In my last article I had left the readers to ponder over a possible way ahead to deal with China. In the meanwhile China as per its past practice attempted to takeover Galwan by use of force, violating five agreements signed between India and China on Border Management along the LAC between 1993 to 2013 not to talk about shattering the perceived bonhomie achieved during the Wuhan and Mamallapuram summits of 2018 and 19. Galwan is a defining moment in India – China relations, unacceptable and condemnable deserving an appropriate response. It has violated every provision of the various agreements signed between the two countries, which essentially talk of exercising restraint and resolving issues through dialogue at military, diplomatic and political level. Henceforth, we need to banish the idea that Chinese are our friends. They never were, they never will. Relations are now going to fluctuate in the zone of no war no peace or a conflict.
We need to deal with them in a measured and guarded manner. Twenty of our brave soldiers have been martyred and some more are battling for their lives but knowing our doctors I am sure they will give their all to save our brave soldiers. We should also realise that we have two not one adversarial nations along our frontiers and I am not even talking of the grey zone warriors of Pakistan. There is a power differential and we need to take that into account in our response to the emerging situation with China. But we also need to realise that China cannot afford to deploy everything opposite us. It also has its share of worries commencing from Japan, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia beside the US. Other aspect which we need to be cognizant off is the economic strength of China. The trade deficit of India is over USD 60 bn plus. China exports 75 % of its raw material for Pharma, 82% semi-conductor devices, 81% antibiotics and 73% telecom equipment to India. Not to talk of the critical rare earth material for which China is the major supplier in the world. Finally it has single party rule which takes a long term perspective of its national security affairs which reflects in its better defence preparedness in terms of weapon systems and military infrastructure.
However, is everything going China’s way? I am afraid not. The world opinion is against it post COVID19. The US and even EU seem determined to halt the dragon’s bullying military and economic aggression. Vietnam, Philippines, Japan and Australia in particular are aggressively disposed to it. Indian Defence Forces have extensive combat experience. Indian Soldiers have proved their mettle in all wars from WW1 to date. The 62 was lost due to reasons well known to all and not due to the quality of soldiering. China has been undertaking defence reforms so it is in the middle of reorganization hence not fully stabilized. It has started reorienting towards maritime domain but still has a long way to threaten Indian mainland seriously. Although we do need to be careful of our island security as some suspicious naval activities around Andaman Nicobar Islands have been reported.
Way ahead lies in first resolving the current dispute in short term by politico- military – diplomatic measures. If matters don’t get resolved then there exist a number of quid pro quo options in the military domain. Second we need to stitch together a multinational platform to respond to the China – Pak power differential with India. Getting the nations unfavourably disposed to China for such an initiative without raising hackles should become the second pillar. Third we need to exploit the Chinese fear of getting choked by its neoghbouurs in its quest to get access to warm waters other than Malacca. We often talk of China encircling India through string of pearls. But if we examine critically it is China which is truly a landlocked country and struggling to breakout from its concentric circle thinking. It has on its rim almost all nations involved in some dispute or the other especially East China Sea (ECS) and SCS. Mongolia and Russia have settled their disputes but remain suspicious of China. We need to leverage their uneasy relations with China. On top of it, we have a resurgent Taiwan and highly unstable Hong Kong. Even in Tibet and Uighurs there are presence of strong undercurrent against the Han (dominant class of China) Chinese. It is time we leverage Tibet, Uighur and Hong Kong issues overtly and covertly. Information operations and cyber warfare have become a norm be it the US, Russia, China, Pakistan or Israel. Along the land frontier India must hold on to its frontiers more coherently. It is no use living in a dream that India – China border is a settled border. It must firmly come under the operational control of the Army with ITBP being placed under command the Army. We cannot have a situation on a hostile border being handled by forces under entirely different chains of command reporting to different ministries and operating in silos with no or limited lateral command, control, communication and coordination mechanism. India has effectively blocked China from the South – SW preventing it access to warm waters of the Indian Ocean other than that from Malacca Strait, making it highly vulnerable to interdiction. So we can clearly appreciate that it is China which is landlocked and struggling to find a way out to meet its energy and trade needs through Warm Waters. Hence its quest to convert Gwadar port into a la Singapore to bypass Malacca through its flagship CPEC project of OBOR. If CPEC fails OBOR will fail, a situation which will make China’s economy highly vulnerable. It is to generate multiple options for alternate access to IOR that it is also attempting access through Myanmar and Bangladesh into Bay of Bengal.
Finally, the maritime domain must become the actual flank of decision. China would be operating along extended lines of communications despite its string of pearls strategy. But India has to present a joint maritime front to deal with China by a coordinated effort through agreements under QUAD or JAI. We also need to continuously build on our maritime capability and operating bases in our area of interest through agreements such as the Mutual Logistics Support Arrangement (MLSA), access to ports of IOR countries has already been negotiated with countries like Sabang Port, Indonesia, Duqam Port Oman, US base Diego Garcia, French base on Reunion Islands. But it must also develop its Island territories as it projects our influence in the maritime domain lest we are surprised by the Chinese. Along with all this, rapid buildup of military capability has become an existential necessity for us if we want to keep our country safe, secure and take it forward to become a significant power in the world. Because in the words of Chankya, “If you want to win, make him (enemy) believe you cannot be defeated.”