Diplomacy
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Pakistan’s Political Crisis - A country in transformation

by Joel Moffat

An unpredictable political establishment and a swiftly deteriorating economic situation; recent developments in Pakistan expose the instability at the core of the state, threatening its intricate, yet delicate, domestic power balance. The political chronicles of Imran Khan’s and his treacherous challenge to the political establishment retain a prominent shadow over the countries upcoming elections. The ex-cricketer’s ousting last year and his subsequent extensive legal ordeals are indicative of the entrenched political dynasticism of Pakistan. The transitional governments that have overtaken Khan have experienced persistent shock and tragedy in their first year of power. With the turbulent context surrounding Khan, the build-up to the upcoming general elections early next year could prove to be some of the most consequential periods of the country’s recent history. With the recent return of three-time PM Nawaz Sharif to the political sphere, the situation remains dynamic. By: Joel Moffat Keywords: South Asian Politics, Military leadership, Internal Rivalry A Background on Pakistani Politics Following the violent cessation of Bangladesh in 1971, Pakistan has shifted between intermittent eras of military dictatorship and civilian governance. The latter periods have been characterised by the intertwining dynasties of the Bhuttos and the Sharifs. Through their associated political parties, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the various incarnations of the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN), respectively, the two families have long dominated civilian governance. However, even during these intervening periods of civilian control, the military has retained its domineering influence over domestic politics in a clandestine manner. Indeed, it is often seen as the country’s ‘kingmaker’. Pakistan is territorially divided into four provinces (Baluchistan, Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, and Sindh) and two administrative units (Azad and Jammu Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan). The capital Islamabad operates as a distinct federal territory. These divisions are generally distinguished by their linguistic and ethnic characteristics but are also indicative of distinctive voting patterns. Indeed, Pakistan’s predominant parties have often defined themselves along these regional cleavages. For instance, Sindh has been the historic centre of PPP support, whereas the PMLN has generally been favoured in Punjab [1]. With the latter province being by far the most populous of the country, it holds a fundamental role in the political process. Indeed, governments are often made through winning a majority vote in Punjab. The creation of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (Movement for Justice, PTI) party by Imran Khan in the late 1990s significantly upset a political status quo defined by entrenched dynasticism. At the creation of the PTI party, Khan had already cemented his position as arguably Pakistan’s most recognisable face, enjoying a notorious playboy lifestyle during his Oxford education and then gaining international stardom by bringing Pakistan to it’s one and only Cricket World Cup victory in 1992. Despite the publicity of its figurehead, the party initially achieving little success for the first few decades of its existence. In one election the only Parliamentary seat the party won was for Khan himself [2]. However, its victory in the 2018 General Elections proved a historically unprecedented moment, becoming the most voted party in Punjab in the 2018 General Elections. This robbed the PMLN of its regional stronghold. The Ousting of Imran Khan and the Pakistani Judicial System Despite riding a seemingly perfect storm of political ascension, Khan’s Prime Ministership was cut short by the no-confidence vote placed against him in April 2022. Khan attempted to block this vote by dissolving parliament, an action the Supreme Court quickly ruled unconstitutional [3]. Khan persistently stressed a US-backed conspiracy against him during his tenure, founded on a continued unwillingness to reduce support for Russia and China [4]. For example, Khan travelled to Russia to meet with Putin just prior to the Ukrainian invasion. It was this move away from dogmatic adherence to US interests that he claims prompted the military elite to facilitate his downfall. Following his removal, Shehbaz Sharif (brother of three-time PM and recent returnee Nawaz Sharif) took the position of interim Prime Minister. The aftermath triggered a period of heightened internal political tension. The subsequent year has witnessed Khan’s fight for his political future. This has been met with widespread protest across Pakistan. Khan’s fate has been tested through an extensive legal battle and a seemingly infinite set of allegations. The first arrest of Khan was based on multiple corruption accusations that he has consistently rejected as “biased” [5]. These attacks have allowed the ex-PM to depict himself in a classically populist fashion. The continuous strain of legal charges against Khan only serve to facilitate the image of an individual struggle against the corrupt establishment, as a true representative of the people’s will. The first arrest of Khan in April allowed for the mobilisation of the populace, actualising grievances that had simmered for the preceding months. Following the claims of Khan, pro-PTI protesters targeted their indignation at the military. The official residence of an army commander in Lahore and the army headquarters in Rawalpindi were both targeted [6]. This extensive legal battle has exposed a previously unseen rift between the courts and the military. The military has long acted as the domineering influence on the judicial system, in many cases covertly dictating its rulings [7]. Where it was in the interest of the military for dissidents to be removed or journalists pushed away, the courts provided legal recourse. Indeed, they even granted three military coups the legal stamp of approval [8]. Shortly following Khan’s arrest, the Supreme Court issued a declaration that the act was unlawful and ordered his immediate release [9]. Furthermore, the Islamabad High Court granted Khan pre-emptive bail on several corruption cases [10]. The emergence of the judicial system as an independent power broker within the Pakistani political domain is historically unprecedented. The conflation of interest between the courts and the military regarding Khan’s political campaign against corruption facilitated his successful rise to power in 2018. It is ultimately the break of this coercive alliance that is facilitating Khan’s survival, with the Supreme Court issuing several rulings that have undermined the military’s attempts to permanently remove Khan from the Pakistani political realm. However, more recent legal proceedings appear to expose this as a temporary phenomenon, as the courts are seemingly once again swept under the wing of the military. The 5th of August saw a further arrest of Khan, representing the culmination for months of turmoil. This has proved a significant upset to the ongoing political drama of the preceding year. The final verdict found Khan guilty of financial corruption, forcing him to serve a 3-year term [11]. During this time he will be unable to run for office. Following the arrest, Khan posted a video to his personal twitter page demanding the immediate mobilisation of his supporters. As the battle against the state appears increasingly futile, Khan’s political future appears increasingly dim. These allegations have been reinforced by an additional legal case. Mr. Khan is alleged to have leaked a clandestine cable that proved the US had pressed the Pakistani military to orchestrate the fall of his government in 2022 [12]. Despite proving to be evidence to legitimate Khan’s narrative, the evidence has yet to be released publicly. The chances of this happening are now very slim. The Transition Government and The Upcoming Election The arrest of Khan saw a subsequent transitionary government come to power. The first incarnation of this was headed by Shebhaz Sharif, younger brother to three-time PM Nawaz Sharif. Last month saw the former step down following the completion of the Parliamentary term [13]. Though currently holding an interim government, Pakistan looks to be pre-emptively establishing its post-election government. Despite initial plans to hold elections in November, these have been pushed back. This is to allow the interim government to allow completion of a census to redraw electorates [14]. As has been illustrated throughout the political history of Pakistan, much of the political movement of the state appears to concern elite military manoeuvring and not the democratic will of the people. In late October, Nawaz Sharif stood in front of thousands of PLM-N supporters in Lahore, a grand gesture to mark his return from exile in the UK [15]. The older brother of until-recent PM Shehbaz Sharif, Nawaz is a storied figure of Pakistani politics. This is his fourth bid for power, with three preceding terms marking him as the countries longest serving PM. Despite only escaping his seven-year prison sentence due to an artificially extended medical leave in the UK, Sharif appeared to face no fears of arrest when re-entering the country [16]. Just prior to Mr. Sharif’s arrival he was granted protective bail by the Islamabad High Court [17]. The appointment of his younger brother as PM certaintly facilitated this environment of re-acceptance into the Pakistani political establishment. As with Khan, the military have rewarded or punished Sharif relative to their interests. The same elite-military establishment that ensured his arrest in 2017 is the very same establishment that is now facilitating his return. With the PLM-N losing Punjab to the PTI in 2018, it is notable that the signal of Nawaz Sharif’s return was held in Lahore. It is clear that the winds of changing favour in Pakistan are reserved to the realm of its dynastic political parties. Their success or failure is ultimately at the will of the entrenched elite military establishment. The domestic political strife of Pakistan is not beholden to the realm of elite political manoeuvring. The Pakistani people are victims of severe national financial insolvency. Indeed, the country is surviving month to month. It is predicted that a failure of IMF support will ensure a near 100% chance of government default within 6 months [18]. Sharif’s government worked to unlock at least a portion of the $2.5 billion left out of a $6.5 billion programme Pakistan entered in 2019, which was set to expire by the end of July [19]. The government was able to secure this money by the middle of that month [20]. The recently proposed budget must satisfy the demands of the IMF lest Pakistan be plunged further into a fiscal crisis. Furthermore, the interim government is still dealing with the previous year’s traumatic floods that submerged much of the country early in its tenure. The financial resources needed for reconstruction and safeguarding the vulnerable are simply not available domestically, with foreign aid and investment also being dreadfully insufficient [21]. With Pakistan under significant risk from climate-induced threats, securing financial resources to ensure future climate security is an existential threat. Yet, the internal power politics and kingmaking of Islamabad have left little time for politics to leave the confines of the capital’s courts and ministries. Despite retaining significant historic support across Punjab, the PLM-N party will need to modernise and adapt its public appearance. The PTI have long retained their effective use of social media [20]. This use of social media is particularly attractive to the significant Pakistani diaspora, who’s engagement with their home country may remain online. With the expulsion of several PTI politicians, the party is in dire circumstances. Indeed, the witch-hunt of PTI members, with disappearances lasting weeks. The preceding year has witnessed a domestic crisis engulf Pakistan. Since the ousting of Khan, the provisional government has fought a political battle for the future of the state. The continued contention of Khan against this transitory government has exposed the dissolution of the delicate power balance between Parliament, the Supreme Court, and the military that has historically been a tenet of the state. The transitional government’s management of this situation is beset by several domestic challenges that have disputed their tenure since its initiation. Politics work fast and unpredictably in Pakistan. With the return of Nawaz Sharif and protest to the arrest of Khan, anything is possible in these months leading up to the election. The stakes of control have never been higher. References [1] - “Explainer: Pakistan’s Main Political Parties”, Al Jazeera, 6 May 2013 https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2013/5/6/explainer-pakistans-main-political-parties [2] - “Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf: Pakistan’s Iconic Populist Movements”, Populism Studies, February 3 2021 https://www.populismstudies.org/pakistan-tehreek-e-insaf-pakistans-iconic-populist-movement/ [3] - “Pakistan court rules presidents move to dissolve parliament is unconstitutional”, NPR News, April 7 2022 https://www.npr.org/2022/04/07/1091487882/pakistan-court-rules-presidents-move-to-dissolve-parliament-is-unconstitutional [4] - “Imran Khan ousted as Pakistan’s PM after vote”, BBC News, 10 April 2022 https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-61055210 [5] - “Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan arrested by paramilitary police”, CNN News, May 9 2022 https://edition.cnn.com/2023/05/09/asia/imran-khan-arrest-intl/index.html [6] - “Imran Khan, Pakistan’s Ex-Leader, is Arrested”, The New York Times, May 9 2023 https://www.nytimes.com/2023/05/09/world/asia/imran-khan-arrest-pakistan.html [7] - “Pakistan’s Powerful Military Faces New Resistance From Courts”, The New York Times, May 31 2023 https://www.nytimes.com/2023/05/31/world/asia/pakistan-courts-challenge-military.html [8] - “Pakistan’s Powerful Military Faces New Resistance From Courts”, The New York Times, May 31 2023 https://www.nytimes.com/2023/05/31/world/asia/pakistan-courts-challenge-military.html [9] - “Pakistan’s Powerful Military Faces New Resistance From Courts”, The New York Times, May 31 2022 https://www.nytimes.com/2023/05/31/world/asia/pakistan-courts-challenge-military.html [10] - “Islamabad Court Grants Imran Khan Bail”, The Diplomat, May 12 2023 https://thediplomat.com/2023/05/islamabad-court-grants-imran-khan-bail/#:~:text=Friday%E2%80%99s%20ruling%20by%20the%20Islamabad%20High%20Court%20gave,usually%20is%20renewed%20in%20the%20Pakistan%20judicial%20system [11] - “Imran Khan: former Pakistan prime minister sentenced to three years in jail”, The Guardian, 5 Aug 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/aug/05/former-pakistan-prime-minister-imran-khan-jailed-for-three-years [12] – “Pakistan court extends ex-PM Imran Khan’s custody in ‘cipher’ case” Pakistan court extends ex-PM Imran Khan’s custody in ‘cipher’ case | Imran Khan News | Al Jazeera [13] – “Pakistan Imran Khan Custody Extended” https://apnews.com/article/pakistan-imran-khan-custody-extended-3da6e3a8ae98378f13ab94bce9f3802c [14] – “Imran Khan family fear former Pakistani PM may be killed in jail” https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-09-22/imran-khan-family-fear-former-pakistan-pm-may-be-killed-in-jail/102870032 [15] – “Pakistan looks back to the future as Nawaz Sharif eyes fourth stint as pm” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/oct/27/pakistan-looks-back-to-the-future-as-nawaz-sharif-eyes-fourth-stint-as-pm [16] – “Pakistan looks back to the future as Nawaz Sharif eyes fourth stint as pm” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/oct/27/pakistan-looks-back-to-the-future-as-nawaz-sharif-eyes-fourth-stint-as-pm [17] – “Pakistan’s ex-PM Nawaz Sharif to return from exile for political comeback” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/oct/21/pakistans-ex-pm-nawaz-sharif-to-return-from-exile-for-political-comeback [18] - “Pakistan lays out budget but may not satisfy IMF”, Al Jazeera, 9 June 2023, https://www.aljazeera.com/economy/2023/6/9/pakistan-lays-out-budget-but-may-not-satisfy-imf [19] - “Pakistan lays out budget but may not satisfy IMF”, Al Jazeera, 9 June 2023,https://www.aljazeera.com/economy/2023/6/9/pakistan-lays-out-budget-but-may-not-satisfy-imf [20] - “Will Pakistan’s IMF agreement save its economy”, Al Jazeera, 14 July 2023, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/7/14/will-pakistans-imf-agreement-save-its-economy#:~:text=The%20International%20Monetary%20Fund's%20board,the%20South%20Asian%20country's%20economy [21] - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrYYsWXG2Z8 – (Pakistan’s FM: ‘We’re at the fork in the road towards democracy’: Talk to Al Jazeera) [22] - “Pakistan’s ex-PM Nawaz Sharif to return from exile for political comeback” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/oct/21/pakistans-ex-pm-nawaz-sharif-to-return-from-exile-for-political-comeback

