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Extra Guy

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If two students get into a fight in school, the seniors usually intervene. One of their first instructions is ‘extra guys out’. This is because fights can get aggravated by the participation of third parties, however well meaning. Only those with authority and genuine credibility in peace-making should deal with the matter. In the ongoing standoff between India and China, US President Donald Trump is definitely the ‘extra guy’. He does not have the authority to deal with the matter. Nor does he have any past history of having negotiated a deal between any two parties; in fact his entire record has been that of a deal breaker, merrily scrapping treaties negotiated with great difficulty by his predecessors.

The offer coming, however, just before conciliatory moves by China, indicates some kind of foreknowledge. Whether the arbitration offer is an attempt to speed things up in the right direction or to create complications, only time will tell! It must be remembered that the US is not exactly on the best of terms with the Chinese for a number of reasons, not least the corona crisis. Would the implication, then, be that Trump is indicating his support for India? Or, sending a signal that the sub-continent is high on the US list of priorities, as he had earlier also indicated his willingness to arbitrate between India and Pakistan?

Whatever be the case, the countries of the region should realise that their inability to maintain civilised relations with each other are an open invitation for others to get involved. Even if the intervention is well-meaning, there is always the arbitrage that has to be paid, as past experience has shown. The matter is further complicated by the fact that India, China and Pakistan are also nuclear powers. Adventurism should be the last thing on their agenda. Unfortunately, only India is a functional democracy that has accountability built into its system. The deep state in China and Pakistan can get away by suppressing dissent and ideological enforcement. This represents a much bigger problem than the face-offs on the border. It manifests itself in the continued terrorism of Pakistan (of which the aborted Pulwama bombing on Thursday is the latest example) and the attempted territorial and economic hegemony by China. There is much talk of affected countries establishing a counter alliance but on the basis of what? Would it not be good beginning if India is included as a permanent member of the Security Council, with preferably a veto? Long term problems require long term solutions.