By Dr Subhash Kapila
Concurrent with winter freeze setting in on the Himalayan heights separating India from China-Occupied Tibet, gathering trends over the last year or so strongly suggest that in end 2011 China-India relations are headed towards a deep freeze.
China-India relations were always in a freeze over the last six decades despite the veneer that both China and India gave by rhetorical flourishes that China and India were committed to peace and tranquility on the contested border between India and China-Occupied Tibet.
Regrettably, it was India and the Indian policy establishment only that gave credence to China’s peaceful protestations. China succeeded like in the run-up to 1962 to induce a sense of complacency in Indian war-preparedness against China’s not so benign intentions against India.
China craftily utilized these two decades – 1990s and 2000s under cover of this veneer for a massive militarization of China-Occupied Tibet including India-specific targeting of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons on the Tibetan Plateau.
China could achieve this being encouraged by two factors. First the complacency it succeeded in inducing in the Indian policy establishment which led to political de-emphasizing of the China Threat against India and as a consequence a tardy war preparedness against the China Threat not by the Indian Armed Forces but by the political leadership. Secondly, China correctly counted on the strategic timidity and feeble responses of the Indian political leadership to Chinese political and military coercion.
The Indian military hierarchy as part of the ‘China Appeasement’ policy was made to mouth statements rationalizing Chinese armed intrusions into Indian Territory as arising from the undemarcated borders.
China thus stands encouraged to adopt haughty, strategically arrogant attitudes bordering on imperial condescension towards India as recent events indicate.
The above finds reflection in commentaries in China’s official and tightly controlled media. Sampling of such attitudes this month is briefly quoted below:
“India jitters at the sight of China gaining prestige in Asia, South Asia and South East Asia”
“In a nutshell to grow up to be a real power and stand up as a competitor, (against China) India needs to first and foremost break through its psychological fences.”
“India must well bear in mind: to build up real power, neither self-satisfaction nor Self-inferiority is a mature and constructive mindset”
This is in continuance of the trend in Chinese military literature calling for ‘teaching India a lesson’ reminiscent of 1962. Aggressive calls were also made in the wake of commencement of Indian oil exploration in Vietnamese waters in the South China Sea.
Need more be said about how China views India and about what the world considers as the other Asian giant capable of standing upto China. It is also a pointer for the Indian political leadership that it is they and they alone who have to stiffen their strategic spines and demonstrate their will to use power and the will to speed-track the development of the instruments of power and to use the instruments of power at their disposal.
It is also a lesson for Indian diplomats and security managers that like in Pakistan, China’s foreign policy is determined by the Chinese PLA military hierarchy and their policy formulations would predominantly bear a strategic imprint rather than a political imprint that our diplomats are equipped to handle. India’s foreign policy establishment and national security establishment need to adapt themselves to read Chinese intentions and formulations strategically.
Indicators portend that China-India relations are entering a deep freeze if not open confrontation and this needs focused attention by the Indian political leadership, Indian diplomats, and the Indian media. The Indian Armed Forces have always been seized how to cope with the China Threat
This Paper intends to examine the following issues related to the main theme under discussion (1) China’s Political and Military Coercion of India needs to be Checkmated (2) Strategic Implications of China-India Relations Deep Freeze (3) India Needs a Self-Reliant Military Posture Against The China Threat
China’s Political and Military Coercion Against India needs to be Checkmated
Symptomatic of China’s imperial condescension and political coercion have been China’s stands, statements and commentaries on two notable recent issues involving China and India. These two issues pertain to Indian oil exploration in Vietnamese waters in the South China Sea and the calling off by China of the 15th Round of Special Representatives Dialogue on the vexed border issue.
In a welcome change, the Indian Prime Minister made it clear to the Chinese Prime Minister at the East Asia Summit at Bali that India’s oil explorations in the South China Sea were purely commercial operations and that should not create Chinese strategic concerns. Following the Bali rebuff by India, implicit in which was that India had no intention to stop its oil exploration China has stiffened its stances against India at various levels.
