By Dr Subhash Kapila
Geopolitically in 2019 it would be a truism for China to accept that India is no longer a strategic push-over as despite China’s massive asymmetries in relative military and economic power the same cannot be translated into geopolitical power warranting China to continue with its South Asia policies with “Pakistan-Centrality” fixations.
China-India stand divided by Himalayan divergences due to China’s aggressiveness dating back to 1950 and these adversarial stances of China have remained ‘Unscaleable” by India’s reasonableness and no amount of ‘Wuhan Spirit’ and its follow-on ‘Chennai Connect’ can bridge the divide till such time China dispenses with the centrality of Pakistan in its South Asian policy formulations.
China consistently and obdurately has for decades stuck fast to the precept of “Pakistan Centrality” in its South Asia policy and built Pakistan as a “Rogue State” with China-aided nuclear weapons programme and long-range missile delivery capabilities. Lately, China has openly shielded designation of Pakistan Army’s Islamic Jihadi terrorist chiefs from United Nations censure as ‘UN designated Global Terrorists.
All these Chinese adversarial manifestations emerge from a single Chinese foreign policy precept of impeding the emergence of India as global Major Power and to that end Pakistan is China’s cats-paw against India.
Despite the above adversarial stances of China against India, the Chinese President had imperiously declared at the ‘Chennai Connect’ Summit with PM Modi that the only way forward in China-India relations is for the ‘Dragon and Elephant to Dance Together’.
Implicit in the above assertion is that while the Chinese Dragon spews fire and venom in direction of India the Indian Elephant should meekly shuffle its feet and acquiesce to the Chinese Dragon spitting fire in support of Pakistan. Chinese President seems to have forgotten the age-old adage that ‘elephants have long memories’.
Today India is not engaging China out of fear of capitalisation of the China Threat or the possibility of a China-Pakistan Axis ‘Two Front War’. India is prepared for that eventuality. India is engaging China for the sole purpose of a more stable South Asia. Similarly, China is not engaging India for reasons of imperial charity but a hard-nosed assessment that India even if it does not side with China then too India should be weaned away from hostile stances against China.
Discarding all the diplomatic noises that China and India may have made at Chennai the fact is that nothing substantial has been achieved at the ‘Chennai Connect’ Summit. India has to factor in its foreign policy formulations that China will continue as a “Hostile Neighbour” with all the attendant security risks for India.
China and India resorting to Informal Summits at Wuhan in 208 and in Chennai in 2019 are in itself an admission that the strategic divergences that divide the two mighty Asian Nations defy resolution by accepted foreign policy institutional mechanisms of both countries.
China’s hard-line policies picked acquired sharper and jagged edges with President Xi Jinping acquiring all the levers of power and becoming Chinese President for Life. President Xi Jinping gave no encouraging indicators to India on resolution of long standing disputes nor China’s stubborn opposition to India’s candidature for UN Security Council Permanent Membership or the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
China’s aggressiveness increased on borders resulting in the Dokalam Military Standoff where China was in for a shock as PM Modi held firm. The Wuhan Informal Summit that followed was President Xi Jinping temporising to avoid absence of Indian PM Modi at the following Beijing Summit.
In between Wuhan I and Wuhan II at Chennai the past weekend Chinese President Xi Jinping continued with ‘China’s Sense of Entitlement’ to dictate the course of political developments in South Asia to the advantage of the China-Pakistan Axis and to the strategic disadvantage of India.
India on the other hand in the interregnum between Wuhan I and Wuhan II at Chennai, India had moved up significantly on the global geopolitical ladder and being recognised as an ‘Emerged Power’ and being perspectively viewed as an existential geopolitical counterweight of China in the Asian strategic space.
Chinese President Xi Jinping seems to have grudgingly realised this new emerging reality but even 48 hours prior to his arrival at Chennai could not resist the conditional Chinese reflex action of vocalising a volte ‘face turn-around on Chinese position on Kashmir. Does it not indicate the ‘imperiousness’ of China’s approaches to India and the continued persistence of China’s “Pakistan Centrality” in South Asian policies.
There are many noted Indian Columnists who have lately been vocal in their writings and in TV debates that India should not count too much on the geopolitical weightage in favour of India and that India must accept and adapt to China’s asymmetric superiorities over India militarily and economically. This is an erroneous perception that is being propagated to the detriment of objective thinking on India’s China Threat challenge.
China’s asymmetric military and economic superiorities against India do not translate into Chinese global geopolitical weightage. This should have become clear to China in that with the exception of Turkey and Malaysia, the entire global community at the United Nations ‘closed door’ session spearheaded by China in favour of Pakistan’s stand on Kashmir misfired.
In my SAAG Papers for nearly two decades and in my book on China one has constantly argued that China’s strategic vulnerabilities are manifold and which meantime have magnified lately and thereby offer India windows of opportunity that should empower Indian strategic thinking to get out of the Indian cubby-hole that China has successfully boxed India into a corner in South Asia and that China can prevail over India.
Contemporaneously, when coupled with geopolitical perspectives and reigning policy inclinations in Asian and Western capitals, all suggest that China is virtually isolated in that China is more feared than respected or offers magnetically to which other nations can gravitate to. My oft-repeated assertion from the beginning of last decade is that China has no ‘Natural Allies’ other than Pakistan and North Korea and therein lies the rub for China.
Concluding, it needs to be strongly emphasised that Indian policy establishment would be unwise to continue with the charade of the ‘Wuhan Spirit’ and the ‘Chennai Connect’ with a pious hope that China will dispense with the “Pakistan Centrality” factor in its policy approaches towards India. India must continue to treat the “China Threat’ to India as a live one and acquiring ominous overtones with China’s colonial hold on Pakistan via the CPEC strategic girdling project. On the foregoing count, India can expect geopolitical and strategic support from the entire expanse of the Indo Pacific Community and those who underwrite its thrust against an overbearing and aggressive China.