China's bullying brings
democracies closer

The recent meeting of the foreign ministers of India, Japan, Australia and the United States in Tokyo had China looming large in the background. Increasing Chinese aggressiveness against neighbours on land and sea, brazen suppression of basic freedoms of Hong Kongers, daily threats to annex Taiwan by force, intrusion into Indian territory etc., would naturally impel formal and informal consultations between democracies for locating ways to hold off the bully. Under President Xi Jinping, China has become a major threat to global peace, triggering a new Cold War.

Of course, China was not formally on the agenda at the Tokyo meeting but it did loom large in the two-day parleys of the group, which goes under the rubric Quad or the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, an idea former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had floated in his previous term in 2007. However, the reluctance of the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of the Labour Party to pursue it for fear of antagonising China resulted in the Quad being pushed to the backburner. Abe’s return as PM and a growing Chinese belligerence in foreign affairs again made the Quad relevant. Expectedly, his hand-picked successor, Yoshihide Suga, too has reposed faith in the Quad.

Whether or not it eventually matures into a security pact, a sort of 'Asian NATO’ between the four democracies will depend crucially on India’s attitude and the Chinese behaviour. India has traditionally shunned security groupings, though for all practical purposes during the Cold War, it was a non-covenanted member of the Soviet Bloc. US Foreign Secretary Mike Pompeo’s statement at the Quad left nothing to the imagination about what he thought about the Chinese actions, openly accusing it of an armed aggression against India and issuing threats to smaller nations on its periphery and violating international conventions in the Indo-Pacific region.

In fact, in subsequent remarks, Pompeo said that China had amassed 60,000 troops at the Indian border. The Tokyo meeting underlined the need to maintain 'a free, open and inclusive’ Indo-Pacific, again a clear message to China. There was no joint statement at the end of the two-day meeting but each participant spoke in general terms about the deliberations without specifically naming China.

Naming China was left to Pompeo, who minced no words condemning its aggressive behaviour. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s emphasis on ‘respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty and peaceful resolution of disputes’ had China in his sights though he did not name it even once. Of course, China is aware that the more it violates the international law, the more it encroaches on neigbbours’ rights, the further will it drive them to join hands to challenge its bullying and rank bad behaviour. The time may have come to give the Quad more teeth to foil the designs of a rogue China.

RIP: Ram Vilas Paswan

The death of Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, 74, last week is certainly going to change a few equations in the on-going campaign for the Bihar Assembly. The Dalit leader’s own outfit, the Lok Janshkati Party, may seek to exploit the resulting sympathy but it is unlikely there will be a major impact. In retrospect, Chirag Paswan may regret the rather harsh remarks he made against Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

The death of his father will make the LJP president further dependent on the goodwill of the BJP, a party he was accused of helping while targeting Nitish Kumar. In the highly fragmented caste politics of Bihar, Paswan’s appeal was essentially confined to his own caste brothers. Other Maha Dalit castes had their own leaders or had reposed faith in Nitish Kumar.

Despite having been a minister in six separate governments in New Delhi, Paswan failed to grow politically due to his weakness for the trappings of power and all that it brought in its train. Like most Dalit leaders, he too was dazzled by the decadent power culture, showing a lack of tenacity and will to wage grassroots struggle for the rights of the long-suffering subaltern castes. Before him, Jagjivan Ram had served as a minister for the longest time in successive Congress governments but he too did not make a tangible impact on the lot of his fellow Dalits in Bihar. Like Mayawati, Dalit leaders turn out to be selfish and opportunistic. Tremendous socio-economic advances made by Dalits over the years are mainly through their own individual agency, coupled with the trickle- down effect of reservations in educational institutions and jobs.

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Free Press Journal