Afghan Sikh

‘We Were Told To Embrace Islam, Even Spat Upon’

Avtar Singh, 32, an Afghan Sikh, narrates his persecution in Afghanistan and why he left Ghazni, where his family lived for five generations. Singh sees the Citizenship Law as a blessing for people like him

My forefathers settled in Afghanistan five generations ago. We lived in Ghazni, about 170 kilometres from Kabul, the Afghan Capital. We owned multiple garment shops and nearly 40 acres of land. Why we had to leave everything behind and took refuge in Delhi is a tragic story, one of religious persecution and plight of minorities in Afghanistan.

Ever since I was born, I remember being discriminated against in Afghanistan. It started with being made fun of for our attires, our pagris. They would call us kafir, be-iman and by other derogatory terms. Every time we went out we would be taunted with: “Aaj pagri me aloo rakha hai ya pyaz?” (What have you hidden in your turban today – potatoes or onions?).They would tell us to get rid of our hair and look like them. We were constantly asked to convert to Islam.

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Things took a more sinister turn with people spitting at us in public for following Sikhism, at times throwing stones at us randomly. I couldn’t send my children out, or my younger brother to school. Afghanistan was the only home we had known and we were heartbroken by the way things were happening. My mother who had seen better times before 1979 (before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan) lamented at what we had come to.

My father, Shaheed Harbans Singh Khalsa, a Member of Parliament in Afghanistan, was killed in an accident in 2003. We later got to know it was all pre-planned. Mysterious papers would be thrown at our house with threats to life and ransom money. Over the years, I paid nearly ₹80-90 lakh to keep my family safe.

After a decade of living in uncertainty, constant suffering and blackmailing, we reached the breaking point and decided to flee to India. We were helped by a few people to buy tickets amounting to ₹90, 000 for seven people for the Kabul-Delhi flight.

Singh now works as a Granthi at a Gurdwara in New Delhi

That was in 2014. I lived a lifetime on that flight. I had only ₹20,000 to start a new life in India and a family of seven to feed. However, we were happy that at least we came out of Afghanistan alive.

We live on meagre resources in India. I work as a Granthi at a Gurdwara in Delhi. My brother who is in his teens also has to work to support the family. I am greatly surprised how well-behaved Indian Muslims are. They always address us as Bhaijaan and Sardar Ji and make us feel welcome in every aspect of life.

ALSO READ: ‘CAA Will Help Sikh Refugees’

We have to extend our visas every two to three years. I have heard of the new Citizenship Law that would give refugees like us permanent citizenship of India, and we are glad about the same. Even though I understand the sentiments of several people who have been protesting against CAA, I feel they should know why citizenship in India is so important, no less than a blessing for people like us. We can finally call India our home.

After being on the receiving end of persecution, I have become a better person, not bitter and feel no one should be persecuted on the basis of religion. Our Guru Granth Sahib teaches us: Koi Bole Ram Ram, Koi Khudaye, Koi Sewe Gosaiya, Koi Alahe (God is one, people know it by different names).

Ban On High-Speed Internet To Remain In Place In J&K

The ban on high-speed internet in Jammu and Kashmir will remain in force till August 19 and during this period access to mobile data will be available at 2G speed for postpaid sim card holders.

“Internet access across Jammu and Kashmir will be made available but internet speed shall be restricted to 2G only and post-paid sim card holders shall be provided with access to internet, said an official statement from the administration,” said an order issued by Principal Secretary Home Shaleen Kabra.

The order has come in the view of the misuse of mobile data services in planning and executing terror acts in the Union Territory.

Suspension of the mobile data services in specific areas and for a very limited period of time has also been authorised to prevent disruption of efforts of the security forces, during and subsequent to the operations, by various activities including circulation of videos, mobilisation of crowds, etc, by the over ground workers (OGWs), as per the order.

The administration has received inputs suggesting a rise in the anti-national activities over the coming weeks, more so in view of the completion of a year since the implementation of the constitutional changes with regards to the Union Territory, Independence day celebrations, etc, it stated.

“It was absolutely necessary in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state and for maintaining public order”. (ANI)

Union Cabinet Okays National Education Policy 2020

The Union Cabinet on Tuesday approved National Education Policy 2020 bringing major reforms in higher education including a target of 50 per cent Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) by 2035 and provision for multiple entry and exits.

