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CWA # 569, 17 October 2021

The World This Week
India-China military dialogue, G20 summit on Afghanistan, and China-Taiwan tensions

  GP Team

The World This Week #141, Vol. 3, No. 42

Teshu Singh, Joeana Cera Matthews, and Dincy Adlakha


India and China: The 13th round of bilateral military dialogue

What happened?
On 10 October, the 13th round of the India-China Corps Commander Level Meeting was held at the Chushul-Moldo point. The delegation from the Indian side was led by 14 corp commander Lt-General PGK Menon and South Xinjiang Military District chief of staff Major General Zhao Zhidan. During the meeting, the discussion focused on resolving the friction points relating to Depsang Bulge and Charding Nullah Junction. 

On 11 October, the Ministry of External Affairs said that the Indian side making "constructive suggestions" for settling the remaining areas. The statement said: the Chinese side "was not agreeable and also could not provide any forward-looking proposals. The meeting thus did not result in resolution of the remaining areas." Further, the Indian side pointed out that the situation along the LAC had been caused by "unilateral attempts of Chinese side to alter the status quo and in violation of the bilateral agreements. Hence it is necessary that "the Chinese side take appropriate steps in the remaining areas so as to restore peace and tranquility along the LAC in the Western Sector."

What is the background?
First, the lack of consensus. Contrary to the 12th round of Corps commander-level talks held in August 2021, there was no joint press release after the conclusion of the 13th round of meeting. After the 13th round of meeting, China was the first to release a statement about the meeting. China accused India of "persisting unreasonable and unrealistic demands which added difficulties to the negotiations." In addition, the spokesperson for the Western Theater Command of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) said "instead of misjudging the situation, the Indian side should cherish the hard-won situation in China-India border areas". In an editorial in the Global Times, titled "India's unreasonable demands in 13th military talks' risk new conflict'", the authors blame India for the deadlock in the talks. The Indian side released the statement only on 11 October 2021. 

Second, the factors for the disagreement. The deadlock in the talks can also be attributed to the two recent face-offs; one near Yangtse in the Tawang sector of Arunachal Pradesh and the second, on 30 August 2021, around 100 Chinese troops transgressed the LAC in the Barahoti sector in Uttarakhand.

Third, aggravating bilateral relations post-meeting. China has objected to the recent visit of the Indian Vice-President to Arunachal Pradesh, the spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: "so-called Arunachal Pradesh established unilaterally and illegally by the Indian side and is firmly opposed to the Indian leader's visit to the area concerned". 

What does this mean?
The response from China indicates that they are unwilling to go beyond the disengagement achieved in the Pangong Tso-Kailash region in February and at PP-17A near the Gogra post in early August. However, this does not mean that there is a deadlock. The two sides have agreed to maintain communications as well as stability along the LAC.

The recent developments at the border have given an indication that the progress at the border level talks is not positive. It also means that the Indian soldiers will have to be stationed in those disputed places in adverse conditions for the second successive year due to the stalemate. Thus, unlike the previous round of talks, the difference of opinion vis-à-vis the resolution of LAC has become perceptible. 

Afghanistan: The G20's "Extraordinary Summit"

What happened? 
On 12 October, the G20 leaders met via video conference in a special meeting scheduled to discuss the Afghanistan crisis. The meeting was presided by the current G20 chair and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi. He commented: "(we) must acknowledge that they'll be judged for their actions and not their words."  

Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: "... to look on as 40 million people descend into chaos because there's no electricity supply or financial system – that cannot and must not be the goal of the international community," while the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated: "... the Afghan people should not pay the price of the Taliban's actions." UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a statement appealed to the Taliban to "keep their promises to women and girls and fulfil their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law." 

On 11 October, the Taliban's acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi said: "We want positive relationships with the whole world... such a balanced relationship can save Afghanistan from instability." 

