Logbook of an Ambassador
India after the debacle in Afghanistan
America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan last August had been announced. It was no “black swan”. But when the Taliban took over, and with the speed with which they did it, it seemed to take all involved by surprise. Since then, the world got accustomed to see it as a repetition of Saigon’s fall in 1975. Media pictures looked the same.
India in geopolitics and at home: two worlds
The picture of India’s geostrategic position is moving, these days. Over recent months, China’s geopolitical behaviour and accompanying diplomatic rhetoric have become strikingly more assertive and more threatening for its neighbourhood. But in the logic of cause and effect, international resistance against China is growing, too.
Biden/Harris as PM Modi’s “dream team”?
The US will have a Vice President of Indian descent. Kamala Harris, Biden’s Vice-President elect, born in the USA, is the daughter of an Indian lady from Chennai, South East India, who had immigrated to California for higher studies. Kamala Harris’ father was Jamaican, who had immigrated to the USA, also for higher studies. A double racial and national descent is the background of America’s future Vice President. According to all accounts available, Kamala’s Indian background must be predominant, although she grew up in an African-American community. She may call herself a person of colour, but Indians first of all will see in her the Indian legacy. And Indians may ask themselves what is politically in it for India.
India’s place in the Middle East
The Middle East and Persian Gulf region has, over recent years and months, experienced events and developments that have changed the pattern of alliances and strategic interests to a large extent. Let’s remember that, for a historical moment, an effective alliance against the so-called “Islamic State” (“ISIS”), composed among others of American, Turkish, Iranian, Kurdish, Iraqi and Syrian forces of both the regime and the anti-Assad opposition, had led a relatively successful war against that terrorist organization of Saudi origin.
Chinese dialectics over Bhutan and their correlation with developments in the South China Sea
Remember the “Doklam incident”, when, three years ago, the Chinese started building a road on Bhutan territory and were stopped by Indian forces, Bhutan’s legal and lawful protecting power? The Doklam plateau high up in the Himalayans is locally of high operative value for military strategists. Who possesses it, has a view on approaching adversary troops. It is part of Bhutan’s sovereign territory, whose inviolability is being guaranteed by India based on an Indian-Bhutanese Treaty.
PM Modi’s difficult choices between Covid-19, strategic positioning, domestic sectarian violence and diplomatic relations
At the beginning of June of this year, India is experiencing the fastest expansion of Covid-19 infections in the world. Within one week, the numbers have brought the country globally from the eleventh to the seventh rank, and the numbers continue to grow faster than anywhere else. Add to the scaring figures the fact that due to the sub-standard infrastructure of the country huge numbers of infected people and of the dead will never be recorded. In addition, the general shut-down of the country, which was meant to contain the spread of the Corona virus, has triggered mass movements of people, which will increase the number of infections even more.
Geo-economics of Indian foreign policy
Continuing along the lines of our last column, where we had commented on some aspects of Chinese-Indian competition on the African continent, we now take a closer look at the economic and financial constraints on the Indian government to follow suit on their strategic options and choices. In 2019 the Indian economy has become the world’s third largest, in purchase power parity (PPP), and sixth largest in US dollar terms.
Africa, China and India
The size of Africa’s population is comparable to China’s or India’s population: some 1.2 billion people. They are, however, spread over some fifty countries of very different size, nature, economic power and strategic importance. Since, under the Trump Administration, the US has shifted its strategic priorities with regard to Africa from development to security and counter-terrorism, the field for competitors for influence has been widened. Russia is taking advantage in Northern Africa and China in East Africa, from where the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is spreading to reach out to more of the African continent.
China’s expansion, regional reactions to it and India’s ambiguous maneuvering
In the field of competition for domination beyond national borders, one of the keys to strategic power is the capacity to project military power. For those who fear Chinese expansion, it is therefore relevant to look first at the development of China’s military means. From 2008 to 2018, China has doubled its defense budget. That budget is today still a fraction only of the USA defense budget, i.e. less than a quarter, but China’s defense spending is more than double the size of each of the other three biggest spenders in Asia, that is India, Japan and Russia, and it is still growing.
Russia’s policies and strategic moves in Asia: with or without India?
Russia, a big European power, is also an Asian power, in fact a genuinely Eurasian great power. Due to its conflict with its largest European neighbour, the Ukraine, Russia finds itself isolated at its European front. Having realised that a greater role in a European context seems unattainable for Russia, it is turning to the East for enhancing its political and economic potential in Asia. China and India have different roles in Russia’s strategy.