Blinken as new US Secretary of State to push India UN role and closer ties

Antony Blinken, US President-elect Joe Biden’s closest foreign policy adviser, has been nominated for Secretary of State.

What will be the Biden-Blinken approach to India?

India a “High priority relationship”

On July 9, Blinken spoke at the Hudson Institute, Washington DC. “Strengthening and deepening the relationship with India is going to be a very high priority.”

Biden role

“During the Bush administration, then Senator Biden partnered with that administration to help get the peaceful nuclear cooperation agreement, the 123 agreement through the United States Senate, usually important to solidifying our relationship,” Blinken said.

Defence Cooperation

Blinken talked about the Biden administration making India a “major defence partner”. This is a major new statement on defence.

Paris Climate Change Pact

“Having sort of set that foundation and made the relationship stronger, guess what? We then worked hard to persuade India that it would be more prosperous and more secure if it’s signed on to the Paris Climate Agreement. We succeeded… It was a challenging effort but Vice President Biden was one of the leaders of the effort to convince our partners in India and they did. I think that’s a reflection, again, of the fact that we cannot solve common global challenges without India as part of the deal,” Blinken said. 

Kashmir & CAA

Blinken flagged concerns on the human rights situation in Kashmir and the Citizenship Amendment Act.

India leading role in UN

On August 15, Blinken again participated in a panel discussion on Indo-US ties and flagged the issue of UN reforms. “In a Biden administration, we would be an advocate for India to play a leading role in international institutions and that includes helping India get a seat on a United Nations Security Council,” he said.

China challenge

“We have a common challenge which has to deal with an increasingly assertive China across the board, including its aggression toward India…I think you’d see Joe Biden as president investing in ourselves, renewing our democracy, working with our close partners like India, asserting our values and engaging China from a position of strength. India has to be a key partner in that effort,” he said.

Cross-border terrorism

Blinken also addressed New Delhi’s concern of cross-border terrorism, without naming Pakistan. “We would work together to strengthen India’s defence and also I might add its capabilities as a counterterrorism partner.”

Biden’s vision 2020

Blinken quoted Biden from 2006 — just before he was going to take charge as the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2007-2009 — “My dream is that in 2020, the two closest nations in the world will be India and the United States.”

Can China become a likeable, trusted power?

China is living in a hostile external environment – mostly of its own making.

Recent aggressive rhetoric plus trade restrictions on Australia and border battles with India are leading examples of how China is projecting itself and the world is worried.

But China also means to become moderately prosperous by 2035. It will need to overcome global misgivings if this is to be achieved.

Andrew K.P. Leung is an independent China strategist and has written about this for the South China Morning Post.

Here are 10 steps China should take, according to Leung

First, get the message firmly across that China is neither able nor willing to unseat the US as the global superpower. China cannot compete with America, which has a military presence in 80 countries and whose military expenditure is 38 per cent of the global total – more than the next 10 countries’ combined.

Second, cut out the wolf warrior rhetoric, whether in diplomacy or on social media.

Third, work with the US and the World Health Organization to end the global pandemic.

Fourth, actively cooperate with the Biden administration on climate change.

Fifth, conduct regular joint naval patrols with the US forces in wider waters of the South China Sea.

Sixth, set aside territorial disputes and work with neighbouring countries in the South China Sea on the joint management and exploration of natural resources, including fisheries, habitats and deep-sea energy resources.

Seventh, embrace free and fair trade. For starters, seek to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which a Biden presidency may wish to join too.

Eighth, China should help North Korea become a rising economic powerhouse like Vietnam.

Ninth, reform the Belt and Road Initiative. Make it more transparent and include more participants.

Tenth, meet more milestones on the path to reform and opening up, whether or not they have been set in the 14th five-year plan – including issues like market reciprocity, state-owned enterprise subsidies, transparency, rule of law, human rights and goals including technological self-reliance and quality growth.

Leung writes that China has vowed to double the size of its economy and become moderately prosperous by 2035.

China is unlikely to act on Leung’s 10 suggestions – but to move on some would send positive signals to the world.

Andrew K.P. Leung is an independent China strategist. 

 andrewkpleung@gmail.com

7 fatal mistakes in Indian market entry

India is super exciting, vibrant, colourful and amazingly friendly. People are accessible and available. Deals can be signed and MOU’s are much loved. The population of over 1.2 billion is soon to become the largest in the world and is soon to overtake China.

