On 28 May 2021, the Biden administration submitted a much-delayed Defense Budget to Congress, asking for $715 billion for 2022, a 1.6% increase over the previous year’s $703.7 billion. This marginal increase highlights the U.S.’s shrinking capacities compared with China, which spends less than a third of the U.S. on defence. This Budget is focussed on challenges in the U.S.’s geographic vicinity, not the administration’s resolve to counter the threat of China from a position of strength.
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On 3 March 2021, the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague, commenced an official investigation into Israel and Palestinian Armed Groups' alleged war crimes committed in the occupied territories of Palestine since July 2014. Palestine, which referred the case, is a member of the ICC, but Israel is not. Does the ICC have any jurisdiction in these cases? Will US support for Israel play a role? The three instances in the table show precedents in similar matters.
In March 2021, the World Economic Forum (WEF) announced the addition of 15 manufacturing facilities to the prestigious Global Lighthouse Network. Two Indian companies were on the list – the Tata Steel facility in Jamshedpur, and the ReNew Power facility in Hubli. This is twice the number of Indian companies on the list last year. Many more facilities will likely be added to the WEF list, as several prepare to graduate their manufacturing businesses to keep up with Industry 4.0.
On 18 Feb 2021, China and India completed a week-long border disengagement at Pangong Tso, ending a 10-month standoff. The Indian Army's Operation Snow Leopard, launched in late August 2020, provided India with strategic and tactical leverage during the negotiations. More broadly, India combined its political, technological, economic and diplomatic forces, creating a Comprehensive National Defense to counter Chinese adventurism. This infographic tracks the chronology of Indian actions, starting with the border standoff from Jan 2020 to last month's disengagement, nearly a year later.
With the Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill 2021 set to be introduced during parliament’s on-going budget session, India is now ready to introduce its own official digital currency—following in the footsteps of China and Russia. So far, Indian regulations prohibited the public from trading in crypto-currencies. However, the investor community has an interest in them, as an asset that is not subject to government devaluation, unlike regular fiat currency in circulation. This infographic traces the evolution of crypto-currencies since the launch of Bitcoin in 2009.
The U.S. Navy Secretary, Kenneth Braithwaite, visited India on 17 Dec 2020. Will this year-end visit culminate in the reactivation of the First Fleet under the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command? The First Fleet, is likely to be an expeditionary fleet - one without a shore-based headquarters and assigned primary responsibility for the Indian Ocean and parts of Pacific Ocean bordering South Asia. Its reactivation will emphasise the strategic importance of this region. It will also relieve the burden of the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet headquartered in Japan, that is deployed for operations in this vast oceanic space.
Australia's much-awaited inclusion at the Malabar Exercise-2020 reflects a hard reset in India's foreign policy that was traditionally accommodative to Chinese concerns on the militarisation of the Quad. In the backdrop of the on-going stand-off with China at the Ladakh border, the Indian Navy has maintained a high operational tempo and deployed the highest numbers of frontline assets during this edition of the Malabar Exercise. India must build on this strategic vision and work towards including France at the next edition of Malabar in 2021.
Taiwan’s increasing threat of takeover from China by possible amphibious assault reveals the urgent need for the island to strengthen its defences. The commencement of the construction phase of the Indigenous Defence Submarine programme, is a crucial step in Taiwan’s quest to build a credible deterrence to counter sustained Chinese diplomatic and economic intimidation and technology denial.
The recently signed Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) between India and the U.S. symbolises the strengthened defence and security partnership between the two countries and the growing interoperability capabilities between the two militaries. India-U.S. defence and security ties have flourished in the last decade, with increasing focus on defence technology co-development and co-production. The enhanced G2G engagement is also reflected in the commercial sector where American and Indian defence companies have partnered in the aerospace sector to become part of the global supply chain.
The recent opening of the Atal tunnel represents the border infrastructure build-up underway for the last 10 years. Multiple other road and rail projects are being implemented, which will connect remote areas along the Line of Actual Control and also support the Indian military’s deployment in the region.