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After The South China Sea, China Now Looks To Claim The Whole Of Antarctica

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The inhabitable regions of the earth, the North and the South pole are now a point of contention among the global powers including the US, China and Russia. Amid the pandemic, when the US is cutting back and delaying its Antarctic activities, China and Russia are silently expanding its operations. 

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“China’s interest in Antarctica is not limited to the short term” or “shaped by scientists,” says Peter Jennings, the executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

The continent is governed by the Antarctic Treaty System which was signed in Washington on December 1, 1959. According to the treaty, the continent should be used for peaceful purposes like promoting scientific research.

The treaty prohibits Antarctica to be used for military purposes like the establishment of military bases or weapons testing. However, experts say that “Russia and China were using the guise of scientific research to stake a further claim on the continent”.

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According to Jennings, unlike other countries, China’s intention might be to lay claim on the continent for its minerals and military advantages.

With collapsing economies around the world due to the COVID-19 situation, most of the countries including Australia have started limiting its operations in Antarctica. Australia is one of the major players with dedicated spending of $190 million in its Antarctic Program for 2020-21.

The US National Science Foundation, which earmarked $488 million of its 2019–20 budget for the arctic regions, said that “there will no doubt be implications for the next austral-summer field season,” according to Stephanie Short, the NSF’s point person for the Antarctic.

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On the other hand, the Chinese company Shanghai Chonghe Marine Industry has ordered Antarctic krill trawler which will be the largest one ever built and will be completed by 2023. Krill (a small fish specie) is food for many Arctic sea creatures and is also used as oil and feed in China.

It has suffered a drastic population decline which is a serious threat for the Arctic ecosystem. China’s “fishing expeditions” are a threat to such an ecosystem. Experts fear that “fishing is a proxy for minerals” because the treaty prohibits any mining activities on the continent. Russia and China both want this condition to be relaxed.

Russia remains active in the arctic region just like China. In February, Russia announced a seismic survey in the area, the purpose of which is to assess the offshore oil and gas potential of the area using the latest technology.

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This is likely to create a geopolitical conflict with the rest of the signatories of the treaty. Even though geological surveys have been carried out for decades but unlike Moscow, no country has ever explicitly admitted the hunt for oil and gas.

“The Antarctic has always been a place where countries can put aside their political differences in the interests of peace and science and so to endanger that, would be extremely unfortunate at a time when there is so much geopolitical conflict,” said Claire Christian, the executive director of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC).

In April, the Russian navy’s research vessel Admiral Vladimirsky arrived at the continent purportedly to identify the location of the South Magnetic Pole’s point. “We might yet see a Russian flag plant in the South Pole, mirroring the 2007 Arctic-seabed PR stunt,” said Elizabeth Buchanan of Deakin University’s School of Humanities and Social Science, Australia. She added that such missions are a way to show Russia’s “global relevance and international reach in polar regions”.

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The US has been struggling with the presence of Russia and China in the arctic for decades. “The capabilities that we have in the Arctic are the same capabilities that we probably want to have in the Antarctic. And when I look at the competition, and the melting ice in the Arctic, and the competition with both Russia and China … we’ve got to pay attention to that,” said Pacific Air Forces commander Gen. Charles Q. Brown. Pentagon has warned the risk of strengthened military presence in the arctic region including the deployment of submarines to act as deterrents against nuclear attack.

Even at a time when China and Russia have been struggling with the effects of the pandemic, they have not put brakes on current or future projects in the Antarctic.

This reasonably confirms their seriousness towards the demonstration of supremacy in the polar regions. China is already facing a global backlash over its handling of COVID-19. Jennings questioned that “How viable is that hope after [China’s] duplicitous and damaging handling of the virus. I believe that in the long term the [Chinese Communist] Party would take a similar approach to Antarctica.”

Penned By: Smriti Chaudhary

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Indian Rafale Jets Would Have Been Useless Against Chinese Airforce – Russia Experts

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Rafale jets would have been useless against the Chinese Airforce (PLAAF) – Russian aviation experts have claimed. Rafale fighter jets belong to the 4 ++ generation would not have been of much use had an aerial conflict broken out in Ladakh again the PLAAF.