While India will probably not be “another China”, it is becoming a global power in its own right and an economy that will soon not be too far behind the USA and China.

So, it makes sense to be there real quick, yes?

YES be there – but watch out for these fatal mistakes

  1. Trying to do the whole country at once will exhaust and confuse you – even Indian companies take years to cover it. Select your best one or two points of entry and the rest will follow.

2. Going in quick on price might seem exciting – but who is actually winning out of this deal? You become a disposable and cheaper provider – so your future is very short term.

3. Appointing the first person who says “yes” seems exciting and then nothing happens. Later you might work out every Indian says “yes” – in their culture, they have to. It takes time to find a “yes” that is real.

4. Focusing on injustice, slums, inequality and the Indian way might be something you think is important but of course it is pretty offensive to your hosts. Sure the traffic is diabolical, but there is no benefit in whinging.

5. A short time frame such as one year is a real killer for Indian market entry. It needs to be a minimum 3 years. If you cannot give it time, go somewhere else.

6. Going it alone sounds brave – but is stupid and wasteful. India is all about relationships and collaborations. And you will need “hand holding” by someone who knows the ropes.

7. Ignoring cultural differences is a recipe for misunderstanding and disappointment. Cultural differences between India and the west are massive – and what we have in common is also massive. You need to understand them both.

How did India miss out on being part of the world’s biggest trading bloc?

India is missing from the world’s biggest trade bloc which has just been formed – 15 countries representing 2.2 billion people have signed on to a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Talks on RCEP began in 2012 and it has now created a bloc which accounts for about one third of the world economy.

This is a massive new initiative for global trade.

India and the USA have missed out – India because of concerns for farmers produce, and the USA because President Trump pulled the pin on the concept.

India is the mystery case in the region because opting out of RCEP is not going to help its economy. Concerns over lower tariffs hurting local producers won the day and India moved out of the deal.

Did India also withdraw because the relations between India and China are sour, with border disputes and other issues on the rise?

But India could ultimately join RCEP – the doors for India to join the bloc will remain open in future, according to the participant countries.

Otherwise, India looks like being one of the two big losers in this move.

The RCEP group is composed of the 10 Southeast Asian (ASEAN) countries along with China, South Korea, Japan, New Zealand and Australia.

Vietnam “hosted” the final deal online and said the deal will help to lower trade tariffs between the participant countries, over time, and is less comprehensive than the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

“RCEP will soon be ratified by signatory countries and take effect, contributing to the post-COVID pandemic economic recovery,” said Nguyen Xuan Phuc, prime minister of Vietnam.

The actual legacy of President Donald Trump’s “America First” withdrawal from multilateralism and deals like TPP and RCEP could be a declining US role in world trade.

In contrast, China could be the big winner – experts say that this pact is a testament of China’s strong influence in the region.

The RCEP will lower or eliminate tariffs on various goods and services, although the scope of the agreement—essentially an extension of free trade under existing frameworks—is limited.

So, what is the biggest benefit of RCEP? The pact will create so-called rules of origin, which make it easier for companies to set up supply chains spanning multiple countries.

This is super important – it will be much easier to manufacture and sell goods in the region once RCEP comes into force.

India and Australia have a trade relationship that can grow

A great source of information about Asia is ASIALINK here in Australia – and for those interested in India their INDIA STARTER PACK is valuable.

Australia’s economic relationship with India has expanded significantly in recent years – particularly exports of minerals and energy, as well as our provision of education services to tens of thousands of Indian students.

We now have the basis to do more. It will take some marketing creativity and a realisation that brand “Australia” goes down well in India.

Two-way goods and services trade between Australia and India totalled AUD 27.4 billion in 2017. Major Australian exports to India included coal (AUD 9.2 billion), education-related travel (AUD 3.4 billion) and vegetables (AUD 1.38 billion). Our main imports from India were refined petroleum (AUD 1.6 billion), medicines (AUD 335 million), pearls and gems (AUD 274 million) railway vehicles (AUD 199 million). 

The total value of Australian goods exports to India for 2017 was AUD 15.7 billion, making it our fifth-largest goods export market. We exported an additional AUD 4.4 billion in services to India, a figure primarily made up of education-related travel services and other personal travel.

Time to review your India market entry strategy? Let’s talk.

Australia shows what happens when you get the Chinese offside

There is a covert diplomatic trade war between Australia and China, and it is showing the world how China responds when it takes offence or simply does not like your diplomatic stance.

