Under its “Health Silk Road” programme, Beijing is supplying COVID-19 vaccines to over 80 countries, particularly in the developing world, many of which are members and supporters of the Belt and Road Initiative. While efforts to counter the virus are welcomed, the vaccines in question are largely untried and unapproved. Furthermore, while China has indeed donated vaccines to a few countries, the majority have had to purchase their supplies, in some instances using loans offered by Beijing to do so.
Having suffered a political lockdown since August 2019, followed by a Covid-19 lockdown from March this year, in the guise of returning “normality” to the Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory, the Modi Government has launched an economic snapshot and vision statement to 2030. One indication of Kashmir’s future may be the appointment as Lieutenant-Governor of Manoj Sinha, a close acquaintance of Modi’s and a strong proponent of Hinduisation values.
The British Government recently released its long-awaited and highly-anticipated Integrated Review. The review sets out the government’s vision for a “Global Britain”, as well as the UK’s international role following its withdrawal from the European Union. Although no longer a superpower, the UK remains a significant global actor, with an internal security architecture that maintains a global reach.
The rapidly evolving geo-strategic environment of the Central Asia-South Asia and Indo-Pacific regions, global economic and military re-alignments and pressing domestic political-economic compulsions of both Pakistan and India have all contributed towards a projected Indo-Pakistani thaw. A factual appraisal of core national issues and the global, regional and domestic environments, and the selection of a favourable time and place to undertake such a resolution through far-sighted dialogue, remain undeniable imperatives.
The three countries must contend with a number of common threats in regard to their bilateral and trilateral relationships as well as finding ways to enhance those relationships. Sitting astride busy sea lines of communication, the Maldives and Sri Lanka are vulnerable to oil pollution. Through capacity building, India should equip them in managing such emergencies, while officers who have undergone military training in India and now hold senior positions in the Maldivian military and the Sri Lankan Government can further facilitate useful links with India.
India perceives the Maldives and Sri Lanka as being in its sphere of interest, which makes China’s increasing footprint in those countries a cause for concern in New Delhi. While India cannot keep China out of the Maldives and Sri Lanka, it should capitalise on its proximity, first-responder image and historical and cultural ties to safeguard its security concerns by remaining continually engaged with Malé and Colombo through high-level visits and the India-Sri Lanka-Maldives Trilateral.
The immediate challenge before the Biden Administration is how to get past the 1 May withdrawal deadline peacefully and establish a new one. Its long-term challenge is to bring the Taliban around to the understanding that elections, democracy and an intra-Afghan concord are to Afghanistan’s advantage.
The UK’s latest defence review re-commits Westminster to the Indo-Pacific with a “tilt” to the region that is intended to enhance diplomatic and trade relations between London and its Indo-Pacific partners. While a renewed British presence will be welcomed by many, for China and its partners, it is more likely to be seen as an expansion of the informal US-led “anti-China” alliance.
Since Brexit, the British Government has called for a strategic reorientation of British foreign and security policy towards the Indian Ocean region. That reorientation will witness an expanded British presence in the Indian Ocean, with the Royal Navy in particular adopting a proactive role. If the UK is to step up successfully in the Indian Ocean, building closer co-operation and deeper ties with allies in the region will prove essential.
The call by the leaders of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue countries at their recent virtual summit for a free, open, inclusive and healthy Indo-Pacific region has rattled China. The Quad is an instrument to ensure a rules-based Indo-Pacific, but it will need teeth to be effective in that role. While the Quad in its present form may not be structured to check adventurism, it certainly has the potential to become a most effective instrument for doing so. The reaction from Beijing indicates that it has put China on notice.