China is seeing red, literally. As a country that was used to playing unbridled geo-strategic games on economic and diplomatic fronts, especially in the Global South, China cannot accept Bharat’s rising stature in the world polity. Much to its chagrin, in a multi-polar world driven by economic interests, a resurgent Bharat has emerged as an effective counterweight to China.
China is not one to take things lying down. While it lays claim to our territories and engages in shadow-boxing through maps etc, China is more of a covert, strategic player. Its network of secret assets deployed within Bharat could be more dangerous than its border activities.
Bharat stands out today as a country that has tremendous economic potential, has the confidence to handle global issues, and is poised to take leadership role in guiding the world to find sustainable solutions for peace and prosperity. The G20 just gave the first glimpse of this.
China, on the other hand, is grappling with a slowing economy and a growing diplomatic isolation on the world stage. The increasing global footprints of Bharat’s corporate sector are making it tough for Chinese companies to run the roost, especially in Global South. The success of the G20 has only rubbed more salt into the wounds, in view of the decisions that are bound to curb China’s expansionist forays.
Our continuous strategic alliances abroad in the last nine years have been no less than a shock treatment. The Chinese juggernaut – out to capture trade and land resources across Southeast Asia and the Global South – is feeling threatened, more so because Bharat has a clean and trustworthy image as a trade partner. On the one hand Bharat’s corporates are taking on big ticket projects abroad, and on the other, international companies are making a beeline for Bharat to access its market and manufacturing potential.
Global manufacturers are now actively looking beyond China for manufacturing needs, in what is termed as the ‘China Plus One’ strategy. And Bharat is well poised to seize the opportunity. A lot of big global corporates now consider Bharat as ‘the’ place to be.
It’s noteworthy that as Bharat hosted the historical G20 Summit in New Delhi, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi visited Europe and while typically speaking against Bharat, lauded China. “China is proposing a particular vision of the planet. They are putting on the table the idea of the ‘Belt and Road’. The Chinese are able to do that because they have become a center of global production. I don’t see an alternative vision coming from our side.” – this quote and related video from Brussels Press Club, Belgium, was tweeted by the Congress’s official handle on September 8.
Rahul’s reference to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is interesting, especially since China is rattled at the fact that Bharat and her corporate sector poses a serious challenge to this initiative now.
COMPETITION IN GLOBAL TRADE
This story is about dominance of Global Trade via roads, rail and most importantly sea. In ancient times, the ‘Silk Road’ played a crucial role in facilitating trade between China and Bharat on the one side and the West on the other. It remained a major trade route till 1500 CE. That was the era when Bharat was known as the golden bird (soney ki chidiya) for its prosperity. Then in last 500 years, the sea route took centre stage, and control over sea and ports helped Britain rule the world for 400 years.
In the 21st Century, China sought to control the global trade when, in 2013, it announced its ambitious BRI or ‘One Belt One Road’ (OBOR) program. This was an infrastructure-building plan whereby China was to build roads, rail route, pipeline, ports, power plants and SEZs in different countries to facilitate road and maritime trade from China to Europe. China invested aggressively in 149 countries and seemed unstoppable… till 2019.
Bharat, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had embarked on realising a vision – of being a superpower and key player in global trade. And in the world of trade, it’s the corporates that work on the ground. If from China’s side the big corporate players are Cosco, Huawei, DHL and CMPH, from Bharat’s side there are ONGC, GAIL, Reliance, L&T, the Adani group and others.
The Adani group, headed by Gautam Adani, has been much in the news of late – most of it owing to Rahul’s consistent tirade against it. The Adani group has been rubbing China the wrong way for many years now, as it has forayed internationally into sectors that directly impact China’s expansionist designs – port management, electric power, renewable energy, mining, airport operations, natural gas, food processing and infrastructure.
Is Adani the only corporate group that has expanded internationally? No, there are many other big corporates. But the Adani group has made aggressive entry in countries where it directly impacted China’s footprints, and is positioned to hit its strategic BRI interests because of the sectors it deals in. In short, Adani has been successfully outbidding Chinese companies for major infra projects globally. That explains why China must be hopping mad with Adani. But what about Rahul Gandhi? What is behind his single-minded target practice on the Adani group? Is there a connection between China and Rahul Gandhi? The BJP certainly thinks so. What do the facts say?
WHY RAHUL LOVES CHINA & DERIDES BHARAT?