First, responses from China are random and arbitrary – making it hard to respond.

Second, communication about trade bans is always informal and difficult to clarify.

Third, unexplained checks on products slow trade down or lead to damaged goods.

Examples of this use of checks to pursue trade reprisals include looking for weeds in barley, questionable metallic levels in lobsters, or bugs in timber. An aligned strategy includes the Chinese allegations of Australian producers dumping wine, tariff threats on cotton and talk of curbs on Australian copper and coal.

Iron ore – Australia’s major export – is so far not involved.

For Australia, exports to China dominate the economy. Consider these figures of “the top 5” where Australia exports:

China A$150 billion

Japan $52 billion

South Korea $25 Billion

USA $17 billion

UK $15 billion

The world is watching this trade dispute – and learning how China goes about it.

India stepping forward in regional security

Thirteen years can be a long time in regional security and diplomacy.

It is thirteen years since the Quadrilateral security dialogue (or the Quad) between the officials of Australia, India, Japan and the US, gave in to Chinese coercion.

This year it is back and potentially stronger.

India has decided to stand strong, as it becomes a significant regional power. It is again leading the Quad in the Malabar series of naval exercises in the Bay of Bengal – the exercises aim to support an “open and prosperous Indo-Pacific”.

In 2007 countries like India and Australia gave in to Chinese pressure and pulled out of the exercises – China then described the Quad as an “Asian NATO” designed solely to contain China.

The Malabar series of naval exercises is a complex annual fixture with ships, aircraft and submarines of the Indian, US, Australia and Japanese navies exercising alternately in the Indian and the Western Pacific Oceans.

India is different from the other Quad members in that it shares a land border with China – so in that way, it has most at risk in stirring up the Chinese. To put it in perspective, this border is the world’s longest unsettled boundary. Recent military escalation along the border has caused global concern.

All four members of the Quad know that China might “punish” them in response to the Malabar exercises, but they are going ahead anyway.

One narrative is driving most of the strategic decisions and activities in the Indian Ocean region – and that is the need to respond to China. China is seen as the only major power acting to the detriment of the order and stability of the region.

Most feel that attempts to appease China have only led to increased belligerence and a disrespect for diplomatic avenues. Hence, the Quad. And hence, India is stepping forward.

India and Japan closely watching USA elections


India and Japan might feel better about regional affairs if Biden wins the Presidency of the USA next week.

Why? Because neither country feels comfortable with the bombast and cold war rhetoric emerging from the Trump Administration and US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

Even Australia, which is often too keen to outdo the US, was cautious in response to Pompeo and alluded to our interest in a good relationship with China.

These are some of the key points I take from a recent very thoughtful analysis by John McCarthy AO, a Senior Advisor to Asialink and former Australian Ambassador to the United States, Indonesia, Japan, and High Commissioner to India.

McCarthy makes the point that Pompeo went much further than Japan or India would like when he told the recent Quad meeting in Tokyo that they should “build out a true security framework”.

McCarthy wrote: “Apart from not sharing Pompeo’s buccaneer spirit, Japan continues to seek some equilibrium in its relations with China and has constitutional issues with security groupings. And while India continues to have serious border issues with China, it shows no inclination to veer from its doctrine of Strategic Autonomy.”

“If the Quad is to be in our interests, it has to be a cautious Quad. It is acknowledged—at least formally—by Quad members that ASEAN remains central to regional interstate architecture,” he said.

McCarthy also illustrated how “cause and effect” works in diplomacy: “The more the Quad develops a distinct identity, the greater the risk of growing regional fracturing between three groups—China, the Quad, and ASEAN—possibly with China pulling at Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, and the Quad pulling at Vietnam. This will make it all the harder to develop even the loose regional approaches on managing China’s rise-particularly on the South China Sea.”

Important to note, as McCarthy does in his conclusion, that Biden’s main priority on election would be to get his own house in order.

That, at least, would yield positive outcomes for us all and be a relief from the bombast.

India boosts Quad naval cooperation as China hostility continues

New defence ties in the Indian Ocean region are rolling out on a regular basis – the latest one reports Australia will join three-way Malabar naval exercises – involving the United States, Japan and India.

Australia left the program after participating in 2007 – leaving following some strong criticism from China.

The move back by Australia shows how much regional attitudes to China have changed.

