Timid, timid India and Taiwan

Image result for pics -- taiwan president in india

A piece of American street wisdom says “to deter a bully on the block, punch him in the mouth.”

There are two ways of hitting Beijng in the face with tremendous effect — pass on the most lethal strategic hardware to Vietnam and any other country on China’s border that wants it, and build up relations with Taiwan. By arming a feisty bantam weight Hanoi to sock it to a heavy weight — a strategy China has used against India by  nuclear missile arming Pakistan and, in parallel, by stoking warmth in what to-date has been a hesitant stance adopted by Delhi  vis-a-vi Taiwan, India will put in place the one-two punch in the region China will learn to dread.

Ah, yes, but when has any Indian government — BJP or Congress — shown that kind  of grit and “don’t mess with India”-attitude when dealing with China, or displayed the intent to do Beijing real harm in order to bring the Yellow Emperor of the day, presently Xi Jinping, in line? All that blood-rushing fighting spirit is summoned only where Pakistan is concerned — a country that has never posed a a danger and cannot be a credible threat no matter how hard it tries. But belabouring Pakistan makes all the weak willed, non-strategic minded politicians and officials in and of government and, by extension, the people at-large, feel satisfied even as it exacerbates the Hindu-Muslim divide in the country, a political risk the political class and vested interests are willing to run.

Did India ever issue the sort of public demarche China has done? Did it ever warn Beijing to refrain from building up Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and missile muscle, or  the United States from turning a Nelson’s eye to Beijing’s nuclear missile proliferation activity as counseled by Dengxiaoping? Or, in recent years when China has been bolstering Pakistan’s weapons manufacturing capacity? And does anybody believe that Beijing or Washington  would give a fig about India’s complaints? No. So shouldn’t China’s warning be consigned to the waste paper basket?

What is necessary now is to twist the Taiwan knife in China’s belly. Beijing for the first time has shown signs of real fear, with its foreign ministry spokesperson warning about rupture in diplomatic relations with countries onpassing to Taipei submarine related technologies. Taiwanese papers have noted that an Indian naval team experienced in submarine diesel power plant has visited with the Taiwan submarine project as have Mitsubishi technologists experienced in working on the Harushio-class submarine for the Japanese navy. The US too is providing some ancillary technologies.

The Chinese unease is palpable because once the Taiwanese diesel-electric attack submarine fructifies, it will endanger the Chinese Navy’s ambitious plans for dominating the seaboard on the East Sea, and all the capital ships China is churning out in huge numbers  from its shipbuilding complexes  in Shanghai, Harbin, etc  will be nice juicy targets. Should the oceanic approaches become hostile, China’s trade routes become vulnerable and the Chinese economy potentially hostage to Taiwan’s submarine-led offensives. China will then stop showering threats like confetti.

It is unlikely Tokyo will be deterred from continuing with its assistance program, or will  terminate its submersible tech-transactions. It is India, however, that may heed China’s call to cease and desist, considering that Prime Minister  Narendra Modi and his MEA make much of the so-called “Wuhan spirit”, which is another way of saying that the BJP regime, like its gutless predecessors, seems more inclined to be in Xi’s good books than to strategically hinder and hamstring China which is in India’s national security interest to do. This when not a day passes without some news, information, or tidbit about Chinese strategic and conventional military help and assistance to Pakistan and its aggressive forays in other adjoining states.

An Indian government with the strategic wit and gumption would make neutral noises but keep transferring technical know-how for anything Taipei expresses interest in, because let there be no doubt that Taiwan is Beijing’s diplomatic jugular. My last book ‘Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)’ detailed the extent of India’s cyber cooperation with Taipei, and Taiwan’s role in building up a Chinese language fluent Military Intelligence cadre of officers, and how a fully mapped Chinese cyber grid that Taiwanese military Intel has penetrated is on offer in exchange for things Taiwan would like India to do, among which, of course, is recognizing its sovereignty.

Knowledge of the Chinese cyber grid will indicate the chinks in it that Indian cyber attack programmers can exploit. This is no small advantage in hybrid war in which China seeks to knock off Indian financial networks and power and communications grids as a first step in hostilities.  Diplomatically recognizing Taiwan is a final card to play against Beijing, short of which can be established a two-way traffic of military technologies with India offering, in the main, submarine, Brahmos cruise missile, and nuclear weapons technologies — this last particularly important because Taipei’s nuclear weapons capability forcibly shutdown by the US in 1988, needs a little time to get up to speed.

There’s so much India can do to punch China in its solar plexus and so little that has actually been done, especially with respect to Taiwan, which gets my goat.  India’s ties with Taiwan are now like its relations with Israel were prior to 1992, mostly undercover. It was a relationship that Israeli leaders famously described as one involving a courtesan, a description that Taiwanese Presidents  may well echo.  In fact, the nearest India came to interacting formally with the Taiwanese head of state was during President  Ma Ying-jeou’s “surprise stopover” in Mumbai on his way to some African countries in April 2012.

Indeed the current Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen was reportedly upset that Delhi which had promised to send an Indian delegation of several Members of Parliaments to her inauguration on May 20, 2016, permitted only a junior BJP leader Vijay Jolly to represent India on that occasion — a development passed off by MEA as a bureaucratic snafu when, actually, the Modi dispensation was afraid about how President Pranab Mukherjee on a state visit scheduled for May 24 would be received  in Beijing. According to Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry, 700 representatives from 59 countries, including 39 countries with which Taiwan has no formal diplomatic ties such as India, Japan and the US, attended the event.

