In much contrast to the government verdict of “no unnecessary expenditure”, the visit was neither mandatory nor of importance. However much to the citizen’s dismay, neither the empty coffers nor the grave economic situation of the people seemed to deter the Navy from going on a tourism cum shopping spree.
Pakistan Navy Ships visit Yokosuka Port in Japan
In economically stable conditions, a Naval ship’s visit to a foreign port would have been welcomed by the citizens. However the economic burden posed by these activities have quadrupled the fear of a complete breakdown of society. While the cost of fuel for such a long voyage is in itself a huge deterrent, the fact that the ships will be stopping at almost five to seven countries during the futile passage, has made matters worse.
Monetary Implications of this cruise
Let’s look at the basic requirement of a naval voyage. The mandatory requirements include buying stores, fuel/lubricants, undertaking necessary repairs, paying the crew in international currency etc. But is this all? Definitely not. Each stop at a foreign port will require a mandatory interaction with the diplomats, exchange of gifts, parties with great pomp and show to announce the naval ships’ arrival, preparation of native cuisines etc.…The expenditure is definitely mind boggling.
Who is paying for this?
All this is paid through already depleting foreign reserves. Therefore understandably, if news of such frivolous expenditure, especially in these trying times were to reach the general public there would be a furore, and a well justified one. But Pakistan’s Navy has been clever, or at least it thinks it has been.
Where normally, all port visits are turned to a media circus by the Navy, this time not a single press release is available on the open media. Why? Because of a stringent gag order on issuing media bites by the government. The Navy has warned cruising ships to conduct events without the presence of press. The aim apparently is to prevent citizens from becoming aware of this trip to Japan. Pakistan’s naval commanders seem to be relying on their belief (definitely flawed and misguided) that – ordinary Pakistani citizen are like the proverbial ostrich with its head buried in the sand – what it cannot see, does not exist!
In today’s world where information travels faster than light – there are enough people who monitor everything. Which is why hiding the journey of two huge warships was definitely worthless. As soon as a local net-hawker identified the movement of the naval ships – the world and entire Pakistan was made aware of the secret journey. The Maverick could not outfox these people.
Frivolous Spending in Desperate Times
While one may still be able to find an excuse for Navy’s foreign visits, but what about the inflating expenditure on the procurement and projects, which are of no immediate importance? As pointed out by social media users a few days earlier, the Pakistan navy has been planning to procure four Frigates (each from Turkey and China), four to eight Corvettes (from the Netherlands), eight submarines (from China) and almost ten new aircraft for its maritime fleet.
Which brings a very interesting scenario to light – the huge lack of communication between the Pakistan’s government and its navy. On one hand the government has been insisting on cutting down operating costs and even travel/fuel usage by every ministry and service, but on the other, the Armed Forces are on a shopping spree. And whose money are these forces using? The question that the citizens of Pakistan need to ask is despite the mushrooming economic crisis, why is there a need to undertake such frivolous expenditure/cruises? And if they are really necessary, why the extra effort to hide it?
Many Pakistanis have already started asking such questions, a mass outcry is not far. And while the Pak armed forces especially its navy may pretend to be blissfully unaware of their countrymen’s plight, they must realize that secret voyages will not help the deplorable situation of their country and their fellow countrymen.
This article has been contributed by Commander Abhishek Rathi (Retd), Indian Naval Officer
Commander Abhishek Rathi (Retd) is a retired executive officer and holds an experience of commanding two naval warships. He has a keen interest in maritime history and technology. The officer is also an avid nature photographer and likes traveling all across India for it.
History Created: In a First, Two CRPF Women Officers Promoted to IG Rank
The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) was established on July 27, 1939, as the Crown Representative’s Police. On December 28, 1949, the CRPF Act was passed, transforming it into the Central Reserve Police Force. It belongs to the group of Central Armed Police Forces. The primary responsibility of the CRPF is to support state and union territory police forces with consistent efforts to uphold the rule of law and check on the insurgency. Roughly 81 years after its establishment for the first time in its history, two CRPF women officers promoted to IG rank (Inspector Generals), 35 years after the first time women joined CRPF as officers in 1987. The appointment of women officers as IG has been made in the specialised anti-riots unit Rapid Action Force (RAF) and the Bihar Sector.
