Debate I Clouds of War or Just a War of Cloudy Words?


Military engagement with India is not in China’s interest and will backfire for Beijing on the front of economy.
Military engagement with India is not in China’s interest and will backfire for Beijing on the front of economy.(Photo: Rhythum Seth/ The Quint)

Debate I Clouds of War or Just a War of Cloudy Words?

(With Chinese media speculating that the Doklam standoff may result in a small-scale military operation, The Quint debates whether India and China will engage militarily in coming few weeks. This is the Counterview. You may like to read the View by Rajeev Sharma here.)

What war is the Chinese media talking about? “Small-scale” war! How small can it possibly be? Can anyone count or predict even the approximate duration of the “small-scale” war in advance? Had it been so, the human history of warfare would have had a different script altogether.

Did Hitler know that the war of 1939 would take six long years to end in a disaster for his country? Did India visualise Pakistani invasion and the consequent Kargil war of 1999 that lasted for almost two months? Could anyone foresee Kargil being the longest among Indo-Pak wars when compared to the 22-day war of 1965 and 17 days of 1971?

Similarly, could anyone visualise the 1962 Sino-Indian war, and the result, which, of late, the Chinese media is so fond of recapitulating? And citing it as an instance which must be repeated to produce an identical and inevitable debacle for India today?

Also Read: How Can India & China Move On From Doklam? Easy: Soft Power

Have the Chinese media men, in their collective wisdom, decided to forget the golden words of the oft-quoted lines of their own legendary 6th century BC soldier-scholar Sun Tzu: “War is the greatest affair of state, the basis of life and death. It must be thoroughly pondered and analysed”.

Also Read: Army Moves Troops of Sukna-Based 33 Corps to India-China Border

War Drums

Indeed, it seems today that those who have never seen, or participated, in actual war (like a few media personnel, safely ensconced in their air-conditioned chambers) or the destruction, misery and penury thereof are the most vocal votaries of a short, sharp, speedy war to “teach India a lesson” for “violation of Chinese sovereignty” in the Himalayas.

Well, they certainly can do that as nothing stops a state like China from starting a war “to teach a lesson to any neighbour”. However, what matters are the post-war consequences and the resultant diplomatic and economic scenario.

If China really thinks that a victorious ‘small-scale’ war against India to evict the Indian soldiers out of the “disputed” Himalayan frontier, will be a panacea for all evils of international relations and fulfil their dream “economic” projects like BRI/OBOR/CPEC etc, perhaps they are in for a rude shock.
The Chinese vision of a “crushed”, “defeated” or “humiliated” India would surely result in the virtual abortion of all Chinese projects in the south of the Himalayas.

Furthermore, the worst possible fallout of collateral damage are likely to be for the landlocked states of the region, both politically and economically, as conflicting interests are likely to produce chaotic, contradictory and confrontationist internal as well as external disorders.

Also Read: Doklam’s Big Picture: Neither Asia nor the World is China-Centric

China’s Mind Games Might Impact Its Economy

Nevertheless, the point to note today is that China, more often than not, has shown its propensity for mind games and psychological war. Following Sun Tzu, the Chinese tradition of surprise, deception and mobility goes back hundreds of years. And China does it, at times, with great effect to subdue its targets with minimal damage, especially when it comes to smaller and weaker countries.

It, however, could be a highly contentious practice to follow at a time when the Chinese economy is showing all the symptoms of having heated up. China had built up its economics over a period of four decades. Bit by bit.

However, today its economy is showing signs of dipping, with a reduced growth rate, high debt-GDP ratio, multiple fronts opening in the South China Sea, and revival of an erratic client state, North Korea.

The challenges for China are manifold in the form of industrial overcapacity, problems of ecology and environment, prospect of reduced growth-with-rising-unemployment, an assertive, mercurial US Don, growing suspicion of the West; arguably a long list of unresolved agendas.

China’s Aspirations Will Take a Hit

On top of that, now if the Sino-Indian bilateral economic and commerce are put to test with a “small scale war” by the Hans, all that can be visualised is that it will do little to resolve, and will help more to dissolve, the prospect of China’s economy more than any other nation.

China, being a desperate aspirant to be the first boy of the class, certainly is way ahead of India who happens to be within the top ten, not within the top three. So, it is anybody's guess who would be the bigger loser.

Thus far, China was competing only with the US and not with India. Hence the sudden India-obsession amounts to Beijing's tacit acknowledgement that India may not be a competitor, but it certainly is a potential spoilt sport. And that certainly bugs the Chinese media no end.

Also Read: Doklam: China’s Anxieties and Domestic Dissidents May Have a Role

(The writer is a columnist and defence expert. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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