TTT New Delhi – Africa is not completely on board with the fact that the coronavirus that spread around the world last year was the handiwork of China.
And with China now plastering its fractured image in 49 of the 54 countries on the continent in pushing its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) Beijing is also covertly becoming the bellwether of establishing military bases on the continent.
India, however, is not at all happy at China’s latest moves half a world away when it has its own domestic issues to deal with vis-a-vis Baijing; the latest being an emergence of new coronavirus cases has forced it to cancel all New Years’s Eve live events on the back of a missive by the Beijing Bureau of Culture and Tourism ‘discouraging travel agencies and online tourism sites from organising group tours’.
China is now baiting African countries into accepting a ‘handshake‘ for bridging the gap between delayed completion of infrastructure, and balancing national deficits, in return for military cooperation.
Ironically, China has offered no assistance in controlling the mutant coronavirus strain now adding to over a million recorded COVID cases in South Africa.
And for some reason, according to an article by Shannon Tiezzi, Editor-in-Chief of The Diplomat, (the) African publics (sic) do not seem to be blaming China for the pandemic’ and the resurgence of Chinese economic activity will be seen positively as it will contribute to increased demand for African exports.
Infrastructure financing is actually an increasingly recognised ‘debt trap’ modus operandi used by China in exchange for its economic and military favours.
The debt for equity of Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port is a meaningful example.
According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), China excused ‘Sri Lanka’s US$8 billion debt in exchange for a 99-year lease of the port in 2017.
There are real reasons to criticize China’s actions along the Belt and Road, ranging from an expanding military agenda, psychological and political influence campaigns toting the benefits of authoritarianism, and the use of telecommunications technology to surveil other governments.’
India meanwhile is upset over China’s attempts at strategic militarization in Africa which, defence experts here believe, may boomerang to effect more tension at the Indo-China border.
A war-like situation may surface once more at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) immediately after the winter snows melt they claim.
Former Lt. General Sanjay Kulkarni told an Indian television news channel that China is not in the mood to exit from the Ladakh area as talks between the two have failed in bringing about a mutually beneficial solution.
There is also the likelihood of an increase in tensions in the South China Sea with the region becoming a flash point involving Japan, the United States and Taiwan – nations expected to join hands to retaliate against China’s claims of ‘ownership’ of the area under its opaque nine-dash line claims.
Just this week more US Navy warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait, and British Royal Navy vessels are expected in the region soon.
The role of this QUAD – Japan, Australia, India, and the United States – is thus being seen as a major hurdle for China to somehow overcome much closer to home than Africa.
For now though, as we move into the first few days of 2021, all eyes here in India are on the deployment of Indian forces at Chikshul in Ladakh – a place China sees as its gateway to Indian territory.