Previously, there have been female Indian Police Service (IPS) officers in charge of CRPF formations, and currently, the force has at least three such officials. According to officials, Annie Abraham has been designated as the IG of the Rapid Action Force (RAF), and Seema Dhundia has been placed as the IG of the Bihar Sector as part of a recent transfer order issued by the force headquarters. This is the first time a woman IG will be in charge of the RAF. The CRPF’s sectoral leader is an IG.
It is interesting to note that these officers were among the highly decorated officers and the first female officers to join CRPF in 1987. They have also led an all-woman Indian police contingent at the UN.
The 15-battalion RAF is called upon to support state police forces for significant events where large crowds are anticipated and for VIP visits. It is deployed for anti-riot, counter-protest, and in a situation where sensitive law and order duties are to be taken care of in various parts of the country. In 1986, the CRPF became the first branch of the Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) to enlist women for warfare. At present, there are more than 6,000 female constables working in six of these battalions.
This news arrived when the UN Security Council commemorated the adoption of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325, the first in a series of 10 resolutions since 2000. This resolution focuses on important places women must occupy during peace and security dialogues and policy-making efforts. The premise of the passing of the resolution has been a recognition that women and children are affected disproportionately in conflict situations. The efforts towards peacebuilding and peacekeeping are half-hearted until women are put at the centre of these dialogues. This is more popularly known as the Women, Peace and Security agenda (WPS agenda).
CRPF Women Officers Promoted to IG Rank is not the end….
India has a long list of efforts to boast about the participation of women in peace and security even though it has not ratified 1325 and has in official statements mentioned that it has no intention of taking this ahead, too, something that has been debated and questioned for a long time.
The long list of positive efforts towards women’s participation in peace and security from India’s side has been in the direction of WPS despite the non-ratification of the international policy document until now. Some of these are – the increased number of uniformed women in peacekeeping missions. According to the data available from the UN, of around 95,000 peacekeepers in 2020, women comprised 4.8% of military contingents and 10.9% of formed police units. Meanwhile, approximately 34% of personnel in peacekeeping missions were women. It does not bifurcate the number of women from each nation deployed in these peacekeeping missions. The recognition of India’s efforts towards the importance of women’s participation in peacebuilding networks is evident.
India was the first nation to send an all-female troop on a UN peacekeeping operation in 2007. In order to strengthen the capabilities of the Liberian police, the Formed Police Unit was deployed throughout Liberia for round-the-clock security and carried out night patrols in the nation’s capital, Monrovia.
When UNSCR 2242 was adopted in 2015, Indian officials emphasised their nation’s role as a troop-contributing nation, reaffirmed the importance of UNSCR 1325, and pledged to effectively implement the Women, Peace and Security agenda. The first all-female peacekeeping team that India sent to Liberia in 2007 has been hailed as a success by the international community.
India continued to be the most significant cumulative contributor of UN Peacekeeping troops, having provided around 2,53,000 since the 1950s. As of October 31 2020, India is the fifth-largest contributor, with 5,353 personnel deployed in 8 peacekeeping missions. India made deployments of medical personnel to Goma (DRC) and Juba (South Sudan).
Know All About India’s New CDS General Anil Chauhan
The post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) which had been vacant for nine months after the tragic death of India’s first CDS General Bipin Rawat in a helicopter crash last December, has got a new appointment as Lieutenant General (Lt. Gen.) Anil Chauhan (retd.) on 30 September. As CDS, Gen. Chauhan will also function as the Principal Military Adviser to the Defence Minister on all tri-service matters as well as head the Department of Military Affairs as Secretary. In addition to these, he will be the permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC).
Born on 18 May 1961, Lt. Gen. Anil Chauhan was commissioned into the 11th Gorkha Rifles, the same regiment that the former CDS was part of.
The selection took four months after the government amended the Army, Navy, and Air Force rules in early June to widen the eligibility criteria for fulfilling the top post; new rules allowed retired three-star officers to be eligible for the prestigious post.
