by Rajesh Mehta

Sources – sundayguardianlive

New Delhi: By talking tough on border issues during a brief meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Johannesburg last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi set the stage for India’s diplomatic, military and security establishments to give a fresh impetus to the ongoing strategic efforts to counter China on different fronts. “Instructions from the top leadership of the country categorically are that diplomats, officials and military commanders should focus more on boosting India’s deterrence power and deepening cooperation with Quad nations, ASEAN and the Pacific islands,” a diplomatic source privy to high-level meetings in New Delhi told The Sunday Guardian.

According to sources, PM Modi, ministers and top diplomatic and security officials will utilise these global forums and different international conclaves to achieve “New Delhi’s strategic goal of countering Beijing’s expansionist and aggressive agenda”. “Ramping up outreach to Taiwan will be one of the major steps included in the strategy,” an official told this newspaper. Despite a tight schedule due to the forthcoming G20 summit on 9-10 September in New Delhi, PM Modi is keen to attend the ASEAN summit in Jakarta on 6-7 September. This shows PM Modi’s eagerness to reach out to ASEAN countries with the strategy to contain China in mind, say officials.

The visit holds importance within the framework of India’s Act East Policy, they add. PM Modi’s focus is on deepening ASEAN partnership which serves as a cornerstone of India’s foreign policy. Sources said that PM Modi is expected to have bilateral meetings with several ASEAN leaders to boost regional collaboration and strengthen ties aimed also at containing a belligerent Beijing. Obviously, India’s strategy to counter China’s influence will be one of the focus areas, sources said. In fact, India recognises ASEAN’s central role in the Indo-Pacific framework, particularly in the context of China’s influence and its maritime tensions with ASEAN countries. With this in the background, PM Modi’s ASEAN outreach assumes significance. The PM will also participate in the East Asia Summit apart from the India-ASEAN summit.


Three of the ASEAN nations, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam have opposed China’s so-called “standard map” which has already been the subject of a strong protest by India over the inclusion of Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh with Chinese borders. India is making hectic efforts to expand its influence in Southeast Asia, which is being seen as a move that will allow countries to counter China’s dominance in the region. PM Modi, who turned “Look East” into “Act East” after coming to power in 2014, has asked diplomats to double down and expand ties with the ASEAN and South East Asian countries to rein in China in the region. “Region-wise strategy is being worked out to corner and counter China,” said officials here.

“Another effective diplomatic tool that India is keen to use against China is Taiwan. The Indian government is keen to increase outreach to Taiwan in the days to come on economic, trade, strategic and diplomatic fronts,” officials said. China, which called on India to stay objective and calm and avoid over-interpreting the issue of the Chinese map, said on Thursday that India should follow the “one China principle” and not have military and security cooperation with Taiwan. China’s reaction came weeks after three former Indian service chiefs visited the self-governed island, which Beijing claims as a breakaway region. Former Army Chief, M.M. Naravane, Navy Chief Karambir Singh, and former Air Chief R.K.S. Bhadauria visited and delivered talks in Taipei for the Ketagalan Forum’s 2023 Indo-Pacific Security Dialogue on 8 August, a low-key but rare visit by the former top leadership of the Indian armed forces. “China, which is asking India to remain calm over the map issue, is going ballistic on this, feeling that its One China policy is being contested,” a diplomat said.

Sources said that India would continue to send many more senior officials to Taiwan like this, cocking a snook at China. “PM Modi wants India to enhance cooperation and dialogue among relevant parties so as to maintain and advance peace, security, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific,” a diplomat said.

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The Modi government is pulling out all stops to address the border security concerns posed by China. Only recently, the Indian Army has placed an order worth Rs 7,300 crore for weapons from domestic manufacturers. Contracts worth another Rs 7,000 crore are in the advanced stages of procurement. They are expected to be completed in the coming weeks. Sources told The Sunday Guardian that PM Modi and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh have reviewed the status of the procurements of arms and weapons by the Indian Army. Drone and counter-drone systems, automated spectrum monitoring systems, loiter munitions weapons, simulators, communication systems, and vehicles are there in the list of equipment, sources said.

While going to the east coast of Australia for participating in the Malabar Exercise that had coincided with Chinese warship Hai Yang 24, a surveillance vessel, calling at Colombo, Sri Lanka, the Indian naval warships sailed through Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. This underlined India’s interest in stronger military and diplomatic relationships with the Pacific nations. “This is how India is working on a comprehensive strategy to deal with China’s influence in the region,” a source said. According to sources, the government led by PM Modi has expedited consultation with the top security and military officials to organise more maritime drills with Quad nations and other ASEAN countries in a bid to counter China. Similarly, India has fast-tracked the connectivity project that aims to link New Delhi to the Middle East in another move to counter China’s footprint in the Gulf. PM Modi is learnt to have reviewed the ambitious project that aims to link the Middle East to India through roads, rails and seaports.