Diplomacy
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Beijing’s Aggression Behind Emerging India-Philippines Defense Relationship

by Peter Chalk

The People’s Republic of China’s increasingly assertive stance on affirming its territorial claims in the Indo-Pacific is informing the evolution of a closer defense relationship between New Delhi and Manila. On September 25, the Philippine Coast Guard removed a floating barrier that China had installed at Huangyan Dao (黄岩岛, an island in the Scarborough Shoal) in the South China Sea (SCS) the previous day. Responding to questions about the incident, PRC Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin (王文斌) maintained that “China Coast Guard did what was necessary to block and drive away the Philippine vessel,” and that “Huangyan Dao has always been China’s territory. What the Philippines did looks like nothing more than self-amusement” (FMPRC, September 26; FMPRC, September 27). Earlier in September, New Delhi’s Ambassador to the Philippines Shambu Kumaran expressed solidarity with Manila by pointedly rejecting the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s new extended ten-dash map of its sovereignty claims in the South China Sea (SCS) and Line of Actual Control (LAC). He criticized the move from Beijing as unhelpful “cartographic expansionism” (Manila Times, September 3). These two incidents, occurring in the space of less than a month, are only the most recent in a string of aggressive acts in recent years. The reactions of both India and the Philippines are indicative of growing unity among some of China’s neighboring countries as a direct response to the security threat that China poses. In recent years, these two partners have increased the areas of engagement for security collaboration and expressed an intent to further such initiatives. The PRC lambasts the Philippines for choosing “to ignore China’s goodwill and sincerity” (MOFA, August 8), but this rhetoric only reaffirms Manila’s shifting calculus. There are limits to how close the Indo-Philippines defense relationship will get, but there is still ample room to explore various forms of cooperation short of a mutual defense treaty. The coming years will see much more of that exploration start to materialize. The PRC has several options in terms of responding to this emerging dynamic. These range from economic coercion, influence operations, and leveraging its relationship with Russia to put pressure on India. It is unclear which combination of these the PRC will ultimately pursue, though the PRC has made it abundantly clear that backing down in the South China Sea is not an option it is willing to entertain. India’s Reorientation over the SCS and Growing Defense Cooperation with the Philippines In June, the fifth session of the Joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) took place at Hyderabad House in New Delhi. At the meeting, the Philippine Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Enrique Manalo, and Indian External Affairs Minister (EAM), Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, issued a joint communiqué calling for full adherence to the 2016 Arbitral Award on the SCS. This was the first time that the Narendra Modi government explicitly endorsed the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA)’s ruling in favor of Manila. Until then, the administration had adopted a neutral stance on the issue, merely stressing that it supports freedom of navigation, overflight, and unimpeded commerce in the region, based on the principles of international law. Even after the 2016 judgment, India only acknowledged the outcome of the award, and did not take sides on the legitimacy of the decision (Observer Research Foundation, July 12; South China Morning Post, July 9). The June 2023 statement is therefore a highly symbolic diplomatic gesture, indicating a burgeoning bilateral relationship between New Delhi and Manila to promote an open, rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific. India’s tensions with China have long revolved around managing disputed territory along their 2,100-mile-long northern border in the Himalayas, known as the Line of Actual Control. For a long time, the Modi administration maintained a neutral stance on the SCS disputes. This is not just to avoid unwanted provocation: The Modi government has also been sensitive to the possibility that blanket opposition to the PRC’s stance in the SCS could provoke Beijing to expand naval deployments in the Indo-Pacific, potentially undermining the regional balance of power—and concomitant stability—that is critical to India’s own economic development. New Delhi has also generally been unwilling to comment on the domestic policies of its neighbors in Southeast Asia, lest this be construed as violating the two cardinal principles of the so-called “ASEAN way”: non-interference in internal affairs and mutual respect for national sovereignty. Although these considerations are still germane, the Modi administration has recently exhibited a more outspoken and proactive position on the SCS. Not only is preserving peace and stability in this body of water now a central tenet in the prime minister’s reinvigorated Act East Policy (EAP), in August 2021 his government sent naval ships to the region to take part in a series of coordinated sailings and exercises with Australia, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam (The Tribune, August 3, 2021; South China Morning Post, August 13, 2021). New Delhi is also a member of the Quad, a grouping of like-minded states that in 2022 declared their joint opposition to any unilateral or coercive actions that seek to change the status quo in the East and South China Seas. While the wording of the declaration does not mention the PRC by name, its message clearly aims to denounce Beijing’s activities as a threat to stability, transparency, and the rules-based order in the region. Indeed, during a state visit to Washington, DC in June 2023, Modi and President Biden declared themselves “among the closest partners in the world” and committed to forging a more robust relationship—within the parameters of the Quad—to countering a clear and upward trend of Chinese aggression in the SCS (Asia Financial, June 29). India has also been more direct in articulating its concerns over the harmful effects the PRC is having on diplomatic efforts to resolve territorial disputes in the SCS. For instance, at the 15th East Asia Summit in November 2020, EAM Jaishankar expressed concern about actions and incidents in the SCS that “erode trust” and said ongoing negotiations on the proposed code of conduct “should not be prejudicial to legitimate interests of third parties and should be fully consistent” with the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) (The Hindustan Times, November 14, 2020). It is in this context that India has steadily moved to ramp up its defense cooperation with the Philippines. Security Collaborations In recent months, New Delhi and Manila have closely collaborated on a range of security matters beyond the explicit recognition of the 2016 PCA’s ruling against Beijing in the SCS. In January 2022, the government of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. signed a deal worth $374.96 million to obtain a shore-based variant of the BrahMos supersonic anti-ship cruise missile system. This makes Manila the first foreign customer for the weapons platform jointly developed by India and Russia (The Hindu, January 28, 2022). The Philippine Marine Corps’ newly developed Coastal Defense Regiment (CDR) will receive three batteries, the first of which will arrive before the end of 2023 (Indian Aerospace & Defence Bulletin, August 3). Notably, during Balikatan 23 (April 11–28), the most recent iteration of the annual military exercises between Manila and Washington, the CDR played a leading role in helping to retake the Filipino island of Bosco from a fictitious foreign aggressor, i.e. China. During the 13th India-Philippines Foreign Office Consultations in August 2022, both sides expressed their desire to deepen security cooperation, which they again reiterated at the conclusion of their 4th Joint Defense Cooperation Committee and 2nd Service-to-Service meeting in March 2023 (Manila Times, August 23, 2022; The Economic Times, June 30). To give substance to this commitment, the two countries agreed to work together on projects related to cyber and space security, military medicine, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. They also pledged to look into the possibility of deploying a permanent Indian Defense Attaché (DA) to Manila (Philstar, April 4). This latter possibility was again highlighted as a shared desire by both parties at the fifth JCBC meeting in June 2023, as was enhancing security ties through regular or upgraded interactions between defense agencies and combined maritime drills. India also offered the Philippines a concessional line of credit to buy indigenously manufactured military equipment, including naval and aviation assets (The Hindu, June 29; South China Morning Post, June 30; Mint, August 15). In August 2023, the Philippine and Indian coast guards signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to enhance professional maritime linkages in the areas of law enforcement, search and rescue, and pollution response. The MoU additionally mentioned exploring future avenues for joint exercises and training collaboration, while the two services also inked a Standard Operating Procedure for exchanging “white” (aka, licit) shipping information (The Economic Times, August 23). Rationalizing India’s Recalibrated Policy to the SCS and the Philippines Accounting for India’s recalibrated approach to the SCS issue and its defense relations with the Philippines relies on several interrelated factors. First, the Modi government has clearly balked at the CCP’s growing assertiveness in the region. New Delhi views it as a direct threat to freedom of navigation in a strategic sealine of communication that plays a crucial role in fostering the Act East Policy’s long-term goal of deepening engagement with Southeast Asia. Beijing’s extensive territorial claims in the SCS also undermine political and economic stability in the broader Indo-Pacific region and challenge the legitimate sovereign rights of littoral states. All of this runs counter to New Delhi’s prioritization of a peaceful, transparent, and inclusive maritime order. Second, India’s membership of the Quad has further reinforced and entrenched the country’s commitment to offsetting the PRC’s rapidly rising influence by supporting an open and rules-based Indo-Pacific and opposing unilateral actions that unduly raise tensions in the South and East China Seas. This was precisely the message that emanated from the Quad’s most recent Ministerial Meeting in New Delhi on March 3, 2023, where the grouping expressly presented itself as a force for regional and global good (The Hindu, March 3). Third, the June 2020 border clash with China in the Galwan Valley on the LAC (and subsequent periodic flareups) have encouraged New Delhi to assume a much more forceful stance against Beijing. Modi’s government now sees the PRC as the only major power in the region that poses a direct threat to its core national security interests (China Daily, July 27). Moreover, the border clash, which left 15 Indian soldiers dead, has encouraged India to be more supportive of countries in the Indo-Pacific that have similarly suffered from China’s belligerence. The Philippines is one such country, having borne the brunt of the PRC’s incursions in the SCS (especially in and around the Manila-controlled Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Island chain). Fourth, forging a closer defense relationship could open the door for India to ink more high-tech arms agreements with the Philippines. In this way, the sale of the BraMos cruise missile system in 2022 could be the first of many. As noted above, in June 2023 the Modi administration offered Manila a concessional line of credit to buy indigenously produced military hardware, so a suitable funding mechanism for orchestrating munition transfers is in place. Any future agreement to send advanced weapon platforms to the Philippines would represent a significant export revenue stream for New Delhi. The country’s coast guard has already expressed interest in buying a batch of MK III multi-role light helicopters from India (The Print, July 17; The Eurasian Times, August 24). Just as importantly, such deals would send a strong signal to the PRC of the type of security and diplomatic headaches India is willing to instigate for Beijing if it pushes its territorial claims along the LAC too aggressively. Fifth, since assuming office on June 30, 2022, President Marcos has reversed the previous administration’s foreign policy agenda to one that is now largely congruent with India’s: emphasizing adherence to democratic principles, ensuring the country’s sovereign border rights, reconsolidating the military alliance with the United States, and shoring up links with regional allies to counter Chinese intimidation. With similar outlooks on regional affairs and no immediate conflict of interests, it should come as no major surprise that the two nations have found common ground in strengthening and enhancing their bilateral defense cooperation. Deepening Collaboration Short of Alliance The PRC’s aggressive advances in the Indo-Pacific provide a mutual motivation for New Delhi and Manila to cooperate militarily. A serious escalation of tensions along the LAC or an act of overt aggression in areas of the SCS that fall within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone could well precipitate a renewed push to further intensify bilateral ties based on a common commitment to deter and blunt Chinese adventurism. The likelihood of a codifying bilateral defense commitments, however, is low. India has always been wary of such formalized arrangements, especially in the conflict-prone Indo-Pacific theater, as they could ultimately force the country into a costly confrontation with China. The statutory strategic partnership agreement that Australia concluded with Manila in September is therefore something that the Modi administration would likely eschew. Rather, future defense relations can be expected to take the form of more flexible MoUs and protocols calling for greater information sharing, additional port calls, a higher tempo of exercises and training, and increased support for international rulings on the law of the sea. None of these will transform the Indian-Philippine partnership into a “mini alliance.” Nevertheless, opportunities for deepening the strategic coordination of two nations that already engage in a range of security collaborations represent a enhancement of India’s positioning in the region, to the exclusion of China. The PRC will doubtless interpret closer ties between New Delhi and Manila as part of a wider U.S.-led containment policy aimed at shutting China out of its own geostrategic “backyard.” As it routinely does when outside nations dispatch forces to the SCS, Beijing will almost certainly reject any Indian naval presence in the area as an unjustified—if not illegitimate—intrusion in its sovereign sphere of influence. For instance, an August article from Baijiahao, one of China’s largest blog platforms for independent writers, argues that New Delhi’s approach to the Philippines in part of a broader plan to wrest control of the entire SCS (Baijiahao, August 27). This echoes a line that CCP propaganda has often deployed in recent years (Remin Zixun, March 3, 2021). Despite these rhetorical protestations, the PRC would probably not move to actively counter any such deployment for fear that this could spark a direct clash both with New Delhi and its partners in the Quad. The preferred strategy would likely default to economic coercion—wielding the country’s considerable financial leverage to pressure pliable Southeast Asian actors into distancing themselves from the Indo-Philippine partnership. As has been evident with past “lobbying” efforts directed at Cambodia, a precedent exists for this type of economic offensive. The PRC may also look to subversive foreign influence operations (FIOs) as a means for decoupling Indian-Filipino maritime defense cooperation. The CCP’s United Front Work Department (UFWD), which has a remit for exercising political influence inside and outside China, enjoys an active presence in the Philippines. Local intelligence sources have already linked the Department to FIO campaigns aimed at manipulating public and elite opinion in favor of Beijing’s claims in the SCS (China Brief, May 19). As it has done with regards to negatively shaping popular attitudes on Manila’s alliance with Washington, the PRC could easily use the UFWD as a conduit for generating opposition—if not outright hostility—to Marcos’ closer security collaboration with Modi. Finally, the CCP may move to capitalize on Russia’s growing reliance on Chinese support—which has become more pronounced in the wake of the Kremlin’s international isolation over its war in Ukraine—to pressure President Vladimir Putin into towing an anti-India agenda in the Indo-Pacific. While Moscow and New Delhi have historically enjoyed warm ties, bilateral relations have cooled somewhat in recent years due to the latter’s closer alignment with the United States. This, combined with the fact that Russia continues to have strategic relevance for India, accounting for around 45 percent of the country’s arms imports (The Hindu, March 13), could make Putin a useful ally in backing a PRC drive to counter Modi’s evolving defense outreach to the Philippines.

Diplomacy
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The UK’s new direction: Prioritising the Indo-Pacific

by Girish Luthra

The recent steps undertaken by the UK show the growing engagement with the Indo-Pacific and the clear intent to accelerate the same In March 2021, the United Kingdom (UK) released ‘The Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development, and Foreign Policy’, outlining its vision, priorities, and strategies for ‘Global Britain in a Competitive Age.’ While it covered a broad range of areas aligned with its national objectives, two aspects stood out from a policy-reorientation perspective. One, a departure from its earlier approach of cordiality and accommodation with China; and two, its decision to deepen engagement with and play a more active role in the Indo-Pacific region. It included a separate section ‘The Indo-Pacific Tilt: A Framework’, which stressed that “we will be the European partner with the broadest and most integrated presence in the Indo-Pacific.” The ’tilt’ framework met with scepticism, in some cases with cynicism, because the UK had remained somewhat withdrawn, in general, and peripheral to the Indo-Pacific region, in particular, in the preceding few years. There were questions about the UK’s seriousness and headroom available for resource allocation to follow through with this new strategy. Notwithstanding, the UK government started to take new steps, as well as moving forward with some earlier initiatives related to the Indo-Pacific. The big announcement in September 2021 of AUKUS (Australia, the UK, and the US), an informal security alliance focused on the western Pacific, sent the clearest signal that the ‘tilt’ was more than just a strategy paper. It also indicated that the plans “… to enhance China facing capabilities to respond to systemic challenges it poses to our security, prosperity, and values…” would be realised through partnerships and alliances. The UK seeks to contribute to deterrence against China through the AUKUS, which has taken numerous steps in the last two years to expand defence collaboration in emerging technologies and industrial capabilities. The UK’s ‘tilt’ implementation challenges were compounded by the post-pandemic economic slowdown and the Russia-Ukraine war. At the same time, there were rapid changes in the global and regional strategic environment. For the UK, these implied the continued indispensability of the US, the criticality of the EU, and the importance of the Indo-Pacific. A revised strategy articulation was accordingly done through a comprehensive document titled ‘Integrated Review Refresh 2023: responding to a more contested and volatile world’, published in March 2023. It updated the broad strategic framework across geographies, sectors, and themes and was more explicit about the China challenge. With respect to the Indo-Pacific, it outlined the progress made since the announcement of the ‘tilt’ strategy. These included FTA agreements with Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, and Vietnam. It highlighted deepening several bilateral relationships, partnership roadmaps with India and Indonesia, dialogue partner status with ASEAN, applying for joining the ASEAN regional forum and ADMM Plus, progressing negotiations to join the CP-TPP, deployments by the Royal Navy to the region, digital partnerships, and working together on green transitions. It pointed out that the Euro-Atlantic would continue to be the overriding priority, followed by the Indo-Pacific. Overall, the ‘Refresh’ document showed that the UK’s engagement with the Indo-Pacific was progressing well and that there was a clear intent to accelerate the same. The last two and a half years have firmly established the UK’s new direction, with emphasis on outcomes that are based on diplomatic and cooperative instruments. This trend is supported by a growing anti-China sentiment, increasing consensus for alignment with the Indo-Pacific framework, and a broader agreement on strengthening resilience against coercion and unforeseen events. A recent report by the UK House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, released on 30 August, has brought out a detailed assessment of the evolution and progress of the Indo-Pacific ‘tilt’ strategy. While recognising the steps taken towards implementation, it has made several recommendations. Some of these include a cross-government approach, focus on long-term objectives and outcomes, seeking to join the Quad, inviting Japan and the Republic of Korea to join AUKUS for ‘Strand-B’ activities of defence cooperation, pushing for Japan to eventually join AUKUS, campaigning to admit Taiwan to CP-TPP, dropping overcaution about offending the CCP over Taiwan, and releasing an unclassified version of its China strategy. This stems from a broad assessment that while Euro-Atlantic is the overriding priority, the long-term threat is from China. Another report on China by the Intelligence and Security Committee of the UK parliament, presented in July 2023, has highlighted that the Chinese approach to pursuing its global ambitions makes China a national security threat to the UK. The report covers diverse challenges emanating from espionage, interference, influence operations, and investments (the UK receives the highest FDI from China, compared to any other European country). It concludes that the response and preventive actions have been slow and inadequate, and recommends a proactive approach to counter China, with increased allocation of resources. These reports are indicative of increased political convergence on the need to take forward the plans for the Indo-Pacific and China with a sense of urgency. The coming months are likely to see increased momentum in the implementation of priorities indicated in the ‘Refresh’. In addition, delivering on the India-UK comprehensive strategic partnership and the 2030 Roadmap for India-UK future relations is being accorded high priority. It is important that this joint roadmap, the UK’s integrated review, and its plans for the Indo-Pacific are seen in sum and as mutually reinforcing. While attention is currently focused on the ongoing negotiations for the India-UK FTA—expected to come to fruition soon—it needs to be highlighted that there are many other important lines of action being pursued under the 2030 roadmap. The term ‘Tilt to the Indo-Pacific’ has also been a subject of debate since it was unveiled. To many, it seemed to suggest movement at the cost of some other important region. The ‘Refresh’ document refers to it but appears to somewhat deemphasise the term. The recent Foreign Affairs Committee report also recommends moving away from using it. While the use of ‘tilt’ in official language may fade away, the UK is likely to continue to lean heavily towards the Indo-Pacific. This priority can be expected to become more enduring, and increasingly credible in the coming years.

Diplomacy
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India and Vietnam are partnering with the US to counter China − even as Biden claims that’s not his goal

by Leland Lazarus

This fall, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is slated to lead a bipartisan group of U.S. senators to China. The planned trip, like other recent visits to China by high-ranking U.S. officials, is aimed at improving the relationship between the U.S. and China. Such efforts to ameliorate U.S.-China diplomatic relations come amid growing tensions between the two economic giants. They also run parallel to U.S. efforts to strengthen ties with Indo-Pacific countries to limit Beijing’s influence. Take, for example, President Joe Biden’s September 2023 trips to India for the G20 summit and to Vietnam, where U.S. competition with China was a focus of Biden’s discussions. While he was in Asia, Biden made several agreements in science, technology and supply chain security designed to bolster U.S. relations with India and Vietnam. “I don’t want to contain China,” the president told reporters in Hanoi on Sept. 10, 2023, shortly after meeting with Vietnam’s communist party leader. U.S. Reps. Mike Gallagher and Raja Krishnamoorthi echoed similar sentiments during an event held by the Council on Foreign Relations think tank in New York City the following day. But even if the U.S.’s stated goal isn’t to limit China’s global influence, its recent agreements with India, Vietnam and other countries may do exactly that. What US-led G20 deals mean for China The U.S. is actively looking for ways to blunt one of China’s best tools of influence: international loans. During the G20 summit Sept. 9-10 in New Delhi, the U.S. pledged to help reform the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to make them more flexible in lending to developing countries to finance renewable energy, climate mitigation and critical infrastructure projects. Biden committed the first US$25 billion to make those reforms possible and secured additional financial pledges from other countries totaling $200 billion in new funding for developing countries over the next decade. The U.S. also signed onto a deal with the European Union, Saudi Arabia and India that will help connect the Middle East, Europe and Asia through rails and ports. Characterizing it as a “real big deal,” Biden said the rail and ports agreement would help stabilize and integrate the Middle East. These plans are aimed at providing an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Commonly referred to as BRI, the initiative is China’s international infrastructure loan program. Over the past decade, Chinese government agencies, banks and businesses have loaned more than $1 trillion abroad, and 60% of the recipient countries are now in debt to these Chinese entities. The U.S. and other countries have long criticized BRI as “debt trap diplomacy.” One study suggests that the trillions of dollars in infrastructure loans to countries by the government and quasi-government bodies in China typically lead to debt problems that the borrowing countries can’t manage. As China grapples with a slowing domestic economy, it may become more difficult for Chinese entities to keep shelling out funding for big-ticket overseas projects. The new U.S.-led agreements that come out of the G20 could fill the coming gap. These G20 plans complement existing Western economic initiatives to compete with the BRI, including U.S. trade pacts for the Indo-Pacific region and the Americas, the EU’s Global Gateway and the G7’s Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment. What the US’s agreement with India means for China In their meeting on the sidelines of the G20, Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi agreed to deepen collaboration on developing critical and emerging technology, such as quantum computing and space exploration, as well as 5G and 6G telecommunications. This will help India compete with China in the technological arena in the Indo-Pacific. The telecommunications portion of a joint statement by Biden and Modi specifically mentions the U.S.’s Rip and Replace program. It is about helping smaller telecommunications companies rip out technology from Chinese companies like Huawei or ZTE and replace them with network equipment from the West that will protect users’ data. The U.S. has banned Huawei and ZTE equipment from its telecommunication networks, deeming those companies national security risks. The U.S. and India’s pledge to support Rip and Replace is a direct counter to China’s telecommunication technology expansion. What the US’s agreement with Vietnam means for China In Vietnam, Biden elevated the bilateral relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership, expanding the relationship in everything from economics to education to technology in a country that has long counted China as its top trading partner. The enhanced partnership includes the U.S. providing $2 million to fund teaching labs and training courses for semiconductor assembly, testing and packaging. One company in Arizona and two in California have already pledged to set up semiconductor factories and design centers in Vietnam, and the U.S. artificial intelligence company Nvidia will help Vietnam integrate AI into automotive and health care systems. All these investments will make Vietnam even more attractive to U.S. and Western companies that don’t want China to be the sole source of their supply chain. As Vietnam becomes a key player in the semiconductor market, it will shrink China’s share of the market as well as its regional technological advantage. The U.S. also agreed to provide nearly $9 million to help Vietnam patrol the waters around its borders and beef up port facility security, as well as boost efforts to fight illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, or IUUF. While not explicitly mentioned, China is the target of this initiative; China and Vietnam continue to be at loggerheads over disputed claims over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, and Chinese industrial fishing vessels are the largest culprits of IUUF around the globe. By inking these agreements at the G20 in India and in Vietnam, the U.S. broadened its circle of allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific that can help counterbalance China. Along with similar diplomatic accomplishments by Vice President Kamala Harris at the recent ASEAN summit in Indonesia; security partnerships like AUKUS, between the U.S., Australia and the UK, and the Quad, between the U.S., India, Australia and Japan; increased military sales and training to Taiwan; and the recent Camp David meeting Biden held with Japan and South Korea, the U.S. is building partnerships all across Asia. These actions are aimed at restraining China’s political, economic and military might, even if U.S. leaders don’t explicitly say that is their intention. Regardless of rhetoric, actions speak louder than words.

