Satisfied with small concessions

Image result for pics of modi and Xi

[Still no doubts, Mr Modi?]

One cannot but admire how smoothly and with what relish the supremo-for-life, Xi Jinping, and his Zhongnanhai are playing Modi, aided and abetted by the Çhina-wallahs — the Mandarin-speaking section of the country’s diplomatic corps headed by foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale. This mini-summit on the sidelines of the SCO meet in Chingdao was supposedly to further the “Wuhan” agenda. Chingdao confirmed what was evident after Wuhan — the last one-on-one meet by the East Lake-side — that Delhi is being taken for a ride.

At Wuhan, so at Chingdao, if Prime Minister Modi raised any troubling issues — unbalanced and unequal trade, and the matter of the de facto Chinese recognition of Pakistan’s claims on Gilgit-Baltistan and, by extension, on all of Jammu & Kashmir in contravention of Beijing’s commitment vide the 1963 Ayub Khan-Zhouenlai agreement. The territorial compromise Pakistan made was to  cede certain parts of the Aksai Chin under Islamabad’s control to China pending formal and final solution for the dispute over the erstwhile “princely kingdom” of Kashmir. So,  no final Kashmir solution in sight, and, legally, there should be no Chinese projects, such as the Belt Road Initiative-China-Pakistan Corridor and a Division strong PLA force present in Baltistan  ostensibly to safeguard the CPEC construction. The final Chingdao statement says nothing about any of these issues other than the stock, tiresome, reference to continuing with the Special Representative-level talks to resolve the border dispute which has not moved an inch at any level over the last 70 years. The Baltistan-BRI issue, for example, was raised by MEA in talks leading up to Chingdao but was contemptuously swatted away by Beijing. The important thing to note is Modi  did not raise hell about the lack of movement on ANY of these issues of concern to India.

So, what has the Prime Minister come away with? Well, if truth be told, with crumbs. Consider the Chinese giveaways — permission for India to sell short-grained “sticky rice” grown in Assam and the Indian northeast, a promise to release hydrographic data for Yarlung-Tsangpo River that becomes the Brahmaputra at the great bend before entering Arunachal Pradesh — part of which China claims as “southern Tibet” — this data becoming necessary because of the mighty civil works China has already built and is continuing to build to divert this river northwards to supply its water-starved provinces, all the while assuring Delhi — starting from when there were no dams and hydroelectric projects whatsoever — that it would act as a responsible upper riparian state mindful of the lower riparian countries — India and Bangladesh. And, mind you, this promise of hydrographic data  is as per a previous accord Beijing did not respect and according to which it had to periodically pass on this data, but did not. The water flow in the Brahmaputra has reduced and will reduce once the Chinese network of dams and civil works is fully realized by more than 30%, endangering downstream riverine Indian and Bangladeshi economies. Incidentally, an upper riparian state hindering the flow of life-giving water can, under international law, be a cause for war. The reason Delhi is letting Beijing have its ways is, presumably, to not weaken its case in the west. India’s constructions on the upper western rivers passing through Indian Kashmir but allotted Pakistan per the Indus Water Treaty are a point of contention, and if Delhi protests Chinese constructions upstream of Brahmaputra then it’d weaken the Indian case regarding the dams/hydroelectric plants (Baglihar, Kishanganga, etc.)  built in Kashmir on the Jhelum. The difference between the eastern and western scenarios that Delhi has insufficiently emphasized is the fact that China makes no bones about their constructions stopping and diverting the Brahmaputra water even as Delhi claims its dams in Kashmir in no way obstruct  the flow in the Jhelum  or deplete the water available to Pakistan. So, where was the need for Modi not to  talk to Xi in terms of cease and desist?

The main political concession the PM has been able to extract from Xi — and it is no big deal really but important for Modi — who finds the political ground slipping from underneath him and needs this visit no doubt conveniently scheduled in the month or so before the May 2019 general elections are due, so the latter can crow about his successful diplomacy. That’s how desperate Modi seems now that he espies his chances for a second term dimming.

If Modi wanted to really impress the Indian people and show them that he’d take no guff from China or anybody else, he could have begun by doing several things this analyst has long been  recommending: (1) stop talking about it and start delivering strategically empowering Brahmos cruise missiles to any and all Southeast Asian countries that evince an interest in it, especially Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia and anybody else. It will bottle up the Chinese South Sea Fleet faster, and more effectively, than almost any other single action this country can take, and  crank up the production of the Brahmos by transferring its production technology to several private sector companies, (2) launch regular FONOPs (freedom of navigation patrols by strong Indian navy flotillas through the “narrow seas” deliberately created by the synthetic islands that China has built on a central verge in the South China Sea, (3) join the littoral and island states in this region to construct air and naval bases that the IAF and IN assets can use to mark an Indian presence in China’s backyard to counter the Chinese military presence west of the Malacca Strait in the Indian Ocean.

