Enabling the enemy – China.

Camaraderie marks start of Modi-Xi 'informal summit' - The Hindu
[Modi-Xi — dialoging in better times]

It is not difficult to read China. But the so-called Mandarin-speaking China experts in the government who comprise the China Study Circle/Group (CSG), or whatever it is they call this unit these days made up with diplomats, and military attache and Intelligence-types — careerists all, seem intent — as is their bureaucratic habit — on configuring what they say to what they think the jefe maximo (maximum leader) wants to hear. In this context, it is less important for these officials to have their fingers on the adversary Chinese establishment’s pulse than not to rock the proverbial boat in Delhi.

Distinguished mainly for being so wrong so often about China — wrong here refers to recommending over-cautious turns in policy that actually assist, enable and advance the enemy’s cause and interests, the CSG’s greatest achievement appears to be that it is nevertheless taken seriously, relied upon for advice in crafting the larger China policy as also the tactical ploys and stratagems attending on unfolding events and crises. It says more about the country’s leaders and the quality of advice they are satisfied with than about the said advisers.

Then there are the China specialists in the academe and thinktanks who cheer the CSG-GOI’s every fear-stricken move from the op-ed webinar galleries, taking care to dissemble, calling for moderation, de-escalation and standing down in the face of Chinese provocations, lest Beijing slam the door shut on their academic advancement by denying them visas, and access to official documents, official interlocuters, and the Chinese seminar circuit. The only sinologists in the world who get away with being critical of Beijing are American and then only because the power balance still tilts towards the US.

Recall that in the military confrontation in eastern Ladakh now in its sixth month, the Xi government initially denied anything was amiss. But then the Indian military and government provided Beijing with the perfect excuse and justification for its territorial aggression: the Line of Actual Control is not delineated on the map nor marked on the ground, hence the presence of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army units on the Indian side is, well, understandable! It has since become the standard rationale for the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson to argue that not only have Chinese troops not crossed the LAC it is Indians who violated it, precipitating the June 15 clash in the Galwan Valley and, by preemptively taking the heights on the Rezangla range around Spanggur Lake, are inviting — and this is the favourite phrase PLA uses to cloak a military initiative — “a defensive counter-attack”! As I have said in my posts, this amounts to India withdrawing from its own territory.

Learning nothing and forgetting nothing, MEA’s reaction to Beijing’s reviving the old 1959 line as the disputed border, which upends 50 years of Sino-Indian diplomacy and some 4-5 agreements predicated on China’s acceptance of the present Line of Actual Control pending a final settlement of the border dispute, was again to soft-peddle the enormity of change in China’s position. Instead of a strong counter, it apologetically retailed the history of claims and counter-claims, and of various agreements since the 1950s. This has only reinforced Beijing’s view of India as a weak entity that can be railroaded into an agreement unfavourable to itself.

The tougher, more consequential, response ought to have been — and still can be — is for Delhi to declare that India too reverts forthwith to the border the colonial regime negotiated with the Tibetan government in 1913 in Simla disavowing, in the process, Nehru’s acceptance of Chinese suzerainty over Tibet and, even more emphatically, the Indian government’s later acceptance of Chinese sovereignty over that God-forsaken country over which Han China has no credible claim whatsoever other than in the abstract of the Chinese Emperor notionally denoting all adjoining states seeking a normal relationship as vassals, which tactic has been the Chinese norm in dealing with nations beyond its pale.

In practical terms, what China’s reaffirming the 1959 line means is that the PLA’s forcibly rearranging the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh is being justified ex-post facto. It leaves over 1,000 sq kms of Indian territory annexed either by direct occupation in the Galwan Valley, the Hot Springs area, etc and, indirectly in the Depsang Plains, by simply blocking Indian access to the area northwestwards of the Y-junction. Unless this blockade is militarily removed at whatever cost, it will result in the Modi government, for all intents and purposes, surrendering vital Indian territory. Once passed into Chinese hands, this sector will then become the staging ground for holding the DSDBO highway and Indian presence on the Saltoro Ridge and the Siachen Glacier hostage to Beijing’s whim. What is just as definite is that all the WMCC meetings and discussions at the Special Representatives level won’t get Beijing to restore the status quo ante that external affairs minister S Jaishankar publicly said was the Modi government’s goal.

