Time to break China-Pak’s anti-India nexus
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s recent assertion that India’s image in the world is changing seems to have come true with the Narendra Modi-led Government successfully breaking the Doklam impasse in India’s favour. During the 73 days of stand-off, India displayed rare courage by not succumbing to pressure mounted by overbearing China and at the same time restraining itself from doing anything that could have escalated the situation into a war.
In “Xiamen Declaration”, BRICS for the first time named and shamed Pakistan by listing terror groups like Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and Jaish-e-Mohammad — which have waged war against India —in the global terrorist groups. The victory is the result of Modi’s touch to India’s foreign policy. The change is more evident as China had been shielding Pakistan-based terrorist organisations at all multilateral forums, such as the UN, BRICS or SCO.
Moreover, the ninth BRICS summit hit at India’s western neighbour, without naming Pakistan, for promoting or turning a blind eye to terrorist organisations on its soil. Thus the Xiamen Declaration said, “We reaffirm that those responsible for committing, organising, or supporting terrorist acts must be held accountable.”
Though the statement did neither refer to Pakistan nor “cross-border terrorism, it is known to the world that India’s primary concern is about anti-India terrorism originating from Pakistan. The joint statement at BRICS expressed concern over “the security situation in the region and violence caused by the Taliban, ISIL/DAISH (ISIS), the Al-Qaeda and its affiliates”.
From Pakistan’s nuclear tests to China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), India has been at the core of Beijing-Islamabad nexus. In fact, debt-ridden Islamabad provides immense opportunity for China to strategically penetrate Pakistan. Having deployed thousands of Chinese troops in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK), particularly Gilgit-Baltistan, since 2010, Beijing is making concerted efforts to turn Pakistan into its land corridor to the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean through the so-called “one belt, one road” project.
India’s primary concern is related to CPEC, which passes through POK. The script of China-Pakistan “iron friendship”, as they prefer to call it, was written keeping in mind Beijing’s imperial designs. China has successfully eliminated two layers of buffer zones with India and pushed deep into the Indian territory of Jammu & Kashmir with the help of Pakistan. While Pakistan’s is eying Kashmir, China’s major concern is Tibet. To their mutual interests, India is a formidable hurdle.
However, now India under Modi is making endeavours to change the rules of geopolitics. The Xiamen Declaration seems to be a turning point in that direction. The much-hyped Chinese supremacy has been challenged. India-America-Japan triangle has emerged as a strong cause of concern for China. The systematic change in the foreign policy brought by Modi indicates that India will no more be submissive to China. If one looks at the events in sequence, clarity of thought with action is visible. After becoming the Prime Minister, Modi started his journey, in the neighbourhood, with Bhutan then Nepal. This was a visible departure from unwritten rules followed by earlier Prime Ministers of India.
Till the Cold War, China was more assertive in creating a multi-polar world. Once it found itself powerful and on solid ground, it has changed its mood and started discarding all the multi-forum organisations and giving little importance to international treaties. On the contrary, India continues to strive for multi-polar world, and the ninth BRICS summit may prove to be the defining moment in the endeavour. It will also provide larger space
for India to manoeuvre in the world politics.
Now, things look positive for India. Can Modi think of undoing a fundamental error committed by the first Prime Minister by declaring Tibet as an integral part of China? Since 1954, things have turned in China’s favour. Jawaharlal Nehru and KN Pannikar shaped India’s Tibet policy shortly after Independence. The critical question in 1950 was who should or could occupy the strategic buffer region between the two? From 1946 to 1951, the Tibet policy of Nehru and his associates reflected that of the British: treating Tibet as an autonomous buffer state between India and China, recognising Chinese suzerainty but not sovereignty over Tibet, and protecting Tibet’s autonomy by recognising its treaty-making powers, especially in relations to India. Thus, in March 1947 a Tibetan delegation was invited to the Asian Relations Conference in Delhi. In September 1947, the Indian Government assured that all previous treaty commitments, that is Anglo-Tibetan treaties and conventions, would be respected. In 1950s PLA marched into Tibet. India became a victim of Chinese game. Nehru committed another blunder by declaring Tibet as an integral part of China. This made all the differences and since then India has been battling the challenges and woes. The current Doklam stand-off was product of the Nehruvian blunder.
Nehru and Indira Gandhi scoffed at the idea of buffer zone and balance of power. Such complex policy was not only dictated by geopolitics, it was the most economical way of ensuring security along the 3,200 km Himalayan boundary. Nehru took U-turn.
Almost after 70 years, India under the leadership of Modi is capable of positioning India in the world politics. It looks possible and desirable as well. We are near the goalpost to reformulate the rules of dealing with China. Most of the Indian PMs, before any Chinese leader’s visit to India, used to endorse One China policy and declare that Tibet is part of China. Now, if China does not reciprocate the same and endorse One Bharat Policy, we can also challenge the One China Policy. It has reasons to do so. This will rein in the China-Pakistan nexus and anti-India wave inflamed by China in the Indian subcontinent.
The timing is perfect for action. First, Chinese economy is slowing down. Chinese population is aging at an unprecedented pace. China’s working age population peaked in 2012, the medium age will rise rather abruptly to 49 by 2050, and national debt at 300 per cent of GDP. In contrast, India’s working age population will rise till 2050, enabling higher growth rates and eventually overtaking the United States in terms of GDP.
Second, Chinese economy is export driven. India is a big market for Chinese goods, especially in IT sector. Chinese electronics and IT products have made it to the hardware and telecom markets. Genuine security concerns have arisen regarding the protection of data and personal information of millions of Indian users traversing over the networking equipment. The second aspect relates to trade imbalance between India and China, which has already swelled to 51 billion US dollar. Electronics and IT products are a key constituent of Chinese exports to India, estimated around 22 million US dollar. With a slowing economy, which fundamentally is export driven, China cannot afford any such adverse impact on its electronics manufacturing industry. At the same time, other countries may follow India’s decision to initiate similar reviews of Chinese-made electronics products.
Post-1962, there have been numerous border incidences between India and Chinese militaries, Nathu La in 1967 and Sumdurang Chu two decades later. In the recent past too, the Despang Plateau and the Chumar-Demchok area witnessed face-offs in April 2013 and September 2014, respectively. The post-Doklam diplomacy is in favour of India to manoeuvre. The major challenge for India is China’s overwhelming support to Pakistan. The Pakistan policy is full of India baiting. The nexus between two has to be curbed. Modi and Chinese president Xi Jinping agreed that more must be done to
improve mutual trust and avoid border stand-off.
The message of building trust between India and China could be gauged on China-Pakistan nexus. So far the Chinese words could not be trusted. The new leadership of China is different from Deng Xia, who focused on national economy; the current leadership is keen to outstretch the political power. China believes in dismantling the opponents. It has applied the same tactics with others, quite often against India. Pakistan’s adventure has to be clipped. It is only possible by cutting the cardinal link between China and Pakistan. India under Modi would be ready with possible actions if words of Dragon are not converted into action. Time will tell whether BRICS declaration was merely a showcase or China really meant to force Pakistan to mend its ways.
(The writer is Head of the Department of Political Science, Central University of Haryana)
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