Rahul’s statement at Brussels was not the first of its kind, and surely won’t be the last. The Congress’s soft spot for all things Chinese is well known. The Gandhi family, especially, has never been heard taking strong stands against China – a country that has proved itself time and again as Bharat’s enemy and repeatedly challenged Bharat’s territorial integrity. Their secret meetings with Chinese officials have been exposed many a times.
Did you know that Rahul Gandhi, on behalf of the Congress party and in the presence of Sonia Gandhi and Xi Jinping, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Communist Party of China (CCP) in Beijing in 2008. CCP runs and controls China in every sense of the word. The MoU was “for exchanging high level information and cooperation between them” and also said that the two parties would “consult each other on bilateral, regional and international developments”. This was not an agreement signed between two governments, it was strictly on a party-to-party basis.
And what’s more, reports suggest donations have been received by the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF) from the Chinese Government. RGF is run by the Gandhi family.
The BJP has been asking the Congress to disclose the contents of this MoU and details of the donations, but the latter is just not willing. If there’s nothing to hide, why the secrecy?
Posting a picture of the MoU-signing ceremony, noted lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani tweeted: “China was and is in Indian law, an enemy country. The CCP is an enemy association. The CCP supports the occupation of Indian territory and lays claim to other territory. Any agreement/MoU with the CCP validates the CCP’s stand and is an unlawful activity punishable under the UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act)”.
Savio Rodrigues, in an article in Goa Chronicle, says, “The fact that Indian National Congress and Communist Party of China (CPC) signed a pact in 2008 cannot be denied because it was confirmed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi in a written interview with Chinese news agency Xinhua in 2011.” In the interview, Sonia Gandhi recalled her visits to China in 2007 and 2008 as Congress president and confirmed the Congress and CPC signed a MoU in 2008. “One of the key components of MoU was a shared commitment to strengthen exchanges amongst the younger leadership in the two parties.”
In 2017, when China tried to transgress into Bharat’s territory and the two countries were engaged in what is known as the Doklam standoff, Rahul had a secret meeting with ‘a couple of’ Chinese ministers during his Kailash Mansarovar visit. This came to light when Rahul himself accidentally revealed it while speaking at a gathering in 2019. Why would an opposition party leader secretly meet with ministers from an enemy country – that too when our positions were being attacked and our soldiers martyred by the enemy forces? And remember, till date Rahul prefers to disbelieve our own defence forces and insists that China captured our land during that period – a victorious position that China would want the world to believe.
Rahul had another meeting in 2017 with the Chinese Ambassador Luo Zhaohui which was not made public. When media reported the meeting, the Congress party termed it fake news. But later the meeting was confirmed with a photo by the Chinese embassy on its website.
Bharat has emerged as one of the top five investors in Africa in recent years, with cumulative investments amounting to around $74 billion. New Delhi has also provided millions of dollars in educational and humanitarian aid to African nations
People are now used to Rahul’s penchant for going abroad at crucial times and making anti-Bharat statements. However, his consistent pro-China stand points towards a sinister affection for the enemy hand.
Another peculiarity of Rahul’s anti-BJP and anti-Modi rhetoric is that it has no substance except for targeting Adani while clubbing the name of ‘Modi’ and ‘Adani’ together.
Now, the most interesting part is the China-Adani connection. We need to understand this in a little more detail. Let’s take a quick look at Adani group’s activities abroad.
THE ADANI GROUP
First, a little recap. Gautam Adani started his business in 1981 (when Indira Gandhi was the PM), and expanded his business empire during the tenures of Congress Prime Ministers Rajiv Gandhi, PV Narashimha Rao and Manmohan Singh.
The Adani Group had forayed into international waters much before the Modi government came to power. For example, it bought the Carmichael coal mine in Queensland, Australia, for A$500 million in cash in August 2010. And then in 2011, it signed a 99-year lease on Abbot Point Terminal 1 (Port) in Australia. This was the period when Manmohan Singh was the PM.
In August 2014, a Reuters report titled ‘Gautam Adani to invest $2 billion in Odisha power plant’ said: “A college dropout and self-made entrepreneur, Adani has built a power, mining and ports giant with revenue of nearly $9 billion.”
Today, the Adani group has expanded its footprints across Southeast Asia, from Bharat to Bangladesh and Myanmar and Sri Lanka.