Diplomacy
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BRICS and the West: Don’t Believe the Cold War Hype

by Cedric H. de Coning

While it is prudent to be cautious, it may also be wise to explore cooperation in those areas where there are shared interests rather than assume that the BRICS and the West are strategic rivals on all fronts.This analysis was first published in the Global Observatory, 30 August 2023.When Jim O’Neill coined the BRIC acronym in 2001, the point he was trying to convey was that the global economic system needed to incorporate the world’s largest emerging economies. His advice fell on deaf ears and in 2009, Brazil, China, India and Russia decided to take matters into their own hands and formed the BRIC grouping. South Africa joined the group in 2010 to form the BRICS. This July, the group held its 15th summit in South Africa, where they decided to add six new members: Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. More are likely to join in the future, including countries like Indonesia and Nigeria. What these countries have in common is a frustration, if not a grievance, about being side-lined to the periphery of the world economy. Together, the BRICS represent approximately 40% of the world’s population. The combined size of their economies are approaching approximately 30% of the world’s GDP, which puts them roughly on par with combined size of the economies of the G7 countries, depending on whether size is measured in GDP or PPP.  More importantly, in the next few decades, the combined size of the BRICS economies will surpass that of the G7. Despite this growing parity, all the members of the BRICS, with the exception of Russia, self-identifies as being part of the Global South, i.e., they feel excluded from a global system dominated by the Global North. Their stated aim is to work towards a future system of global governance where they will have equal political and economic say in global institutions, and where no one state will dominate others. In pursuit of this aim, BRICS countries have established their own development bank, set up their own contingency reserve arrangement, are developing their own payment system, and have started to trade with each other in their own currencies. The BRICS want to free their economies from the dollar-based international financial system. They feel exposed to United States interest rates that can have a negative effect on their economies, for no domestic reasons. The dollar-based financial system also provides the US with significant advantages in the global economy, which the BRICS see as unfair. They also feel a dollar-based financial system gives the US hegemonic influence in global affairs, through for example, exerting US jurisdiction on all dollar-based trade or investments that flow through US banks or financial institutions. While the BRICS countries have these clear shared macro-economic interests, many of the members also have competing interests in other domains. China and India are geopolitical rivals in South Asia. Egypt and Ethiopia are at loggerheads over the Nile. Brazil, India, South Africa and the newly-added Argentina are democracies, while other countries in the group are governed by a diverse set of autocratic regimes, which could set up an irreconcilable clash of values on some issues. Many of the members of the BRICS also have close ties to the United States and Europe, including Egypt, India, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, in a televised statement to the nation on the eve of hosting the BRICS summit in South Africa, explained that South Africa remains non-aligned, and he announced that in 2023 the country will also host a major United States-Africa trade meeting and an EU-South Africa summit. South Africa will also host the G20 in 2025, the first in Africa. For many countries, membership of the BRICS does thus not necessarily imply aligning themselves with one global alliance versus another, but rather cooperation in a group around a series of shared interests. Where does this place the BRICS on the Russian war in Ukraine? The BRICS summit in Johannesburg steered clear of taking a position on the war, other than welcoming mediation aimed at resolving it through dialogue and diplomacy. Some BRICS members like Iran are clearly supporting Russia, while most others have stopped short of either supporting or condemning Russia. For many such as Egypt, the war has adversely affected their economy. Two of the BRICS members, Egypt and South Africa, are part of an African initiative to seek a mediated end to the conflict, which is perhaps the first African initiative to mediate an international conflict. Overall, however, the BRICS have their eyes on the medium- to long-term transformation of the global macro-economic and financial system, and countries like China are probably frustrated that the Russian war in Ukraine has drawn attention away from this larger objective. Are the BRICS and the West headed for a new cold war? The shift in the center of gravity of the global economy to the East is an unstoppable fact driven by demographics and economic factors like the cost of production. At the same time, Europe and the United States will remain major economic players. In tandem with these changes in the global economy, it is clear that the global political order will become more multipolar, with China, Europe, India, and the United States representing some of the major centers of influence. In an August 27 article, Jim O’Neil argues that the influence of the BRICS will be determined by their effectiveness, not their size. An expanding BRICS will most likely succeed in helping its members to break free from a dollar-based international financial system, but that will take several decades of incremental change before it reaches a tipping point. Whether that is a good or bad thing depends on the degree to which your economy is tied to the United States. Many of the BRICS countries, including China, Egypt, India, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa all have economies whose prosperity are closely tied to the Unites States. They will thus have an interest in a slow, stable freeing up of the international financial system, and this should give everyone that is prudent time to adapt. The same logic also applies to changes in global governance architecture. Apart from Russia, all the other BRICS countries have an interest in making sure that changes in the global order are managed at a slow steady pace that does not generate instability. All the BRICS countries, apart from Russia, are also strong supporters of multilateralism, with the United Nations at its center. Many Western countries and BRICS members may thus have more shared interests than the doomsday headlines suggest. While it is prudent to be cautious, it may also be wise to explore cooperation in those areas where there are shared interests rather than assume that the BRICS and the West are strategic rivals on all fronts.

Defense & Security
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BRICS rises

by Manoj Joshi

Now with 11 members, BRICS’ decision-making by consensus will be that much more difficultOnce upon a time, the BRICS were nothing but a slogan devised by Goldman Sachs’ economists to describe four emerging market economies to which South Africa was later added. But more than a decade later, the grouping, now with an investment bank—New Development Bank—of its own is besieged by dozens of countries of the Global South for membership.The Johannesburg summit of BRICS has drawn unusual interest around the world. There was a time when it barely merited a mention in the western press, but now it has been the subject of major stories, in which some saw BRICS as brittle whiel others thought it was  seeking to challenge the G7 and the western world through a process of enlargement. While the BRICS puts itself forward as a unified face of the emerging economic powers, the reality is that within the organisation—which  is neither a trade nor military bloc—there is considerable jostling between two Asian powers who are developing a global imprint—India and China.BRICS expansion announced in JohannesburgOne of the issues where this jostling played out in was the BRICS expansion process. Reportedly, 40 countries have expressed interest in joining BRICS, though some 22 nations had formally expressed interest in joining the bloc. With the latest expansion, Iran, Egypt, Argentina, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia and UAE have been offered membership effective 1 January 2024. That there was a bit of lobbying is evident from the fact that  last week, President Ebrahim Raisi of Iran spoke on the phone with Prime Minister Modi. According to the official spokesman, they talked about “regional and bilateral matters” as well as issues like the expansion of BRICS. The two leaders later met in Johannesburg as well.There was some doubt at the beginning of the summit as to whether expansion would actually be announced. This was because of the intense negotiations over the names of the proposed members.Earlier this month, an Indian official spokesman had clarified that India believed that BRICS expansion should take place through “full consultation and consensus” among members of the bloc. In his speech at the summit, the Prime Minister made it clear that “India fully supports the expansion of the BRICS membership. And welcomes moving forward with consensus in this.” On Thursday, too, there were reports that there were “eleventh hour negotiations” over the potential new members. Reuters claimed that an agreement had meant to be adopted on Wednesday, but it was delayed by India’s introduction of new criteria for membership. On Tuesday President Lula of Brazil had made it clear that his country was did not want to be any kind of “a counterpoint to G7, G20 or the United States. We just want to organise ourselves.”In an organisation that acts through consensus, getting in is difficult, but global politics is about give and take and a certain degree of persuasion and arm twisting does go on. So does the notion of giving a push to countries who you see eye to eye with and blocking countries that you don’t. Sometimes the negotiation involves two powerful players splitting the difference and negotiating the entry of countries in such a way that a balance of sorts is maintained. This is the way India became a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation dominated by China. India’s case was pushed by Russia to balance China, and Beijing finally agreed to have India, if Pakistan, its “iron” friend, could become a member at the same time.Another element in such organisations is that countries seek membership not just to further their interests but to block the ambitions of others. In this way, China sought and became a member of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) arrangement and once in there, it has used its vote to block efforts by the United States (US) to shape APEC into an Asia Pacific Economic Community in the manner of the European Economic Community that finally gave rise to the European Union.India has been reportedly joined by Brazil in resisting the haste and suggesting that new members may first be given the status of observers. The Indian position has been that while it was all for expansion, there was need to develop and standardise mechanisms to consider the applications and move on them.As of now, BRICS is more of a symbol than a unified and purposive entity. True, it has members like China and India who wield substantial power in their respective regions, but the entity itself hardly functions as an economic bloc of any kind. It does have the New Development Bank headquartered in Shanghai, which, in 2021, sharply stepped up its disbursements to US$7.6 billion, with its total disbursements being of the order of US$32 billion for infrastructure and sustainable development in four continents . The initial subscribed capital of the bank is equally distributed among the BRICS members.China’s role in and vision for BRICSBeijing, no doubt views BRICS as a means of offsetting US global power. In a page 2 commentary in the People’s Daily by someone with the nom de plume  “Huanyu Ping,” said that currently the world governance system was “at a historical turning point”. The growth of the emerging market and developing countries has enhanced their influence. But the western-dominated global order was a “stumbling block to world economic development and social progress.” The multilateralist BRICS was therefore providing a model for decisions to be made on the basis of equality and consensus, as testified by the share-holding of the New Development Bank. They also actively promoted reform of the global governance system and upheld the validity of multilateral and multipolar solutions.There should be no doubt about the weightage China has within BRICS. It has a GDP more than twice the size of the other members combined. Its economy may have slowed down but it is still growing, with IMF predicting a 5.2 per cent growth as against 5.9 for India. The others are growing at less than 1 per cent.  It has played a significant role in getting together two of the new incoming members, Saudi Arabia and Iran. In 2022, China was the largest trading partner of South Africa, India and Brazil.There should be little doubt that China sees Africa as a battleground in the global struggle against the US. In a meeting with President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday, President Xi spoke of the urgent need for China to promote cooperation with Africa because of “changes and chaos” in the world, an indirect allusion to the US. He took up the theme in the Business Forum meeting that he did not attend, but where his speech was read out: “Right now, changes in the world, in our times, and in history are unfolding in ways like never before, bringing human society to a critical juncture.”China may swear by multilateralism, but it is not really comfortable with it. What it is seeking to do is to shape institutions like BRICS in its own image for countering its principal rival, the United States of America. In this, it is unlikely to get Indian support, so what it is trying to do is to pack its membership with countries where it has already made significant investments through its Belt & Road Initiative. Such countries would be inclined to follow its global agenda, which is now manifesting itself as the Global Security Initiative, Global Development Initiative and the Global Civilisation Initiative.The Chinese aim, according to James Kynge in the Financial Times is two-fold. The first is to ensure that large parts of the world remain open to Chinese investment and trade in an environment where western attitudes are increasingly hardening. And the second is to have a bloc of votes in multilateral forums like the United Nations (UN) to project Chinese influence.In the turbulent world, China’s path is not an easy one. Its economy is slowing down and its global security calculations have been roiled by the Russian adventure in Ukraine. Further, in promoting the Global South it runs up against India which has its own ambitions, as well as the backing of the west. Even while promoting the UN and its institutions, China is not interested in any serious reform there because that could result in a bigger role for its adversaries like Japan and India.Done increases with the expansion of its membership. Now, with 11 members, things will be that much more difficult. The BRICS countries have economies and geopolitical profiles that are hugely divergent, and which makes consensus-based decision-making hugely difficult.

