Friday, September 18, 2009

Please get real about China

It is very rare for top Indian politicians holding important positions in government to bell the cat when it comes to China. When it comes to dealing with the dragon, the Indian tiger prefers to metamorphose into an ostrich. So what George Fernandes (then Defence Minister) and Atal Bihari Vajpayee (then Prime Minister) said and wrote about China more than 10 years ago is actually a historical milestone in India’s strategic posturing. Defending the nuclear tests, both had cited China, rather than traditional foe Pakistan, as the real strategic threat to India. That brave departure from traditional meekness and whining soon melted away and was replaced by the usual “let’s not off end China” stance. This strategic confusion is painfully clear now as sections of Indian media go ballistic with reports of Chinese belligerence while our policy establishment tries damned hard to play things down.

Sure: this columnist is a neophyte compared to the myriad pundits who ponder, pontificate and preach over China. But like an ignoramus, let me ask two simple questions and frame them in a language that you and I can comprehend. First: Is China a strategic threat to India? Second: Can India do anything about it? If strategic threat means that Chinese troops will thunder down the Himalayas and capture Ladakh and Arunanchal Pradesh in a swift blitzkrieg before ponderous India can react, then that is indulging in fantasy. Mind you, as things stand today, the Chinese military can actually pulverize India – just as it did back in 1962. It is a different matter that party bosses sitting in Beijing will not take that decision since the ‘opportunity costs’ will be unacceptably high. So if there is no immediate military danger, how is China a strategic threat?

It really boils down to common sense. You cannot have two ‘dadas’ in a neighbourhood. As of today, China is the undisputable dada of Asia and will go to any extent (short of a nuclear attack or a military strike) to prevent India from emerging as a rival dada. Do remember, the real dada in this is America and it will go to any extent to ensure its dadagiri is unchallenged. When you see things from this folksy perspective, you understand why China props up the Pakistani military and why it is ‘investing’ in strategic bases across the Indian Ocean, East Asia and Central Asia. And yes, this dadagiri is not about ego. It is about getting a lock on energy resources. If push comes to shove, the dragon can even reluctantly go for a small military adventure to show India who the real dada is.

Can India do anything? For one, it should not be obsessed with China and the threat it poses. Obsession of any kind is bad; just ask Pakistan where its obsession with India has taken it. The only choice for India is to grow as fast as possible over the next two decades. A high and sustained rate of growth will do two things: it will prompt countries who don’t like China as a hyper power to look at India as a ‘credible’ ally; more important, a rapid rate of growth can enable India to invest heavily in the military. The world respects both economic and military might. It laughs at ostriches and cry babies.


1 comment:

  1. China is now a trading partner of India, even if not Major.

    I think diplomacy is the best policy, and name calling and comments about international nature will only acerbate the situation,

    Sir you are right in that India should strengthen its military because history tends to repeat itself with time.

    But trade can be used as a ploy to alleviate the same.