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OPINION: Asia under penumbra of armageddon

China is presently embroiled in territorial disputes with a staggering 17 countries


Asia is suddenly witnessing innumerable conflagrations that has the potential of blowing up into a full scale global war with the frightening prospect of a nuclear war dimension. Five Asian nations have armed nuclear weapons capability – China, Russia (transcontinental country), India, Pakistan and N. Korea. All these nations are, currently, critically engaged in internecine conflicts that can aggravate into massive conflicts of enormous proportions.

China is presently embroiled in territorial disputes with a staggering 17 countries, an ignominy unmatched by any other country. The 3,440km (2,100-mile) Indo-China border traversing the Himalayas, has a dense concentration of lakhs of troops on either side of the border. Repeated skirmishes between Indian and Chinese troops keep the border simmering with tension and it can precipitate into a major clash.

China is locked in a war-like situation with Taiwan by conducting military exercises around the island, and rehearsing landing operations. The drills involve missile launches towards waters around the island. Chinese officials are constantly delivering militant rhetoric and the US has also taken a belligerent stand in favour of Taiwan. Control over Taiwan, which is just 36,000 sq.km wide, is a strategic issue for both the US and China. A successful capture of Taiwan will give China ready access to the Pacific Ocean as also give it greater economic muscle.

Forfeiture of Taiwan will mean irretrievable geopolitical and economic defeat for the US. A full-scale war over Taiwan will lead to the collapse of the semiconductor industry concentrated on the island. Taiwan has a global share of 63 per cent, worth USD 147 billion. Chinese usurpation of this industry would give it control of more than two thirds of the global supply of microchips, allowing it to cut off access to any country it wants. The US wants to avert a crippling shortage of semiconductor chips, hence it has expressed its willingness to militarily intercede on behalf of Taiwan. This geostrategic race for semiconductor supremacy, can explode into a full-fledged war anytime.

The unbridled greed of China compels it to make sweeping claims of sovereignty over the South China Sea, overlooking even the legitimate claims of other nations. China is heavily focused on the sea's estimated 11 billion barrels of untapped oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. As a result there is constant friction with small countries like Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

North Korea has been on a spree inducting a variety of ballistic and cruise missiles. For an impoverished and backward country, their impressive collection of long range missiles and threatening rhetoric, is giving jitters to many nations. The recently launched liquid-fuelled Hwasong-17 ICBM, has been dubbed as a “Monster Missile”, having a phenomenal range of over 15,000km, and is supposed to be the largest road-mobile, liquid-fuelled ICBM in the world. The boyish delight and excitement of their leader Kim Jong Un, over his growing collection of weapons of mass destruction is giving trepidation to many countries.

The prolonging Russia-Ukraine conflict is resulting in a global economic crisis. Russian President Vladimir Putin has been hinting the possibility of using nukes to resolve the conflict that is proving to be intractable. This prompted US President Joe Biden to warn that the world is on the precipice of a nuclear catastrophe for the first time since the Cold War.

Recently, Pakistan People’s Party leader Shazia Marri threatened the use of ‘Atom bomb’ on India in the presence of the country’s upstart Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto, who hogged the limelight by making ‘uncivilised’ remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. US President Joe Biden issued a timely warning that Pakistan is “one of the most dangerous nations in the world” as it has “nuclear weapons without cohesion”.

Amidst all the cacophony and brash rhetoric of using nuclear weapons by many Asian countries, it is the sagacious counselling of Narendra Modi that stands out as a beacon of hope for many beleaguered countries. The Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Bill Burns was quick to acknowledge that Modi's views on the use of nuclear weapons had an impact on the Russians and could well have averted a global disaster. About Modi, the words in Deuteronomy 26:19, is worth recalling, “He will set you high above all the other nations he has made. Then you will receive praise, honour, and renown. You will be a nation that is holy to the Lord your God, just as he promised.” Modi stands head and shoulders above all the other leaders who are recklessly threatening using of nukes. Let none forget that any nuclear war on the planet will mean not a single human being will survive, even to write an epitaph for humanity.

Menon is IRS (Rtd), former director general, National Academy of Customs, Indirect Taxes & Narcotics.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of THE WEEK.


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