Addressing a press conference here, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said a 21st century National Education Policy (NEP) has been approved by the cabinet today.

“Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given approval to the new education policy for the 21st century. It is important as for 34 years there were no changes in the education policy. I am confident that this will be welcomed by entire society and nation as well as the world’s educators,” he said.

Amit Khare, Higher Education Secretary, said it was a historic day and the country has got a New Education Policy (NEP) after 34 years.

“Following the new education policy and reforms, we will achieve 50 per cent Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) by 2035,” he said.

He said the NEP includes graded academic, administrative and financial autonomy for institutions and a single regulator for all higher education, working under a self-disclosure based transparent system for approvals in place of numerous ‘inspections’.

“There are over 45,000 affiliated colleges in our country. Under graded autonomy, academic, administrative and financial autonomy will be given to colleges on the basis of the status of their accreditation. E-courses will be developed in regional languages. Virtual labs will be developed and a National Educational Technology Forum (NETF) is being created,” Khare said.

He said a wide consultation process was adopted in the formulation of NEP 2020. “All 2.5 lakh gram panchayats were approached through online platform. Opinions of governments, departments, academic and common people were taken,” he said. (ANI)

Five Rafale Jets Land In Ambala To Join IAF Fleet

The five French Rafale fighter jets touched down at Haryana’s Ambala after covering a distance of nearly 7,000 km to join the Indian Air Force.

The jets were given a customary water salute upon their arrival at the airbase, some 220-km from the India-Pakistan border.

The formal induction ceremony of the aircraft would be held later. The aircraft would move out soon to another operational base for operational sorties.

After taking off from France on Monday, the aircraft made their first stopover at a French base in the United Arab Emirates on their way to India and were refuelled by the French Air Force tanker aircraft somewhere around Greece or Israel over the sea before landing there.

The five were flown by pilots of the 17 Golden Arrows led by Commanding Officer Group Captain Harkirat Singh along with other pilots, Wing Commanders MK Singh, R Kataria, Sidhu and Arun.

The five Rafale fighter aircraft took off on Monday for India from an airbase in France. The weather in Ambala was cloudy with one or two spells of rain or thundershowers being forecasted.

India had signed a Rs 59,000-crore deal on September 23, 2016 for 36 Rafale jets from French aerospace major Dassault Aviation.

In view of Rafale fighter jets landing in the city on Wednesday, Section 144 is being imposed in four villages close to Ambala airbase. Munish Sehgal, DSP Traffic, Ambala, said the administration is on a high alert and the gathering of people on roofs and photography during landing has been strictly prohibited.

The five Rafale fighter jets had entered the Indian Airspace earlier in the day. “The Birds have entered the Indian airspace..Happy Landing in Ambala!” tweeted the Defence Minister’s Office earlier on Wednesday.

The Defence Minister’s Office further informed that the five Rafales were escorted by 02 SU30 MKIs as they enter the Indian airspace.

Here are the key Highlights of Rafale:

It’s an Omni role aircraft. 4th Generation Fighter Jet. It’s a two-engine aircraft. It’s top speed is 2,222 Km/Hr. It can go up to 50,000 Ft. It’s Rate of Climb is 60,000 Ft/Min. It’s Operational Range is 3,700 Km. Ground Support. In-depth Strike. Anti-Ship Strike Reach and combat radius is 1600-1700 Kms. Capable for Long Range standoff Mission.

Equipped with Air-to-Ground Missile System. Specifically designed to take off from an extremely cold high altitude region. It will also be fitted with the air-to-air beyond visual range interception combat and self-defence missile. It can also carry the best long range air-to-land missile.

It has multi-directional radar system which can detect 40 targets at the same time in a range of over 100 Kms. It has advance radar warning receiver to identify hostile tracking system a towed decoy system to thwart incoming missile attacks. Rafale will ensure that our pilots will not have to cross the border to strike the target, that is about 600 Km in enemy territory. It will get French industrial support for 50 years. (ANI)

China, The Artless Dodger

China’s military transgressions along the Line of Actual Control with India might have brought immediate tactical territorial gains, but it has lost a lot more strategically in terms of trust and goodwill. Beijing’s responses have also reinforced the fact that its leaders are perennially unrepentant, even though their hands have been caught figuratively in the cookie jar.