The point about dealing with China is never to bring up diplomatic understandings, refer to past documents and agreements, etc. but to make matching territorial claims that exceed Chinese ones in their outlandishness. And to have all Indian officials preface their statements about India’s claims as being “clear and unchanging” — the crossed t’s and dotted i’s in its negotiating record to the contrary notwithstanding. China’s going outre should signal India’s going ballistic with its own wordy excess.

What has India to lose? If the Indian government still believes that the Wuhan and Mamallapuram spirit that President Xi Jinping pumped up Prime Minister Narendra Modi with retains its headiness and relevance then we may be in deeper trouble than we think. Because Xi has made it plain that his larger objective has always been to expansively secure China’s territorial ambit in Central Asia and especially its strategic investment in Pakistan by firming up its hold over Aksai Chin that was centrally part of Maharaja Hari Singh’s domain in Jammu & Kashmir.

May be, it is time for the Gujarati businessman in Modi to recognize that he has been conned by Xi, that he has a bum deal on his hands. And that his China policy needs an overhaul, a radical course correction.

Because there’s a tendency in the government (and, dare I say, in the higher military echelons) to hyperventilate at the very thought of actual war in the Himalayas, let’s be absolutely certain about one thing: the PLA is in no position to wage a sustained war in Ladakh or anywhere else; that Xi has bitten off more than he can chew in terms of getting the gander up of all its neighbours, including distant maritime ones — the US, and Australia, and that it is time for the Indian government to shake off its strategic lassitude and make life as difficult for China as is possible.

The following steps, in order of priority, have been advocated by me for over 25 years (in my books and other writings) and now is the time to implement them on a war footing:

  1. Condition India’s acceptance of the ‘One China’ concept on Beijing’s acceptance of ‘One India’ policy — with ‘One India’ to include all of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and Gilgit and Baltistan — the territory legally acceded by Hari Singh to the Union of India in 1947.
  2. Should the Xi regime fail formally to accept ‘One India’ inside of a year, and in any case to renounce all previous Indian positions, and begin preparations to diplomatically recognize the sovereign Republic of Taiwan, and accept the Senkaku Islands as Japanese, denounce the Chinese nine-dash line in the South China Sea as fanciful and the sea-territories claimed by Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, Borneo, and Malaysia as entirely valid per UNCLOS guidelines and the verdict of the International Court of Justice at the Hague.
  3. Begin expeditiously arming Vietnam, Philippines, and Indonesia, for starters, with supersonic Brahmos cruise missile batteries to be installed on the coasts fronting on the South China Sea on extreme priority basis, meaning even at the expense of equipping Indian army formations with this weapon. This should constitute the policy of belated but necessary payback for China’s nuclear missile arming Pakistan. It will instantly render inactive China’s powerful South Sea Fleet ex-Sanya base on Hainan Island and “narrow the seas” as I have contended for the Chinese Navy. The threat of loading nuclear warheads on these Southeast Asian Brahmos missiles can be an option Delhi can use to keep Beijing unbalanced.
  4. Lead international campaigns in the the United Nations General Assembly and in the First Committee, and elsewhere for a ‘Free Tibet’ and for Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang to throw off the Chinese yoke, and materially and financially help sustain these Freedom Movements. And diplomatically begin referring to Tibet as ‘Chinese occupied Tibet’ and Xinjiang as East Turkestan. India can also channel and facilitate its friends with whatever assistance is appropriate among the Afghan Taliban to wage a full-fledged jihad in East Turkestan, again as payback for the longstanding Chinese help to rebel movements and insurgencies in Assam, Manipur and Nagaland, in particular.
  5. Invest in factories to refine and produce rare earths to zero out dependence on China for these metals critical to sensitive electronics and other technology sectors.
  6. Begin choking off all trade and commerce except that which is carried on in strictly reciprocal basis.

As I have argued, China has already done its worst, shot its bolt, as it were, where India is concerned. I mean, what worse can Beijing do to India after deliberately proliferating nuclear missiles to Pakistan? India so far has retaliated so meagrely as to merely confirm Beijing’s contempt for the Indian government and Xi’s perception of Modi as pliable.

