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China Emerges As A Global Saviour For Both ‘Friends & Foes’ During Covid-19 Pandemic?

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With the world combating the spread of Covid-19 pandemic, China is projecting its image as the global saviour that will pull the world out of this crisis. Beijing playing the role of the good samaritan is not solely based on its desire to help, there is also an element of geopolitics attached to the situation says experts talking to the EurAsian Times.

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A case in point is Huawei’s reported donation of 800,000 face masks to the Netherlands last week. Analysts have questioned whether this was motivated by altruism or by the 5G telecom auction scheduled to take place in Amsterdam in June.

Dutch authorities have yet to decide whether to side with the U.S. and other European states in banning Huawei from developing 5G infrastructure over espionage concerns.

For years the United States played a pivotal role in addressing global, humanitarian crisis world over. When a tsunami hit Southeast Asia in 2004, killing over 200,000 or when the financial crisis erupted across the globe in 2008 or even when the deadly Ebola epidemic exploded in West Africa in 2014, Washington led the effort to bring nations together to develop a cooperative response.

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However, with the Unites States ravaged with coronavirus pandemic, China has stepped in to fill the void created by America’s abdication of global leadership.

As EurAsian Times reported earlier, China has also donated hundreds of thousands of surgical masks and test kits to the Philippines and Pakistan, sent teams of medics to Iran & Iraq and also extended a $500 million loan to help Sri Lanka combat the deadly virus.

However, for all of Beijing’s PR efforts to shape the narrative of the crisis, it has also fallen short of expectations.

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For instance, as per the report of El Pais, Spain after buying $467 million in medical supplies from China, including 950 ventilators, 5.5 million testing kits, 11 million gloves and more than half a billion protective face masks soon announced that it had planned to return 9,000 quick result test kits to China because they were deemed substandard.

China admitted that the kits they sold to Spain were bought from Bioeasy, a Chinese company not licensed to make them.

Spain now has at least 49,515 confirmed coronavirus cases, out of which 8,000 people were confirmed to have the virus in the past 24 hours according to its Ministry of Health. Nearly 27,000 people remain hospitalized as Spain scrambles to contain the virus.

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As per NPR report verified by the EurAsian Times, soon after China sent shipments of medical supplies to Italy with a gigantic Chinese flag displayed on the supplies that read, “The friendship road knows no borders,” China’s President Xi Jinping called the Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and told him that Beijing wanted to help Italy in its times of crisis and build a “Health Silk Road”.

But Beijing has not ceased its diplomatic efforts at wooing Italy and Spain only, the communist nation is showering all European nations with aid as part of a diplomatic charm offensive.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, whose country does not belong to the European Union, raised eyebrows last week when he called European solidarity a “fairy tale” and said the Chinese are the “only ones who can help.”

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Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said around the same time that “we will remember those who were close to us in this difficult period,” referring to China.

Given the dire crisis so many countries find themselves in, leaders around the world have shown their appreciation for China’s aid and assistance. “We’re grateful for China’s support,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted last week to thank Beijing for the 2 million surgical masks, 200,000 N95 masks and 50,000 testing kits it was sent to Europe.

 “If somebody is worried China is doing too much,” an Italian official told The New York Times when asked whether he was concerned about the geopolitical implications of Chinese aid, then they should step in. “The gap is open to other countries. This is what other countries should do.”

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As the Covid-19 pandemic decreases in China and rises elsewhere, analysts talking to the EurAsian Times pointed out that this soft-power push would lead to diplomatic gains in the short term but in the long-term, it’ll be difficult for the Chinese government to blame others for the outbreak and to hide the fact that the pandemic originated in China and for weeks after the pandemic emerged, the Chinese leaders remained mum which could have controlled the outbreak.

Americas

Despite Chest Thumping, India Could Take Years To Reduce Economic Dependence On China – US Experts

Bilateral trade between India and China was estimated at $88 billion in the 2018-19 fiscal year, but India recorded a massive $53.5 billion deficit with China — the biggest trade deficit India has with any nation.

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Anti-China sentiments in India are at an all-time high. Recently India banned 59 Chinese-owned apps, including TikTok, while Chinese firms are being obstructed from participating in highway and other major tenders and projects. 

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The Indian hotel industry group also issued a blanket ban on Chinese tourists. “In view of the nefarious activities of China, it has been decided that no Chinese will be accommodated in Delhi’s hotels and guest houses from now onwards,” the Delhi Hotel and Restaurant Owners Association said in a statement in late June.

Reports suggest that goods from China are being delayed at Indian ports, and the Indian government are planning to impose higher tariffs and rigorous quality controls on shipments.

“Trade frictions, even symbolic ones, are obviously bad for business,” Pravin Krishna, professor of International Economics and Business at Johns Hopkins University, told DW. “As of now, it is not quite clear which goods are being held up at the ports and what the extent of the delay is.

