Letter from the Editor | November 2018

An unexpected storm hit India in October in the form of a pushback by women against sexual harassment at workplace under the banner of #MeToo. Starting with the entertainment industry, it swamped the media and moved towards the corporate sector by the time this issue went to print. Though the Indian armed forces remained untouched by this, it is only a matter of time before tumultuous winds start to knock down a window or two in one of the most definitive citadels of patriarchy and patriarchy-inflected propriety.

Though not amongst the subjects that FORCE would normally look at, this time we have made an exception for the sake of justice, fair-play and equal opportunity, especially when the armed forces have agreed to the government’s directive of granting women permanent commission in the services. Executive editor Ghazala Wahab has written an exhaustive piece on this subject.

The focus of the issue, however, is on the recently concluded Beijing Xiangshan Forum, to which I was invited by the People Liberation Army (PLA). I had last attended the Forum in 2016, when it was not prefixed with city’s name that hosts it. At that time, the PLA which organises and runs the Forum was more cautious than assertive in expressing its interests not only in the South China Sea but in global affairs as a whole. Last year, the Forum was deferred as Chinese President Xi Jinping had invited the world to his Belt and Road party.

Held after two years, the Forum acquired a new name and a new attitude, something akin to the Chinese philosophy of competitive cooperation. So while on the one hand, it pulled no punches in asserting that all is calm in the South China Sea (thereby saying that this round has been won by Beijing against the US), on the other hand, it emphasised its commitment towards global peace and prosperity through its progressively growing participation, both by way of personnel and funds, in the United Nations Peacekeeping activities across the globe. China has long been accused of upending international institutions. At Beijing Xiangshan Forum it told the assembled delegates that not only was it committed to them, it was financing them too!

India, unfortunately, continues to downplay the Forum. In an extremely detailed account of the Forum, I write why this is emerging as one of the most important conferences in our region and how we ignore it at our own peril. This is one place where one gets as good an exposure as possible to the PLA’s way of thinking; and what its immediate neighbourhood thinks about it.

In addition to this are our regular features, news and reports. Enjoy the issue.


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