From bhai-bhai to Munnabhai please!

The Disputed Territory : Shown in green is Kas...

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Frankly, I don’t think anything at all of value was achieved by India in this visit from China, and a great deal of advantage to China and diplomatic loss to India happened simply because the visit established that we could not question Chinese actions efficiently. Never mind being able to get them to back off.

India isn’t planning to move to a new continent or something, nor is China. Its high time India figured out a coherent strategy for China rather than assumptions of friendship and floundering lack of assertion or belligerence (in other words, ad lib unpreparedness). It is really beyond incompetence to not have a way of bringing these things on the table planned for such an important visit.

No one is asking India to attack China or something, but there needs to be some confidence and agility that comes with knowing a subject thoroughly and knowing how much can be pushed when the leaders meet.

Indian relations with China are marked with an embarrassing degree of cluelessness. No, not fear, not agreement or disagreement or anything. People just don’t have a clue. We are waiting for China to tell us. Are they going to contest the next elections too and run the country and its policies? How come we don’t have our stand or at least a clear goal we are negotiating toward?

See, the writing is clear on the wall. Pakistan is descending into a mess. It is paranoid about India, China is in bed with Pakistan. If anyone thinks Pakistan has forgotten about its strategic depth and ambitions on Kashmir and India, think again. Pakistan would starve and disintegrate, and we’d have four countries after Kashmir instead of one. Its hardwired into them.

China has Aksai Chin and a strong presence in PoK. China has been making a variety of noises about Kashmir. Its not just about stapled visas. Its the whole picture. Its about denying an Indian official entry based on his presence in Kashmir. It is about noises about Arunachal. It is about not counting the Kashmir region as part of its boundary with India, etc etc. Other than saying that Kashmir is an Indo-Pak thing, everything they are doing is the opposite.

Their only leverage against India without being seen as warmongers and inviting world interference is supporting Pakistan on Kashmir. In the meanwhile, Pakistan is busy destroying itself, so China is under strategic pressure in terms of time (addressed below). China also has made significant investments in Pakistan recently, and while Pakistan believes its about friendship, it makes sense for China to make sure of its access route. If Pakistan loses PoK (through disintegration – India is too noble to take it back by force), that is a lot of China’s money down the drain for access India is not going to give.

America is weary and hoping for a way out. China is fresh and enjoys the support of the public as opposed to America.

On the other hand, Pakistan is getting increasingly unstable, and with its national paranoia, its first security desire is going to be for India to be too occupied to be a threat. America has already not shown much interest in that direction, but we see China IS keeping us on our toes ever since the flood. Coincidence? You wish. These things aren’t exactly involuntary.

In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if we later discover that much of this was planned and only failed or got delayed because of the floods. The complementary plan in Kashmir was certainly functioning. The Army was thoroughly demoralized and it was laid bare that the government and Army have no clue what to do with each other.

On the front of time, we have established that Pakistan would like to see us busy right now, China would likely prefer to leverage Pakistan while it still can. India has just been in international headlines with its exemplary committment to non-violence in the form of not even arming the Army well enough. So its not exactly a secret that we aren’t at peak military functioning.

What is the window? Our Tejas planes should be ready by the next year or so. Similar with BrahMos coming into operation. BrahMos from the sound of it is an incredible missile. Best avoided from a Chinese perspective – why unnecessarily stack in favour of the enemy, right? We have massive arms procurements that should be falling into place in a year or so onwards. After the next 2-3 years and definitely 3-4 years, the Indian Army is going to be a far more formidable adversary.

If you were China, and you wanted to corner India, when was a good time?
a – right now
b – after our arms upgrades are in place and Pakistan (ally) is in worse shape
c – Nah, they’re too scared of us

I’m not saying that’s what they will do, but from the way the terrain is laid out, if they have an intention to pressure India (further, that is), its going to happen soon.

Under such a regional scenario, I find it extremely concerning that we get updates on Chinese actions from newspapers and respond to the updates after most of the leading opinion makers have written articles discussing it ad nauseaum. Post that, our responses are still clueless and its quite likely that people keyed in to regional politics likely have a better grip on happenings.

I don’t think that if China had a choice, it would choose to confront India. Both countries would rather push for progress than war. India, because we are too engrossed with our money making and China, because it has too many neighbours and citizens who are already security risks. However, I doubt if this is about what China wants so much as it is about what China must pay for Pakistan’s cooperation. China wants the Gwadar port. Pakistan has showed historically that its one obsession is Kashmir. Sometimes I wonder what would happen to the country if India just handed over Kashmir. Pakistan would disintegrate, I think. No purpose left.

Anyway, we have seen Pakistan buddy up to America in order to have weapons and a godfather against India. It corrupted its own society to raise fighters. I don’t think it is unreasonable that when China wants to use Pakistan’s resources and China happens to be a neighbour of India, incidentally a neighbour who defeated India once, what Pakistan wants in the relationship is Kashmir. I think they will stall as much as they can, but if the choice is between the port and Kashmir, Kashmir will be the sacrifice.

From the sound of it, Indian government is largely not alert about China. It is all reactive. They did this, we’ll do this. That too, we’ll do it for a while, and then see if we can talk things out. This is really sad, because after our Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai stint in 1962, it wouldn’t be such a horrible thing to do a Munnabhai instead and go “Aye circuit, China mein apun ko kya chahiye? Jara bata unko”

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Vidyut
Vidyut is a blogger on issues of National interest. Staunch advocate of rights, learning and freedoms. @Vidyut

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