What is the background? 
First, the Afghanistan crisis. The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has severely hit the country's already weak economic system; primarily because the group was unable to seize the previous government's funds. This led them to plead poverty and thus, deepen the humanitarian crisis with broken banks, unpaid officials, inability to obtain food, and skyrocketing inflation. The deteriorating situation of women in the country, and their increasing repression, has also raised global concerns.

Second, the virtual G20 meeting. This is the first time the G20 members gathered to discuss the aftermath of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. Their primary goal was to provide aid to prevent Afghanistan from an impending 'economic catastrophe'. The EU stepped up its previous EUR 300 million aid by another 700 million, accounting for a total of EUR one billion. This would be given both to Afghanistan and those countries harboring Afghan refugees. Germany, separately, pledged EUR 600 million. The IMF and World Bank, present at the meeting, agreed in principle to support the aid. The UN and its agencies are expected to distribute the aid; however, they do not have a choice but to involve the Taliban. Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also proposed to establish a G20 special working group to address Afghanistan-related issues. Despite inviting countries like Qatar, which has been accepting Afghan refugees since the crisis began; the Taliban was not invited to the meeting.  

Third, the refusal to recognize the Taliban. The virtual conference took place while the Taliban held its first face-to-face talks in Qatar with the US-EU emissaries. Despite the inevitable involvement of the Taliban in the aid distribution, the G20 leaders firmly refused to politically recognize the militant group's government. It has been nearly 45 days since the Taliban takeover and the government is yet to be recognized by a country. Methods to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a haven for militant groups like al-Qaeda and the IS group were also discussed.  

Fourth, the absentees. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping skipped the meeting; instead, their respective foreign ministers attended. Prior to the meeting, China had called for the removal of economic sanctions imposed on Afghanistan along with the unfreezing of their overseas international assets. Reflecting diplomatic tensions, Russia scheduled a rival conference on Afghanistan for 20 October. The invitees for this meeting include the Taliban, Pakistan, India, and Iran. Commenting on their absence, Draghi said that there "weren't specific reasons for absence," and that they were wholly involved in the process ahead of the meeting. The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was also absent since he is on holiday. 

What does this mean? 
There is quite an effort being put to aid Afghanistan despite the world's differences with the Taliban. As previous development aids remain frozen overseas, the global leaders are in a fix on how to aid the people of Afghanistan without recognizing the Taliban government. The ability to realize this aid and make it reach those in need, in time, will determine the economic and humanitarian future of Afghanistan. 

Taiwan: President Tsai's address tries to resist increasing pressures from China

What happened?
On 10 October, the Taiwanese President, Tsai Ing-wen delivered an address marking the National Day of Taiwan. While stressing on the Taiwanese sovereignty, she said: "I want to reiterate the words' peace, parity, democracy, and dialogue'. We will not accept the Beijing authorities' use of 'one country, two systems' to downgrade Taiwan and undermine the cross-strait status quo. We stand fast by this principle." On the next day, in response to the presidential address, China's Taiwan Affairs Office asserted that China will "not leave any space for Taiwan independence separatist activities."

What is the background?
First, China's growing pressure signals reunification. Lately, China has been extremely vocal about its intentions to reunify Taiwan with the mainland. Militarily, the largest ever incursions of military jets from the People's Liberation Army were observed in Taiwan's Air Defence Identification Zone on 2 October. The planes continued to breach Taiwanese territory for four days. Furthermore, reports are also surfacing regarding the construction of air bases near China that are close to the island. Politically, President Xi Jinping, and other dignitaries from the Communist Party of China, have made statements assuring the common public of reunification with Taiwan. In fact, while addressing a gathering of political elites in the Great Hall of the People, Xi called the Taiwanese attempt at secessionism the biggest obstacle to national rejuvenation. Chinese media, especially Global Times, have been publishing editorial articles warning Taiwan against separatism.

