By Dr D.K. Giri
(Prof. International Politics, JMI)
The Donald Trump Administration has just warned Pakistan to punish the perpetrators of the horrendous violence in Mumbai, infamously known as 26/11, where 166 innocent people including six Americans were killed and many scarred for life. It has also announced the payment of $5m under the Reward for Justice Programme for any information or assistance that would lead to arrest of the perpetrators of the crime.
It is no secret that the murderers came from Pakistan by a boat, guided on phone by their handlers in Islamabad. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a terse message to Pakistan, “It is an affront to the families of victims that, after 10 years, those who planned the Mumbai attack have not been convicted for their involvement, namely, Laskar-e-Tayyiba and its affiliates.”
Unlike his predecessors, President Trump has taken tough action against Pakistan. He has been tweeting bluntly on the duplicitous deeds of Islamabad in regard to terrorism. He said: “Pakistan gives nothing but lies and deceit.” He suspended and then diverted $300 million in military aid meant for Pakistan. He tweeted on 19 November 2017, “We no longer pay Pakistan billions of dollars because they would take our money, and do nothing for us, like Bin Laden, Afghanistan, etc”. He added, “We have given 1.3 billion a year, but they did not do a damn thing for us.” Trump Administration accused Pakistan of harbouring dubious policy of nurturing specific jihadist groups in Afghanistan and India.
Furthermore, the US helped put Pakistan on the list of Financial Action Task Force that disallows any country accused of sponsoring terrorism from accessing international financial institutions. That has dealt a crippling blow to Pakistan’s tottering economy. Remember, Pakistan politics and military were heavily funded by Americans. As America withdraws this support, Pakistan’s economy has tanked and they are desperately looking for alternatives for survival.
As China chokes its support to Pakistan, and there are growing signs of antagonism between Pakistanis and Chinese, as seen recently in the attack on the Chinese consulate by Baluch Liberation Army (BLA), Pakistan is desperate. America’s retributive actions against Pakistan will force it to rethink on its policy towards terrorists. India need not then have to spend on countering terrorism.
The second and bigger collateral benefit for India derives from America squeezing China economically, and curbing its expansionism militarily. As of now, India cannot contain or subdue China on its own. So if China is cowed down by USA, it is good for India as it is increasingly being encircled by China.
The Trump Administration has identified China as their biggest geo-political issue. They perceive it to be their biggest long-term strategic threat. Since Xi Jinping got ensconced in leadership ‘forever’, China has become more communist, oppressive and expansionist. It has moved from a market economy to a command economy. Americans believe China stole their technology, trillions of dollars of intellectual property, Donald Trump declared, “We lost 70,000 factories since China joined the World Trade Organisation. The undue advantages Chinese took of US liberal trade approach is vividly depicted in a film titled “Trump at War”.
Americans are fully aware that China is militarising the South China Sea and parts of Indian Ocean. About 5 trillion trade passes through South China Sea annually. China has camouflaged its 500 tonne fishing boats as military boats, and has launched several in South China Sea. Like Mao Tse Tung, Xi Jinping is showing his true colours. He came up in the leadership ladder innocently and harmlessly, but now, he shows his naked ambitions. He has turned China into a totalitarian police State. Past American Presidents failed to see the trade and military ambitions of Beijing as they thought that regular trade with China will have a moderating influence on its behaviour. That proved to be a false notion. Trump is the first President to recognise the threat from China.
Now Americans feel that Chinese believe the future to be theirs. As they prepared for 100 years of People Republic of China in 1949, they seek to overtake USA. Chinese believe that US is a declining power and that the free people and capitalism will explode. China desires to be a superior power to USA. It is encircling India, the other growing power in South Asia, by buying into her neighbours. It is lending money through projects that are not needed, thereby indebting the receiving countries. It has no oil. So it is creeping into the Middle East. It is the only country that claims territories from other countries. China’s expansionism is an open secret and a threat to many. But only the US takes it more seriously and determines to counter it.
It may be argued by some in Indian foreign policy circle, that the US is checking China in order to retain its status as solo superpower. That may be the case. But doesn’t it help India to see that Chinese wings are clipped and it remains inferior to the US in military and economic terms? The US does not have territorial claims or interest in South Asia, but China has. It has usurped large chunks of Indian territories and is claiming more. It has gone against India’s interest in most international fora. It has opposed India’s entry into Nuclear Supply Group and the UN Security Council. China has supported Pakistan and shielded the terrorists. In the past, it has declared war on India. It has, in recent years, drawn India into several border skirmishes, the latest being Doklam.
Judging from America’s confrontational policy towards China and Pakistan, the axis that poses formidable threat to India, Trump is the best friend of India. New Delhi and Prime Minister Modi have done well to cultivate America’s closest allies – Israel and Japan. But Modi has not yet ‘charmed’ his way to Trump. It is time that New Delhi recognised Trump’s contribution, albeit indirectly, to India’s security.
True, Trump is transactional, has a business approach and keeps America’s interest paramount. But so is Modi. He claims, as a Gujarati, to have business in his blood. So be it. He can deal better with Trump. And Modi’s business priority should be India’s security and prosperity.
Understandably, there are apprehensions in New Delhi about Trump cooling down on India after the latter signed the deal on S-400, in the face of America’s sanctions; for instance, New Delhi’s disappointment in Trump’s refusal to be the ‘guest of honour’ at the Republic Day. New Delhi could convince Americans that it was an inescapable deal, although I have argued in this column that India could have foregone this deal with Russians and gone for alternative, nor done it at all. India could have done a different security strategy. At any rate, New Delhi should think afresh on its long term security interest and talk openly to the Americans. — INFA