Amidst the Indo-China border crisis another disturbing news is the signing of the world’s biggest free trade deal (the RCEP or Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) by 15 Asia-Pacific countries on November 15th, 2020. These include 10 South East Asian economies along with China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia. It is set to extend the pernicious influence of China and would consolidate the more threatening Chinese Belt and Road initiative. India had pulled out of this pact last year though it can join any time. The crucial question is whether staying out helps India or staying in and lobbying with like-minded partners would be of greater value. This pact comes at a time when concerns over the situation in South China Sea are being addressed at the 15th East Asia Summit with special reference to China’s increasingly expansionist behaviour that clashes with the consensus of an integrated and organic maritime space with 10-nation ASEAN at the centre.
With the Chinese military disturbances at the Indian border, the Belt and Road initiative at one side and the RCEP at the other and exploits at the South China Sea, China has let loose all-engulfing tentacles. Indian diplomacy has to reach towering heights to face the situation with calm and tact and by building international pressure with its own initiative and also with pragmatic support from USA and European Union without belittling Russia.
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