The exact impact on businesses will clearly depend on their inventory positions and so on and this will vary quite widely across sectors and firms,” he said. “I imagine most businesses can manage delays, but perhaps not complete blockades.”

Bilateral trade between India and China was estimated at $88 billion in the 2018-19 fiscal year, but India recorded a massive $53.5 billion deficit with China — the biggest trade deficit India has with any nation.

China is also India’s biggest source of imports and exports more than 3,000 products to India at very competitive prices. Moreover, India has become a major destination for Chinese investment with key Indian startups like Zomato, Paytm having received millions of dollars’ worth of funding from China.

The total planned and current Chinese investments in India are estimated to be about $26 billion, according to the US think tank Brookings. Experts say – there is no easy pathway for India to reduce its current dependence on China and decoupling from China will be a slow, gradual process.

Observers believe that a trade conflict will likely be costly for both sides, especially given the timing of the current tensions. Both India and China have already been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has created massive challenges for both the governments.

Their economies are undergoing a sharp devaluation. In India’s case, the rigorous lockdown has resulted in severe economic losses and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) now expects India’s GDP to shrink 4.5% this year.

To counter the economic collapse, Indian PM Narendra Modi launched “Atmanirbhar Bharat,” a campaign for a self-reliant India that aids businesses to make products in the country instead of relying on imports. This is in addition to the “Make in India” initiative.

Sumit Ganguly, professor of Political Science at the Indiana University Bloomington told DW – “Frankly, I think it amounts to foolish, anachronistic and pointless sloganeering,” adding that this is a “populist cry” and “will amount to little or nothing.” “The initial emphasis on self-reliance was coupled with rampant protectionism and had terrible consequences for Indian industry not to mention the hapless consumer,” he argued.

After India gained independence, import substitution industrialization, a policy centring on displacing imported goods with domestically produced ones, was the guiding principle of economic experts in the country.

Successive Indian governments from 1947 to 1991 followed this inward-looking model of economic development, but it chained private organizations and eventually proved disastrous in turning India into an industrial and economic power.

As a balance of payments crisis in 1991 pushed New Delhi on the verge of bankruptcy and the Indian government was compelled to introduce significant reforms and liberalize the economy.

If ‘self-reliance’ is merely an appeal to organizations to become more resourceful — that is fine,” Krishna said. On the other hand, if it is an appeal for import substitution, I would be worried: India’s experience with this in the past has been calamitous.

“Regarding the dispute with China, I sincerely hope it is not used as a pretext for a generalized return to protectionism.”

Via: DW May Not Reflect The Views Of The EurAsian Times

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Asia Pacific

Ladakh Now, Kashmir Next: Why India-China War Is An Attractive Option For Many In India?

I now believe that a big event is needed for the resolution of the Kashmir issue, and the India-China war could be that big thing – J&K resident 

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As India-China border standoff continues in Ladakh, people living in the Kashmir Valley see war as an attractive option. Kashmiris living in Jammu and Kashmir are rejoicing at the prospect of a war between India and China and expect something positive from the border clashes.  

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Kashmiris have taken to social media to share computer-generated images sarcastically reminding India about its inability to halt Chinese aggression. The pictures shared in Kashmir are completely in contrast to the anti-China images being shared in other parts of India.

Images shared include Chinese President Xi Jinping wearing a traditional Kashmiri garb preparing a traditional wazwan meal while another image shows Xi’s face superimposed over a local bus driver who is calling out to commuters that the bus is headed to Ladakh – the place where Indian and Chinese troops clashed.

Apart from the trolling on social media platforms, Kashmiris are also discussing the possibility of Chinese military occupying the disputed region. “Ladakh Kheow Chenan (Ladakh has been taken over by China)” is the most discussed topic these days. During a demonstration on June 21 in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir’s largest city, protesters mocked the police by chanting “Cheen aya Cheen aya (China is coming)” slogans.

According to experts at EurAsian Times, discontent and gloom amongst Kashmiris have been on the rise since the abrogation of Article 370. The scrapping of Article 370 took away the special status enjoyed by the Kashmir and divided the state into two Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

Most importantly, the abrogation of Article 370 by PM Narendra Modi led Indian government quashed the possibility of an independent Kashmir, a dream envisaged by many Kashmiris.

Following the historic decision, Kashmiris living in the union territory have complained about increased military presence, detention of people on arbitrary grounds and, lack of internet services and lockdowns.

Speaking to Nikkei Asian Review, Waqas Ahmad from Srinagar said that abrogation of Article 370 was the last nail in the coffin and it broke the back of every Kashmiri and the fear of settlement of outsiders seems a reality to all Kashmiris.

So far, the Indian government has granted 25,000 domicile certificates to non-locals which allows them to get a residency certificate for education, employment and buying land.

For Kashmiris, China Brings Hope

While Chinese aggression has been condemned by Indians across the length and breadth of the country, Kashmiris have endorsed China’s aggressive move. For them, the introduction of China spells ‘hope’.

