India may feel emboldened by US-China antagonism but its China policy will be best served through diplomacy not confrontation
by M.K. Bhadrakumar
June 11, 2020
The good thing about the nihilistic Indian media narratives – relentlessly negative – over the military standoff in eastern Ladakh is that the government largely disregarded them. One hopes that a
Nihilists and cynics are best shunned, especially when they also happen to be Sinophobes with a tunnel vision of the contemporary world situation who blithely overlook that China is a major player in the superpower league.
Some dominant narratives have even demanded that the Indian Army should give a
Unsurprisingly, some American analysts who wielded influence in the Washington Beltway in the bygone pre-Trump era have also
However, the Indian leadership has held a steady line so far to seek a peaceful resolution of the tensions on the northern border. More than a month ago, when the Chinese build-up began, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval spotted it like “a cloud, as small as a man’s hand,” as the Bible says, and post-haste engaged with Chinese Politburo member Yang Jiechi, reportedly on May 6.
No doubt an inflection point has been reached – a time of significant change in the direction of the curvature ahead for the Sino-Indian relationship. Significantly, Doval didn’t wait for Donald Trump’s mediatory offer – which sailed into view only three weeks later – to contact Beijing directly at the highest possible level next only to Xi Jinping.
Trump said Washington had “informed both India and China that the United States is ready, willing and able to mediate or arbitrate their now raging border dispute.”
Now, it is a stunning offer. By offering to mediate, Trump displayed his interest in being objective and impartial. He signaled he won’t take sides – stretching further, he doesn’t intend to wade into the India-China tensions as such or get entangled in it.
The Indian analysts who are raring to give a bloody nose to the PLA – many of whom also happen to be cheerleaders of the US-Indian “partnership” – fail to understand the meaning of Trump’s mediatory offer. If India takes “police action” – as Jawaharlal Nehru once vowed – it will have consequences no less disastrous than what we Indians faced six decades ago.
Today, “police action” against China means war with a superpower where India will not be at liberty to prescribe its parameters or timeline.
Don’t India’s “China experts” read newspapers? The prognosis worldwide is that India is cruising toward the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic, while on the other hand, the World Bank says the Indian economy is due to shrink by more than 3% by year-end.
Besides, there is another side to all this – the unpredictability and inconstancy of US-China relations, which has profound implications for Indian policymaking.
Prima facie, nothing would suit Trump better than to join his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s roadshow on the Communist Party of China and make the Ladakh tensions a golden opportunity to lock India in as a US ally to confront China.
But Trump is disinterested. This can only mean that Trump takes a 360-degree view of the US-China relationship.
Stephen Roach at Yale University, formerly the chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia and a noted China specialist, wrote a thoughtful
Roach sees a tipping point ahead and domestic savings plunging – that is, if the US-China trade tensions effectively tax beleaguered US consumers, which, combined with a weaker dollar, would make external funding of the saving deficit impossible to sustain, especially if Trump indeed presses ahead with his “poorly timed wish for financial decoupling from China.”
Quite obviously, Trump’s statement of May 29 on
Suffice to say, India’s narratives on China need to be correlated with the international environment. Even senior cabinet ministers began harboring fanciful notions that US companies are exiting China in droves and heading toward India to set up production centers. Knowledgeable business friends of India in the US have had to step in to disabuse us of such notions.
Sure, China is not having an easy time as it enters the big league in global politics. But that’s how it has been in history, as entrenched powers do their utmost to keep out aspiring powers. China has problems with not only the US
Nonetheless, a point has been reached where big powers realize that a
When it comes to India’s predicament, the tragic downhill slide toward the 1962 war cannot be forgotten. That conflict also stemmed largely from fantasies. There is a world of difference between a Line of Control and a Line of Actual Control. An earthy realism and pragmatism is needed to survive and thrive.
Geopolitical circumstances are such today that it is not possible to sequester the tensions in Ladakh and regard them merely as a territorial dispute. Wuhan, Chennai – Prime Minister Narendra Modi can do only so much and no further. But the question must be asked: What about strategic communication during the interim between informal summits? Our China policy has been adrift.
India failed to take China’s warnings seriously in the downstream of the decision over Jammu and Kashmir last August, and complicated matters further by proclaiming Aksai China to be an integral part of India, and crossed the red line by drawing a map to affirm India’s long-term intentions.
And all this while we hope to establish “physical jurisdiction over POK (and Gilgit-Baltistan) one day” – as the external affairs minister put it, referring to Pakistan-administered Kashmir – through which of course the US$60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the flag carrier of the Belt and Road Initiative, runs across the Karakoram Pass, in the vicinity of which, by the way, we are also pressing ahead with road-building to facilitate swift military movement and deployments.
Meanwhile, India dissimulated a strategic coupling with the US over a medieval virus to humiliate Beijing, and began contemplating ministerial visits to Taiwan. How could India have missed that this is a most critical juncture in regional and world politics, which is at a transformative stage? Indian diplomacy faltered amidst multiple failures of statecraft.
The functionaries responsible must be held to account for their abject failure – due to incapacity, inertia, disinterest or whatever – to sustain strategic communication with Beijing, which is undoubtedly the most consequential relationship India would have for decades to come.
Even in the most difficult years of the Cold War, there was no let-up in Soviet-American communication, whereas Indian diplomacy relishes only joyful company – Brazil, America, Israel, Australia.
Chinese love to quote their paid tattus LMAO! Chinese build-up is happening all along LAC for now. They say something else and do completely opposite, but does China have balls to start hostilities is different thing all together.
It's not about having balls to start hostilities.
If China and India actually get into a war (no matter who starts it), both sides will be the losers.
Common sense would dictate that both India and China would want to avoid a war.
Provoking lmao! Chinese in garb of Military exercise and epidemic trying to grab more land in eastern ladakh and if challenge start threatening others.
well u started provocation first by occupying our territory and attacking our patrol party.Unfortunately, India lacks commonsense. The people at top on India side probably think they are geniuses by provoking China right now thinking covid19+current US admin is perfect opportunity to push ahead. This is a prime example of miscalculation. Well, we have to wait and see.