Second, the Taiwanese response. Taiwan has been opposing reunification with China for a long time. Especially after witnessing the 2019 crackdown in Hong Kong, Taiwan has made sure to project itself as an independent country. It has applied multiple times for separate representation in WHO and the recent application for membership in Trans-Pacific Partnership is reflective of Taiwan's identity, separate from China. More recently, the remarks made by the Taiwanese President and Defence Minister are clear from one perspective. Taiwan will not bow to Chinese pressure despite its asymmetrical military capabilities.

Third, the international involvement, especially the US. Taiwan is constantly attempting to balance its power against China. The biggest role in this endeavour is the US President Joe Biden has shown support for Taiwanese independence. The US even warned China of the disrupted "regional peace and stability" due to China's "provocative military activity". Taiwan is more than just a symbol of independence and democracy for the US. It is an economic haven that might slide under the captivating hands of China if reunified. Taiwan has become a major issue of contention between China and the US. Additionally, connections with many western allies are also crucial for Taiwan. From Japan referring to Taiwan as an independent country to the former Australian Prime Minister visiting Taiwan as a show of support, the international community has largely fallen in line with the US weight.

What does it mean?
Many analysts see the judgment day as close. As tensions increase at the Taiwan strait, it may not be far when China attempts to overtake the Democratic Progressive Party. However, such a scenario will be disastrous for the little progress that the US and China have made in terms of trade relations. Although the Chinese actions in Taiwan are fairly important to the US, are they worth fighting a war with the dragon is something that the US has to reconsider. The upcoming few weeks are extremely crucial for all the parties involved.


Also, in the news …
By Sukanya Bali and Avishka Ashok 

East and Southeast Asia This Week 
China: Four-day joint naval drill with Russia 
On 14 October, Beijing and Moscow held a four-day joint naval drill near Russia's Peter the Great Gulf, in the Sea of Japan. According to Reuters, the Russian defense ministry said, both the countries "practiced how to operate together and destroy floating enemy mines with artillery fire." PLA has sent advanced warships from the Eastern, Southern, and Northern Theater Commands, while Russia deployed large anti-submarine ships, frigates, and aircraft carriers. Global Times reported: "The goal of the joint drill is to enhance the two navies' friendly, pragmatic cooperation, hone the capabilities to fight and enhance their capabilities to jointly deal with maritime security threats and safeguard regional peace and stability."

China: Shenzhou-13 with three Chinese astronauts, heads to a new space station 
On 14 October, the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft was launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China with three astronauts Zhai Zhigang, Wang Yaping, and Ye Guangfu. This is China's second crewed mission. The trio is headed toward Tianhe, the core module of the Tiangong space station; where they will be staying for six months. According to Space, Chinese officials said: "The crew will also conduct two or three spacewalks during the mission."

North Korea: State media condemns Japan's push on military buildup; Kim vows to build a powerful military 
On 13 October, North Korea condemned Japan's recent push in building up its military. KCNA reported: Tokyo is planning to import over "20 US drones and is pushing to possess aircraft carriers and introduce the latest stealth fighters." According to KCNA, "Japan pushes ahead with such arms buildup under the pretext of coping with threats from neighboring countries." Further added, "This shows that Japan is stepping up the preparations for a war of aggression in order to realize the ambition for overseas expansion at any cost." 

On 12 October, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at a defense development exhibition, vowed to build a powerful military to strengthen war deterrence. He insisted that "our main enemy is the war itself, and not a certain country or forces like South Korea or the US." Kim also accused the US of causing tension in the Korean Peninsula with its "wrong judgments and actions." The Korea Herald reported Kim said: "South Korea's unrestricted and dangerous efforts to strengthen its military are destroying the military balance on the peninsula and increasing military instability and danger." 

Australia: Prime Minister Morrison pushes for an economic plan
On 16 October, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morison said the nation needs an economic plan to curb emissions and fight climate change. The Australian Financial Review reported: "This change is happening with or without us … our task is to have an economic plan to ensure Australia, and particularly our regions and rural areas, can succeed in this new global shift." 

