There is an "uneasy peace" in the Indo-Pacific due to recent Chinese actions, an influential US Congressman said on Saturday, observing that India and the United States working together with countries such as Japan, South Korea, Australia and other Indo-Pacific nations is indispensable for maintaining stability in the region.
Indian-American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, who has just returned from a historic trip to the region as part of a US Congressional delegation led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in an interview with PTI said one of the interesting topics of conversation during their travels was the rise of India and the importance of India playing a greater role.
Led by Pelosi, the Congressional delegation travelled to Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan, where much to the anger of China, thousands of Taiwanese turned out in the middle of the night to welcome their American guests.
In the Indo-Pacific region, especially through initiatives such as QUAD in providing stability and security, where India can exert influence, "I think that partnership with India is extremely important for maintaining an international rules-based order going forward," Krishnamoorthi said.
"I think there is an uneasy peace (in the region). In all the countries we visited, whether it was Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Korea or Taiwan, there is a real concern about aggression from the People's Republic of China. And a significant challenge to the international rules-based order, which otherwise has and should govern how countries behave toward each other, how they should resolve their differences, which all of them agree should be resolved peacefully," he added.
"And so, when the PRC throws itself militarily at its neighbours, whether it is in the South China Sea, or Taiwan, or even against India on the western border of China, then the neighbours, so to speak, get very concerned. And they asked for an increase.... They definitely want an increased security presence from the United States, among others," Krishnamoorthi said.
Describing the challenge from China as "very serious", the Congressman said the Chinese Communist Party has, unfortunately, botched its response to COVID-19, causing tremendous economic uncertainty and a slowdown in China's economy.
"So there are tremendous domestic pressures on the leadership of the PRC, including Xi Jinping, who is seeking a third term at the upcoming party congress, the Chinese Communist Party Congress, in November. At the same time, the PRC is undergoing other challenges, including a huge demographic shift in the population where upwards of 70 million (seven crore) people are going to leave the working-age population," he said.
"And tens of millions of more people will be added to the retirement population. So their working-age population is diminishing, even at the same time that there are all these economic challenges. I think that a lot of the neighbours are concerned that the Chinese Communist Party is going to try to deflect attention from their internal challenges by rallying to nationalist causes such as Taiwan and a forcible reunification with Taiwan," Krishnamoorthi observed.
"The partnership between the United States and India and other countries is not intended for ganging up on the People's Republic of China. Indeed, my hope is that someday, all the nations of the region can collaborate on confronting challenges of mutual interests such as fighting global climate change, for instance," he said.
"But in the meantime, we cannot have one country move militarily against another or try to use coercion or force to get its way," said Krishnamoorthi, who is also a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Pelosi, he told PTI, was welcomed as a hero in all the capitals that they visited. "She is known as a champion of human rights and democracy. For instance, when we landed in Taiwan, there were thousands of people who greeted us at the airport and lined the streets in the capitol even at midnight. The tallest skyscraper in the country had the words 'Thank you, Speaker Pelosi' in lights," he said.
"That is how she was greeted and that is how we were greeted," he added.
"On a personal note, I should also mention that when we visited Singapore, there are many Indian-origin people who are at the upper echelons of Singapore's government. And it was very nice to meet them, fellow Indian-origin people, and discuss our heritage, our common values and our backstories. It was heartening to see the Indian-origin community really flourishing in Singapore and other parts of the region," Krishnamoorthi said.