Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The enigma that China is - 3rd and concluding part

We may be uncomfortable with it but China is a powerful reality and now it is not only across the Himalayas but all around us. Its bases in Pakistan, East Africa, Seychelles, Madagascar, Maldives, Srilanka, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal watch us constantly and so does its blue-ocean navy operating nuclear powered and armed submarines. At the same time, it is also our biggest trading partner and may turn out to be a significant investor in out telecommunications and power sectors. It is a participant country for setting up an international university for Buddhist studies at Nalanda and it admires Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore and, to some extent, Jawaharlal Nehru. China, as we have seen, is a complex country and India should have a whole set of strategies, some of them even contradictory to each other, in its quest to deal with China effectively.

Let us first look at how India can measure up to the Chinese military challenge. Undeniably, at least on paper, today that country is far stronger than India in its preparedness both for conventional and nuclear conflict. But if we display even for ten years the same single-mindedness and determination as the Chinese have over the past three decades in adding to their military muscles, we would at least be in a position to make any armed adventure against us unacceptably costly for the Chinese. We can do so by buying the best which our money can but, more importantly, also by bringing up our defence production by a few notches, both in terms of quantity and quality. And then in our world-famous software capabilities we have an ace up our sleeve. We have to have our best young brains engaged in developing defensive and offensive software for war in the cyber space. With some will at the political level and hard work by our scientists and technologists we can gain and maintain an edge over the competition in this all-important theatre of modern warfare. Here, we may also have a lot to learn from Israel, thankfully with whom now we have very strong military ties. In the sharpness of intellect Indians are not behind the Jewish people but we can definitely profit emulating their determination to prevail over all odds.

Apart from the above, we have to be more like the Chinese in responding to and dealing with them - friendly and hostile alternately but generally inscrutable, at times even confusing. We should be friendly in our trade relations and cultural exchanges, be supportive of them in their opposition to the west on new environmental norms but clearly assertive, if not aggressive, in rejecting China’s territorial claims over our Arunachal Pradesh and parts of Ladakh, in decrying Pakistan’s gift of Sinkiang to China, in protesting against the Chinese questioning Jammu and Kashmir’s status as an Indian state and against their military presence in Gilgit and Baltistan, in expressing our support and admiration for the Dalai Lama as the cultural and religious head of the Tibetans, in saying that we recognise Tibet as an autonomous region of China and that since the 1950s China has been encroaching upon that autonomy by increasingly extending its direct rule over Tibet and by settling there in large numbers the Han Chinese.

In the countries whose shores are washed by the Indian Ocean and elsewhere too we must do man-to-man marking of the Chinese, we may not have huge funds to splurge around but we have English language, strength in computer software, managerial expertise, vibrant private sector and long democratic traditions to leverage. China, which considers the South China Sea as its sole property, has been engaged for long in a bitter conflict with Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines and South Korea. It also disputes the Japanese control over some islands. India is naturally friendly to all these countries; through ASEAN or otherwise this relationship should be made to further flourish. Also, we should help our strategic alliance with the United States take deeper roots; it would not hurt to have the world’s greatest power as our ally in a possible showdown with the world’s second greatest.

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