How India Can Tackle China: ‘Strong Fences Make Good Neighbours’

Internally, we must remain steadfast in pursuit of rapid economic growth and upgrade our defensive capabilities.

Updated03 Jul 2020, 03:55 AM IST
Opinion
4 min read

At one level, we can thank China for shattering any illusion that we may have harboured about crafting a cordial and working relationship with them. They have demonstrated yet again that deceit, land-grabbing and violence are integral to their diplomatic playbook.

In an attempt to ‘fabricate’ a counter-narrative, as in the case with the coronavirus pandemic, the Chinese went for an overkill by blaming India for the premeditated bloodshed with medieval weapons. Foreign Minister Wang Yi had no qualms about flatly denying any culpability and asserting – “Indian troops… deliberately provoked and violently attacked…(Chinese military personnel)… resulting in casualties.”

Yet the question remains – why were we surprised?

Two Facts India Must Consider While Dealing With China

Let’s park that question for a bit and reflect on what should we do next? It is obvious that it cannot be business as usual with China. There could be a power asymmetry between the two countries, but India is neither a pushover nor bereft of options.

It is gratifying that the Indian leadership has chosen to keep the dialogue going, for that is the best way forward.

At the same time, our highly professional and disciplined armed forces have been empowered, to pay the Chinese back in their own coin.

India is contemplating calibrated counter-measures to inflict a cost on China. In doing so, the key is to be clinical and focused on our objectives, in the backdrop of two fact:

  • The reality of geography is that China and India are destined to remain neighbours. We would have loved to translocate them right into the middle of the Pacific Ocean, but alas, that technology is unlikely to be available, at least for a few millennia.
  • Secondly, the fact also remains that China cannot be contained. Yet it can be restrained through a well-coordinated global pushback. We have always sought to find a modus vivendi with China through peaceful dialogue. PM Modi's sterling initiative to hold two informal summits with President Xi was prompted precisely by this motive.
Snapshot
  • It is obvious that it cannot be business as usual with China.
  • There could be a power asymmetry between India and China, but India is neither a pushover nor bereft of options.
  • The reality of geography is that China and India are destined to remain neighbours.
  • We are determined not to allow even an inch of our territory to be usurped by China.
  • Our faith in peaceful dialogue to sort out differences, remains unshaken.
  • It is said that when diplomacy fails conflict begins. India has no interest in conflict unless thrust upon her.
  • Internally, we must remain steadfast in our pursuit of rapid economic growth and upgrade our defensive capabilities.

India’s Faith in Peaceful Dialogue Remains Unshaken

As such, India’s objectives include the following:

  • One, to give a befitting response to the adversary if it threatens India. On the night of 15 June, our valiant troops emerged with flying colours. Though outnumbered, they regrouped to take the fight right into the Chinese camp and inflict commensurate punishment. Twenty of our soldiers laid down their lives to protect the nation, but managed to send a chill down many a Chinese spine. Their valour is bound to become the stuff of national folklore.
  • Two, we are determined not to allow even an inch of our territory to be usurped by China. We have the capability and determination to defend ourselves. We do not need offensive capabilities, as we do not covet anybody’s territory. In the last few years, we have qualitatively upgraded the infrastructure along the LAC, and suitably equipped our battle-hardened forces to thwart any attempted encroachment.

What Are Some Counter-Measures To Combat China?

  • Three, our faith in peaceful dialogue to sort out differences, remains unshaken. It is said that when diplomacy fails conflict begins. India has no interest in conflict unless thrust upon her. Even with Pakistan, successive Indian leaders, initiated a dialogue process only to be quashed by the former’s ‘deep state’. We have multiple channels of communication with China which have been used effectively over the preceding decades. India is, of course, alive to the fact that the lifespan of any understanding with China is highly uncertain.
  • Four, as for the countermeasures, a nationwide movement to boycott Chinese goods, as far as possible, is in order. Subsidised cheap Chinese merchandise is damaging Indian MSMEs and creating unemployment, while enriching Chinese coffers and strengthening its military muscle. The angst against China is at an all-time high, across the world. What India does today could become the global template tomorrow. Restrictions on Chinese imports and FDI need to be stiffened. In any event, a ban on Chinese SOEs like Huawei and ZTE, which have direct links with the Chinese PLA, is a security imperative.

Chinese Perfidy & Threat to Global Peace Must Be Highlighted

In due course and if required, further steps – including an advisory against travel to China, downsizing our diplomatic presence and withdrawing Indian students – could be considered. Internally, we must remain steadfast in our pursuit of rapid economic growth and upgrade our defensive capabilities. As they say, strong fences make good neighbours.

China’s global stock has never been lower, and its disapproval rating never higher.

Stricken by Hubris, China does not seem to realise that it has treaded on too many toes, including that of Japan, Australia, Canada, the US, ASEAN (especially Vietnam, Philippines & Indonesia), Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong. Its BRI is a poisoned chalice, debilitating nation after nation in a cobweb of debt.

We should work with like-minded countries to highlight Chinese perfidy and the threat it poses to global peace and stability.

I don’t trust the Chinese one bit. “They are an arrogant, untrustworthy, devious and hegemonistic lot. Your watchword should be eternal vigilance” – none other than Pandit Nehru told G Parthasarathy, the then Ambassador designate to Beijing, on the eve of his departure on 18 March 1958. Yet, 1962 happened.

Chinese subterfuge in militarising the South China Sea in the last few years, while denying it flatly at the highest levels, was witnessed the world over. Did we expect China to behave differently with us? Let the strategic community analyse it in peace times.

(The writer is a former High Commissioner to Canada, Ambassador to South Korea and Official Spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs. He can be reached at @AmbVPrakash. 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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Published: 01 Jul 2020, 07:41 PM IST
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