History in a nut-shell
The story goes back to 1947. India had just gained independence, and power was about to be transferred in the hands of a Prime Minister who believed firmly in the sentiment of a global fraternity of nations. Another Asian giant was struggling with its own internal challenges. Recovering from the Japanese attack, the Chinese Kuomintang Party – under the leadership of Chiang Kai-shek – was struggling with the domestic Communists. America and other nations had been supporting Kuomintang and the Communists were not expected to usurp power. But surprisingly, in 1949, power came into the hands of Mao Tse-tung and he founded the People's Republic of China (PRC). The Kuomintang Party leaders fled to Taiwan. The same Taiwan, the recent tweets on which by Donald Trump has enraged the Chinese government for violating the “one China” policy.
Pandit Nehru’s philosophy was that of peaceful co-existence, but in only one decade all his dreams stood shattered when the Chinese communists not only annexed entire Tibet, but also engaged in a bloody military confrontation with India. Tibet, which with its 12.25 lac sq. k.m. geographical area, had been a safe “buffer zone” between India and China for centuries, suddenly came under Chinese ownership. The PLA immediately started building military assets there. Its impact is seen today in India’s military strategies, where we are forced to deploy our state-of –the-art weapons and military assets to combat the visible threats coming over from Tibet and Arunachal Pradesh.
Today, it's different
The conditions today are such that China directly criticises India for Dalai Lama’s activities in India and the Indian government responds with clarifications. China has not only acted in this fashion with India, but China has done the same with Mongolia and the US in the recent past – only the US responded tersely saying that criticism was not acceptable. If we see the entire overall strategy of China, it would be clear that there is only one direct, clear and current challenge for India, which has both the capability and intention of harming Indian interests, and that is China. Pakistan does not have the capability to threaten India at all, if it does not enjoy the blatant support of the Chinese.
Let us first look at the big differences between India and China –
First difference – No government in India frames a long term policy (strategic, industrial, or any other) which can last the next ten to fifteen years, whereas China is not only directly framing policies for the next twenty or thirty years, but also implementing them. It can be said that our democracy and elections every five years, have given us this huge “relative strategic loss”.
Second difference – Since China practically does not have the concept of Fundamental Rights, or the supremacy of any Constitution, and also no Supreme Court which can stop or prevent the government, hence, only a single-party government makes the economic and military capability of the country at its will, and speedily implements it. In India, where the policy of “take it easy” looms large all across, this type of speed can look like a day-dream.
Third difference – Ever since 1980, under the leadership of Deng Xioping, China had realized that no strategic victory was possible without economic advancement, and hence it wholeheartedly devoted itself to manufacturing and scientific research. The situation today is such that this becomes the main issue in the US presidential elections.
Fourth difference – The Chinese state, working in only a single direction, with only a single aim and target, strives to eliminate every possible strategic problem either by virtue of resources or by the use of force. Huge foreign exchange reserves and massive economic power give it this immediate advantage.
Fifth difference – China wants a complete dominance on entire Asia. China has openly opposed and abused India’s every interest in the past decade. It is indicative of the fact that China wants to create the a 21st century of its own, with no intention of sharing it with India.
All these indications are now transforming into ground realities, and they are happening in our own land! China has speedily made its CPEC in the Illegally occupied PoK in the past two years and thereby prepared for its entry in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Possibly this would be its ultimate objective – to reduce India’s dominance in the most strategic IOR. All nations, which have so far been close to India are being supplied military equipments, like submarines (Bangladesh). Pakistan’s courage and 'power' has increased manifold, despite the Baloch rebels raising a hue and cry. The Babur missile test conducted by Pakistan in 2017 should be viewed in this light.
Now the issue is no longer limited to Pakistan. In the battle of supremacy on entire Asia, China is continuously investing which can seriously impact India’s interests. By showing huge procurement favours to an economically troubled Russia and convincing the Taliban for accepting a mid-way, China is creating new equations the ultimate results of which would possibly be not understood by anyone.
An Action Plan
So, what should India do? We can focus on five things –
First – We should try to make a common front with all possible allies. The military and strategic close relationship with Vietnam and Japan is being developed with this view.
Second – Our intrinsic strengths – our education system, scientific research capability and economy – should be strengthened if we are to remain steadfast against such forces for the next fifty years.
Third – The political system and democracy we take pride in, and which has slowed us against the Chinese communists, has to be completely cleansed – i.e. revolutionary electoral reforms.
Fourth – Speak in unison – when the issue relates to national interest, mutual bitterness and confrontations would not be helpful, and that too against an opponent like China. Our unity will always remain our strength.
Fifth – Preparedness for the future – It is quite possible that the Chinese government’s current model (no democratic elections) may struggle some day in the wake of despotism and finally collapse. And then there will be a likelihood of a change in China’s strategic approach.
The speed with which the 21st century is showing new forms, India should not hesitate to do everything possible to protect its interests and the prosperity of its citizens by national consensus.