Diplomacy
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China is playing the long game in the Pacific. Here’s why its efforts are beginning to pay off

by Graeme Smith

A week-long trip to Beijing by the Pacific’s most flamboyant statesman Manasseh Sogavare, was always going to cause concern in Canberra. The substance of the visit was as expected. The relationship between China and the Solomon Islands was upgraded to a “comprehensive strategic partnership” (on par with Papua New Guinea, the first Pacific nation to sign up to the Belt and Road Initiative). Nine agreements were also signed covering everything from civil aviation and infrastructure to fisheries and tourism. The Chinese premier, Li Qiang, who inked the deals with Sogavare, made a point of not mentioning the controversial policing cooperation agreement, the draft of which was leaked more than a year ago to New Zealand academic Anna Powles. Despite repeated calls from Australia and New Zealand to release the text of the policing agreement, there is no indication the Chinese or the Solomon Islands leadership will do so. There were also moments of theatre in Sogavare’s trip. The prime minister declared “I’m back home” when he arrived in Beijing in a clip posted by China Global Television Network. He then said in a longer interview on the same network that his nation had been “on the wrong side of history” for the 36 years it recognised Taiwan instead of the People’s Republic of China, and lauded President Xi Jinping as a “great man”. Sogavare saved his biggest serve for his return to the Solomon Islands, though. He accused Australia and New Zealand of withdrawing crucial budget support and hinted he would look to China to fulfil his ambitions to establish an armed forces, should Australia be unwilling to help.China’s slow start in the PacificSome key questions have been overlooked this week in the pantomime about what Australia should or shouldn’t do to shore up its relationship with an important Pacific partner. (We could start by accepting that Sogavare will never love us, and avoid getting into an arms race in the Solomon Islands with China.) What’s been somewhat lost, though, is how China has made inroads so quickly in a region that it still officially classifies as “peripheral”. China has certainly had to work harder to gain a foothold in the region. Relative to other regions, it has a lack of historical state ties with the Pacific. In Africa and Southeast Asia, China can draw on memories of shared anti-colonial struggles and aid projects like the Tanzam railway. In the Pacific, the Chinese Communist Party is a latecomer. Also holding it back is the remoteness and small population of the region. This has not made the Pacific a good fit for China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which has flourished in countries with rapid transport and communication links, substantial Chinese diasporas and leaders who are easily reached. Most of China’s own Pacific experts were baffled when the region was belatedly included in the project. Yet despite these obstacles, it’s clear the Chinese state’s approach in the Pacific has shifted, most remarkably in its diplomacy and the role state-linked companies are expected to play. Diplomats with serious intent China’s wolf warrior diplomacy has received plenty of attention, but the picture in the Pacific is less straightforward. The recently appointed special envoy to the Pacific, Qian Bo, undoubtedly styles himself as a wolf warrior. Under his tenure as Fijian ambassador, a Taiwanese representative was assaulted by Chinese diplomats for the crime of displaying a Taiwanese flag cake. Yet, other appointments suggest China is appointing higher-calibre diplomats to the region. These include Li Ming, the current ambassador to the Solomon Islands, and Xue Bing, the former ambassador to Papua New Guinea who now holds the challenging post of special envoy to the Horn of Africa. With experience in the region and good language skills, these diplomats have been more able to engage with Pacific communities than their predecessors, who largely focused on sending good news back to Beijing. More serious representatives suggest more serious intent.Chinese companies exerting influence, tooChina’s state-linked companies remain the driving force behind China’s engagement with the Pacific. Unlike the embassies, they are well-resourced and have skin in the game. Many company men (in construction, where Chinese companies dominate, they’re mostly men) are based in the region for decades, developing a deep understanding of how to win projects and influence political elites. Failed projects generate plenty of headlines, but many companies – such as COVEC PNG and China Railway First Group – are effective operators. They are building infrastructure cheaply in the Pacific and winning the favour of multilateral donors, particularly the Asian Development Bank. For larger state-linked companies, like China Harbor Engineering Company and the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), the geopolitical game has shifted. In the past, they could rely on their standing within the Chinese political system (their parent companies often outrank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) to resist pressure to act on behalf of state. Now, they are expected to carry geopolitical water for Beijing. Often this can benefit the companies. For instance, when CCECC lobbied the Solomon Islands leadership to switch their allegiance from Taiwan to the People’s Republic of China, it helped the company when it came to bidding for projects for the Pacific Games in Honiara. The leaders of these companies realise it can harm their image when they are seen as Beijing’s pawns. Yet, the companies, diplomats and Pacific leaders who choose Beijing’s embrace know times have changed. China is now a serious player in the region with a development philosophy to sell. It’s no longer enough to read Beijing’s talking points. You have to look like you mean it.

Energy & Economics
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Washington Declaration: Beyond Korea, What it Means for India?