South Asia This Week 
India: Denmark's Prime Minister signs MOUs during a three-day visit 
On 10 October, Prime Minister of Denmark Mette Frederiksen came to India on a three-day visit. During the visit, New Delhi and Copenhagen signed four MoUs in the field of traditional knowledge, skill development, mapping of groundwater resources, and coolant technologies. Bilateral talks between the two Prime Ministers were held, both the sides reviewed the progress in "Green Strategic Partnership" and further decided to expand collaboration in the areas of agriculture technology, Smart Water Resource Management, Waste to Best- a creation of best resources from waste, and efficient supply chain management. The two leaders also decided to resume the India-EU FTA negotiations. 

India: Government questions the methodology of GHI
On 15 October, the Indian government questioned the methodology of the Global Health Index (GHI) and called it "devoid of ground reality and facts." GHI ranked India at 101 out of 116 countries. Last year, India was ranked 94 among 107 countries. The Hindu reported: The Ministry of Women and Child Development said, "methodology used by FAO is unscientific. They have based their assessment on the results of a four-question opinion poll, which was conducted telephonically by Gallup." 

Bhutan: Government signs a three-step roadmap MoU with China to resolve border disputes 
On 15 October, China and Bhutan signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on a Three-Step Roadmap in order to resolve boundary disputes. Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs of China Wu Jianghao and Foreign Minister of Bhutan Lyonpo Tandi Dorji signed the MoU at the virtual signing ceremony. The two sides have until now held 24 rounds of Boundary Talks and 10 rounds of meetings at the Expert Group level to resolve the border issue. The Bhutanese foreign ministry said, "The MoU on the three-step roadmap will provide a fresh impetus to the boundary talks." He further added, "the implementation of this roadmap in a spirit of goodwill, understanding, and accommodation will bring the boundary negotiations to a successful conclusion that is acceptable to both sides."

Pakistan: COAS Gen Bajwa meets with Iranian CGS Major Gen Bagheri 
On 13 October, Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Bajwa and Iranian Chief of General Staff Maj Gen Mohammad Bagheri agreed to further enhance bilateral defense cooperation According to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), "Both agreed on further enhancing defense cooperation and working together for regional peace and unified response to terrorism which is a common enemy." According to the PM Office, PM Khan described the "Pakistan-Iran border as a border of Peace and Friendship."

Central Asia, Middle East and Africa This Week
Armenia: Government accuses Azerbaijan of human rights violation
On 14 October, the Armenian representative at the International Court of Justice Yeghishe Kirakosian accused Azerbaijan of human rights violation during the six-week war in 2020. The accusation was made while the ICJ discussed a plea by Armenia to impose interim measures on Azerbaijan to prevent it from causing more ethnic discrimination. Kirakosian said: "Armenia seeks to prevent and remedy the cycle of violence and hatred perpetrated against ethnic Armenians." The Azerbaijani representative who had also previously accused Armenia of similar offences, denied all accusations.

Syria: The US defies normalizing relations until accountable political progress
On 13 October, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken addressed a news conference and revealed that the US would not normalize relations with Syria unless there was irreversible political progress. The statements were made since other Arab allies of the US, such as Jordan and the UAE began restarting economic and diplomatic ties with Syria. Blinken said: "What we have not done and what we do not intend to do is to express any support for efforts to normalize relations or rehabilitate Mr Assad or lifted a single sanction on Syria or changed our position to oppose the reconstruction of Syria, until there is irreversible progress towards a political solution, which we believe is necessary and vital." 

Israel: Foreign Minister proclaims right to act violently against Iran
On 13 October, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met with the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and announced that Israel "reserves the right" to use force against Iran while observing that use of force may be necessary to bring the Iranian nuclear programme to an end. Lapid said: "Iranians will race to the bomb if they do not believe that the world is serious about stopping them. Israel reserves the right to act at any given moment in any way. That is not only our right; it is also our responsibility."