This is evident in the comments that emanate from China over the bloody border confrontation on 15 June in Ladakh. Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on June 19, “China hopes that India will work with us, follow faithfully the important consensus reached between the two leaders, abide by the agreements reached between the two governments, and strengthen communication and cooperation on properly managing the current situation through diplomatic and military channels, and jointly uphold peace and stability in the border areas.”

The subtext is noticeable here and in just about every other official statement. “India, you work with us. Show that you are being cooperative. Do your bit to uphold peace because we already are.” The patronizing tone implies that China is blameless, that Delhi must be the one to repent. This smug self-righteousness is readily apparent in Beijing’s dealings with India, in its interactions with South China Sea claimants, and against anyone who displeases it in even the slightest way.

Yet many countries around the world are growing frustrated and angry with China’s continued bullying, its “innocent” denials of responsibility, and its blatant trampling of international treaties and norms.

Take its treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, for example, with more than a million imprisoned in concentration camps where they are brainwashed and many perform forced labor. China initially refuted the existence of any camps, before eventually euphemistically calling them “vocational training centers” once the proof was irrefutable. Even today, too few governments and international bodies are forceful enough in decrying one of the grossest abuses of human rights in modern times, and of China’s brutal cultural genocide.

Nor was it enough for China to merely possess Hong Kong, for it had to make the city harmless politically and to emasculate its citizens of any aspirations to power.

China has become an Orwellian police state too. A study by Comparitech revealed that it is home to 18 of the world’s 20 most monitored cities in the world. More than half the globe’s surveillance cameras are in China, with 567 million cameras predicted to be there by 2021. Beijing alone has 1.15 million cameras, averaging out at 60 cameras per 1,000 people.

China’s arrogance has been on full display during the COVID-19 pandemic. Chairman Xi Jinping failed dismally in his initial handling of the outbreak, as the clumsy Chinese Communist Party (CCP) apparatus sought to suppress the truth and protect Xi.

Richard McGregor of the Lowy Institute in Australia recently penned an article, saying, “China’s failures in the early stages of the crisis, and in the overseas propaganda campaign it later mounted, were baked into the CCP system. So too was the extraordinary mobilization of the country’s resources to enforce lockdowns and stop the spread of the virus. Success and failure are two sides of the same CCP coin.”

China boasts that its political system is superior, pointing to the dismal handling of the pandemic by countries like the UK and USA. Xi himself claimed, “The effectiveness of the prevention and control work has once again showed the significant advantages of the leadership of the Communist Party of China and the socialist system with Chinese characteristics.”

Yet this is a patently false analogy. Many democracies such as Taiwan and New Zealand handled the outbreak in exemplary fashion; the pandemic’s rampaging effects are more a reflection of the competency of individual governments rather than the victory of authoritarianism over democracy.

Interestingly, for some weeks in the center of the crisis, Xi disappeared from public and delegated responsibilities to Premier Li Keqiang. This is rare for a messianic leader who likes to take credit for everything that happens in China, but it illustrates how he was under intense pressure and was distancing himself if things went worse. He only reappeared upon the cusp of victory to gain the credit.

Everything in China is subverted to just one purpose, to bolster the CCP’s standing and to legitimize the leader. The party fears the will of the people most of all.

McGregor thus noted: “Despite outlasting the Soviet communist party as a governing entity, the CCP still frets it will fall through the trapdoor of Chinese history, in which the glorious rise of dynasties has inevitably been followed by their corrosion and corruption, and then collapse. The CCP, in contrast to other fallen communist parties, has pledged to break out of the dynastic cycle by incessantly reinforcing a focus on political awareness and loyalty to President Xi and the party.”

Xi’s COVID-19 remediation strategy was essentially threefold: pump money into job creation; censor any dissenting views; and redirect anger with an appeal to nationalism. After restraining coronavirus, China soon pursued a two-pronged propaganda campaign at home and abroad. Beijing deliberately played down other countries’ donations as it fought the coronavirus, but proudly trumpeted its own efforts as aid flowed in the opposite direction. However, the latter’s “facemask diplomacy” backfired when it peddled inferior products and the realization hit home that China was ultimately responsible for spreading the disease worldwide, decimating national economies and personal livelihoods.