It is for the first time in the history of the Indian Army that a three-star officer has been brought back from retirement to take charge of a four-star rank.
Who is General Anil Chauhan?
As an alumnus of the National Defence Academy (NDA), Khadakwasla, a 1981 alumnus of the Indian Military Academy (IMA) Dehradun, Chauhan was commissioned as a second lieutenant into the 6th Battalion of the 11th Gorkha Rifles (6/11 GR) based in Lucknow. Gen. Chauhan, in his career spanning over four decades, has held several commands, and has had invaluable experience in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and North-East India.
As part of his duty as Major General, he commanded an infantry division in the Baramulla sector in Jammu and Kashmir and the Dimapur-based 3 corps as the Corps Commander. Later as Lieutenant General, he commanded a Corps in the North-Eastern India and subsequently became the Eastern Army Commander in September 2019. In this duty he ensured that the army’s focus shifted from counter-insurgency to conventional tasks along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) as Operation Snow Leopard was underway in Eastern Ladakh. In this operation, the Indian Army dedicated three months entirely for planning before it executed the operation to control key heights along the LAC in eastern Ladakh. The role of Gen. Chauhan was crucial in this operation which is still in progress. He held charge of the Eastern Army Commander until he retired from service on May 31, 2021.
In addition to these command appointments, Gen. Chauhan has also served as Director General of Military Operations (DGMO). As the DGMO he was in charge of ‘Operation Sunrise’, which consisted of coordinated operations undertaken jointly by Indian and Myanmar armies on insurgent groups taking shelter across the border. The operation was particularly important in eradicating North-East India’s insurgencies and it turned out to be highly successful. He had also contributed to the Naga talks in consultation with the then-Governor of Nagaland.
In fulfilling his duty as DGMO at the Army Headquarters from January 30, 2018 to August 31, 2019 when Gen. Rawat was the Army Chief, he was closely involved in India’s response to the Pulwama terror attack. The assault which involved India’s north-western neighbour resulted in the death of 40 Indian security personnel. It was avenged in the form of Balakot air strike on February 26, in which Gen. Chauhan had a role to play.
Post retirement, Gen. Chauhan took charge as the Military Adviser in the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS), where he was working closely with National Security Adviser, Ajit Doval.
Having immense experience in resolving border issues, Gen. Chauhan has shared his understanding of his life’s journey in his two books – ‘Aftermath of a Nuclear Attack’, and ‘Military and Geography of India’s Northern Borders’. As per sources close to him, he is known to be a consistent golf player and a passionate collector of masks.
Challenges That Lie Ahead
The post of CDS is still evolving; the groundwork was done by the former CDS, and Gen. Chauhan has to take forward from where he left off. The priority will be to reorganise the armed forces into theatre commands meant to bring in synergy and optimise resources. Secondly, being an expert in Indo-Chinese affairs, his experience will help his country in resolving border issues with China. Thirdly, he will take care of modernisation of forces as the vintage weapons need replacements. Lastly, one of his key responsibilities is to stop cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan. Citizens of the country are hopeful that the new CDS will usher in new possibilities and a new perspective of functioning in the three wings of defence.
India US Military Exercise Amidst China’s Taiwan Conflict
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
Is China’s Global Security Initiative a future security hazard?
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 ‘China’s 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.
China’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 –
- the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security
- respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries
- abiding by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter
- taking seriously the legitimate security concerns of all countries
- peacefully resolving differences and disputes between countries through dialogue and consultation
- 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.
Technology11 months ago
Climate Crisis; Cries Asia
Archives2 years ago
Ramappa Temple: India’s 39th World Heritage Site
Defence7 months ago
The UAV Boom in India
Polity9 months ago
Is China Africa’s New Colonial Overlord
Book Review1 year ago
A cruel birth of Bangladesh by Archer K Blood: Book Review
Archives2 years ago
5 reasons why Bollywood has a monopoly over the Indian Music Industry
Defence6 months ago
Defense Cess – The Need or The Want of Need
Polity2 years ago
Spotify announces the launch of HiFi audio streaming feature in India: Here’s all you need to know