By Haider Abbas
The US language is now turning belligerent, with a startling similarity which once was used against Pakistan, in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 attack, when US had threatened Pakistan to be ‘with it or against it’ and the same tone and tenor is again in use, this time, in context to Srilanka as US secretary of state Mike Pompeo visited Srilanka on October 27, 2020, to be followed by Maldives and Indonesia, when hours before it, US principal deputy assistant secretary at the US State Department Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Dean Thompson had said to ‘pick-up a side between China and US’ towards which China took to an obvious exception. The US stand in actuality a stringent message to all the concerned four South Asian countries.
China spelt it out through Global Times, its government organ, on October 26, 2020 1 that US is trying to openly sow discord between Sri Lanka and China, ‘As a sincere friend of the Sri Lankan people, China is happy to see the island developing healthy relations with other countries,” said the statement. “However, we are firmly opposed to the United States taking the opportunity of the State Secretary’s visit to sow and interfere in China-Sri Lanka relations, and to coerce and bully Sri Lanka.’. The Chinese government also ‘urged the US to take a proper attitude to view China-Sri Lanka relations in accordance with the actual needs of the Sri Lankan people and to stop interfering in the domestic and diplomatic affairs of other countries’. It may known that Thompson was quoted as saying, “We encourage Sri Lanka to review the options we offer for transparent and sustainable economic development in contrast to discriminatory and opaque practices. China also questioned the timing of the visit considering Sri Lanka is being asked to host a large delegation from the US which has had more than 8.7 million cases of COVID-19’. Washington is said to have forwarded a strong message to coerce Srilanka, according to ChannelNewsAsia on October 27, 2020 2 to ‘make difficult but necessary choices’ regarding ties with China’
India is already basking in US glory as BECA has been inked with Mike Pompeo which will guarantee US support to India against the probable two-front-war with China and Pakistan and the US move against Sri Lanka just cannot to construed to be nothing short of holding Sri Lanka by the proverbial scruff-of-the-neck despite the fact that China is the largest investor in Srilanka with nearly 15 billion USD, informs GateWayHouse.in 3 and which tends to grow more in size. It was in 2017 when Sri Lanka had leased its Hambantoto Island to China for 99 years which was to be a part of China’s BRI initiative, told TheHindu 4. China, was thereby, forced to throw a hard-choice for Sri Lanka, towards which it had come to rescue in the ‘hour-of-need’ when Sri Lanka was reeling under debt, as the world knows it quite well as to how ‘Sri Lanka had turned towards China rather than IMF to avoid default’ debated Asia.Nikkie on October 12, 2020 5 .
In yet again an editorial in Global Times on October 25, 2020 6 China expressed its demeanour by calling that Pompeo last foreign visit before the US November 3, 2020 elections won’t be a victory lap, ‘The purpose for India to move closer to the US is to increase India’s leverage in negotiating border issues with China. India is China’s neighbor and its strength is weaker than China’s. Will New Delhi stand at the forefront of the US anti-China line? It is not that silly. US-India cooperation may make China unhappy, but it will not exert psychological pressure that could force China to make strategic concessions.
The Maldives and Sri Lanka are two small countries whose interests lie in keeping sound relations with all major powers in order to gain more investment and attract more tourists. The US will not invest in them as they attract few American tourists. China has injected dynamics in the economic development of the two Asian countries, which have no reason to go against China just to cozy up to the US.
Indonesia is the largest country in Southeast Asia. It once bought military jets from the US and had to withstand a cessation in the supply of jet components due to US sanctions. Jakarta will not forget that. It is quite easy for Indonesia to figure out from which country – China or the US – it can gain more respect and development profit. There is no serious dispute over the South China Sea between Jakarta and Beijing, and the two sides have effectively managed their divergences. The core task of Indonesia is to develop itself rather than to confront a certain big country or to act as a US pawn. Jakarta’s wisdom will and shall never be humiliated by a white centralist like Pompeo.
There is a renewed bloc making in the world and the world tends to gear up for a war with worldwide consequences as US is grooming an anti-China front through QUAD, which has Australia, Japan and India in it, while China is also sparring US in its South China Sea, since June 18, 2020 when US had sent three of its aircraft carriers, informed TheEconomicTimes 7 , but, now in an open challenge thrown to US, Russia has signaled to make a military alliance with China, which as per Express.Co.Uk on October 26, 2020 8 is the most potent trumpet blown towards the World War 3.
Pakistan, Turkey, Iran are to be with China while US, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, India, Israel, Taiwan and other European nations are to be in US bloc. It may be ironic that GlobalTimes in the same editorial had called Pompeo a ‘political clown’, who is destined to be ridiculed by history.
Let’s see what holds for after the US November elections ends.
The writer is a former State Information Commissioner, India. He is a media analyst and writes on international politics.