Most informative of all was China’s hardline belligerence regarding the origins of the virus. Officials accused the USA of starting it, for example. China also castigated Australia for seeking an international enquiry into COVID-19’s origins. It resorted to the same old canard – China is innocent and certainly does not deserve vilification.

China’s “wolf warrior diplomacy” proved particularly self-defeating too. The country’s refusal to admit failure and its denial of responsibility turned many against China. Humility is absent from the CCP, for to admit failure is intolerable for authoritarians.

This type of arrogance is captured in an obsequious Global Times opinion piece criticizing the West for blaming China for nurturing COVID-19. “Lies told a thousand times remain lies. In the face of an unknown virus, no government is prepared enough. But the important thing is we admit our limits and faults, and join hands to fight the real enemy.” These words were being aimed at the West, but there was no hint of irony that they applied more accurately to China’s actions.

Shi Yinhong, an international relations professor at Renmin University of China, admitted, “The aim is to promote the Chinese political system as superior, and to project the image of China as a world leader in combating a global health crisis. But the problem is, [these efforts] have failed to recognize the complexities that have emerged on the global stage during the pandemic, and they are being done too hastily, too soon and too loudly in tone, so there is a huge gap between what is intended and what is achieved.”

A report from the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, a think tank of the Ministry of State Security, was leaked earlier this year. One segment stated, “Beijing faces a wave of anti-China sentiment led by the United States in the aftermath of the pandemic and needs to be prepared in a worst-case scenario for armed confrontation between the two global powers.”

Indeed, relations between Beijing and Washington are at their lowest ebb for years. Many Chinese believe the US has a poor impression of their country, and that they are being unjustly demonized. They also feel the USA is rather pushy, and cannot believe that Washington would launch a trade war and impose such stiff tariffs. The fact that both the Republicans and Democrats are somewhat united in their stance against China is rather unprecedented too, although it is not coincidental that the USA is in electioneering mode right now.

Confronting China has, in many ways, become the one organizing factor in current US foreign policy. This can be seen in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent statement on the South China Sea, and a strongly anti-CCP speech on 23 July. Even if President Donald Trump has only a single term in office, it is difficult to conceive of a dramatic about-turn in American foreign policy.

Perhaps unwittingly, Xi has made China a prime target. And who has come out on China’s side? Despite what it regards as generosity under its Belt and Road Initiative, China is receiving little tangible sympathy for its “suffering” at the hands of the USA.

All the above factors are forcing China to rethink its understanding of and relationship to the USA. Many are advocating that their country return to the past policy of keeping a lower profile. Yet this seems unlikely, for Xi retains three key aims: comprehensively modernizing China with the CCP at the helm; reunifying Taiwan; and making China powerful globally.

A number among the patriotically-crazed Chinese populace were advocating that China should invade Taiwan, as things are already going so badly with the USA anyway. However, cooler heads believe such a move would be far too costly and risky, and that energy would be better spent on “national rejuvenation”. Even Qiao Liang, a hawkish retired air force major general, posted on WeChat recently, “This impulsive way of decision-making based on determination or confidence (more of a spur-of-the-moment) without regard for self or external constraints is misconstrued as patriotism, which is actually harmful to the country.” Qiao posited a longer-term strategic view was needed for China.

A good portion of the CCP’s legitimacy comes from increased prosperity. Xi and his cohorts are terrified at the prospect of millions of unemployed, for this will fan social unrest. As long as people are making money, they believe their position is secure. Now they feel vulnerable, as many of the country’s 149 million self-employed business owners and 174 million migrant workers are losing their incomes.

Xi’s response in a time of testing is to double down on existing policies and to issue rallying calls to gather around the flag (which he, of course, is holding aloft). At the 19th Party Congress in 2017, he was already proclaiming, “The banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics is now flying high and proud for all to see.”

Xi recognizes the struggle is now becoming harder, but he always knew this would be so. Back in 2013, Xi warned for “a fairly long time yet, socialism in its primary stage will exist alongside a more productive and developed capitalist system … [There will be a] long period of cooperation and of conflict between these two social systems” before China has “the dominant position”.