by Jagannath P. Panda

In April 2023, South Korea and the United States released the Washington Declaration to reiterate and upgrade their treaty alliance. In outlining a joint nuclear deterrence strategy, the Declaration reaffirmed that South Korea would not pursue independent nuclear capabilities, and instead continue to rely on the alliance-based approach. This paper considers the strategic impact of the Washington Declaration beyond the U.S.-ROK nexus. Highlighting the importance of the agreement on security and stability in the broader Indo-Pacific region, this paper focuses on India’s stake in the new development. In particular, this paper emphasizes that despite its stated focus on the North Korean nuclear threat, the Washington Declaration also considers the Chinese and Russian threats in the region, making it of immense interest to India. It analyzes whether and how the Washington Declaration can complement India’s interests, and the potential for it to pave the way towards a closer India-U.S.-South Korea trilateral partnership in the Indo-Pacific.  Introduction  The release of the Washington Declaration in April 2023 has not just temporarily halted the Republic of Korea’s (ROK or South Korea) ambitions of developing its own nuclear weapons, but has also given more attention to the debates on nuclear deterrence in the Indo-Pacific. Even as the United States is concerned about growing nuclear developments in China, Russia, and North Korea (or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, DPRK), it is primarily focused on countering China – “the most comprehensive and serious challenge to U.S. national security.” Given that China’s military activities in its extended neighborhood, including in the Taiwan Strait, South and East China Seas, and the Himalayan borderwith India, have attained built greater momentum in the past decade, the Declaration assumes greater significance: As a forward-looking step to mollify U.S. treaty allies and partners in the region with the larger aim of bolstering a “cooperative” approach against the growing nuclear threat.  In this context, even as the Washington Declaration does not directly impact India, its implications for the IndoPacific amid India’s substantial role in the budding IndoPacific security architecture compels a closer examination into the new debates centered on South Korea’s extended deterrence. India is a “special strategic partner” for the ROK: Post the launch of the ROK’s Indo-Pacific strategy in December 2022, the two are exploring their increasing strategic convergence via respective inclusive policies as “pivotal” Indo-Pacific partners. Therefore, the security concerns in East Asia are not just important for India because of the domino effect on South Asia—home to near-perpetual instability due to the three nuclear states of China, India, and Pakistan—but also in terms of the negative impact on India’s (as yet) nascent efforts to boost multilateralism, middle power coalition, and regional integration.  Can New Delhi capitalize on South Korea’s gains from the U.S.’ latest declaration against North Korea’s and China’s nuclear threats? Could the Washington Declaration complement an envisioned India-ROK-U.S. trilateral in today’s divisive geopolitics? Could the new nuclear debates focusing on extended deterrence engender mechanisms for strengthening South Asian nuclear stability? Contextualizing the Washington Declaration Beyond the Peninsula Undoubtedly, the bilateral summit, including the Declaration will have an impact not just on the ROK but also on all stakeholders in the region—from U.S. partners like Japan and India to nuclear rivals China, Russia, and North Korea. What does the new pact bring to the fore for the ROK? In what ways will the latest U.S. approach to the Korean Peninsula affect the Indo-Pacific security landscape and partnerships, particularly for India?  Parsing the Declaration – (Not) New Significance for ROK?  In April 2023, the ROK-U.S. bilateral summit in Washington commemorated the 70th anniversary of the ironclad U.S.-ROK alliance—the duo’s dynamics have evolved from security treaty allies under the Mutual Defense Treaty, signed in October 1953, to global comprehensive strategic allies in May 2022. Presidents Joe Biden and Yoon Suk-yeol, through their joint statement, press conference, and a separate “Washington Declaration”, reiterated the shared commitment under the Mutual Defense Treaty, as well as toward establishing peace and stability in the IndoPacific. Moreover, Yoon’s state visit resulted in a stream of “political understandings” that ranged from billion-dollar economic and environmental tie-ups to technological and developmental cooperation. However, the event that has grabbed the maximum eyeballs is the Washington Declaration—unveiling new measures to concretize the “ambitious path” to secure the U.S.-ROK defense and global security cooperation and advance shared priorities in the Indo-Pacific.  This new pact claims to further the credibility of U.S. extended deterrence measures—referring to modernizing the U.S. capabilities, including nuclear forces, to deter attacks on allies, as also discourage allies from going nuclear, in the increasingly threatening regional security environment. For instance, the U.S. has constituted at the assistant secretary level a Nuclear Consultative Group (NCG) to assuage the ROK about the U.S.’ intent to formulate a consensus-based approach to handling the North Korean threat. This includes not just enhancing deployment of U.S. strategic assets, including nuclearcapable platforms, in and around the Korean Peninsula, but also augmented information-sharing, joint contingency planning, and an inter-agency table-top simulation. One of the most important objectives of this comprehensive outcome was to showcase to the domestic public in South Korea that the U.S. is a long-term reliable security partner—while also exemplifying the same for the other U.S. allies and partners in the region, such as Japan.  The U.S.-Japan-ROK trilateral is a central aspect in the Northeast Asia deterrence measures given that they face common threats from North Korea. Yoon has already opened the doors for a “three-way” strategic and nuclear planning “at any time” in the future to boost the combined response to a nuclear contingency: “The Washington Declaration is a bilateral agreement between Korea and the U.S., but we do not rule out Japan’s participation.” Already, there are speculations about Japan joining the NCG. For the present, the three countries have agreed to strengthen trilateral military cooperation including regularizing ballistic missile defense exercises and antisubmarine warfare exercises. They have also initiated efforts toward a “data sharing mechanism to exchange realtime missile warning data before the end of the year,” in line with the November 2022 trilateral leaders’ summit commitments.  At the same time, the Declaration has put on hold, even if temporarily, South Korean goals to build autonomous nuclear weapons. Yoon, who has been facing criticism at home for not heeding the extraordinary public support for acquiring an indigenous nuclear weapons program, had earlier this year stirred up a hornet’s nest by openly declaring nuclear weapons development as a possible policy option, which at the very least pushes the U.S. to re-deploy nuclear weapons. However, the Declaration clearly reaffirms the ROK’s continued commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the new 123 Agreement, with the U.S. president as the “sole authority” to launch nuclear weapons. It has therefore curtailed any independent nuclear notions for the near future and only served to strengthen the ROK’s alignment with the U.S. view of the global non-proliferation regime.  Consequently, the response in the South Korean media was subdued, if not sweepingly critical. Despite Yoon hailing the alliance as “nuclear based”, polls conducted during April-May 2023 (by the Korea Institute for National Unification, KINU) showed a significant drop in public support for the ROK going nuclear, especially in cognizance of the risks involved. The ROK government describing the Declaration as a Mutual Defense Treaty 2.0 or attesting to its “nuclear sharing” aspect have been touted as “false claims”; U.S. officials have also noted that the Washington Declaration is not a “de facto nuclear-sharing” agreement.  Importantly, questions have been raised domestically about South Korea paying a “high price” in return for “hardly … any substantive changes” in the U.S. nuclear policy on South Korea—sharply referred to by some domestic critics as “a redundant declaration produced by mutual distrust in the South Korea-U.S. alliance.” In concrete terms, the pact has been likened to the “jettisoning” of South Korea’s right to protect itself from the nuclear threat from North Korea—U.S. President Biden has categorically stated that he has the “absolute” authority as commanderin-chief to use nuclear weapons even though it would be in consultation with the allies. There are also legitimate concerns about the agreement having turned China and Russia into “de facto adversaries”. Misgivings have also been raised about the lack of U.S. assurance on increased business and investment ties, including in semiconductors and green technologies—areas where closer ties with the U.S. could help reduce Korean dependence on China.  The Chinese state media has raised serious concerns about the ROK “sacrificing” its “win-win” economic ties with China, but at present, maintains that “cooperation remains an irreversible trend in the long run.” Regarding these worries, some political observers in Seoul have contended that the ROK need not go back to its “strategic ambiguity” approach to pursue economic ties with China. This is primarily because countering China’s rise as a strategic challenge while maximizing economic benefits is a concern faced not only by the ROK but all liberal democracies in the present complex, transitional geopolitical scenario. Notably, the North Korean response has been predictable, calling it an opportunity for the DPRK to “perfect” its nuclear option; the official DPRK statement labeling it a “nominal” declaration highlights that the Kim regime sees it as business as usual.  A disconcerting aspect of the Declaration, even though it is in line with the sentiment of the times, has been the relegation of “pursuit of dialogue and diplomacy” with North Korea to a byline at the end. It indicates a closing of doors on diplomacy, albeit with a rogue state (namely the DPRK) unwilling to compromise, but nonetheless important given the near-consensus about the Declaration being an “evolution” in deterrence but not a panacea for the peninsular concerns. Some have also contended that “these outcomes will likely not provide enduring solutions to the North Korea challenge.”  Another notable issue that would have impacted the U.S.- ROK summit is the fallout from leaked U.S. intelligence documents, days before Yoon’s state visit, which suggested that the United States was spying on one of its foremost treaty allies. There are concerns in South Korea that the U.S. has “already penetrated into the Korean government’s networks and intercepted communications, possibly including phone and email.” As the U.S. has been accused of spying on the ROK in 2013, too, when its extensive surveillance program was exposed in press reports, the mistrust between the allies is likely to re-surface time and again. Therefore, in view of the South Korean government’s restlessness and nuclear claims prior to the April joint statement, there is some truth to the assertion that the Declaration arises out of the need to downplay the U.S. allies’ misgivings and trust issues. Its importance hence lies in shoring up of the U.S.-ROK partnership amid fears of the current security situation in Northeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific becoming worse due to the growing divisions in global geopolitics. Nonetheless, Yoon’s embrace of “strategic clarity” for the Indo-Pacific construct; sanctions on Russia during the Ukraine war; the success in resuming the U.S.-ROK-Japan trilateral in the past year; and the importance accorded to Yoon’s state visit, including the broad-ranging joint statement and the not-so-definitive yet formidable Washington Declaration, all highlight that the upward trajectory of the U.S.-ROK bonhomie is not a superfluous achievement. It points to a steady, forwardlooking alliance with implications for the wider IndoPacific. Ascertaining India’s Interests At a broader level, for the Indo-Pacific, especially for U.S. allies and partners in the region, the 2023 Washington Declaration is a sign of the U.S.’ willingness to negotiate the partners’ growing need for an inclusive, if not entirely equal, cooperation mechanism. Such an approach will not only strengthen the respective bilaterals with the United States but also present a stronger coalition in the fight against both North Korea and China. The latter is intent on destabilizing the existing status quo through its military aggression—from the Taiwan Strait to the Himalayas.  For India, which has been facing the brunt of China’s military tactics along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with an increased frequency in the past decade, the Washington Declaration highlights a strengthening of like-minded partnerships in the continuing democratic face-off against China. Thus, the Declaration’s impact is felt in Indo-Pacific geopolitics, including India’s immediate neighborhood— particularly as it compels the ROK to sharpen its global pivotal leadership by embedding itself deeper in the U.S.- led Indo-Pacific construct. Though the Declaration is specifically targeted against North Korea, not China, the evolving alliance is a response to the ever-growing threats in and around the Korean Peninsula, as well as in broader Asia: From Central Asia to the Middle East; the Himalayan States to the Indian Ocean; the South China Sea to the East China Sea, China’s diplomatic-economic clout and military presence is growing. In short, the Chinese threat is the main concern for the U.S.  As a result, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning was stringent in his criticism of the new pact: “What the U.S. is doing ... provokes confrontation between camps, undermines the nuclear nonproliferation regime and the strategic interests of other countries.” China was also immediate to voice its opposition against Japan’s potential involvement through the Washington Declaration, after Yoon was positive about turning the bilateral agreement into a trilateral one in the future. The inclusion of the phrase “peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits” and critical technologies cooperation in the joint statement also raised hackles in China in terms of South Korea isolating China and crossing its red lines.  China sees this agreement as another U.S. tool to strengthen a values-based security coalition in the region à la Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad comprising Australia, India, Japan, and the United States). The Quad’s successful bonhomie has not only inspired other such U.S.- led platforms (e.g., the latest with Australia, Japan, and the Philippines and the West Asian one with India, Israel, and the UAE) but has also become a thorn in the side of China’s goals of regional dominance. Any deterrence for China’s growing ambitions is in India’s interests, which is not only facing a continental threat but also recognizes China’s growing reach in India’s traditional stronghold of the Indian Ocean region.  Consequently, despite not being directly connected to this agreement, India may nonetheless benefit from the Washington Declaration in a number of ways both in the Indo-Pacific and the Korean Peninsula. Firstly, the Declaration is critical to increasing the Quad’s strength. The reaffirmation of U.S. commitment to its Indo-Pacific allies and partners, including India, will not only boost the Quad but also set the stage for renewed deliberations on the Quad “Plus” framework, of which the ROK is a part, thereby opening up more avenues of India-ROK collaboration. In turn, such integration of South Korea with the Quad will further push the North Korean agenda onto the Quad’s table.  Secondly, in response to Chinese (and North Korean) aggression, the Washington Declaration emphasizes the need for maintaining the status quo in the Indo-Pacific and rejects any illegitimate maritime claims, militarization of reclaimed features, and coercive actions. This might be seen as normal diplo-speak; however, it will further concretize the ROK’s aims to build greater maritime collaborations, including naval deterrence capabilities, in the Indo-Pacific. For instance, the Chungnam frigate (FFX), launched by South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) in April 2023, will be incorporated into the ROK Navy— its second-largest naval expense. Such an investment is poised to contribute to stronger South Korean presence in the Indo-Pacific in line with its newly launched IndoPacific strategy. It is a positive development for India, which is looking to bolster its IOR presence through likeminded partners like the ROK, the European Union and its members, and Japan.  Here, it is also important to note that even though the ROK has traded off its nuclear development ambitions for “deeper, cooperative decision-making on nuclear deterrence” in the Washington Declaration, the road to fulfilling its nuclear-based ambitions has not closed down. In the future, for instance, Seoul might still be inclined to renew its post-AUKUS (Australia-UK-U.S. defense pact) demands to gain access to the U.S.’ nuclear-power submarine technology. India, which is one of the few countries to have nuclear-powered submarines with ballistic missile launch capabilities, can use this opportunity to further increase naval exercises with the ROK, along with making a stronger push towards defense technology and manufacturing collaborations.  Thirdly, India and South Korea are strengthening their bilateral and regional relationship based on democratic and inclusive visions, characterized by the centrality of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Their future-oriented partnership has a sound foundational convergence, namely the Act East Policy (AEP)-New Southern Policy (NSP) Plus connect. Notably, the degree to which the Yoon government embraces India’s AEP (and Indo-Pacific vision) will not only determine the natural progression of India-South Korea regional relations but also provide momentum to diversification goals. The latter is important in light of the ROK’s growing security and techno-economic dependence on the United States at the cost of neglecting its long-standing economic partner China, as underscored by the latest joint statement and China’s response to it.  In this context, India’s and the ROK’s quest for economic security, through participation in various regional and panregional forums, will enable them to build strategic links, and work together to balance regional developmental goals and their own economic-military growth. Both countries can use their participation in platforms like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) to build a stronger economic partnership. For example, the ROK, which joined the AIIB in 2015 and is the fifth-largest stakeholder of the AIIB with its shares at 3.86 percent, is looking to expand ties and find new joint project opportunities. India, as a founding member and the second largest shareholder with the largest project portfolio within AIIB, could facilitate the ROK’s enhanced contributions in the bank’s turn toward green infrastructure for providing “high-quality development finance.” India and ROK’s participation in forums like the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI) and the U.S.- led Minerals Security Partnership (MSP) respectively, can help them coordinate their actions as they look to diversify critical value chains. The contested Asian and Indo-Pacific landscape has made supply chain diversification a priority. As U.S.-China trade and technological competition makes economic security vital, India and South Korea can build on their natural complementarities and work together to restructure their supply chains to reduce reliance on Chinacontrolled supply chains. While South Korea can support India’s goal of emerging as a manufacturing hub for key industries, India can be an important partner in South Korea’s aim to diversify its economic partnerships beyond China under the NSP.  Lastly, if South Korea heeds to domestic criticism about “jettisoning” its strategic autonomy (that is, deferring to the U.S. by not acquiring a nuclear weapons development program), it will continue to diversify its partners, particularly in defense manufacturing and new technologies. Given that India and the ROK have expanded their defense cooperation, including joint production and export of military hardware, in recent years, the new pact will allow the ROK to push boundaries. For instance, the ROK could continue supporting India’s membership bid for the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) or the MSP and India could facilitate South Korea’s increased participation in the Quad, a much-desired goal for Yoon.  Moreover, ROK-India could partner for peaceful nuclear purposes. At present, India does not allow foreign direct investment in the nuclear power sector, but as per Indian media reports, the government is mulling changes in the near future. Their coming closer together, which is already in motion, will consolidate the middle power-dominated multipolar Asia architecture, primarily to mitigate the constraints due to the growing bipolar rivalry. It will further their common goal to achieve a global standing while preserving strategic autonomy. U.S.-ROK-India: A Trilateral Inches Closer? The latest U.S.-ROK summit and the Washington Declaration have certainly strengthened the U.S.-led alliance structure in the region, giving partners outside this alliance hope for a consultative and cooperative security mechanism for the region, U.S. primacy notwithstanding. What is clear is that a democratic values-based coalition will be able to successfully maneuver the ups and downs through the times and give impetus to the new-era security, economic, technological, and diplomatic cooperation. In this vein, the Declaration could be seen as a clarion call for unity to deal with the current hostile regional and global geopolitical circumstances. The boost to the Japan-ROKU.S. trilateral through this pact, as well as the bilateral summit’s assertion to implement their respective IndoPacific strategies while enhancing “Indo-Pacific voices in multilateral forums, especially in addressing climate change, sustainable energy access, and food insecurity,” could pave the way for other minilateral coalitions.  India as a vital cog in the Indo-Pacific security network will naturally play a significant role. India’s increasing closeness to the United States as a counterweight to China and a strategic partner, especially in defense and technological areas, for a free and open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) makes it an important component in today’s U.S.-led liberal order, which is at a transition stage. Moreover, the bonhomie with South Korea is based on growing common values and interests of assertive middle powers, including strategic autonomy and global governance aspirations.  India will be closely watching to see whether Seoul’s emphatic turn to “strategic clarity,”—first with its “Strategy for a Free, Peaceful, and Prosperous Indo-Pacific Region” and now the Washington Declaration—will enable the ROK to fulfill its middle power potential as a “technological, economic powerhouse.” In other words, for India, the new ROK approach could enable a deeper strategic connect between the two partners by moving beyond economic and limited regional ambitions. The new goals would have to include extended joint military exercises, joint manufacturing of defense equipment, expanded connectivity (digital and physical), regional integration initiatives, global supply chain resilience, increased green technology sharing, effective critical mineral collaborations (to lower dependency on China and Russia), and technological norms building, among others.  Importantly, as both India and the ROK have signed the respective 123 Agreement with the U.S. on peaceful uses of nuclear energy, there is potential for cooperation in the power sector, as well as via technical exchanges, scientific research, and safeguards discussions. In March 2018, India and South Korea signed a bilateral civil nuclear agreement that allowed Korean companies to participate in India’s civil nuclear industry (including in atomic power plant projects and selling nuclear reactors to India). With energy security front and center on the global agenda in wake of the Ukraine crisis, trilateral cooperation in the civil nuclear sector can be an important step forward. Notably, nuclear exports are an important part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). By 2030, China plans to build about 30 nuclear reactors abroad, worth $145.5 billion; it has already built four nuclear reactors in Pakistan (and is now building two more), has signed agreements to build reactors in Argentina, entered the UK nuclear market, and is currently negotiating with several other countries including Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan. Amid the ongoing energy crisis, China’s foray into the global nuclear market could give it greater influence and potentially enhance its coercive power. In this context, the U.S., South Korea, and India have reason to bolster cooperation in this area and ensure they can stand as competitive nuclear vendors against China’s offer of advanced technology, competitive prices, and rich financing.  India, the ROK and the U.S. have several shared interests and are already engaged in high-level cooperation at bilateral and multilateral levels; as such, a trilateral between the three powers would help coordinate their actions in pursuit of their regional goals. At the same time, for India and the ROK, any such trilateral cooperation could serve to provoke China and make managing the U.S.-China equation much more difficult. Nevertheless, while India faces a belligerent China on its border and South Korea is dealing with an economically coercive China, a trilateral partnership could be necessary to bolster collaborations and further shared interests. Furthermore, the benefits of a U.S.-ROK-India trilateral would be equally distributed to not just the three countries, but also other regional powers. Improvement of ties between Japan and South Korea—which is shaping up to be a focal point of both Yoon’s and Fumio Kishida’s leadership legacies—will gain smoother and faster traction owing to Japan’s close ties with India and the alliance with the U.S. Australia and Indonesia, too, have responded positively to South Korea’s Indo-Pacific strategy. The establishment of a new U.S.- led defense-ministerial level quadrilateral mechanism with Australia, Japan, and the Philippines is another shot in the arm for “allied and like-minded” countries. Therefore, the U.S.-India-ROK trilateral would draw on the bilateral gains and their common belief in ASEAN centrality to further regional integration aims. This will also give impetus to Seoul and Delhi (and also Canberra) emerging as strong candidates for an extended G-7. Overall, the Declaration sets the stage for a strong U.S.-ROK camaraderie that will extend beyond nuclear deterrence goals, impacting broader regional multilateral dynamics of the Indo-Pacific. Lessons for South Asian Nuclear Dynamics: Potential for Reassurance and Deterrence? In many ways, the Washington Declaration seeks to be a show of strength—and a reprieve—against the North Korean nuclear threat that has rapidly escalated over the past year with the sudden rise in missile tests and an expanding nuclear program. Since his election for presidency, Yoon has frequently expressed willingness for South Korea to be a more active player in the Indo-Pacific, including by being a part of the Quad framework. The Declaration is a part of Seoul’s efforts to meet its security goals. While it is certainly a significant step to counter the North Korean threat, it is also an indication of a stronger alliance against provocative actions by China. The bolstered U.S.-ROK partnership under the Declaration is a step towards a more proactive and stronger South Korea in the region, and could eventually ease the way for Seoul’s productive involvement in the Quad, perhaps through a Plus framework. While South Korea will still need to establish itself as a reliable partner with the other members of the Quad, the Declaration certainly demonstrates its commitment to regional (and global) security, and by extension, the important role it can play through greater interaction and burden-sharing with the Quad.  Undoubtedly, this new bilateral agreement between the U.S. and the ROK (potentially also involving Japan through the trilateral) will usher in new lessons for the wider Indo-Pacific, and in turn for India, too. For instance, the prospects of closer consultations that will strengthen the combined defense posture are relevant for not just U.S. treaty allies like the ROK and Japan but central strategic security partners like India that is facing a two-front border escalation with China and Pakistan. However, could this new deterrence declaration in Northeast Asia pave the way for a common strategic mechanism between the U.S. and India that enhances deterrence and provides a degree of reassurance against the growing nuclear risk in South Asia?  As much as it is possible that the U.S. extended deterrence for ROK would fuel an arms race, as also underscored by Russia and China in their response to the Declaration, not just in Northeast Asia but also in nuclear-heavy South Asia, it is often contended that “the drivers of nuclear instability in the region have more to do with conventional warfighting strategies.” The grave escalation in 2019 between India and Pakistan is one such example, and the accidental firing of a missile into Pakistan’s territory in 2022 that fortunately did not result in a retaliatory attack is another—both highlight the need to pursue definitive de-escalation and crisis management measures, and the latter puts a spotlight on the current fragility of the South Asian situation. The danger of an accidental nuclear war in such tense conflicts has not been stressed enough, and it bears repeating that such a threat was a constant refrain during the Cold War posturing.  Broadly speaking, today, India and Pakistan are not signatories to the NPT but have been gradually increasing their nuclear arsenals. China is a nuclear weapons state recognized by the NPT, and has accelerated its nuclear development program. All are developing newer “ballistic missile, cruise missile, and sea-based nuclear delivery systems.” As of January 2023, Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal was about 170 warheads (by some estimates the stockpile might go up to about 200 by 2025), China’s about 410 nuclear warheads; and India’s about 164 nuclear weapons.  Moreover, while India and China both have declared nofirst-use (NFU) policies, Pakistan has no such policy; its “full spectrum deterrence posture,” especially the development of tactical nuclear weapons capabilities for use on the battlefield to offset India’s (superior) conventional military tactics has been of concern to not just India but the United States as well. At the same time, recently questions have been raised about China shifting its nuclear policies, including the NFU, because of the nuclear expansion and modernization. Vis-à-vis India, too, there are speculations that “India could be transitioning towards a counterforce nuclear posture to target an adversary’s nuclear weapons earlier in a crisis, even before they could be used.”  In this context, controlling escalation is not a conclusive plan of action, and dialogue, too, has limitations when the live-wire conflict, as it is with both India-Pakistan and IndiaChina, has historical roots and nuclear leverage. Also, India has called nuclear risk reduction an “interim” strategy; and as per its security review in 2003, India retains the option of nuclear weapons in the event of an attack by chemical and biological weapons. However, as part of its doctrine of credible minimum nuclear deterrence, including the NFU and non-use against non-nuclear weapon states, India is “prepared to convert these undertakings into multilateral legal arrangements.”  Therefore, for South Asia, the U.S. and its partners, including India, need to focus on building creative, reliable mechanisms for limiting the possibilities of crossing the nuclear threshold, as well as controlling the use of highprecision conventional weapons. For example, India, Japan, South Korea, and the U.S. should either as a new minilateral or in conjunction with Quad (Plus) strengthen a strategic dialogue that looks into ways of information sharing, including intelligence on nuclear threats in the sub-region, as well as take into account India’s pursuit of “global, verifiable and non-discriminatory” multilateral legal arrangements for a nuclear weapon free world.  Importantly, a vital tool that should be widely used is the dissemination of information about the dangers of nuclear weapons and the limitations of ballistic missiles among the public and policymakers. Lessons must be drawn from the South Korean scenario where public survey results in the recent past have highlighted a concerning trend of a high degree of support for nuclear weapons deployment without fully being made aware of the pitfalls. A recent study revealed that even in the U.S. and the UK, there is a lack of awareness about “nuclear winter”—a term used to illustrate the potential “catastrophic long-term environmental consequences from any exchange of nuclear warheads”— and that even brief exposure to these risks reduces the public’s support for nuclear retaliation. The dramatic lowering of public support for nuclear development is seen in the latest (aforementioned) KINU survey in the ROK, too, when presented with different possibilities of risks. Raising awareness and educating the public and decision-makers about such risks should also be part of the state’s strategy to reduce the heightened perceptions about nuclear weapons: the responsibility surely lies to a large degree on national governments and relevant multilateral organizations, which seem to have been caught napping.  In the wake of the Washington Declaration, which has rekindled the nuclear debates in the Indo-Pacific, it is imperative that concerted efforts be made by all stakeholders, especially the nuclear states and the ones desirous of autonomous nuclear weapons capabilities, to first raise regional public awareness about the ramifications of nuclear armament, and only then pursue responsible deterrence measures.

