China is the villain

Image result for pics of Imran and Xi

[Xi in Pakistan]


‘The Week’ published the following column of mine in its Feb 23, 2019 edition, advising that in all the raked up excitement over Pulwama-Balakot, India’s main threat — China not be lost sight of, at


Pakistan has long been China’s cat’s paw in the region. Between the two of them, India has been reduced to a shrinking violet of a country. Beijing’s unwillingness to brand terrorist outfits prospering under Pakistan army protection reflects how masterfully China wields its one-two punch: using proxy terrorist outfits to unsettle India in the sub-conventional military sphere and a nuclearised Pakistan to checkmate it strategically, besides providing Islamabad political cover in case things go wrong.

The success of the China-Pakistan nexus is mainly due to India’s extraordinarily defensive-passive attitude to Chinese provocation. Beijing’s hold on Delhi is so complete, its every move occasions a sense of foreboding and dread in the Indian government. Its rocketing economic growth has added the element of awe to the fear of China, resulting in Delhi’s characteristic stoop as a second-rate power. It is not too late for India to stop being preoccupied with the cat’s paw and to instead deal with the cat.

In its habitual kowtowing, India has lost sight of China’s frailties and ways of exploiting them. The greatest strategic blunder Beijing committed was providing nuclear missiles to Pakistan. India knew of these clandestine transactions when they began in the mid-1970s. Rather than reciprocating by arming states with nuclear missiles, starting with Vietnam on China’s periphery, most of whom have territorial disputes with it, India sought to burnish its moral stature as a “responsible state” and handed the strategic advantage to China. Strategically-equipped southeast Asian nations would have brought China to its knees, because its maritime weakness against the powerful Japanese and US navies in the Sea of Japan and the East Sea would have been matched by its vulnerability in the South China Sea. Its seaborne trade, accounting for more than 90 per cent of its exports and generating much of China’s wealth, would then have been in peril.

Then there is Tibet, which is under Chinese military occupation since 1950, which India chose not to contest. It is suffering systematic “cultural genocide”, its people treated with utmost cruelty in their own land. Far from fighting for the ‘Free Tibet’ cause and leading an international campaign against human rights excesses in Tibet, and in Xinjiang, thereby conjoining the Uyghur and Tibet causes, Delhi acts as Beijing’s thanedar, preventing exiled Tibetans from even protesting peacefully in front of the Chinese embassy. If Beijing does not subscribe to ‘One India’, inclusive of the whole of Jammu and Kashmir, where is the need for Delhi to continue to accept Tibet or Taiwan as part of the ‘One China, many systems’ concept?

And, isn’t it time that India, burdened by a colossally unbalanced $70 billion trade with China, used the threat of loss of access of Chinese goods to the vast Indian market to leverage a more equitable trading regime? And, shouldn’t India, like many European countries and the US, ban Huawei and other companies peddling mobile phones and switching systems, and rendering our communications grid vulnerable to cyber attacks?

Moreover, India has been lax in raising offensive mountain strike corps fast enough to take the fight to the People’s Liberation Army on the Tibetan Plateau, and not considering the utility of placing atomic demolition munitions in Himalayan passes to deter China from aggressing in the northeast. Doklam was just a foretaste of territorial aggrandisement to come if India does not wake up.

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.
This entry was posted in asia-Pacific/Indo-Pacific, Asian geopolitics, China, China military, civil-military relations, Culture, Decision-making, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's Pakistan Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Indian Army, Indian ecobomic situation, MEA/foreign policy, Military/military advice, Nuclear Policy & Strategy, Nuclear Weapons, Pakistan, Pakistan military, Pakistan nuclear forces, SAARC, society, South Asia, South East Asia, Strategic Forces Command, Strategic Relations with South East Asia & Far East, Strategic Relations with the US & West, Taiwan, Terrorism, Tibet, United States, US., Vietnam, Weapons. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to China is the villain

  1. Rupam says:

    Bharat Karnad ji, on the other hand instead of using the Mig 21, if Tejas was used, would it not have been a opportunity to show to the world the capabilities of Tejas and also preventing the capture of the Pilot. It could serve as a good marketing strategy for the Tejas performing against the F-16, resulting in orders. Is something like this possible or this is too far fetched.

  2. devraj says:

    Sir will modi get political gains by his actions against pakistan in next loksabha elections or public ask his accountibility that why terror attacks continuing and military men are killing after all this two week hostility

  3. FuriousBuddha says:

    The last week’s developments, suggest our policy is in right direction, even if it hasn’t reached there yet.

    1)Near universal condemnation of pulwama attack and insistence by world powers to Pakistan to act in a meaningful way against terrorism emanating from it’s soil.

    2) Near universal recognition by world powers that India has right to counter strike even on targets inside Pakistan. Including and importantly US. Our US tilt seem to be paying off at the same time without upsetting our relations with Russia. China interestingly seemed ambivalent on the issue. A victory of our diplomacy.

    3) If India as an aspirational power doesn’t even stand up for itself in taking on Pakistan(a light weight nuisance) , the world and China in particular would know we don’t have the stomach to do what it takes to be a serious power. The Chinese have noted this paradigm policy shift which signals a refusal to cow down to nuclear blackmail and redraw not only our own, but perceived Pakistan’s redlines. Whatever happened last week, this 30 year old game has changed.

    4) Doklam was a watershed moment in Sino-India equations. I guess, the Chinese were simply “testing the waters” to asses our will/resolve. We didn’t budge.

    5) One doesn’t know if radical ideas such as nuclear arming Vietnam & signalling a rethink on One-China concept are even being considered in south block, leave alone going ahead with them. Because of the gravity of such moves, there needs to be an extremely thorough examination/assessment of such moves at the highest levels. We simply cannot afford a miscalculation along these lines. China’s ability to potentially hurt us seems to far outweigh our own. They could hurt our interests in Afghanistan, they could as a retaliation start doing what Pakistan does with Kashmir in our North-eastern states/maoists in the hinterland besides aggressively supporting Islamabad’s viewpoint on Kashmir. Lest we not forget the PLA also has presence in part of Kashmir that Pak gifted China. China could also use the provocation as an excuse to divert Brahmaputra. All this is coupled with a weakness we suffer for being a democracy. Imagine the political debate in our country/social media when as a result of our radical moves, we end up having a few skirmishes on our himalayan borders. Majority of Indians in their strategic ignorance have never come to see China as an adversary. The govt of the day would be accused of going out of the way to create an enemy out of China. It’s a tragedy that our defence policy be subjected to public’s scrutiny. But that’s the baggage that comes with being a democracy. Like a good chess player, we need to foresee the endgame, calculate all possible variations that could follow and only then proceed.

    • Ridney says:

      Jealous Indians can shout as much as they like but India has lost this round to Pakistan and Indians should get out of the delusion of taking China out except as a coolie havaldaar for the Anglo-American empire Number Two. That is why India is loser

    • Apna says:

      What is a win for Modi or India in this?
      Did we go to fight to release a pilot?
      Have we forced Pakis to hand over terrorists?
      As it is India has lost until now.
      Very sad
      Result of underfunding of army starting from illegal regime of unelected gaddar ex MP mmsingh

  4. Apna says:

    It was usa which turned blind eyes to Pakis getting nukes in mid 80s despite several requests from India to usa during mid 80s.
    Since othing to do with china
    In fact in 71 war China had refused American prompting to open another front in favour of pakistan.
    Indians are jealous 3rd rate nation who want to invite anglosaxon parasites to even a score with an Asian country with whom they or for that matter not even usa-can compete fairly.stop being spoiled child crying over melted ice cone.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.