“Socialism with Chinese characteristics” decrees that modernization must be led by the CCP acting in the interests of the “overwhelming majority” of the people. Leninism would teach that free markets and free elections lead to rule by selfish elites, so China’s rejuvenation relies on the CCP protecting the people from both. Of course, it can be easily argued that China is ruled by a selfish elite, for China’s bureaucratic heart numbers only about 3,500-4,000 personnel, each of which is screened by the party center.

Xi perhaps fervently believes capitalism will die out and that socialism will ultimately prove victorious. But more than that, he yearns for moral recognition from the rest of the world that his way is right, something that his “community of common destiny for mankind” will make patently clear to all.

What the rest of the world would really like is a conciliatory approach from China, but “conciliation” is not in Xi’s lexicon. It cannot be, for the future of China hinges solely in Xi’s godlike hands, or so the CCP’s narrative goes. That is why China must behave as the “artless dodger”, deflecting blame and reveling in self-aggrandizement.

India’s Covid-19 Fatality Rate 2.23%, Lowest Since April

Coronavirus Case Fatality Rate (CFR) stands at 2.23 per cent that is lowest since April 1, said the Minister of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) on Wednesday while highlighting that the total number of recovered cases is fast approaching 1 million.

“The Case Fatality Rate stands at 2.23% today and it is lowest since 1st April 2020,” read the release by MOHFW.

The ministry said that “not only has the CFR been kept at a low rate, but the successful implementation of effective containment strategy, aggressive testing and standardized clinical management protocols based on holistic Standard of Care approach have in tandem resulted in a consistent trend of more than 30,000 recoveries/day for the sixth consecutive day.”

“The total number of recovered cases is fast approaching 1 million. With 35,286 patients discharged in the last 24 hours, the total recoveries have jumped to 9,88,029. The recovery rate has reached another high of 64.51% amongst COVID-19 patients,” read the release by MOHFW.

“With such a consistent increase in recoveries, the gap between recovered patients and active COVID-19 cases currently stands at 4,78,582. Active cases (5,09,447) are under medical supervision,” it said.

India’s COVID-19 tally breached the 15 lakh cases mark on Wednesday, said the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

The number of active cases in the country stands at 5,09,447 while 9,88,030 patients have been cured/discharged/migrated. 768 deaths due to COVID-19 have been reported in the last 24 hours, taking the death toll to 34,193.

According to MOHFW, with 4,08,855 samples tested in the last 24 hours, the number of Test Per Million (TPM) has increased to 12,858 and cumulative testing has crossed 1.77 crore.

“The testing lab network in the country is continuously strengthened with 1316 labs in the country; 906 labs in the government sector and 410 private labs.

It include 675 Real-Time RT PCR based testing labs (411 government + 264 private), 537 TrueNat based testing labs (465 government + 72 private) and 104 CBNAAT based testing labs (30 government + 74 private).


Bollywood Celeb On Yoga Day

Unlock3: Gyms To Open, No Night Curfew, Schools Closed

The Home Ministry on Wednesday issued `Unlock 3′ guidelines removing restrictions on the movement of individuals during the night (night curfew) and allowing Yoga institutes and gymnasiums to open from August 5 while schools, metro and cinema halls will continue to remain closed.

The ministry said that lockdown shall continue to be implemented strictly in the containment zones till August 31 and schools, colleges, coaching institutions and cinema halls will remain closed till the end of August.

According to the new guidelines, metro rail, cinema halls, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres, bars, auditoriums, assembly halls, social/ political/ sports/ entertainment/ academic/ cultural/ religious functions and other large congregations will continue to remain prohibited.

Dates for the opening of these will be decided separately based on the assessment of the situation, the ministry said in a release.

States and UTs, based on their assessment of the situation, may prohibit certain activities outside the containment zones, or impose such restrictions as deemed necessary.

“Restrictions on the movement of individuals during the night (night curfew) have been removed,” the release said.

The ministry said that the new guidelines are based on feedback received from states and UTs and extensive consultations held with related central ministries and departments.

“Yoga institutes and gymnasiums will be allowed to open from August 5, 2020. In this regard, Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) will be issued by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW) for ensuring social distancing and to contain the spread of COVID-19,” the release said.

Independence Day functions will be allowed with social distancing and by following other health protocols like wearing masks, the release said.

