Ukraine redux

As a US C-40C transport jet touched down at Taipei’s Songshan Air Base on the eve of 2nd August and Nancy Pelosi landed in Taiwan for the first time, there has been sabre rattling across the Taiwan Strait and things are heating up. Is Taiwan going to become the next battleground for a power struggle between China and the US, is it becoming Ukraine redux? This is a million-dollar question. Interestingly there are similarities and dissimilarities between what happened in Ukraine; especially after the Euromaidan shift in Nov 2013 and the ensuing war between Russia and Ukraine, and what’s now beginning to boil up in the South China sea.
The strategic environment and placing of different forces in the region is one factor which differentiates the two regions of Eastern Europe and the Taiwan Strait. US policy in the Indo Pacific has been consistent to strangulate China and band states in the littoral areas of Indo Pacific under the Quad plus mechanism. While Ukraine is not internationally part of the Russian Federation, it comes under the area of influence of the Russian Federation due to geographical proximity; Taiwan is a different ball game. In terms of international claims China’s ‘One China policy is internationally recognised, Taiwan doesn’t have a seat in the UN and China strongly believes it to be a part of the motherland. Ukraine has geographical connectivity and land corridors with the Russian Federation, in the case of Taiwan it is separated by the Taiwan strait from mainland China and this creates some interesting military options on both sides. For any military operation across the Taiwan strait, the Chinese military will have to apply amphibious forces as well as deploy strong maritime and air power.
Coinciding with the visit of Nancy Pelosi, the Chinese military or the PLA has already adopted an aggressive posture and started a multidimensional joint manoeuvre, surrounding the Island from six sides. This aggressive posture is aimed at telling the world that China is not ready to budge from its stated policy and would use all means to secure its sovereignty. While the US does maintain a reasonably strong capability in the Indo-Pacific, especially in the South China Sea, it remains remote from Taiwan because of the distance between the nearest US naval base of Pearl Harbour in Hawaii and Taiwan, even her allies in the region like Japan, India and Australia cannot project matching military capability in defence of Taiwan.
The visit has also propelled an intensive information war on social media, netizens and social media activists from both sides have attacked each other; the Western activists have tried to ridicule China by stating that China could not stop the visit of Nancy Pelosi despite the rhetoric; some were chiding the PLA to come out and attack Taiwan. With the Chinese 20th National Party Congress due in October this year and President Xi looking for a third term, the Chinese response against Pelosi’s visit could take many forms and colours. It may also be interesting to find out what could be the response from the countries on the periphery of the South China Sea as well as the rest of the world. The Russian Federation has already displayed its concern and has assumed that the US venture into Taiwan would blow up the situation; other countries are finding it difficult to take sides in a conflict where there will be no winners.
Although Indian Politico-Military leadership has not taken any formal stance, Indian media has echoed the western feelings and has tried to ridicule PLA, most probably to satisfy their hurt ego and overcome the humiliation suffered by the Indian Army at the hands of the PLA in Galwan. Pakistan has come up with a measured response and has stated that it would continue to support the one-China policy. Pakistan reaffirmed its strong commitment to ‘One China policy and firmly supported China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Foreign Office stated that “Pakistan is deeply concerned over the evolving situation in the Taiwan Strait, which has serious implications for regional peace and stability.” With the world already reeling due to Russia Ukraine war and the emerging food and energy crisis; it cannot afford another conflict in the very sensitive region of the South China sea, if things go out of control and there is a military conflict, the global economy will suffer an unbearable shock, let’s hope the sense prevails and US hegemonic attitude is tempered down to let the world have a sigh of relief.

Adeela Naureen and Waqar K Kauravi

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt