The events unfolding in terms of military deployment and military exercises by US in South China sea are a clear sign that any small spark is to lead to triggering a war between US and China as US is slated for its elections where Trump wants to hone a point to US citizens that in order to contain China all the Americans need is a more and more aggressive Trump. US has already stationed two of its aircraft carriers in South China sea, Ronald Reagan and Nimitz, since July 4, 2020 1 , which are engaged into reconnaissance inside the boundary of China.
China which had been keeping a keen eye on its south sea, since from quite a few years, as US provocations are not that new, in one of its nationalistic, which US calls as a state newspaper, Global Times, had in its editorial called US a ‘Paper-Tiger’ on July 13, 2016 2 , and has now called US as an ‘Alpha-Wolf’ on July 12, 2020, four years hence, as US has now started to fully-arm Japan against China regarding which China has called for Russia to jointly-work for the challenge thrown by US. ‘The US State Department on July 9, 2020 had approved a planned purchase by Japan of 105 F-35 joint strike fighters, including 63 F-35A conventional takeoff and landing aircraft, plus 42 F-35B short takeoff and landing variants. They’re worth US$23 billion. If Japan moves the deal forward, it will become the largest operator of this type of joint strike fighter outside of the US with a total of 147 F-35s. Japan thinks it faces pressure from China and Russia in the Asia-Pacific region as both Beijing and Moscow have developed a more advanced fourth and fifth generation fighter jets. It is a normal choice for Tokyo to purchase F-35s to offset its disadvantage’. In the same editorial China referred US as not a tiger – neither a real one nor a paper one. A tiger doesn’t call for help in a fight. But Washington is a wolf. Wolves always go hunt in group. And as an alpha wolf, it is leading a so-called international coalition with wolf pack tactics’. 3 It may be known that F-35 is a stealth-fighter and the same bombers were used by Israel against Iran to bomb its nuclear facility on July 3, 2020 as they had remained undetected 4 .
US as a mark of intelligence-gathering is engaged into its tactics all across the whole of South China sea, and Russia in keeping to its promise, on July 11, 2020, intercepted a US reconnaissance spy aircraft which flew over the sea of Japan or what can also be called as international-waters or airspace, and was said to have been close to China’s border5, and as it was heading towards the Russian airspace, the Russian Sukhoi Su-35S and MiG-31 BM intercepted it mid-air and identified it as RC-135 strategic reconnaissance aircraft of the US Air Force, which made a retreat to move out of Russian airspace 6. The aircraft is said to be one of the very powerful US assets as its range service ceiling is more than 5000 kms 7 and Russia informed China about the same making China go on a high alert, and also, with a plain reminder to US that Russia and China are comrade-in-arms.
This F-35 is what is ‘most-sought-after’ intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft and China, in a move to balance Rafael Jets supplied to India 8, has decided to supply its counter-balance to Pakistan its J-31 fighter jet 9 . The Chinese version is also cost effective as it costs 70 million USD, in comparison to F-35 of US which costs 79 million USD and Rafael for 77 million USD. 10 US has however, for long accused China to have stolen its technology to make J-31 and the latest accusation has come from US former national security advisor John Bolton on September 2, 2019 11. China in yet another move has put an embargo on Lockheed Martin, the gargantuan American defense contractor to sell arms to Taiwan 12. It also needs a mention here that more than five years back in 2015, with reference of Edward Snowden, a former US national security agency contractor, The Diplomat , had broken the story that China had whisked-away the US technology to help make its version of its fifth-generation F-35 13. Russia too had been into praises for the Chinese effort as Vladimir Barkovsky, chief of the Russian MiG aircraft design bureau, praised the J-31 as a “well done indigenous design” on May 22, 2014 14 , giving a fillip to China’s ambitious aviation industry. There are already reports that US offer for its F-35 jets to India may be on the cards provided India cancels its S-400 strategic air-defense system with Russia 15 and also to counter Pakistan in the race to achieve stealth fighter jets.
India is now quite sucked into the duel between US on one side and China-Russia on the other as India had long abandoned the Soviet Bloc and has been into naval-exercises with US, Australia etc in South Chiba sea since around a decade, hence, US now finds it more complacent to blackmail India to its liking. It hasn’t been that long when during the COVID-19 outbreak US had threatened India over the supply of Hydroxycholoroquine on April 7, 202016 , when India had shown some dilly-dally into supplying it to US, and with sanctions on May 21, 2020 if India goes ahead to buy S-400 from Russia 17 , and now on July 16, 2020, India’s prominent security expert Sumit Ganguly, has written in Foreign Policy 18 , a premier US magazine, that in order to fight China US wants India to forget Russia. This is because of the fact that in the immediate aftermath of the Galwan Valley attack of June 15, 2020, in which India lost 20 of its soldiers to China, Indian defense minister Rajnath Singh had visited Moscow and inked a 2.4 billion USD arms deal with Russia, in extension, to what India had already struck for S-400 with Russia last year on November 15, 2019 19. This purported proposal from US has come, in-between an undeniable fact, that 60 percent of arms arsenal of India is either of Soviet or Russian made . ‘Not surprisingly, India remains reliant on Russia for spare parts and upgrades for a disproportionate segment of its armory’, said the article.
India therefore has been given a message that the dual ‘Love’ which Trump espouses for China and India alike 20, can thus be re-assuaged if India forgoes Russia, which is too much of a hard task as procuring world-class- weaponry from Russia is pretty much easier than from US where it is subject to Congress scrutiny, and moreover, India has been for around 50 years remained with Soviets, but then, Russia, since the break of Soviet Union, has not shown any inclination to work as a bulwark against China, as what was once vouched by Kremlin in the pre-Gorbachev days. Plus, adding to it, Russia in the past decade or so had been adrift with Afghan Taliban who are India’s nemesis. But then, Russia, also has no doubt, helped India into defusing the volatile situation arising with China in the past few months.
India surely has invested too much with US as voices from inside India about India’s nightmare of a two-front war with Pakistan and China as yet to wake-up US 21 are coming hard and clear, but on the contrary John Bolton has already warned India that Trump would not back India in case of a war with China 22 . Thus, the overall situation has landed India in a real catch-22 position as leaving Russia, at this juncture at the behest of US, will also obviously make Russia slide completely towards Pakistan as it has been China in the background which helped Pakistan start to construct its liaison with Russia. Taking advantage of India in such an insolvable quandary, US is definitely going to throttle down our throat the Lockheed Martin products i.e. F-35.
The writer is a former UP State Information Commissioner. He is also a lawyer based in Lucknow.