In fact, in her inaugural address, Tsai outlined what she called Taiwan’s “New Southbound Policy” as a central component of her national development strategy and involved deepening agricultural, business, cultural, education, trade and tourism links with ASEAN, Australia and New Zealand and specifically mentioned expanding the “dynamic relationship” with India. The Taiwan apple is low hanging fruit that Modi better pluck soon, or see it wasted as has happened with so many other strategic opportunities.

The greatest debility of Indian foreign and military policy conducted mostly by bureaucrats or incrementalism-minded prime ministers is its risk averse, almost cowardly, nature — the reason why more spirited small countries, such as Pakistan, with the gall to stand up to bullying big powers, win respect worldwide and so easily score over India.

 

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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10 Responses to Timid, timid India and Taiwan

  1. V.Ganesh says:

    @BharatSir: Will India be better off if it:

    1. Breaks all ties with China and Pakistan.

    2. Expels all Chinese and Pakistani nationals on Indian soil irrespective of the purpose of their stay/visit in India.

    3. Ban everyone and everything related to China and Pakistan in India.

    4. Declare China and Pakistan state sponsors of terrorism.

    5. Recognise Tibet and Taiwan as sovereign nations.

    6. Spare no opportunity at every available place to harm China and Pakistan.

    7. Arm every enemy of China and Pakistan to the teeth.

    I wish the present and future government does this, but, I think they are more concerned about being remembered in history as governments that brought peace instead of realising that China and Pakistan don’t respect India and ought to be paid back in the same coin.

  2. Cultivate Pakistan, it is eminently co-optable, but otherwise it is daggers drawn with China.

    • V.Ganesh says:

      @BharatSir: What good will happen to India by cultivating Pakistan which you say is co-optable? Pakistan sees India as an existential threat and believes in bleeding India by inflicting a thousand cuts. If all this wasn’t enough, Pakistan [civilian governments and the military] use India as a bogeyman as and when it suits them.

      Sir, on the 7 points mentioned by me, can you please tell whether India will be better off by using them?

      I didn’t understand the Pakistan otherwise being daggers drawn with China part. Can you please elaborate as Pakistan describes its friendship with China as higher than the mountains, deeper than the oceans, stronger than the steel and sweeter than the honey and if all this wasn’t enough they describe China as their iron brother.

      • Please recall what I have been saying for 2 decades now — unilaterally withdraw N-missiles from the western front (hinterland-based Agnis can take out any Paki target) and restructure armoured and mech forces into a single composite corps (more than sufficient to deal with any and all Pak contingencies) and shift the balance HR and war materiel to raising two additional mountain strike corps. In parallel with free trade and other initiatives will seed trust — the basis for co-optation not in the short term when Islamabad will be suspicious but in medium term.

      • V.Ganesh says:

        @BharatSir: What does HR mean?

  3. Vishnugupt says:

    @Prof Karnad.
    I agree to your every point viz-a-viz China. They should be cut to size immediately. They are our existential threat.

    But i couldn’t hold my views on your take on Pakistan anymore. Because i feel trying to “Co-opt” Pakistan is essentially like feeding a crocodile and hoping that it would eat you last.”

    Pray tell us Prof., did the 1947, 1965 and the even 1971 war took place because we had N-missiles in the western front and armoured and mech forces ready to march into Pakistan and occupy GHQ Rawalpindi?

    No! They did it because it is their nature and were foolish enough to think that they could win.(I am not going to dig into as to why this is so).

    I don’t know about you but i am sure nothing has changed.

    I would like to implicitly make a comment on the so called “neemrana dialogue” gang in Delhi, they seems to have forgotten the age old saying that “one shouldn’t trust a woman who is moved to tears easily and a man who talks sweet”. Nehru found out this the hard way, then Moraji, then Vajpayee and many more after him.

    I have an advice for anyone visiting Pakistan, enjoy the Kababs and the shop for free in the Anarkali market, but don’t believe a word spoken by the Pakistani’s while you are at it.

    Lets not waste our time offering milk to the cobra in the wilderness,when we have a dragon to slay.

  4. In the event, shouldn’t we, at very least, try and separate and tame the cobra so the dragon doesn’t use it to preoccupy us (as has happened over the last 40-odd years)?

    • Vishnugupt says:

      @Prof Karnad.

      Now that we agree that it(Pakistan) is indeed a cobra….there are two options in front of us….either de-fang the damn thing or keep a stick handy.

  5. Sir I have been following your blog since a year.Its some what funny that in spite of being Western educated you are critical of US,most of the scholars of IR in newspapers favor the relationship with US{specially C.Rajamohan-he has a lot of praise for current foreign policy}.Your articles helps to understand the cons of such relationship{and the wonderful quotes which you mention frequently in your articles are really helpful for me as a student of pol-sci}.Your articles shows that you are a realist scholar like Machiavelli also some what pessimistic.{pardon me for that}.

    I have been following Rstv debates for a longtime{it was in a debate were I came to know about you}.I have not seen seen you on Rstv since a while,is it because you are critical of current foreign policy??By the way your book “Why India is not a great power” is excellent book to know the defects of our policy.Keep on writing such excellent articles and books and the quotes and wonderful examples.Thanks.

    • Vishnugupt says:

      @divakarbhadane Delhi is wary of the Prof’s advice to embrace Pakistani despite its evil nature and uncountable back stabbings.

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