The Pelosi visit to Taiwan and the looming crisis: A quick update with some broad analysis

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Some background and introduction

Flightradar24 an app that tracks all the flights that are in the sky crashed on the day Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of United States in her plane ‘SPAR19’ announced her intentions to visit Taiwan and her plane took off from malaysia. The flight from Malaysia takes around 5 hours to reach Taipei where the flight would land. Later the app created a window for users as a waiting list and the wait time was almost 30- 40 mins before they could track the flight. We were also one of the user of the app and tried to track the flight carrying the US speaker and number three VIP of America.

Before that it was not clear whether Pelosi would visit Taiwan or not as her agenda was not showing the visit specifically. But then it was announced and the world’s attention  grew in leaps and bounds. While President Biden disassociated himself officially with the visit terming it as an independent visit by the US speaker where he had no control or liked to exert pressure to stop it.

Meanwhile China, the country which thinks Taiwan to be part of the Mainland, was all red with anger and frustration. The story of Taiwan is a bit complex and would need a separate blog to understand. Therefore China cannot claim a full rightful claim over it. This is similar to Tibet in that the dragon has annexed it due to the foolishness of Indian governments of the time. It has also laid claims over South China seas and has built military infrastructure there. It annexed Hongkong recently by giving a fall promise that China will follow the principle of ‘One country – two systems’. But nothing that sort happened and Hongkong has been just like China with all tight checks and controls in place.

Taiwan is the logical step for China’s One China goal and professed policy. However this time the dragon is patient and does not wish to show any hurry for the same. The reason is the small island just east of China has a strong ally in the form of the US. Though officially the US has accepted the One China policy, there is a lot of vagueness with respect to Taiwan. The US has avoided a direct confrontation with China on the issue of Taiwan. The last visit of any US top three VIP visiting Taiwan was in 1997 when speaker Gingrich visited it. Interestingly Taiwan at present is governed by President Tsai who is in her 60s and has a good rapport with speaker pelosi.

The Chinese ambition and goals

China at present has Xi Jingping who also visited India during PM Modi’s term 1 in Mahabalipuram Tamilnadu. Father of the present premier, Xi Zhongxun (15 October 1913 – 24 May 2002) was a Chinese communist revolutionary and a subsequent political official in the People’s Republic of China. He worked hard to get Taiwan annexed to the mainland but was unable to see his dream come true in his lifetime. Xi before becoming President XI had been local secretary of the party in Fujian, a coastal town. He is known to be the most authoritarian leader and has already served two terms at helm of affairs and is now seeking a third term for the same. Personally for Xi, unification of Taiwan remains a professed and cherished dream. In earlier meetings of the CCP 2049 was the timeline given for annexing Taiwan, Later it was brought down to 2035 with the statement that the issue cannot be left to the future generations to solve. Recent inteligence coming from Washington has brought down this to next 18 months especially with the Ukraine –  Russia crisis in the background.

Chinese action so far

ON day one China took a very patient approach and announced some minor economic sanctions over taiwan. It also announced a military drill from 4 to 7 august in 6 zones in the Taiwan straits and around the island.  .  Next it took some more steps as it fired missiles that went towards the Japanese backyard.

But the most dangerous that has come as a shock to experts is the Chinese plan to conduct the military drills in 6  zones .  This article – https://chinapower.csis.org/tracking-the-fourth-taiwan-strait-crisis/  – analyses the same.

State media detailed that the exercises would include:

  • A series of joint military operations around Taiwan;
  • Joint air and sea exercises in the sea and airspace of the northern, southwestern, and southeastern Taiwan Islands;
  • Long-range live ammunition firing in the Taiwan Strait; and
  • Test firing of conventional missiles in the waters east of Taiwan.

As a whole, these PLA exercises are much closer to the main island of Taiwan than prior ones, showcasing the PLA’s increased confidence in its capabilities to operate near Taiwan. The six exercise zones are within Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) and encircle Taiwan from multiple directions. Several exercise zones are far from the Chinese mainland and beyond the Taiwan Strait, venturing into Japan’s and the Philippine’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Three of the exercise zones intrude into Taiwan’s territorial waters and lie dangerously close to Taiwan’s capital and key cities. It is also worth noting that these exercises were rolled out at once, while the exercises during the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis took place in multiple stages from July 1995 to March 1996.

However a section of experts are not announcing this as the fourth crisis between US China relationship. (https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/08/05/taiwan-pelosi-visit-china-miliary-exercises/).

Implications for India

The problem with a country which behaves randomly i urs the uncertainty and unpredictability of its behavior. No one knows what happens next.  Therefore to leave the whole episode a  distinct affair that does not have implications for India will be a big fool’s idea.

We would like the attention of the readers to this piece authored by an Indian military expert. (https://www.southasiamonitor.org/spotlight/china-eyeing-more-territory-india-and-bhutan). Recently China has been very active across the border near Ladakh and Bhutan. It is making villages near BHutan and has upgraded its military infrastructure in many places. Therefore Head of Indian army General Manoj Pandey visited the border areas near Bhuran and took an update of things. India has also tested its space satellites in collaboration with ISRO and other stakeholders.

The Chinese embassy and Ambassador has been active in India ever since the Pelosi visited Taiwan. It issued statements and also has called for India to maintain its One China’s policy (https://thewire.in/diplomacy/hope-india-will-maintain-one-china-policy-chinese-envoy-on-taiwan).

Conclusion:

At this point there are still many ambiguities and the Taiwanese and Americans are sitting tight at the time of writing this post. A section of the experts wants China to complete its military drills without any provocations. What will be the threshold line for any response no one knows . Anything that goes unplanned is also in nature’s hand.

Therefore the next few days an the coming week is very important and critical.  India must be fully vigilant because we don’t know what action China will take to show its anger to the world and who can become a scapegoat. The Chinese policies are very complex and under the present geo politics they have increased further their complexities.There are reports of economic meltdown too. India must maintain diplomatic alert levels with the USA as well as Japan , Australia and Russia. While China might be fearing the QUAD which can be seen in its increased activities in India. We believe that a friendly call from EAM Jaishankar to some capitals all around the world will be good to keep India alert and ready for any eventuality.. Activities across the borders need full alertness.

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