Except, Modi has shown no stomach for such hard measures but rather a penchant for talking incessantly about “peaceful” ventures WITH China! In the PM’s mind positioning India as a vishwa guru” and being fobbed off by China with small, piddling, concessions, and relying on the infirm US, which is too frightened of an affray with China to credibly fight India’s fight with the same entity, serves India’s interest. How this is so should be explained by Modi and his PMO — Doval and this lot of “national security advisers”.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
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22 Responses to Satisfied with small concessions

  1. &^%$#@! says:

    Hypothesizing the bottling of the PLAAN SCS Fleet using bases in Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, and Malaysia is fine, but is an altogether different proposition as compared to selling the BrahMos to the said Nations. It s doubtful if Indonesia, Philippines, and Malaysia will respond vigorously even if attacked. Note that the Philippines has already been neutralized, Vietnam will certainly fight ferociously, but if on;y if attacked. Vietnam is not an expansionist power. Freelance activity by IAF and IN units in the said Nations would explicitly draw them into an Indo-Sino fracas not of their making/desire. This will cause serious complications for India. The same holds true for China. Using bases (like Gwadar) to launch attacks against India will explicitly draw the concerned host into conflict with India. That is why demonstrating H-bomb and ICBM capability is a MUST. Shouting Barracuda in the ocean will not have the same effect as shouting SHARK. Deterrence is eventually a mind game, whether viewed conventionally or non-conventionally. .

    • &^%$#@! says:

      PLAN should read as PLAN in the above post. Apologies!

    • &^…@ — It boils down, in conflict situations, to the exchange ratio. The mere fact of the Brahmos in coastal batteries will be sufficient to deter PLAN from getting aggressive even against what you suppose are lily-livered states. After all, the sinking of a couple of capital frigates or destroyers will be more impactful in reducing China’s martial reputation than anything PLAN could do, short of Beijing deciding to take out these states — which won’t happen because that will trip the wire for a much larger conflagration that China will be unable to deal with.

      • &^$#@! says:

        @BK: What you say about conflict situations is logical and may well be true. The mere presence of the Brahmos in coastal batteries could indeed serve as a deterrent against Chinese belligerence against the said State(s). Losing a few destroyers to (say) the Philippines would indeed seriously scar China’s image in the region. However, it all depends on the nature of the “conflict situation”. If the stakes are high enough, the PLAN might very well decide to run the gauntlet despite the presence of the BrahMos’, in conjunction with pre-emptive strikes. Also, one needs to bear in mind that all the said states have a large and economically prominent Chinese-origin minority. Finally, given that none of the said States have a WMD capability what :larger conflagration” do you foresee and what would be the trip wires/red lines? However, it is absolutely imperative that India arms the said States with the Brahmos.

      • &^$#@! says:

        @BK: You are talking about “Beijing deciding to take out these state…” while above I am discussing the possibility of “Beijing deciding to take ON these state by running the gauntlet…”.

      • &^%$#@! says:

        CORRIGENDUM WITH APOLOGIES
        _————————————————-
        The sentence in my above post:
        “If the stakes are high enough, the PLAN might very well decide to run the gauntlet despite the presence of the BrahMos’, in conjunction with pre-emptive strikes. ”
        SHOULD READ AS:
        “If the stakes are high enough, the PLAN might very well decide to run the gauntlet despite the presence of the BrahMos’, in conjunction with MEASURED PRECISION STRIKES ONLY IF FIRED UPON..”.

    • Vishnugupt says:

      @&^%$#@! The need for India to supply Brahmos to these countries is clear and logical, however nobody answered when i asked if the Russians would agree to supply us with the “RAMJET” for Brahmos which is the most critical component, when it knows we want to use it to undermine Chinese interest.
      Don’t you think China has enough economic wherewithal to talk Russia out of it?

      And BTW DRDO is nowhere closer of attaining any breakthrough in the indigenous RAMJET development. But they developed a good seeker recently.

      • &^%$#@! says:

        To the best of my knowledge, the Ramjet is built with Russian assistance. However, if such pressure to stop the transfer of Ramjets to India was able to be brought on Russia from certain quarters, the first victim would be India. I hope NM comes to his senses and realizes that he was not elected by NRI’s and US Citizens, and keep the time tested Indo-Russian ties stable and growing.

      • &^%$#@! says:

        DRDO recently tested a Ramjet and it failed.. They just need to jeep working on it till success is achieved..

  2. Vishnugupt says:

    I do agree with you Prof. When you say that Modi has been going soft on China lately from cold shouldering The Dalai Lama,BRI Baltistan, encroaching into India ocean etc.