“Independence Day functions will be allowed with social distancing and by following other health protocols, e.g., wearing of masks etc. In this regard instructions issued by MHA on July 21, 2020 shall be followed,” it added.

However, there shall be no restriction on inter-state and intra-state movement of persons and goods and no “separate permission/ approval/ e-permit” will be required for such movements.

MHA said that national directives for COVID-19 management shall continue to be followed throughout the country with a view to ensure social distancing.

“Shops will need to maintain adequate physical distancing among customers. MHA will monitor the effective implementation of national directives. Vulnerable persons, i.e., persons above 65 years of age, persons with co-morbidities, pregnant women, and children below the age of 10 years, are advised to stay at home, except for meeting essential requirements and for health purposes,” it said.

The ministry said that the use of the Aarogya Setu mobile application will continue to be encouraged.

It said international air travel of passengers has been permitted in a limited manner under the Vande Bharat mission. “Further opening-up will take place in a calibrated manner,” it said.

According to guidelines, activities in the containment zones shall be monitored strictly by state and UT authorities and the guidelines relating to containment measure in these zones shall be strictly implemented.

MOHFW will monitor the proper delineation of containment zones and implementation of the containment measures, the ministry said.

India’s COVID-19 case count crossed 15 lakh on Wednesday. (ANI)

Rajasthan Guv Returns 3rd Proposal For House Session

Rajasthan Governor Kalraj Mishra on Wednesday sent back Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s third proposal demanding a session of the Legislative Assembly amid the ongoing political crisis in the state.

Gehlot, after the proposal was returned, went to meet Mishra at Raj Bhawan.

“Rajasthan Governor has returned the proposal for calling an Assembly session for the third time. I am going to meet him to know what he wants,” Gehlot told reporters here.

Mishra had earlier clarified that Raj Bhavan had never intended “not to call” the Assembly session and asked the Ashok Gehlot government to deliberate on three points including a 21-day notice period for convening a session and maintaining social distancing norms.

He had said the statements from the state government make it clear that it wants to bring a trust vote but there is no mention of it in the proposal sent for convening the session.

“In case, confidence motion is moved in the Assembly then proceedings should be done in the presence of chief secretary, Parliamentary Affairs Department. The proceedings should be recorded and the trust vote should be carried out with a button,” Mishra had said in a statement, which also added that the proceedings should be telecasted live.

Gehlot had last week accused the Governor of not calling the Assembly session due to “pressure from the top”. He had said the Congress party will approach the President and, if required, will stage a protest outside the Prime Minister’s residence over the political situation in the state.

Rajasthan Congress is in turmoil after simmering differences between Pilot and Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot came out in the open. Pilot was removed as the Deputy Chief Minister and the state unit chief of Congress. The Congress has accused the BJP of indulging in horse-trading to bring down the Gehlot government. The BJP has rejected the allegations. (ANI)

India-China Faceoff: Shatranj Versus Weiqi

By Krishan Varma

Chinese actions along with eastern Ladakh and the East and South China Seas continue to reflect moves played in the traditional game of ‘weiqi‘, the 2,500-year-old abstract strategy board game, in which the aim is to surround more territory than the opponent, to eventually capture it all.

This is evident in the lack of compliance with the agreed disengagement and de-escalation process along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). China’s intention is to incrementally occupy territory and push the perceived LAC further west. A similar strategy is being played out in its usurpation of territory in the East and South China Seas.

In response to these aggressive moves on multiple fronts, it is a relief to see the Quad’s growing solidarity in reacting to China’s misplaced hubris. All the Quad’s constituent countries, along with the UK and France have acted with alacrity in a coordinated challenge to counter China’s expansionist moves in the military and economic field.

The US despatched the formidable Nimitz aircraft carrier fleet to the Indian Ocean through the strategic Malacca Strait to participate in a naval exercise with four Indian warships. I had the privilege to have landed and taken off from the Nimitz sailing for a sea drill off Hong Kong in the early 90s and have witnessed its prowess. The Andaman and Nicobar tri-services command jurisdiction has seen heightened activity.

India has evidently extended the operational front from the land border to the maritime domain where it enjoys an advantage. A gauntlet to the Chinese, this exemplifies a swift move in a game of shatranj (Indian chess), an effective counter gambit. Australian and Japanese warships along with Indonesian naval vessels have also increased activity near the Malacca Strait adding teeth to the build-up of a countervailing force in the area.