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As reported by EurAsian Times, India and China had been engaged in a brutal conflict in the Himalayan region of Ladakh. Troops of both countries have exchanged blows and even lost soldiers in the conflict that began more than a month ago.

Keeping in mind the situation in Ladakh, France said that it would accelerate the delivery of Rafale fighter jets to India. Aviation experts believe that the arrival of Rafale fighter jets will significantly boost the combat capability of the Indian Air Force (IAF). However, according to Russian experts, who did not wish to be named, the French fighter would not help India much incase the conflict turns hot.

The astronomical cost of Rafale fighter jets is one of the reasons the French 4++ fighter jet would not help India. In the deal struck with Paris, New Delhi agreed to purchase 36 Rafale Jets. The total cost of the deal was an estimated Rs 59,000 crore with each jet costing around Rs 1,646 crore.

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The cost of a Rafale is about three times higher than the Chinese J-20 stealth fighter jets. In other words, for 36 French-made Rafale fighters that will appear in the Indian Air Force, China can respond with three times as many of its fifth-generation J-20 fighters – for the same money.

Even if, in some ways, the characteristics of the Chinese combat aircraft lag behind the French 4 ++ fighter jet, then the Indian air force could get overwhelmed by what is called “capable of crushing by quantity”.

And the cost is not the only reason why Rafale jets would not help India much. Compared to another Chinese jet – J-16 (an analogue of the Russian Su-35) which Beijing is also using in its airforce, the Rafale jets will find it extremely challenging to outgun the Russian Su-35s operated by the Chinese.

The maximum speed of the Rafale jet is about Mach 1.8 and the J-16 is Mach 2.2. The Rafale’s practical ceiling is also lower than the J-16s. Even in engine thrust, the Chinese J-16s aka Russian Su-35s are far superior to the French combat aircraft.

Even if the IAF was to deploy all 36 of its newly acquired jets, the technical superiority would still be on the side of China, claims the Russian expert.

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The IAF has been on high alert in Ladakh and is closely monitoring all Chinese activity near the Line of Control.  As reported by EurAsian Times, New Delhi has inked a deal with Moscow to buy 33 new fighter aircraft including 12 Su-30MKIs and 21 MiG-29s along with up-gradation of 59 MiG-29s. The addition and up-gradation of jets have been approved to strengthen India’s air power.

The air defence systems of both the Indian Army and the IAF have been deployed in Ladakh to prevent any misadventure by the Chinese Air Force fighter jets or the People’s Liberation Army choppers there.

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China Fighting India With ‘Sticks & Stones’ Cheaper, But Confronting The US Can Bankrupt China: Experts

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The news of relentless India-China border tensions and all other dispute that China has with its neighbours like Taiwan, Japan, ASEAN nations has got the world standing against Beijing, including the US.

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In the east, across the pacific is the raging US-China confrontation. Tensions are running high close to home in Taiwan as the Chinese are stepping up the military action around the region. Muscle flexing in the South China Sea has been ongoing for a while now and tensions are high in Hong Kong, the semi-autonomous region, over the new national security law, confronting Japan over disputed islands and the frequent border skirmishes with India – all of it while fighting the coronavirus outbreak.

According to experts, China’s superpower dreams might not become a reality especially with its ongoing conflict with a global superpower, the US.

“Fighting India with sticks and stones on the high plateau of Ladakh comes cheap, but preparing to confront the United States in the Western Pacific is a very expensive proposition indeed,” wrote Salvatore Babones, an adjunct scholar at the Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney.

“It is likely to prove a luxury that a slow-growth, post-coronavirus China will not be able to afford. China makes a great show of its wealth and its willingness to spend it. In reality, Beijing’s bank balance doesn’t match its bling,” he added.

