India needs to get off the fence over China: US Senator who heads India Caucus
India needs to get off the fence and consider joining a “coalition of the willing” with the US and other democracies to confront China’s model of state-sponsored “authoritarian capitalism”, leading US Democratic lawmaker Mark Warner has said.
Warner, who was re-elected for a third term in the US Senate in November and is vice chairman of the Senate select committee on intelligence, said despite China’s aggressive military actions and even armed conflict with India in recent months, New Delhi needs to adopt an approach to tackle Beijing that incorporates the military, economic and technological standpoints.
In an online conversation with US-India Strategic Partnership Forum president Mukesh Aghi, Warner also said the Indian government needs to demonstrate to the US and the world “its commitment to democracy in India itself”, and be more aggressive in explaining the changes made to Jammu and Kashmir’s special status last year and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).
‘Terror groups find save haven in Pakistan’: Senator Mark Warner HTLS 2020
India has been reluctant to offend China and adopted a middle course, but this has been challenged by Beijing’s aggressive military actions in the past few months, he said. China has also adopted “authoritarian capitalism”, allowing ferocious domestic competition in technologies such as 5G, artificial intelligence and quantum computing that leads to national champions such as Huawei.
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Firms such as Huawei are then backed by China to dominate global markets, and other nations are unable to “take on the state-sponsored authoritarian capitalism model”, Warner said. India is a leader in technology but it needs to collaborate with other democracies in a “coalition of the willing” to set standards and rules.
“India will need to get off the fence and realise that the authoritarian capitalism model that China is putting out, you can’t be on the fence on that, you have got to decide whether you are going to align with democracies. Clearly India is the world’s largest democracy and I believe it will align with that group,” he said.
There is a proposal for the “five eyes” alliance – Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the US and the UK – to collaborate with partners such as India, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Israel on such issues, and there can be greater engagement on issues such as data localisation and technology for creating a fair playing field, said Warner, who was an early investor in the cellular phone business, co-founded the company that became Nextel and has invested in hundreds of start-ups.
While President Donald Trump was “directionally right” in confronting China, he didn’t offer enough to other nations to partner the US in these efforts, Warner said. He expressed the hope that the Joe Biden administration will remain tough on China while building collaboration with democracies, including those that signed up for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), that focuses on values, norms and global supply chains.
Warner also said the Indian government “has not been...forward leaning” in making its case in the US and around the world about the changes in Kashmir and CAA. There are also concerns about restrictions on travel inside Kashmir, including by foreign journalists, and the internet shutdown.
“I’ve expressed concerns privately to the Indian government on how this is played out and I do think the Indian government’s going to be needing to be more aggressive on making its case and that some of the changes in terms of the Indian federal charter for these two regions will actually mean more advancement and more long-term freedom and not as simply an effort to silence communities that may be Muslim-majority,” he said.
Speaking on the issue of terrorism, Warner said it was an “enormous challenge” that many organisations, such as the Haqqani Network, the Taliban and Islamic State, still have safe havens in Pakistan. India has shown “remarkable restraint” after the 2008 Mumbai attacks and other “actions that obviously originated in Pakistan”, he said.
He also expressed concern about Trump’s arbitrary decision to lower troop levels in Afghanistan before leaving office, saying this leaves 30 other nations and Afghans who joined counter-terrorism in the lurch. There may be short-term gains from Trump’s move but it undermines India’s efforts to strengthen Afghan civil society, he added.
The Biden administration can build on the progress made by the Trump administration, such as the 2+2 dialogue and Australia’s inclusion in this year’s Malabar naval exercise, Warner said. “I think one of the differences is that Donald Trump viewed the whole world through an ‘America first’ foreign policy approach, where you partner with America only if it benefited America’s fiscal bottomline. I think there will be under the Biden admin...more [of] a notion, particularly as we think about China and some of the other questions, [of] a coalition of the willing,” he said.