Is WW III Emerging in Indo-Pacific Region Now?
By Winston De Valliere
Three potentially major Indo-Pacific geopolitical developments within three days from 1 July to 4 July captured major global political attention. It’s my guess that China’s President Xi Jingpin waded into his first major game-changing mistake of his career. Killing off 20 Indian soldiers on the Indian part of the 14,000 foot sliding, ice lathered land slopes of the Ladakh border, was a mistake that China will pay heavily for as long as Modi remains Prime Minister of India…and beyond.
In several capitals, the Chinese assault set off a course of global reactions which will now bear heavily on India’s side where it was once not believed quite possible. In the US, UK, EU. Japan and Australia the responses pro-India have been overwhelming. Observers who have closely studied the manners and essential nature of Narendra Modi as well as incepts of his earlier political life, will know that Xi Jingpin mistook Modi’s evasive bilateral political manoeuvres as a flawed reading of Modi’s general mentality in real terms.
Modi in negotiation
Since news of the Chinese attack unfolded, Modi has switched into cool and calm antagonism. He is busy on the phone. After several telephone calls to chosen political-military allies and partners abroad, Modi began taking his first move against China in the knowledge that his men on Ladakh’s border had inflicted twice as many deaths on the enemy in the mountaintop’s struggle. China ignores that contention. But the morale attending Indian troops on that slope remain at peak level. China went into talks with Pakistan on border exploits against India almost immediately after the Ladakh attacks, just before which Imran Khan blamed India for a bomb attack in Pakistan. China has just that lone foreign ally in this region, but Modi, according to diplomatic sources, has had long chats about retaliation against China with many allies and partners excepting Sri Lanka. The gist of those talks resulted in Modi’s surprise visit to the site to rally Indian troops onwards and visit the small Army Hospital close by to increase its space by a further 100 rooms. That can only mean one single thing : India is set on digging in deeper to push her land border claims which came along with the baggage at Independence. That can mean a bigger clash against China to hold its rights on the Ladakh border, irrespective of ‘planted’ stories in the media. When Modi aims at 100 extra hospital beds atop a mountain, that means something in a military sense. That also means the troops stationed there will be expanded and it will need additional living quarters.
Indian sentiment got new aggression with Modi’s address to the troopers there that “the country's enemies had seen their "fire and fury" following a deadly border clash last month.” India claimed over 40 Chinese being killed. Some place it higher. China is totally silent on the issue.
US Republican Senator Marco Rubio spoke to India’s Ambassador to the U.S., Taranjit Singh Sandhu expressing solidarity with the people of India on the Ladakh face-off with China. His comment : “India had made it clear that it would not be bullied by Beijing.”
New Delhi then briefed Tokyo immediately after the event on the LAC crisis against Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley. India clarified that Chinese troops attempted to unilaterally change the status quo during the de-escalation.
Japan slid into the crisis saying last Friday that there could be hope for a peaceful resolution of the ongoing standoff between Indian and Chinese troops . But Japan asserted that it opposed any attempts to change the status quo on the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
China is intent on that change in a huge way !
Japenese envoy Satoshi Suzuki tweeted on Friday that he "had a good talk with Foreign Secretary (Harsh Vardhan) Shringla. “But Japan opposes any unilateral attempts to change the status quo."
India will also not have any discourse on that subject for changing the status quo.
Tensions have been escalating along the LAC since May. The Chinese and Indian troops got engaged in a number of confrontations along the LAC. The crisis was huge in Indian political affairs. It called for an immediate briefing of Indian President Ram Nath Kovind by Premier Modi. On Saturday, 4 July, Opposition Leader of India urged drastic steps against China. A public cry for action against the Chinese urged Modi and Kovind into lengthy discussions on Indian National Security priorities.
Satellite images show massive construction activity at a high altitude Chinese air base, located just 200 kilometres away from the Pangong Lake, the site of the skirmish between forces of India and China on May 5 and May 6, a site firmly on India’s border maps as being of Indian origin.
Two other satellite images show the Ngari Gunsa airport in Tibet. The first image is dated 6 April 2020 while the second one, dated 21 May this year, shows massive construction activity including the addition of what appears to be a second taxi-track or a secondary tarmac to position helicopters or combat aircraft. A third image shows a close-up of the main tarmac at the airport with a line-up of four fighter jets believed to be either J-11 or J-16 fighters of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force.
I suggest : Why does China need a powerful Himalayan-top fighter air base? Against whom ? A war on the south China Seas will tell us that its height suggests a lookout tower that can scan thousands of kilometres over land and sea at approaching aircraft as well as warships and it will be needed against Indian, US, Vietnamese and Japanese fighting craft heading towards the SCS, as against Vietnamese and Australian fighter aircraft.. That suggests the idea that China knows what her intended plans will produce by way of counter attacks from India’s allies and friends. In other words, China knows that its plans to monopolise the SCS is seen as being totally unacceptable as the UN rightly voted three years ago. All nations except Pakistan are opposed to this Chinese arrogance. Few disagree.
Obviously, the Road and Belt operation has more to it than mere trade. You don’t throw men’s lives into an economic goal. Additionally, as a military attaché at a Colombo based embassy put nit “ The air base will prevent India getting airborne for long with its limited Sukhoi 30 MKIs, its most potent fighter, the first batch of which, called the Dassault Rafales, reaches Indian Air Force in a few weeks.
Close-up image pictures of the Chinese fighters indicate that their deployment at this base was first spotted in December 2019. The location of the Ngari Gunsa air base is located at 14,022 feet, which makes it among the highest in the world. So, why does China want this mountain-top aircraft base so urgently? The close up images now released help spotters identify the type of fighters deployed.