In a second welcome change India refused to listen to Chinese dictates that India should call-off the Global Buddhist Congregation in New Delhi in the last week of November 2011, China called off the talks on India’s refusal. Details stand covered in the media.
At issue are the sovereign rights of India to pursue political activities and events as per its own sights. India is not a vassal sate of China that it should stoop to kneel before China and accept its dictates.
Symptomatic of China’s military coercion is the escalation of tension on India’s borders with Occupied Tibet and China strategic obtrusiveness and military presence in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. China’s militarization of Tibet transcends normal defensive requirements when viewed against the reality that India is presently incapable of posing a military threat to China.
Checkmating of China’s political coercion can be said to have commenced in a way as India’s initiatives in India’s contiguous regions are recently bearing fruit and this has enraged China and rattled it.
Checkmating of China’s military coercion has yet to take effective shape and this implies that India’s political leadership must allot sizeable financial allocations for both military expansion and military upgradation against The China Threat.
Strategic Implications of China-India Relations Deep Freeze
China can be expected to emerge more aggressive, more prone to brinkmanship and more prone to indulge in limited conflicts on its peripheries where it is involved in territorial disputes with its neighbors.
The above applies significantly to India. China perceives that India is China’s peer competitor for the Asian strategic space and it is with India that China has its widest border dispute in China-Occupied Tibet. Therefore in Chinese strategic perceptions the “India Threat” figures conspicuously.
China’s “India Threat” is Tibet-Centric and therein resides China’s paranoid strategic fears about India despite China’s massive military deployments in Tibet.
The above rules out any possibilities of China-India reconciliation even in the distant future. India therefore has to live, prepare and be vigilant about “The China Threat” whose manifestations are not confined to China-Occupied Tibet but extends to strategic encirclement of India in all its manifestations.
India Needs a Self-Reliant Military Posture Against ‘The China Threat’
Politically, India can cope with The China Threat in political cooperation with other countries in South Asia, South East Asia and East Asia in whose threat perceptions China figures conspicuously. Strategic cooperation in terms of shared political responses to China’s brinkmanship is possible.
Such shared multilateral responses unnerve China which prefers to deal with issues on a bilateral basis. The South China Sea issue unnerved China at Bali where multilateral responses to China’s aggressiveness surfaced ranging from USA, India and some ASEAN countries.
However when it comes to coping with The China Threat strategically and militarily, India has to be self-reliant and stand on its own legs. India cannot expect that other countries including the United States which ordinarily may share and cooperate with India on political confrontation with China would opt for siding with India militarily in its coping with The China Threat.
In coping with The China Threat, India in strategic and military terms has to adjust and prepare for the eventuality of being a “Lone Ranger”.
Once again the major deduction that surfaces every time in relation to coping with The China Threat is the imperative for a high state of India’s war preparedness not only on India’s borders with China-Occupied Tibet but also on its Western flanks where Pakistan boasts of its strategic concubinage nexus with China.
In contemporary strategic equations more than conventional military deterrence, it is strategic deterrence in terms of ICBMs (intercontinental missiles) and SLBMs (Sea launched nuclear capable missiles) that add both value and weight to strategic deterrence. India stands imbalanced in this sphere. India had no reasons to delay its ICBM and SLBM programs out of respect for United States sensitivities.
Similarly, India’s conventional military deterrence needs to be backed by indigenous high technology defense production infrastructure.
China-India relations heading for an undoubted deep freeze is inevitable as the issues that divide China and India become more implacable due to China’s strategic imperial condescension against India is now sought to be resisted by an India becoming more confident of its power potential and flowing from it the strategic recognition being bestowed on India in relation to China.
China’s Tibet-centric paranoia is destined to make China more intransigent towards India coupled with Indian Navy’s rising profile in the Indian Ocean Region despite size limitations.
India is destined to be pushed into a confrontation with China, however much it dislikes, by the force of regional and global strategic developments. This must dawn on India’s political leaders and national security establishment.