It’s been an interesting week in India. A heat wave took temperatures up to 117 degrees in the sweltering north. An earthquake shook the northeastern state of Manipur as a massive cyclone slammed into coastal Odisha. Swarms of locusts have descended on cities and farms across the northwest. Record numbers of new cases were reported in India’s rapidly escalating Covid-19 epidemic. Meanwhile, villagers in Kashmir spotted and captured a “spy pigeon” with a coded message attached to a ring on its leg. As the code has not yet been broken, the pigeon’s mission remains unknown. Despite both a costly lockdown and a continuing surge in new Covid cases, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues to dominate the political scene, with approval ratings of 80% or more in recent polls.
With the emerging cold war between the U.S. and China threatening to become the new central axis of world politics, the subcontinent has been pulled into the storm. Chinese and Indian troops have clashed this spring and the standoff continues. Pakistan is among the largest recipients of Chinese Belt and Road Initiative investments. Swallowing whatever qualms the Islamists among Pakistan’s leadership have about the plight of the Uighurs, the country has turned increasingly to China for aid, trade and diplomatic support. That is hardly surprising. With a population of 212 million and a gross domestic product of $325 billion, Pakistan can only maintain its rivalry with India (population 1.35 billion, GDP $2.7 trillion) with the help of a great-power ally.
American strategists, meanwhile, are anxiously—and correctly—keeping a close watch on India’s development. A wealthy, powerful and democratic India would help frustrate China’s hegemonic ambitions and substantially offset Chinese influence in Central Asia, Southeast Asia and Africa. The stronger India becomes the less the U.S. must contribute to a balancing coalition of India, Japan, Australia and Vietnam that keeps Chinese ambitions in check.
Read the full article in the Wall Street Journal