    However regarding the hydrographic data issue, i don’t think we have any leverage at all. because China always have had leaders with common sense and strategic bent of mind who always had the bare minimum understanding to never give up the strategic advantage that one possess over ones neighbor who is “also” considered as a potential adversary( this notion of considering neighbors as potential enemies is not endemic to India as you often claim, because eating away your enemies territory/sphere of influence(wei qui) would very much make him discourteous)

    So we need someone like Nehru to be in XI Jingping’s place to show us some benevolence and sign a Sino-India version of Indus water treaty but the Chinese are not idiots to let go of our jugular vein, unlike Nehru who let go of India’s grip on Pakistan’s jugular vein to “let them feel less threatened from India” and perhaps hoped to increase his prospects to win the “Nobel peace prize” while doing so.( it is very disheartening to see you (Prof. Karnad) go out of your way to paint such a man as Visionary strategist)

    And here i think NDA under Modi made the right noises in this scenario as i strongly feel it is incumbent on us to thwart the Indus water treaty(IWT) which is anyway skewed in favor of the Hajis with 80% water flowing into Pakistan and use it as a counter leverage to make them cease and desisit in Kashmir and use it to get Pakistan’s “all weather friend” China out of Baltistan and make them play ball with Brahmaputra water data.

    But i think Delhi’s predominantly “Punjabi” culture and citizenry has so far held back Delhi from “thinking out of the box” on these lines.

    So, the culprits are not just the “mandarin speaking mandarins” of MEA but also the ” Punjabi speaking elites of Lutyens Delhi” as well, who are desperate to eat breakfast in Amritsar and lunch in Lahore and holds the grand dream of a “Greater Punjab”.

    I for one see the fact that the IWT remained untouched during three wars speaks of volume of its importance for Pakistan and Delhi’s lack of imagination on the same.

    Being a vocal proponent of disruptive policies,I would like to hear your say on this type of a disruptive move from Delhi.

  3. Vishnugupt says:

    Regarding selling Brahmos to Vietnam and others, don’t you think China must have already “ordered” the Russkies to stop supplying the critical “RAMJET” to India should it move against China’s interest?

  4. Vishnugupt@ — why are you so fixated — as many Indians and GOI seem to be with Pakistan? If terrorism is the problem why hasn’t Modi eliminated with concerted action, as his predecessors did not do before him, the mujahideen leaders such as the LeT emir Hafiz Saeed or Mahmood Azhar of JeM — an option that’s always been open to Indian intel services?

    • Vishnugupt says:

      I don’t think Delhi is fixated on Pakistan at all. If it were it would have “swatted the fly” which is Pakistan a long time ago.

      I can think of a perfect analogy to describe the Indo-Paki relation.

      Delhi is like a 80 year old hopeless unmarried romantic whose is waiting for his unfaithful girlfriend(Pakistan) to comeback despite the fact that she now hates him,cheated on him and married another man(China).

      I think the fact that…Pakistan identifies itself as “not India” and the sole reason for GHQ Rawalpindi’s existence is to destroy India is a good enough reason to be discourteous to them.

      I feel we haven’t learnt our lessons from Prithviraj Chauhan pardoning Muhammad of Ghor. And we all know what happens to those who don’t learn from history.

  5. devraj says:

    How can india tackle pakistan tactical nukes attack on Indian army

  6. AD says:

    Out of curiosity, does anyone here believe that Indian political leaders or senior bureaucrats ever had an internally-consistent foreign policy based in reality? The way I see it, what passes for “foreign policy” in India is largely a series of often mutually contradictory reactive responses based on whatever is considered fashionable in that particular week or month.

    That is why the Indian government seems to goes from bending over to American bullying to its Chinese equivalent within a month. That is why they make mistakes such as designing an indigenous aircraft around an engine from a country as unreliable as USA. That is why they kept on backing the losing side during most of the Nepalese civil war.

    I am, however, impressed by their talent at consistently making poor (to mediocre) decisions. Think about it.. even if you made decisions randomly, a small percentage of them would turn out to be very good. But the “foreign policy” apparatus of India possess a unique talent of never making a decision which tuned out to be very good (even in hindsight). What is their secret?

  7. vivek says:

    what is going on between US and NK? in your previous blogs you mentioned that China facilitated NK to get TN weapon technology. Now why china is supporting denuclearization of NK which later seems to be agreed with trump ? Its very difficult to understand what game china,NK is playing ?

    • &^%$#@! says:

      Is the definition spelt out? Is there a specific deadline?

    • North Korea has been helped to become, N-wise, nearly self-sufficient — a position Pakistan also enjoys, courtesy the working of the ‘rogue nuclear triad’ headed by China. As was immediately clear after the Singapore summit, denuclearization, as NK sees it, is a long drawn out affair on the same timetable as N-disarmament, which in a practical sense means NEVER! As always, as I said in my analysis, C hunts with the hounds and runs withe hares and, vis a vis both P and NK, has placed itself beautifully to at once create and contingently stoke the problem and be the decisive and unavoidable part of the great power solution. That is tremendous strategizing for you.

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