Iraq: Protests break out after primary election results 
On 11 October, the Iraqi government made its initial observations regarding the parliamentary elections in the country and said that the Populist Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's party had won 73 out of the 329 seats. The voters' turnout was much lower, with only 41 per cent of the eligible population taking part in the elections. The turnout was the lowest in the capital city of Baghdad as the voters accounted for only 31 per cent. Despite the youth-led protests in 2019, which called for the advancement of the elections, a vast majority of the youth boycotted the elections. The primary election results led to protests in the country as people accused the government of scamming the people through the elections.

Kenya: Government defies decision over the maritime border by the ICJ
On 12 October, Kenya rejected the International Court of Justice's decision that favoured Somalia in a years-long conflict over the maritime border. While presenting the decision, the ICJ produced a new border that was closer to Somalia's claims. The Kenyan Presidency said: "The decision was clearly erroneous. The verdict embodies a perpetuation of the ICJ's jurisdictional overreach and raises a fundamental question on the respect of the sovereignty and consent of States to international judicial processes."

South Africa: South African veterans unite and hold cabinet minister hostage
On 15 October, the BBC reported that the Liberation Struggle War Veterans held two cabinet ministers and a deputy hostage and demanded their reparations for the part they played in the fight against the white-minority rule. They also demanded a payment of USD 2,80,000 for their housing and medical needs. Eventually, a task force had to be called in to protect the hostage and restore normalcy.

Europe and The Americas This Week
Poland: Top court passes law to enable immediate expulsion of migrants 
On 12 October, the official Gazette of Poland published the decision by the top Polish court, which enables the country's border guards to expel illegal migrants immediately. It will also give the border forces the right to reject applications without examination. The law, which is now binding in Poland, contradicts the EU law, but the organization has also accused Belarus of causing an influx of refugees at the European borders. 

The UK: Cybersecurity Agency blames attacks on Russia and neighbouring states
On 11 October, the cybersecurity agency in the UK addressed the Chatham House Cyber 2021 conference and claimed that a majority of online extortion and cyber hacks originated from Russia and neighbouring countries. A spokesperson of the National Crime Agency said that the attacks targeted any and every business organization on a random basis. She also expressed concern regarding the status of companies to deal with such threats and observed that all entities might not be capable of fighting against foreign attacks. 

Germany: Chancellor Angela Merkel makes a final visit to Israel; and holds a meeting with President Xi
On 13 October, German Chancellor Angela Merkel held an online meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping as her term comes to an end. In the farewell call, the two leaders discussed the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and other issues of mutual interest. President Xi called Merkel an "old friend" of the Chinese people and appreciated her efforts in deepening the bilateral relations between the two countries. On 10 October, Merkel also made a final official visit to Israel and pledged to continue cooperation on Israel's national security. She visited the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem and said: "The fact that Jewish life has found a home again in Germany after the crimes of humanity of the Shoah is an immeasurable sign of trust, for which we are grateful."

Chile: President declares state of emergency in four provinces while opposition attempts to impeach 
On 13 October, the opposition ministers passed the move to impeach Chilean President Sebastian Pinera for his involvement in the controversial sale of a mining company. The impeachment was initiated after the information on his involvement became known through the Pandora Papers leaks. On 12 October, President Pinera declared an emergency in four provinces and deployed security troops to control the conflict between the Mapuche Indigenous people and the security forces in the southern region of Chile. The Mapuche, an indigenous community, are demanding restoration of their ancestral lands and self-determination. 
 


About the Authors
Teshu Singh is a Research Fellow at the Indian Council of World Affairs. Joeana Cera Matthews is a post-graduate scholar from the University of Mysore, and a Visiting Research Scholar at NIAS. Dincy Adlakha is a post-graduate scholar from Christ (Deemed-to-be-University) and a Visiting Research Scholar at NIAS. Sukanya Bali is a PhD Scholar at OP Jindal University. Avishka Ashok is a Research Associate in the School of Conflict and Peace Studies at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. 

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