Diplomacy
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The World is Changing: Who Will Set the Rules?

by Filippo Fasulo

Pivot to Asia - The Global South is on the march in their attempt to reshape the international system. How will this new order impact the old world? An increasing number of countries from the Global South, especially in Asia, are pushing to redefine the current global order. Three key trends to watch in this attempt to reshape the international system are the (potential) creation of a new economic order, the expansion of the BRICS grouping, and the transformation of China-Russia relationship after the invasion of Ukraine. In this changing international balance, Europe is losing its influence in the Global South, including in Asia. After centuries of global predominance, Europe’s strongest legacy is its role as a major normative power in global affairs. However, this reputation as a rule-setting power is set to change.   Why it matters 1. A (new) economic order. The debate over a “new Washington Consensus” has gained momentum after US national security advisor Jake Sullivan delivered a speech at the Brookings Institution on April 27th. The final communiqué by the G7 countries which met in Hirosahima on May 19-20 is the result of a similar strategic shift within the group, one that implies a move from economic interdependence to economic security. This shift is coupled with a major change in how the G7 intends to deal with emerging economies, such as their rival China and other partners in Asia that might soon become economic competitors in critical technologies. The G7’s sentiment has moved from promoting globalization and open markets to building industrial capacity in critical sectors, while securing existing and creating new strategic supply chains. Europe’s efforts in this context might not be enough: the investments envisaged so far are too little to reverse Europe’s dependency (often on China) in critical sectors. The EU must focus increasingly on diversifying its supply chains through securing access to rising economies in the Indo-Pacific. Here, joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) could represent an opportunity.  2. BRICS+? The BRICS foreign ministers’ summit in June was yet another steppingstone toward enlargement. The countries that expressed a significant interest in joining the grouping are Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Comoros, Gabon, and Kazakhstan: all these countries sent their representatives to Cape Town. Egypt, Argentina, Bangladesh, Guinea-Bissau and Indonesia participated virtually. While the membership process might be a long one, the group’s upcoming expansion highlights the Global South’s political will to rise its voice, with a plethora of actors eager and able to leverage the new competition between powers which is shaping up after the Ukraine war. In this framework, Asian countries such as China and India are competing with one another to lead the BRICS.   3. China and the Stans. On May 19, Xi Jinping met in Xi’an with the (leaders of) the five Central Asian “Stan”-countries (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan). Russia, the region’s traditional kingmaker, was noticeably absent. The meeting kickstarted – for the first time offline – a summit named C+5 and highlighted Beijing’s belief that it can now make deals within the region without Moscow’s supervision. China’s newfound independence in Central Asia and Moscow’s growing dependence on Beijing after the war in Ukraine provides new insights the on China-Russia relationship: although the two countries are united by their common desire to contest the US-led world order, the Sino-Russian relation seems increasingly tilted in China’s favor. This instable relationship could result in a stronger Chinese presence in Central Asia.  4. Loss of strategic centrality. Europe does not only risk becoming increasingly peripheral in world affairs, but also losing its bargaining power with the emerging Indo-Pacific economies. On the one hand, the EU needs to diversify its supply chains away from China and likely towards the ASEAN; on the other, the Global South – and by default its Asian members – is more aware of the current strategic window of opportunity to redesign the global balance of power.   Our take We are witnessing rapid changes in the international arena. In the coming months there will be increasing requests to review global norms. Therefore, the leading event will be the upcoming BRICS Summit in August: the meeting will probably certify the process to accept new members. Among the countries that are voicing their desire to reset the rules, some are considered by the West (mainly) as rivals, such as China, and as partners, like India. Therefore, Washington and Brussels cannot simply accept or dismiss their requests. Asia is claiming its century: the integration of this claim for a renewed global order into the current world order has just started. Its most important implications will be on the economic side, namely the redistribution of industrial capacity and trade relation in the context of de-risking from China.  Spotlight: G7  The G7 Hiroshima Summit has sent some clear messages to the rest of the world. The decision to invite President Zelensky to the gathering was a move meant to reinforce the unity of the members regarding the Ukraine invasion in the face of Russia — and China, too. The West has criticized China’s 12-point position paper on the Ukraine war, since it does not call for Russia to abandon occupied territories. The G7 countries have also announced a strengthening of the sanctions, seeking to curb products that could be used by the Russian military. The other important takeaway of the G7 is the joint statement directed at China, which includes a strong criticism of Beijing’s “economic coercion” and invites the PRC to play according to international rules. The G7 have also reiterated their position on divisive topics such as security in the Indo-Pacific and Taiwan, retreating their commitment to preserve peace and stability in the region. Despite the joint statement and the declarations by the leaders on the challenges posed by China, the G7’s stance on Beijing is still a balancing act. While concerned about being overly vulnerable with China, G7 economies and their industrial base remain strongly interconnected with the Asian country and despite calls for “de-risking”, such as cutting China out from some sectors like raw materials, it is impossible at the time.  Experts’ views The implications of China’s activism among the BRICS countries  The next BRICS Summit will take place at a critical juncture for the Global South. Russia is still at war, Brazil has a new administration eager to flex its muscles globally, and China has reached unprecedented influence across the developing world. Since they are all connected by the same desire of multipolarity away from US and Western hegemony, it is likely that the BRICS will try to offer a roadmap towards a new international order. This roadmap, however, is far from consensual: will Russia embrace the peace dialogues offered by Brazil or African nations – and what role will China play in brokering any such proposal? Will China and the other BRICS be able to cooperate economically to promote development worldwide? Are the BRICS ready for its first enlargement, and who is most likely to join in the coming years? This arrangement will require some mutual concessions and the outcome will help shape the future world order.  Guilherme Casarões, Fundação Getulio Vargas  The push to strengthen and even expand the BRICS, especially by China, should be viewed more broadly through the lens of a pragmatic Chinese foreign policy. It has not only sought to strengthen ties within BRICS but with other regions and countries who are instrumental for its trade and infrastructure connectivity imperatives.  This happens against the backdrop of a shift towards a multipolar world order with China as a rising power and rising geo-political tensions. Given that this bloc advocates for issues that are relevant to the Global South (global governance reform, support for a rules-based international order and multilateralism in times when countries retreat to unilateral measures), it is no surprise that other countries in the South wish to join. Regarding this summit, I see no major implications for the bloc, the core business of the BRICS will continue with South Africa advancing its five priority areas. However, we can anticipate a discussion on its formal expansion. Trading with local currency seems to have found new impetus following the sanctions placed on Russia. All this notwithstanding, it is important to note that the ‘de-dollarisation’ in trade debate is not a new concept for BRICS and its less about challenging the dollar but strengthening other currencies against external economic shocks. The real test is for the host country depending on whether President Putin attends the heads of state summit in August, given Pretoria’s obligations under the Rome Statute and domestic law.  Luanda Mpungose, South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA)  China’s push for a stronger BRICS on the global stage is advancing along a number of trajectories. Firstly, there is the BRICS expansion as well as the BRICS+ format that are likely to bring the majority of the Global South into BRICS-related platforms of economic cooperation. The implementation of the BRICS+ format may serve as a precursor for liberalizing trade across the Global South and exploiting the potential for boosting South-South trade and investment ties. The expansion in the membership of the Shanghai-based New Development Bank as well as the creation of its regional centers will increase the scope for connectivity projects across the developing world. There is also the greater use of national currencies (most notably the yuan) via de-dollarization as well as the R5 BRICS common currency project that if launched would mark a key transformation of the global financial system.  Yaroslav Lissovolik, BRICS+ Analytics   What and Where Thailand is ready to Move Forward   The May elections in Thailand resulted in a clear victory for the opposition parties. Led by Pita Limjaroenrat, Move Forward has won 152 seats, becoming the most voted party in the elections. This party is the heir to Future Forward, which was dissolved by the military government in February 2020, and was born out of the 2020-2021 protests against the army and the monarchy. The second party in the country is the historic Thai opposition party led by the Shinawatra family, the Pheu Thai. However, while the population has expressed its preference, there is no guarantee yet that Move Forward, and the opposition, will govern. Indeed, to be elected Prime Minister, and form a government, Pita will need to win the majority in the bicameral parliament made up of the elected 500 seats in House of Representatives and the 250 seats of the Senate – whose members are handpicked by the military. The Move Forward coalition with Pheu Thai and the other opposition parties so far can count on little more than 310 votes, a long shot from the majority needed to govern. The opposition must garner support among the senators – which generally have little interest in going against the military that put them in power – or among the parties that have yet to declare their allegiance.  Cambodia: Hun Sen is getting rid of the competition ahead of July elections  On the 14 of May, Cambodia’s opposition party – the Candlelight Party – has been disqualified from running in the upcoming July elections by the country’s election commission. The party has allegedly failed to submit the necessary documentation to participate in the electoral race. With the exclusion of the Candlelight Party from the coming elections, the only possible competitor to the ruling Cambodian People’s party (CPP) of PM Hun Sen – who has been in power for 38 years – has been eliminated. This is not the first time that the main opposition party has been cut out of the electoral race. For instance, in the 2017 the Cambodian court, which is heavily colluded with the CPP, dissolved the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) before the 2018 general elections – a party that was given new life when its members created the Candlelight Party. However, the members of the opposition continue to be persecuted by Hun Sen’s forces with many political exponents arrested on charges of treason, assaulted, or forced to leave the country. With the opposition forces largely depleted and the main party banned from running for elections, Hun Sen is likely guaranteed another term.   The United States seeks to expand influence in the Indo-Pacific  Washington took advantage of two key international events to strengthen its strategic position in the region. During the Quad Leaders’ Summit, which took place on the sidelines of the G7 in Hiroshima, President Biden, Australia’s PM Albanese, PM Kishida of Japan and PM Modi of India stressed their unity and stated their plans to invest in digital infrastructure in the region. Throughout the meeting they did not mention China directly in their statements, but their references to the country were clear. The Quad expressed concern over the militarization of the region and the use of both economic and military coercion to alter the status quo – a clear reference to Chinese activity in the South China Sea. Another important step for the US to consolidate its position in the region is the announcement of the Supply Chain Agreement under the framework of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF). The agreement includes the 14 IPEF partner countries, namely Australia, Brunei, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, the US, and Vietnam. A year following the launch of the IPEF, this agreement is the first practical measure undertaken by the group. The group did not announce any official trade commitments, there is expectation among partners for increased cooperation and monitoring of supply chains fragility. The concrete development is still unclear, but the agreement signals the need for Indo-Pacific countries to avoid supply chain disruption and to minimize their dependence on the region’s main economic player, China.  Semiconductors: China fires back   China has gone on the offensive in competition over the semiconductor sector. The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has stated that products by Micron, the US largest memory chip maker, are a “security risk for the information infrastructure supply chain” barring infrastructure operators from buying them. While additional information has yet to be revealed, some negative impacts are expected for Micron even if China and Hong Kong accounted for only 16% of the revenue of the company in 2022. The measure is a retaliation to America’s effort to cut China out from the semiconductor sector and slow the development of its industrial base. Since October 2022, the Biden Administration has imposed strict controls over chips export, followed by the Netherlands and Japan, preventing China from accessing and producing more advanced semiconductors. China’s declaration comes also after the leaders of the G7 grouping released a statement criticizing the country’s economic coercion tactic. After the move from Beijing, Micron fears that their products will be replaced by South Korean competitors, Samsung and SK Hynix, on the Chinese market. In the rising technological row between the US and China, there is also fear that Beijing might choose to put some export controls over other sensitive technologies, such as solar panels – where China dominates the whole supply chain.    TREND: Despite rate hikes, Asian unemployment is faring well (but not for everyone)  In the current context of high inflation and high rates, unemployment has turned out to be one of the main socio-political issues of Asia. With skyrocketing prices hurting businesses and consumers, many central banks in the West have adopted more hawkish monetary policies during the last year. Yet, the soaring cost of money has forced many businesses into a tight spot with concerning consequences on the employment level. Some countries though – like Japan, China, and Indonesia – have made the unorthodox choice to not significantly raise rates during the last year, while others – like South Korea and India – have adopted similar policies to those of the FED and the ECB. However, the results vary. In Japan the unemployment rate has been quite steady at around 2.6% for some time now, but in China the range (5.2-5.7%) was wider, especially due to the uneven nature of the post-Covid economic recovery. Yet, as the economy is slowly returning to normal, Beijing’s unemployment rate is gradually decreasing. Meanwhile Korea has consolidated a positive trend, with the last available figure at 2.5%, but the reforms of the labor market proposed by President Yoon Suk-yeol may cause some issues. The critical indicator though will be youth unemployment. Employment in aging societies, like those of East Asia, will increasingly become a core issue to maintain the viability of existing social welfare programs. So far China has a staggering 20.8% unemployment rate in the 16-24 years old age group which is particularly concerning, as it is the 7.2% recorded in South Korea. Japan is faring quite well but unemployment in the 25-34 years old age bracket has risen since the beginning of the year from 3% to 4%.

