U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan visit has kicked off a major security and diplomatic crisis with China conducing live military exercises around the self-ruled island and freezing cooperation at multiple levels with Washington. China sees Taiwan as a breakaway province that will be reunited with the country in future, and a vast majority of countries, including the U.S. and India, have adhered to the ‘One China policy’. China opposes visits by foreign officials to Taiwan because it thinks Taiwan, as a province, doesn’t have the right to conduct its foreign policy. European and American legislators have still visited the island despite Chinese opposition. But Ms. Pelosi’s visit was the most high profile visit by an American official in a quarter century, which triggered unprecedented response from China.
During the military drills in six regions surrounding Taiwan, Chinese ships and jets breached the median line of the Taiwan Strait several times and effectively enforced a blockade in the regions. Some of the exercises were conducted in the waters claimed by Taiwan. Moreover, Chinese missiles flew over the island. Taiwan said the drills were a possible “simulated attack”. China has also sanctioned Ms. Pelosi and cancelled or suspended eight key dialogue mechanisms with the U.S. As tensions were rising, India maintained a studied silence. Officials and experts said New Delhi’s decision not to comment on the situation is a “carefully decided” one, aimed at ensuring India does not wish to cause a controversy with China at a sensitive time in border talks, but doesn’t wish to claim allegiance to the “One China policy”, either, report Suhasini Haidar and Ananth Krishnan.
To understand the historical context of the crisis, see this profile of Taiwan written by Ananth Krishnan--The next flashpoint in the U.S.-China contest. The Hindu, in this editorial, writes about both the tactical and strategic pictures of the crisis: “For Taiwan’s 23 million people and for President Tsai Ing-wen, the rare high-profile foreign visit was no doubt welcome in the face of increasing global isolation on account of China’s pressure. That short-term benefit may, however, be offset by the fact that Ms. Pelosi has arguably left Taiwan with a far worse strategic environment,” it writes.
Death of a terrorist
On August 1, Monday, President Joe Biden announced that a U.S. drone strike had killed al-Qaeda’s ‘Emir’ Ayman al-Zawahiri the previous day in Kabul. Zawahiri, the Egyptian doctor-turned-terrorist-in-chief, had been the leader of al-Qaeda ever since Osama bin Laden was killed in an American commando raid in Pakistan’s Abottabad in 2011. Unnamed American officials told the media that Zawahiri, who was hiding in Pakistan, crossed the border to Afghanistan earlier this year, months after the Taliban took over the country. U.S. intelligence officials who tracked his safe house watched him for months to establish a pattern of life and then carried out the strike. An American drone fired two hell-fire missiles when Zawahiri appeared in the balcony of his safe house in downtown Kabul on Sunday morning, killing him instantly.
The killing was a counter-terror victory for the Biden administration, but it also raised several questions on the Taliban’s commitment to the Doha agreement, The Hindu writes in this editorial. “The withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan was based on the Doha agreement, under which, the Taliban promised to cut all ties with terrorist organisations... Given the history of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, it is difficult to believe that Zawahiri was living in one of the wealthiest quarters of Kabul without the knowledge of the Taliban leadership ,” it writes.
The tale of two ships
In a first, a U.S. Navy Ship, Charles Drew, arrived in India for carrying out repairs and allied services at Larsen & Toubro’s (L&T) Shipyard at Kattupalli, Chennai, on Sunday adding a new dimension to the fast expanding Indo-U.S. strategic partnership, Dinakar Peri reports. At the India-U.S. 2+2 in April, both sides agreed to explore the possibilities of utilising Indian shipyards for the repair and maintenance of ships of the U.S. Maritime Sealift Command to support mid-voyage repair of U.S. Naval ships.
While the U.S. Navy ship will be at the Indian shipyard for 11 days, the planned arrival of a Chinese research ship in Sri Lanka has created geopolitical tremors in South Asia. Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defence had confirmed last week that the Chinese vessel had sought clearance to anchor at the Chinese-run Hambantota Port. The Yuan Wang 5, en route from the Chinese port of Jiangyin, was expected to reach Hambantota on August 11. However, according to an AFP report, the Sri Lankan government asked China to indefinitely delay the ship’s visit in the face of objections from India. In a written request, the Sri Lanka Foreign Ministry told the Chinese Embassy in Colombo not to go ahead with the visit, as per the report. Amidst the controversy, China’s Ambassador in Colombo Qi Zhenhong met Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Saturday to discuss the matter, Meera Srinivasan reports.
India and Afghanistan
As Afghanistan is nearing the first anniversary of the Taliban takeover, the newly reopened Indian Embassy in Kabul is expected to increase its operations in Afghanistan, with the “technical team” posted there in June focusing on business and trade opportunities and distribution of food and medical aid, report Suhasini Haidar and Vikaita Singh. Sources told The Hindu that more than 60 personnel were now stationed at the embassy and residential compound.
The Top 5
- Why is Taiwan caught between U.S. and China?: What is the ‘One China Policy’? Why has U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island angered China? Ananth Krishnan explains in The Hindu FAQ.
- A California liberal who angered communist China: The U.S. House Speaker, face of the Democratic Party for decades, kicked off a diplomatic storm in U.S.-China relations by visiting Taiwan, writes G. Sampath in The Hindu Profiles.
- Teaching the Taliban the wrong lessons: The world appears to have highlighted that short-sighted tactics, and not strategic vision, will decide the future.
- Lessons for India from the Taiwan standoff: New Delhi must note that Taiwan’s close economic links with China have not stopped Taipei from asserting its rights, writes Happymon Jacob.
- Who was al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri?: How was Zawahiri’s stint as leader of the terrorist outfit different from that of his predecessor Osama bin Laden?, explains Stanly Johny in The Hindu Text and Context.