Letter from the Editor | May 2023

The high point of April was the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s (SCO) defence ministers’ meeting in New Delhi. Given the way the Narendra Modi government has carpet-bombed the nation with advertisements about India’s one-year presidency of the G-20 forum, one can be excused for not remembering that India also holds the presidency for SCO this year. Perhaps, downplaying of SCO has been deliberate. With members like China and Pakistan, India has been at odds in the organisation led by China and Russia which works by consensus; hence everybody willy-nilly has to come on the same page.

No wonder before the defence ministers’ meeting in New Delhi, speculation was rife over the physical presence of the Chinese minister, especially after it was known that his Pakistani counterpart would attend the meeting virtually. However, the Chinese defence minister Li Shangfu came. And his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh made it clear in no uncertain terms that he was not welcome. Not only Singh refused to shake his hand, but he also lectured him on bilateral relations, intrinsically linking them with the border issue.

The cover story this month looks at this crucial meeting and what it portends for India and overall dynamics in our region. The FORCE story highlights how the purported snub to China would further deteriorate relations between the two nations and by extension between India and Russia, especially when the latter has been working closely with Beijing in crafting a new world order quite distinct from the one shaped by the US-led West after the end of the Cold War. The biggest evidence of this has been the gravitating of Saudi Arabia towards east, from west. Saudi Arabia is also building bridges of cooperation with Iran, its former adversary. No matter how much one underplays it, these are big geopolitical changes.

India’s western neighbour Pakistan has been geopolitically adrift since former prime minister Imran Khan was ousted from office. Since then, it has been trying to balance it ties between China and the US, hoping to get the best of both worlds. Our guest columnist from Pakistan dwells on this dilemma, wondering if riding two horses is at all possible in an increasingly polarized world.

The other big story this month is the shocker about India’s jerky artillery modernization programme, which seems to have been sacrificed at the altar of ‘aatmanirbharta’, especially at a time when land-based firepower is a critical requirement. There is also an article on the need for India to invest in secure and hardened networks, alongside one that profiles the continuous growth of PLA’s sensors geared to target enemy’s networks.

Perhaps, this will force some deep thinking among Indian policymakers who are getting carried away by the US narrative of the ocean, when the threat is on the land. Happy reading.




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