Energy & Economics
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A north-south lifeline: What Macron hopes to accomplish with the Summit for a New Global Financing Pact

by Dr. Célia Belin , Lauriane Devoize

France is looking to give political impetus to reform of the global financial architecture. Others should swing in behind its gambit  Almost 500 days into the war in Ukraine, Europeans and Americans are anxious about their relationship with the global south. While the transatlantic allies are united, they have been left perplexed by the often tepid reaction of third countries to Russia’s aggression. And the gap between north and south appears only to be growing. The global crises of the last five years – covid-19, Russia’s war on Ukraine, inflation, climate change – have pushed Europeans’ focus inward, while these challenges have plunged much of the developing world into economic decline alongside exacerbating energy and food insecurity. Worse, some of the solutions put in place to overcome these crises – border closures, sanctions, re-shoring – have had major negative impacts on the global south. Meanwhile, the multilateral system has spiralled further into crisis, accelerated by the effects of the US-China rivalry, and has failed to provide relief to developing and vulnerable countries. More deeply affected by this ‘polycrisis’ than the global north, they have much less resource to tackle its consequences: dozens of low-income and medium-income countries now face crippling debt. To start to address these problems, President Emmanuel Macron is holding an ambitious event that seeks to focus political attention on the injustices and inequities of the current global financial architecture. Hurriedly decided on after last year’s COP27 in Egypt, his Summit for a New Global Financing Pact will bring leaders, civil society advocates, private actors, and international financial institutions together in Paris. The gathering’s goal is to find ways to build a more inclusive and equitable financial system, one that enables the climate transition and promotes biodiversity without jeopardising development. From its colonial and post-colonial history, and with its permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, France maintains many close relationships on other continents. In response to brewing discontent and despair, Macron has stressed the need to address global south grievances, using frequent speeches to do so, whether in New York, Washington, or Bratislava. He is now once again engaged in an ambitious yet hasty endeavour: inspired by COP21 in Paris in 2015, the president believes diplomatic elbow grease goes a long way in mobilising around global issues, and he has made good use of it. As early in his first presidency as 2018, he launched the Paris Peace Forum, an annual event bringing together leaders and civil society to work towards a revived and innovative multilateral order. After President Donald Trump rescinded the Paris Agreement on climate change, Macron launched summit after summit on aspects of the issue (One Planet, One Ocean, and One Forest). To tackle the impact of covid-19 on Africa, in May 2021 France hosted the summit on the financing of African economies. This time, the goal is to reinvent the global financial architecture. Ever since the paradigm shift brought about by the pandemic, Macron has argued for a new approach – a “Paris consensus,” in a reference to the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change – to replace the market-orientated Washington consensus with net zero, sustainable economic development goals. In his view, the metrics used in the past are “not valid any more to fight against poverty, for the decarbonisation of our economy, and for biodiversity”. He is therefore pushing to reform the global architecture to incentivise net zero investments for a sustainable future. Macron’s idea behind the new summit is to give a political boost to an issue all too often discussed only on a technical level, and in silos. No one expects an actual “pact” to be signed, but France – along with the summit’s steering committee, which is composed of states and international organisations – is aiming for a political declaration that would muster firm commitments from world leaders, and force consequences down the line. And world leaders are indeed showing up: the secretary general of the United Nations, the new president of the World Bank, the president of the European Commission, the US Treasury secretary, the president of Brazil, the German chancellor, and the Chinese prime minister are all expected to attend, along with 40 heads of state, one-third of whom will be from Africa. As so often before, Macron hopes to be transformational in record time. The summit planning started with high ambitions, but sources say it has had to adapt due to a lack of time and focus. Initially launched around the Bridgetown initiative of Barbados prime minister Mia Mottley, France had aimed to include topics other than climate, such as health and poverty, and sought a G20 presidency endorsement by India. Unfortunately, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi will be in Washington during the summit and, despite the fact that India is co-chairing the summit’s steering committee and the expected presence of Lula and Li Qiang, the event may not in the end be a show of force for the global south. NGOs have been privately critical of the lack of inclusivity and transparency of the working groups, and disillusionment is running high. Some concrete results could still emerge from the four working groups, if negotiations are successful. Among the ambitions floated are debt suspension clauses for natural disasters, reallocation of special drawing rights, scaling up private capital flows through improved de-risking instruments, freeing up more concessional resources from multilateral development banks, and new international taxes (such as a levy on maritime transport). In an increasingly fragmented world, a united political declaration in support of these changes at the conclusion of the summit would be a win for everyone. However, a more modest but attainable goal from the summit would be the emergence of a “coalition of ambition,” in which a number of committed countries, or “champions,” take on specific challenges and sustain the diplomatic effort beyond the summit in Paris. Many other opportunities to build on momentum created in Paris will shortly follow: the African Climate Action Summit, the SDG summit, the New Delhi G20 Leaders Summit, and COP28 in Dubai. Since this summit has no mandate, it can only be a success if it is able to agree actions that then endure. For global south countries, the gathering should in turn create opportunities to strengthen support for their demands in all these upcoming forums. The success of the Paris summit will also depend on the capacity of states and other major players to take on the challenge – including Europeans. Germany is backing France in this effort, but most Europeans have yet to show their commitment to the process. Thirteen world leaders have penned a declaration of good will in an op-ed ahead of the summit, although without offering specific pledges or a timeframe for results. Unfortunately, the American president will not attend the summit, nor will the Italian, Canadian, or British prime ministers. The choice to stay away may stem from irritation at yet another grandiose French summit. But rich industrialised countries have no excuse for lacking interest in the dire situation of developing and vulnerable countries. It also puts responsibility on France to continue to move the ball forward after the summit – and not be content with the impression that it tried. Even if France may indulge in summit-mania, and however imperfect the event will inevitably turn out to be, Europeans and Americans must realise that France’s solo act is worth supporting. With clear steps taken by France ahead of the summit, such as the reallocation of 30 per cent of its special drawing rights (about €7.8 billion), Macron is defending his concept of an effective multilateralism in action, one that delivers. With Russia seeking to peel global south states away from the West, Europeans and the United States need to take up concrete actions that correct the imbalances of the current system and offer developing countries greater voice and power. By finally accepting that the institutions set up after the second world war must change, they would enhance their own credibility among global south states while escaping multilateralism limbo. The only way to salvage international cooperation – and to push back against the narrative of an inevitable north-south polarisation – is to demonstrate that it bears fruit for all.