What other provocation does Beijing have to offer India for you, Modiji, to wake up from your apparent China-induced stupor?

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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24 Responses to Enabling the enemy – China.

  1. vivek says:

    Important points, unfortunately no one in govt has guts to implement them.

  2. Sohamg says:

    Should we expect any bold steps from the upcoming quad meeting ?

  3. Sankar says:

    This article merits to be circulated in all newspapers and magazines (India Today, Outlook …) irrespective of political allegiance. I wonder if there will be any taker. Some of course will be ducking since “sedition charge” could be applied against them as it is happening willy-nilly right across the country. I wonder whether there could be an All India Citizens Movement organized to lodge a “class-action” against Modi & Co for ceding Indian sovereign territory to China.


    Dear Mr Karnad another hard hitting and apt article from your mighty pen to describe the current situation. If India decides to take on China like the ways you mention I am afraid the Chinese may initiate some land grab operations in Arunachal Pradesh. Do you think the Chinese can grab some territory in Arunachal in a similar way they did in Ladakh ?

  5. Vaibhav says:

    Have you ever heard of aliens/UFO during your interactions with the Indian government?

  6. Kunal Singh says:

    How can we expect to implement these steps when our govt failed to establish India favouring political parties in our neighborhood ,what R&AW is capable of. And nothing is more unnerving for ccp than internal instability of china as we are always at backfoot with our naive stance against china in public

  7. From Joydeep Sircar in an email:

    lt is very disheartening to find the lndian media infested by quaking poltroons and chinese trolls masquerading as strategic experts (present company excepted). They are mostly lndian, and have the ability to write long meaningless pieces extolling China’s so-called military and economic preponderance to scare the ordinary gullible lndian. They are, l think, part of the Chinese psyops against lndia.

    They will never mention that in war, the morale is to the material as 3 is to 1 (l think, my memory is rusty). They will never write about the certainity of failure of a large percentage of China’s high-tech weaponry. They will forget to write that USA won against Vietnam on every calculation by their vaunted military pundits, except the one place where it counted : on the ground. They will metaphorically stain their underwear at the thought that the Chinese economy is seven times ours, as if we will be beaten to death by bunches of dollars and yuans, but fail to explain why Maharana Pratap and Shivaji fought off the might of the Mughal empire.

    The reason is simple. These idiots have forgotten that India possesses in abundance courage, the one indispensable virtue without which all others are meaningless. Our chattering intelligentsia may have the heeby-jeebies at the thought of war with China, but the simple soldier will dismiss all that theoretical nonsense and fix bayonets when needed. All we need to defeat China’s high-tech is to make sure he knows what needs to be done and has the weapons to do it, like the superb German NCOs of WW1 and WW2.

    All that we need to do is to go on exactly as we are doing now, and strengthen Modi so that he does not buckle at the knees. Poor man, he is probably beset by a swarm of experts trying to infect him with their gutless cowardice about China. And let us not pore over Global Times : fear- induced flatulence played through an amplifier is not the dragon’s roar.

    J. Sircar

    • Bhishma says:

      @Joydeep Sircar — Hear hear! You hit the nail on the head Sir!
      “courage, the one indispensable virtue without which all others are meaningless” to quote you.
      Yes. Our jawans have that by the bucket loads.
      The virtues we lack are will and vision in our mediocre political class. Without those two virtues in our leaders all efforts by the citizens become meaningless. Regardless of courage.
      The British never conquered India. It was Indians who conquered India. Led by the British.
      With effective British leadership… It was Indians who defeated mighty Rommel in North Africa then Italy and beyond. Earlier under Gen. Allenby it was Indians who conquered all the way to Palestine. It was Indian soldiers who gifted Britain with supremacy in the Middle East. It was the Indian Army which primarily broke the Ottomans back.
      We have produced numerous excellent general staff since Independence. Shows in the results they were able to achieve. (except the ’62 fiasco – Gen. Kaul being the singular stain on our general staff who as I understand was an inept political appointee)
      We should certainly be able to defend ourselves let alone marching on to and subjugating any aggressor Asian neighbour if need be.
      All that’s lacking is political vision and political will in our national security matters.

    • Bhishma says:

      @bharat karnad

      Is this the same inestimable historian/mountaineer/himalayan explorer Joydeep Sircar?