In 2022, when Adani entered Sri Lanka, China was controlling the Sri Lankan Ports and had built a Port City there. Sri Lanka is strategically located on the busy East–West trade route in the Indian Ocean, hence an extremely important BRI partner for China.
Sri Lanka joined the BRI hoping for development but China’s projects made it debt ridden. Taking advantage of Sri Lanka’s inability to repay debts, China made an equity swap agreement on the strategic Hambantota project under which it acquired a 70 per cent stake and land on lease for 99 years. Adani’s entry in Colombo was a strategic game changer for Bharat.
TANZANIA: Adani has entered the Tanzania market with a strategic agreement with the UAE firm AD Ports Group, setting in motion a series of potential investments in logistics infrastructure and solutions including rail, maritime services, port operations, digital services, an industrial zone, and the establishment of maritime academies in Tanzania. Leveraging its logistics ecosystem could make Tanzania a trading hub for the African region.
Guess which country was steadily growing its economic influence in Tanzania?
China considers Tanzania as a strategic partner given its location as an Indian Ocean gateway to mineral-rich southern Africa. Its ambitious plan to build Africa’s largest port in Tanzania’s Bagamoyo is hanging fire since long. Now, Adani is reported to be on the verge of securing the rights to develop and manage cargo berths at Tanzania’s main port, Dar es Salaam. Strategically located, Dar es Salaam serves as a crucial freight link between East and Central African countries and facilitates trade with the Middle East, Europe, Australia, and America. You can imagine the heartburn…
MOROCCO: Adani is reported to be exploring a giant renewables project in Morocco, to supply electricity and emissions-free fuel to Europe. This will be a massive project that could entail building wind and solar generation plants and facilities to produce green hydrogen for export. Morocco is the first North African nation to have committed to the BRI and China has been steadily investing here.
Today, Africa is an emerging battleground for global influence. The United States and Russia have also been increasing their engagement with Africa in recent years.
Bharat’s entry into the African space has come at a time when China was positioning itself as the friendly alternative to America-led Western world order. But the clauses in its agreements have exposed China’s nefarious designs, making people suspicious. In this backdrop, a neutral, resurgent and friendly Bharat is hardly good news for China.
ISRAEL: One of the biggest blows to China’s global interests came recently when the Adani Group acquired Israel’s strategic Haifa port for $1.2 billion in January this year.
In the words of Israel’s envoy Naor Gilon: “It’s (Haifa) a strategic asset. The fact that we are giving it to an Indian company, from our point of view, is a symbolic sign of deep trust in depositing your strategic assets in the hands of Indian companies.”
The interesting part is that this acquisition is seen as the first success of I2-U2, the Indo-West Asian quad consisting of Bharat, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States. The acquisition by Adani, in a joint bid with Israeli company Gadot, is seen as a success in US-backed efforts to counter China. China had tried hard to get this port but Israel backed away under US pressure. Another interesting point: The Haifa port takeover happened at the same time when the Hindenburg report was released.
And this is where Congress leader Rahul Gandhi decided to go full throttle after the Adani group at every possible occasion.
In the Mediterranean, Adani has evinced interest in investing in Egypt’s ports, airports, renewable energy and green hydrogen. Egypt is strategically located at a vital crossroads between Africa, Asia and Europe, giving it special significance as a hub for trade between the East and West for centuries. The Suez Canal lies at the heart of the Maritime Silk Road.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has reached out to Bharat for investments and participation in mega infrastructure projects. Sisi has also been wooing Chinese investments. With China around, there are strong geo-economic as well as geo-strategic reasons for Bharat to have a strong presence in Egypt.
The Adani group may now be looking to take over a Greek port and turning it into a key gateway for Indian exports to Europe. Greece’s largest port of Piraeus is controlled by China through its shipping company Cosco. Xi Jinping, who inspected the port himself in 2019, sees Piraeus as “an important hub for China’s fast land-sea link with Europe, and for connectivity between Asia and Europe”.
Reports suggest that Bharat is exploring the possibility of using Piraeus for its European exports. This could lead to an interesting turn of events.
Let us now put the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together – Rahul’s secret meetings with Chinese officials, speaking highly of the enemy country while depreciating his own, proclivity for frequent foreign visits without informing the SPG, the timings of his attacks on Adani, whose ventures are a pain in the neck for China…
Is it a coincidence or a pattern as per the secret agreement? If we connect the dots, the picture is certainly intriguing about the Rahul, Adani and China triangle.