North America’s leading strategic and security forum has issued a handbook for democracies aimed at understanding the challenges that China poses to them, and it recommends supporting the inclusion of India as the sixth permanent member of the UN Security Council, strengthening the Quad, and creating a global free-trade zone for democracies.
The 101-page handbook, titled China vs. Democracy: The Greatest Game, is also a major topic for discussion at the 2020 edition of the three-day Halifax International Security Forum, which is headquartered in Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada.
The forum is traditionally hosted by Canada’s defence minister, in this case Harjit Sajjan. The handbook was based on feedback from nearly 250 global leaders.
“The year 2020 witnessed a paradigm shift in the democratic world’s understanding of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP),” said the forum’s president Peter Van Praagh. “(President) Xi Jinping’s China is now the most powerful authoritarian state in history. HFX’s Handbook for Democracies gives policy makers, journalists, businesses, and members of the public a comprehensive guide to what we are up against.”
Van Praagh expanded on this theme in the introduction to the handbook, as he noted that the forum had flagged the Chinese challenge for the past decade but it was not till this year “with the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic that began in Wuhan, China, and all the uncertainty that accompanied it, that people around the world began to understand the real threat – to our supply chains, to international organisations, to the open exchange of information, to the protection of confidential information, and to freedom of the seas and skies”.
The handbook states that China is “intent on undermining democracy abroad”, including India, and focuses on the role that the Quad – formed in 2007 by the US, India, Japan, and Australia – can play in this regard. It says, “The Quad’s rebirth can be seen as one of the first concrete steps on the road to clarity about Beijing’s intentions and the need to check them.”
It also underscores the need for India to get a higher profile on the global stage, including a seat on the UNSC. “India does not have the slightest interest in being a ‘balancing power’ for anybody apart from India. It may well be emerging as a crucial balancer against Chinese power, and this would be in the interests of the entire democratic world… India is looking after its own interests. Fortunately, India’s interests and the rest of the democratic world’s converge in many areas,” the handbook says.
It adds that “the world’s democracies should push for India to become the sixth permanent member of the United Nations Security Council”.
It also prescribed as a “long-term ambition” the creation of a “global free-trade zone for democracies”.
With the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and European Union’s single market as “natural building blocks”, this should be “extended to include the United Kingdom, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and all other Indo-Pacific democracies, as well as democracies in Africa and Central and South America”.
The 2020 edition of the forum, which begins on Friday, will feature a plenary of the topic China vs Democracy: The Greatest Game, and while its agenda includes the impact of the new US administration led by President-elect Joe Biden, it will also discuss topics such as Himalayan Heat: Sino-Indian Friction.