Ominous Signs of Cold War

The US-China tensions are rising, and the escalation threatens not only the start of new Cold War, but also huge blow to the already  crumbling international order, especially after the Russian invasion of Ukraine which began in February 2022.

The tensions have gone up with the conflict between the two superpowers  over Taiwan and South China. The world is already getting divided into blocs  and the geopolitical  landscape is in for bigger troubles and tensions  unless the US and China talk to each other.

Therefore, in simple words, the essence is dialogue between the two nations.  And that doesn’t seem to be happening anytime soon, given the exchange of harsh words  in which Washington and Beijing have been engaged.

India, in particular,  has to watch its interests, while it cannot avoid  witnessing escalating tensions between the US and China. The US is a strong strategic partner.

Only yesterday, India  and the  U S have  signed a  defense pact, which opens opportunities for the two countries in manufacturing and supplies. This is a landmark  step forward in their relationship.

The bilateral cooperation is the  high point. It demonstrates  beyond any doubt India standing on its own, pursuing its national interests  suiting  its geopolitical  needs and strategies.

It is  aware that the rest of the world, particularly China and Russia would be watching this pact and the growing strategic partnership between Washington and Delhi through their  respective prisms.

China is wary of everything that the US does , and the fact is that it has not been able to  digest the rising international profile of India, its economic progress and the growing relevance in the global affairs. It views India as a  competitor, and  counterweight to its influence in the immediate region and beyond.

The way it is pricking India on  borders shows its intentions. And,  the situation it has created close to the Line of Actual Control  in Ladakh  for the past over three years  is manifestation of its strategic goals to keep India tied up in a particular  military situation  as long as it is possible for it to do so.

China is seeking to tell the US and the rest of the world that , when it comes to its pursuing its  expansionist ambitions, it can go to any length. There are consequences for China too. India has offered  robust resistance to China in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh.

China had not expected that. Its ambitions to have a free  run in the Himalayan territory have been thwarted. It may have some distinct advantages in connectivity and logistics, but these are not proving sufficient for it to accomplish its goals.

Its ambitions were checked in tracks when India chose to engage it in dialogue to dissolve the border situation. China  has been caught on back foot by the Indian approach, as despite its aggression and assertiveness on borders in the most threatening manner, it has not been  able to do what it wanted to – unilaterally change the status of the LAC by force. Indeed, there are costs, but these are worth paying to guard the territorial integrity and national sovereignty.

The Chinese threats, as the world knows, are not just confined to its immediate neighbours, these go far beyond. The ASEAN and Indo-Pacific countries are fearing China advancing its goals in their region. It has been subjected to extraordinary volatility.

Japanese Defense Minister Hamada Yasukazu, reflecting  on the situation in the region while addressing  Shangri-La dialogue in Singapore listed  competition and conflict   among the states  as  urgent challenges. He voiced the concerns that  in the Indo-Pacific region, “there  are ongoing unilateral attempts to change the status quo  by force or coercion, particularly in the maritime.”

He  suggested two ways to keep the region safe from tensions and conflict. One, all efforts should be made to prevent the unilateral  attempts to change the status quo  by force or coercion, and second, “to enhance communication in order to avoid  misunderstanding and miscalculation, and to promote confidence-building through dialogue .”

This makes clear that Chinese threats are palpable and these are considered dangerous. There is a catastrophic ring  to  it as the world is worried  that any misunderstanding and miscalculation can do irreparable damage to the international order.

The attempts are on  to open channels of communication between the two countries. The US have sent some of its functionaries to China  to break the ice, but their adamancy  on  Taiwan Straits and South China sea, and rising walls of doubt over China-Russia  axis  founded on “no limit friendship”, and the US admitting more countries to NATO are preventing the real-time talks.

This is an ominous stage for the miscalculation, and recipe for start of the Cold War, when blocs gain  priority over  international  order that is just  to all. 

Arun Joshi, strategic affairs expert on South Asian Affairs, is the author of “Eyewitness Kashmir: Teetering on Nuclear War”.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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