This new move could raise concerns in China, which has criticised similar joint drills as “destabilising”. China has been slamming import restrictions on Australian cola, cotton, wine and other products.

In contrast to declining relations with China, Australian PM Morrison and Indian PM Modi are working closely together.

India took the initiative of inviting Australia back in a sign of cooperation between the “Quad” countries.

The Malabar exercises are held in the Bay of Bengal.

The joint drills are super significant because they are the first concrete action of the Quad grouping.

China has denounced the Quad as an attempt to contain its development.

India’s decision on expanding the exercises comes at a time when it is locked in a military stand-off on the disputed land border with China.

7 ways “culture” can be what helps or hinders westerners and Indians working together

Disputes over contracts and plans

Most westerners place a high importance on rules, laws, regulations and contracts. They are almost “set in stone” and apply without exception. Most importantly, rules come before relationships – even if it is a family member. Variations to agreement cause confusion and even anger.

In Asia and especially in India, there are all the rules and contracts and so on, but the common view is that each circumstance and each relationship is different, so the rule may or may not apply. It becomes a moment by moment thing. Variations to agreements are taken for granted and fully expected to happen.

How does this work in business? For many westerners, any change to a contract becomes a time to consult the lawyers and can be a relationship ending event. For Asians, change is expected and accepted.

Why western individualism hits the collective wall

Even children are encouraged to make their own decisions in the west – including on courses, careers and most definitely on choice of partner. Under individualism, you make your choices and must take care of yourself – and in some countries this is harshly applied, in others there is a more compassionate welfare safety net.

Most Asian families make decisions for their children, including courses, careers and partners. The view is that the group – the family and so on – is more important than the individual. In return, the group looks after any member at time of need.

How does this work in business? An American is ready to sign the deal now – but the Asian partner wants time to talk to colleagues and ensure a group decision. Pressure versus group consultation.

Why westerners misunderstand indirect communication

In the west people can work together without having a good relationship and direct communication is highly valued. In fact, any indirect communication – going around the bush – creates mistrust in the other or is simply missed by the westerner. They just want the facts – a simple “yes” or “no” will do.

In India there is an overlap between work and personal life and they choose indirect communication because their major concern is to keep the relationship. Being direct such as saying “no” is difficult.

How does this work in business? People in the west keep work and personal lives separate so are less likely to socialise with Asian colleagues – or any colleagues – after work.

Why some hide face, while others save it

Most westerners make a big effort to hide emotions – this varies of course. They see “reason” as more important than “feelings”, so they often keep thoughts to themselves.

In Asia, spontaneous emotional responses can break out and this often surprises westerners. Saving face can become the most important thing.

How does this work in business? An Asian colleague will give or expect some emotional outbursts but is also looking for the following harmony.

Why becoming someone clashes with born something

Westerners value people by what they do or what they have achieved. Performance is king, no matter who you are.

Asian culture generally values people for who they are, so power, title and respect matter greatly, but of course the person should behave according to this status.

How does this work in business? Westerners will often “high five” with everyone including junior colleagues and everyone gets in to share the celebration, while in Asia the leader might receive most of the credit.

Why order dominates the western mind

“Order’ is highly prized in the west. That means doing things on schedule, being punctual, sticking to your plans and a “time is money” view of most things. They react badly to any disturbance to the smooth schedule.

“Time” is viewed differently across Asia, with the past, present and future seen as interwoven and so plans and commitments are more flexible.

How does this work in business? This different view of schedules and time causes relationship breakdowns and can see the end of the deal.

Why westerners feel in control of everything, including climate change

“Control” is big in the west – to the extent they see people as controlling nature or the environment, down to how they work with teams and with the organisation. Conflict is fine so long as the job gets done.

Asian cultures see nature and the environment more as controlling them – events, circumstances are in control more than the team. Conflict is avoided even at the expense of timely delivery.

How does this work in business? Westerners will need to give more reassurance and feedback to their Asian teams and setting clear objectives becomes paramount for both sides.

Adapting via Cross-Cultural Understanding Courses

These cultural differences can have big impacts, but with learning and adaptability, both sides can find they quickly work well, understand more and feel better about how things are going. Cultural understanding provides quick and positive results. Cultural ignorance can be the deal breaker. My “Cross-Culture Understand” training program can set you on the right course – whether an Indian wanting to engage the west, or westerner wanting to engage India.

Stephen Manallack speaking at the Australia India Address