Ladakh in greater crisis
More relevantly to Beijing’s R&B campaign, midst the global crises of the COVID-19 pendemic bogging down every government on earth, are reports that several thousand Chinese soldiers have either crossed or are very close to the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh. Tomorrow’s clashes can be unimaginable. It drew the US to a sudden emergency call to the Indian Ocean with the powerful Ronald Reagan, Nimitz and other fighter ships sailing within striking distance of the huge Chinese maritime wars ship exercises around the Spratleys.
The skirmishes which began on 5 May between Indian and Chinese Forces on the North bank of the Pangong Lake moved into the Galwan River basin further North where Chinese Forces are positioned to threaten a road completed last year by India which leads up to the crucial Indian Air Force base in Daulat Beg Oldie in Ladakh which supplies Indian soldiers in the region. Breaking up Indian Forces logistics is high on the Chinese agenda leaving the Indian Air Force in Daulut and transshipment troops exposed to a quick, deadly hit by the new Chinese Air Force troops nearby..
Cutting off that airport can create a food and logistics crisis for Indian troops and safety of India’s side of the 1947 borders. And yet China insists it is not encroaching on others’ lands and internal security positions. This potential crisis immediately brought about a Delhi crisis meeting of the Defence Minister Rajnath Singh with the Chief of Defence Staff as well as with the Armed Forces Chief. Modi flew into the 14k foot camp along with the head of India's military and the Army Chief. The scenario seems set to a prep for a clash on a big scale.
China struck again with its five days of drills starting 1 July near the Paracel Islands, which are claimed by both Vietnam and China. Under the UN Law of the Sea Conference under which 4 of the 6 Paracels islands are in Chinese territorial waters while two are in Vietnam’s.
But According to China’s incredible 9-point schedule even areas under 200 kilometres ocean distance from Malaysia belong to China. This is why the US called the 9-point schedule a “miniaturising of the SCS crisis by China” by which it is also expanding territory by land and is hotly pursued now by India and other nations who have a right to exploit the extensive oil and gas reserves of the vast SCS.
Investigator Matthew Tostevin says that China claims 90% of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, but Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also lay claim to parts of it, through which about $3 trillion of trade passes each year. The R&B campaign therefore, is set on encroaching on property certified by the entire UN group as belonging to other nations under UN ‘s established international codes.
China’s expansionism is over
Modi had a strong word for Indian troops at the top : "In these difficult circumstances, you are the shield of the motherland," said Modi, sporting a khaki green parker jacket, aviator sunglasses and baseball cap of the ‘Fire and Fury’ corps stationed there. "The enemies of Mother India have seen your fire and fury."
Without naming China, Modi added that the "era of expansionism is over... History has shown how expansionism pushed humanity towards destruction."
"India has always pursued the path of peace in the world but at the same time, those who are weak can never initiate steps for peace. Bravery and courage is a prerequisite for peace," he added.
That was Modi in antagonism. It will enhance very soon. Chinese maritime moves will come quickly now as the world lapses in its state of COVID-19.
India followed China sending thousands of extra troops to the region over the years. Repeated military talks have all been aimless. So, what seems to be facing them ? A major Indo-Pacific war is how many experts see it. But this will not be like the singular Indo-China whip-up of 1962 when open international sea lanes held sway and multiple nations…all aligned closely with the US and India, stay poised to a call to military attacks,
That is exactly why the US consistently sustains the impetus on Colombo to somehow conclude a SOFA and ACSA agreements. That’s a tough ask from Colombo, knowing how close the Rajapaksas are with China and her leadership and China’s effective political mouths in Colombo including members of the SLPP. Sajith Premadasa on the other hand appreciates well how entrenched Sri Lanka can get in the Chinese or US presence in Sri Lanka and stands solitarily against any agreement with the US for that purpose and thus lead to a huge conflict that will tie down Sri Lanka economically for an interminable time.
India has begun hitting back economically with Chinese imports including raw materials vital to India's huge pharmaceutical industry piling up at Indian ports due to more stringent border checks. Ministers say India will no longer buy Chinese equipment for power stations and that Chinese construction firms will be barred from new road projects. But Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian at a regular briefing on 3 July, Friday hit out at ‘irresponsible remarks’ by Indian politicians and called for cooperation.
"Frictions between both sides is the wrong way to go, and goes against the fundamental wishes of the people on both sides," Zhao said warning that "India should not make a strategic misjudgement on China."
US sends carriers to South China Sea
The warning came just before two U.S. aircraft carriers began conducting exercises in the disputed South China Sea on Saturday, the U.S. Navy website said even as China carried out military drills that have been criticised by the Pentagon and neighbouring states. Accusation between China and the United States of stoking tension in the wave of the COVID-19 globally is hitting world capitals badly. The timing seems almost crudely timed, as some aver.
The USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan were carrying out operations and exercises in the South China Sea "to support a free and open Indo-Pacific," the navy said in the statement.The real intention can be very much more military in context.
"The purpose is to show an unambiguous signal to our partners and allies that we are committed to regional security and stability," Rear Admiral George M. Wikoff was quoted as saying by the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the exercises.
All this information comes along while the US continues doggedly maintaining its pressures on Colombo to go looking beyond the MCC, though that specifically means siding against Colombo’s non-alignment position relating to China. It’s whacker of a problem facing Colombo.
Trump gives Navy overall power:
But the United States accuses China of trying to intimidate Asian neighbours who might want to exploit its extensive oil and gas reserves. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also lay claim to parts of the South China Sea, through which about $3 trillion of trade passes each year.
What’s more is that the U.S. statement said the naval exercises gave commanders “ the flexibility and capabilities that only the U.S. Navy can command".
That’s a huge, huge order from Washington for its strike force in the Indo-Pac region.