  8. andy says:

    Seems like forever that we’re hearing about the Brahmos transfer to Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries, govts have come and gone ,but no transfer has taken place. At this rate it probably never will.

    Right from the 1950s till the recent transgressions on the Indo Tibet border in Ladakh, we’ve heard about how the Chinese have betrayed our trust time and again. Forget what this says for the Chinese,just proves that they are backstabbing bullies, but about us ,are we naive to the core that we can be taken for a ride by the enemy time and again? Or are we so stupid that we want to believe in the good sense of others ,when all the evidence is contrary to this perception. ?

    We sent ill equipped soldiers to forward areas and didn’t use airpower in 1962,we gave back Haji pir after 1965,we didn’t settle the Kashmir issue in 1971,inspite of having 90000 Pakistani war criminals as POWs, we were caught unaware in Kargil and now we have these massive transgressions by the Chinese.

    This punishing stand off in -40 degree temperature is like doing a Satyagraha in return for the fait accompli presented to us. How about being proactive for a change? Taking of the heights on the Kailash range is a good start,why not make a grab of all the disputed areas on the Tibet border and present the Chinese with our own fait accompli?

  9. V.Ganesh says:

    I don’t think any right-thinking Indians except the Indian commies who have been traitors to India even before Independence and continue to be so by being Commie Han China’s stooges would want to go to Commie Han China! Or for that matter, no one would want to go there for academic advancement, I wonder what academic advancement is there except for the Commie China Party’s propaganda.

    India shouldn’t even wait for within a year for Commie Han China to accept our One India policy. Commie Han China like Commies, communism and its so-called One China policy deserves to be in only one place which is the garbage bin, because that’s what they and it is.

    It’s sad that the Government of India [GOI] [all of them so far] has no self-respect, it knows Commie Han China doesn’t respect it, yet it does everything to avoid angering them. As a self-respecting Indian, I’ve no qualms in saying that the GOI should be ashamed of the way it deals with them.

    Nothing is forever and I hope that the GOI quickly wakes up from its Kumbhakarna-like sleep and makes every day a hellish life on earth for Commie Han China.

  10. V.Ganesh says:

    @Mr. Karnad: With regard to your point number 4 on Afghan Taliban, are you aware as a learned and influential person of R&AW reaching out to NDS to payback Pakistan now that their former head, Mr. Amrullah Saleh is the First Vice President of Afghanistan? If not, will R&AW now under NSA Mr. Ajit Doval approach them to payback not just Pakistan but also China? The reason being they couldn’t do so when Mr. M. K. Narayanan was the NSA w.r.t Pakistan (https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/indias-new-language-of-killing/article5963505.ece).

  11. Debanjan Banerjee says:

    Dear Mr Karnad, as huge sabre rattling being done between the USA and China over the Taiwan, do you believe the US will really intervene on Taiwanese behalf iff PRC really invades Taiwan? Considering American past record they didn’t help India in Ladakh in 2020, do you really feel they will back Taiwan?

    • Taiwan is different (and much higher in the US reckoning than India); US I believe will intervene but China, assuming it initiates anything — which I doubt it will, will stop well short of triggering a major American involvement. In other words, Taiwan will not be harmed.

  12. RS says:

    Mr Karnad,
    I saw the map the other day and it shocked me that we are fighting a war in our own territory. I mean, the core of the china and their beautiful and productive cities are far and to the right(east).

    Mr Karnad, why have you not talked of cutting off Tibet? Also, I w’d like to believe that China will not fire a nuclear missile to this side even if we cut off Tibet and “dare” to use sub-munititions(very small yield)nuclear warheads to do the job. We risk a nuclear war only when we threaten their coastal cities. They do not relate emotionally to Tibet-it is not their core, it is their greed that makes them want it all. Our only chance at defense is when we take the war to the other side of Tibet, if by luck, there is war. 🙂 Because one side wants it all just by showing off their weapons list and the other side apparently wants to defend just what they have now.

    What do you think? .

    • Have been saying for some 20 years or more now and in all my books and other writings (including this blog) that unless we have the forces — three offensive Mountain Corps — to fight on the Tibetan Plateau, PLA and China will always have the upper hand .

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