With USS Ronald Reagan in the East China Sea along with another battle group near the Taiwan Strait, these powerful forces can effectively respond to any further premature Chinese adventurism in the region.

On the economic front, in a move reminiscent of the Cold War when the Soviet economy was gradually squeezed over time, the US has ratcheted up powerful punitive actions against China. Sanctions against Chinese companies and nationals involved in repression in Xinjiang and Hong Kong continue. Recently, the US Commerce department added 11 companies to a trade blacklist, bringing nearly 50 Chinese entities on the list and restricting them further from access to US technology as well as other goods. The Japanese have moved 87 of their companies out of China. The consequent loss in revenue to Chinese companies can deal a telling blow to an economy already suffering from a downturn and burgeoning unemployment. More punitive action is in the pipeline. While such a complex strategy can take a long time to fructify, given the deep global integration and strength of the Chinese economy, it must nevertheless be recognised as an earnest beginning.

Meanwhile, India has displayed a firm resolve to curb the import of non-essential Chinese goods. It has blocked and restricted investments and predatory runs on vital entities in the financial and start-up ecosystem. Rapid indigenisation of telecommunication infrastructure including home-grown 5G technology will prevent further loss of valuable data to the Chinese that has merrily exploited the huge flow of metadata from a single heterogeneous source that refines their AI and machine learning capabilities. If India can sustain the gradual decoupling from the Chinese digital inroads, with support from the Quad plus, the Chinese stand to lose billions of dollars in the long run. Similarly, a renewal of the pharmaceutical industry will cause substantial loss to Chinese exports.

ALSO READ: LAC Standoff – Deescalation Or Status Quo Ante

The big question is: will China relent from its multi-front territorial aggression against its peaceful neighbours?

Given Xi’s apparent arrogance, any pullback from confrontation can potentially upset his China Dream and threaten his personal ambition to be a leader for life. Hence, a protracted challenge can be anticipated.

Consequently, Indian strategic decision-makers will have to factor in a few possibilities to devise a counterplan: it will have to be prepared to sustain military pressure all along the eastern Ladakh border region through the winter. It will need to consider the Chinese opening up some pressure points in the central and eastern sector. It has to be prepared to defend against increased cyberattacks against critical networks and sensitive installations.

ALSO READ: China Strengthening Military Bases In Gilgit

China could add more pinpricks in Nepal and Bhutan border areas, step up clandestine support to Indian insurgent groups in the northeast region, and attempt, through its surrogates, to foment disturbances on simmering internal political, social and communal issues. It can move into overdrive to woo Bangladesh through major economic inducements. It could collude with Pakistan to foment trouble in J&K, and coordinate defence of its assets and investment in the Gilgit-Baltistan and POK regions.

India’s defence planners should seriously consider counter moves into vulnerable non-delineated areas in the Ladakh region and then negotiate return from a position of strength, launch deniable covert operations against transgressing Chinese troops and infrastructure in its claimed territory and threaten to interdict their stretched supply lines.

Till India develops effective and demonstrable comprehensive national strength, India must also seek to drop outdated principles of non-alignment and strategic autonomy (refer to my article in the Sunday Guardian dated June 27, 2020) and selectively multi-align itself with like-minded democracies like the emerging D-10 and Vietnam. Agreeably this is not easy to achieve, but it is essential to accomplish.

The key message is this: we have to counter the Chinese strategies embodied in weiqi i.e. and play the more popular, and widely played game of chess (shatranj). It is the time to resolutely proceed to checkmate the opposing King. (ANI)

(The author is former Special Secretary to the Government of India, Cabinet Secretariat)


Watch – ‘Rakhi Sale is Low, But Chinese Maal A Big No’

A few days ahead of Hindu festival Raksha Bandhan, LokMarg speaks to vendors who have been selling rakhis for several years. They told us that the business is down by close to 80% this year. Chiefly, it is lockdown and Covid-19 virus scare that is keeping the customer away.

Another interesting development this year is that both traders and customers have boycotted China-made rakhis. The little Chinese ware that is still on stalls is the unsold products from last year. This year, the anti-China sentiment has ensured that no Chinese rakhis made their way to vendors.

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