China’s economic growth had slowed down even before the coronavirus outbreak. China reported the weakest numbers for 2019, in the last 30 years in the wake of the US-China trade war. China’s growth slowed to 6.1% last year, from 6.6% in 2018, according to the official data.

However, Brooking institution suggests that China overestimated Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth by an average of 1.7 percent per year.

“The United States famously spends more on defence than the next 10 countries combined, yet the notion persists that its military is still underfunded and underequipped for its global superpower role,” stated Babones.

He further explained that if the experts are to be believed, the United States will lose its competitive edge without more investment in university research, advanced technologies, foreign aid, diplomacy, the United Nations, clean energy, and, of course, pandemic preparedness.

“The US—with an economy roughly 50 per cent larger than China’s and a GDP per capita more than six times as great—can’t afford to remain a global superpower, how can China possibly afford to become one?” he asked.

Analyses from the Center for Strategic and International Studies suggest that Chinese defence spending may actually fall in real terms in 2020. Given China’s elevated pace of military operations on several borders, spending constraints must be putting pressure on acquisitions budgets.

“China is believed to have built only 50 or so J-20 fifth-generation stealth fighters. The J-20 program now seems to be experiencing serious development problems, limiting production for the foreseeable future. This compares to America’s stock of 195 F-22 and 134 F-35 fifth-generation fighters, with continuing annual production of more than 100 F-35s, even after coronavirus delays,” explained the author.

The author concluded by saying that China’s leaders can at least save face by abandoning their GDP targets and blaming the virus for the inevitable austerity to follow. He predicted that when the coronavirus crisis is over, the US will still be a global superpower while China’s dreams might still remain far fetched.

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Americas

US-China Tensions: US Wants India To ‘Match Its Weight By Actions’ In The South China Sea – Experts

Tensions between the US and China increased when the US deployed two aircraft carriers in the South China Sea with a clear message to Beijing that it doesn’t welcome China’s belligerence in the region.

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Amid inflating tension between the US and China, the US administration is keen that India should play a vital role in the South China Sea and match its weight by actions.

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Recently, the US deployed two aircraft carriers in the South China Sea with a clear message to Beijing that it doesn’t welcome China’s belligerence with its neighbours and increasing the regional tensions.

Chinese Foreign Ministry, in response, accused the US of deliberately sending its ships to the South China Sea so that it can demonstrate its strength and accused the US of trying to create a rift between the regional countries.

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This is not the first time that the US and China have been engaged in muscle-flexing in the region. Experts say that the situation is slightly different this time as the coronavirus epidemic has drastically increased tension between the two nations.

The South China Sea which lies between Indonesia and Vietnam is spread over about 3.5 million square kilometers. China, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have claims over the waters which is believed to be high on natural resources.

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After the vicious India-China border dispute, there have been talks that India could play an active role in the South China Sea. India considers the South China Sea as a neutral place and believes that this neutrality should be maintained as these waters do not belong to any particular country.

Experts believe that India has come close to the US due to degenerating ties with China, but it is not correct to assume that India will play a very big role in the South China Sea. Experts say that – the US views India as a massive regional force and wants New Delhi to challenge the Chinese aggressively, something the Indian government is not too interested in.

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Experts recall that when Obama came to India in 2015, New Delhi said that it was committed to maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea and Beijing was quick to denounce the Indian statement.

After that, India never directly mentioned the issue by taking the name of China. On various occasions, India has talked about China’s expansionism but without naming it directly, which clearly suggests that New Delhi does not want to offend Beijing.

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Recently as EurAsian Times reported, India permitted Australia to join the annual trilateral Malabar naval exercise involving India-Japan-USA. With Australia joining in, this could cement the QUAD alliance which Beijing considers as an anti-China grouping.

The decision to allow Australia to be a part of exercise comes at the heels of Chinese hostility in Galwan Valley, South China Sea (SCS) and the Strait of Taiwan. According to experts, the addition of Australia could re-activate the Quadrilateral Alliance (QUAD) between Australia, India, Japan and the US, which New Delhi had been avoiding so far.

OpED By Nitin J Ticku. Views Personal

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