Younis Ali, a political science student in Pulwama, explains the logic behind supporting the Chinese. He says that Kashmiris have tried everything to forward their cause including peaceful protests and militancy, but neither has yielded any results.

”I now believe that a big event is needed for the resolution of the Kashmir issue, and the India-China war could be that big thing,” Ali says.

Specialists on Kashmir also agree with what locals say. Gowhar Geelani, an experienced journalist Kashmir, says that people are of the view that a new geopolitical situation could be to their advantage in terms of ending the political uncertainty in Kashmir. He also noted that Pakistan’s weak economy and military “has also led some to pin their hopes on a stronger China.”

Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, explains that Kashmiri joy stems from seeing their oppressor bogged down by an emboldened, aspiring superpower that is a bitter rival of New Delhi and a close friend of Islamabad.

Speaking about human rights violation in the region, Ashok Swain a professor at Uppsala University in Sweden, says that Kashmiris are excited about the Ladakh clash because of the perception that China has become a party to the Kashmir conflict, after experiencing hopelessness and despair with “the near silence of the international community over serious human rights violation.

According to a report on the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir that covers the first six months of this year, at least 229 killings in different instances of violence have taken place in the region.

The report cites “extrajudicial executions of at least 32 civilians in J&K, besides killings of 143 militants and 54 armed forces personnel.” It was put out by the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, a prominent human rights group.

Swain adds that with the introduction of China into the Kashmir conflict, India has lost the military and diplomatic advantage it enjoyed over Pakistan.  China’s open opposition Article 370 as well as the strength it showed in the border clash have revived the hope of Kashmiris of an open alliance between Pakistan and China on the Kashmir issue.

At present, New Delhi and Beijing are looking for a peaceful solution to the conflict in Ladakh. Today PM Narendra Modi flew to Leh, Ladakh to take stock of the situation, boost the morale of troops and send a covert message to Beijing.

China was quick to announce its displeasure over Modi’s surprise visit to Ladakh and warned Indian from taking any action that may escalate the situation.

New Delhi and Beijing have been at each other’s throats since the first week of June. Both countries have engaged in the rapid military infrastructure development, troop buildup, air patrols, weapon deployment and even fistfights, which ended with casualties on both sides.

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EurAsian Region

China On Its Side, Pakistan Going All Out To Woo Russia; Counter India-US Alliance

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Pakistan Foreign Minister SM Qureshi in conversation with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov expressed Islamabad’s desire to have a long and multidimensional relationship with Moscow. Can the growing closeness between Pakistan and Russia change the political and diplomatic relationship between New Delhi and Moscow?

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The Russians are seeking the development of ties with Pakistan to limit the US influence in Asia,” wrote Farzad Bonesh, a researcher and analyst of international affairs. “But it should be noted that one of the most important goals of Russia’s foreign policy is to increase its international influence and advance its economic growth,” he added.

In recent years, the United States has had stronger ties with India than with Pakistan. With Washington’s strong stance against Islamabad’s inadequate response to the allegations of sheltering terrorists have led to weakened ties between the two nations.

“Pakistan is trying to use Russia to balance its foreign policies regarding India and the United States,” stated Bonesh. He further wrote that Pakistan is also trying to use its connections with Russia to gain advantages over the US by considering the regional and international confrontations and rivalries.

Russia and Pakistan plan to enhance their economic trade which was mere $800 million in 2018 but is expected to grow in the future. “So far, the two countries have been simplifying procedures and encouraging trade by establishing an intergovernmental commission on trade and economic cooperation,” observed Bonesh.

He further wrote that unlike the trade relations between Russia and India, which amount to $10 billion a year, the volume of trade is inconsistent with its real potential. “In fact, the current volume of trade between the two countries compared with the overall volume of Russia’s foreign trade is very small,” stated the author.

Till 2014, Russia had a policy of not supplying any weapons to Pakistan. According to the author, the continued cooperation between the US and India in a series of important agreements in the field of defence has resulted in Russia and Pakistan going forward with more defence cooperation and weapons trade.

Pakistan has shown support for Russia’s “intention to cooperate” with the Taliban. Bonesh believes that the security interests of Russia and Pakistan are also influenced by the security and political stability of Afghanistan.

“A significant number of ISIS forces moved to Syria from Russia’s Muslim republics and some of them have further moved from Syria into areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan”

The reason between the closeness between Russia and Pakistan can be due to “limiting the US’s influence”. However, the author believes that the cooperation and relations between Russia and Pakistan cannot create the conditions and basis for a strategic, lasting and interdependent alliance in the fields of security, politics and strategy, because, for Russia, India is still an important country in South Asia. Thus, Moscow is taking careful steps with Islamabad to continue having healthy relations with India.

He concluded with explaining Moscow’s concern that the expansion of its relations with Islamabad will force India to move closer to the United States. “India’s market is larger than Pakistan’s. The arms trade between India and Russia still has great potential, while the deals signed between Moscow and Islamabad so far have not been very important,” he concludes.

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