Use the Chinese approach against China

India China Border News highlights | India-China in touch via diplomatic, military channels to resolve situation, says MEA
[Jaishankar & Wang: Going down? Going up!]

China’s approach to conflict resolution is unique. It works because it is surrounded by countries militarily weaker than itself and/or unwilling to up the military-political ante. First step: It uses force to change the status quo on the ground. Second step: the new territorial fait accompli is then legalized spuriously by some “law” or new rules and regulations the Xi regime issues to endow this initial status quo-changing action with post-facto legitimacy. Step Three: Beijing then uses this new territorial reality and supporting laws, etc. to demand that the victim nation adjust to the new reality on the ground so obtained by the Chinese military, and exercise restraint for the sake of order and stability!

The Xi cohort has had considerable success with this approach because the victimised states fall into the trap of accepting the new ground reality and doing what’s asked of them.

China has repeatedly pulled this three-step , besides eastern Ladakh, in South China Sea and in the East Sea. In the context of the supposed “disengagement” in Ladakh that, incidentally, has left the People’s Liberation Army units still in place on the Depsang Plains and in control of the Y-Junction, the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was at his oiliest.

Deliberately disregarding the fact that successive Indian governments in their desperate desire for peace on the disputed border have taken Beijing at its word, studiously followed Chinese instructions, accepted Chinese pre-conditions, and engaged in endless fruitless discussions at various levels,including at the Special Representative-level involving Indian NSA, Ajit Doval, designed to wear out the other side, Wang on the occasion of the National People’s Congress adopted an avuncular tone at a media event last Sunday. “It is important the two sides manage disputes properly” he said, “and at the same time expand and enhance cooperation to create enabling conditions for the settlement of the issue.” Having spouted this nonsense he then revealed that Beijing had neither moved from its original stance nor in its intention to impose its expansive claims on India. He used his reference to the Galwan incident last summer to say that “the right and wrongs at (sic) what happened at the border area last year are clear, so are the stakes involved.” He akso asserted China’s commitment “to settling the boundary dispute through dialogue and consultation” but without compromising its claims because “we are resolved to safeguarding our sovereign rights.”

But apprehensive about India finally responding more consequentially to Chinese provocations in South Asia such as its deep inroads into Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and even Bangladesh, by transferring Brahmos supersonic cruise missiles and other armaments to Asian states (Philippines, Vietnam, Indoensia, etc) contesting Chinese claims in the South China Sea, and firming up purposive partnerships in the Indo-Pacific — such as the Quadrilateral, a concept that falls owing to the proven unreliability of the US as partner but which the Modi government seems anamoured with, Wang warned of the negative impact of the Indian reaction on Sino-Indian friendship! Love such gall!! “China and India are each other’s friends and partners, not threats or rivals”, he averred. “The two sides need to help each other to succeed instead of undercutting each other. We should intensify cooperation instead of harbouring suspicion at (sic) each other.”

Obviously, Wang and his foreign policy team in Zhongnanhai are convinced the Indian government is a fool and will, once again, play it, and do China’s bidding. And, who is to say, they are wrong? After all, the Indian forces — steered “expertly” by the China Study Group (CSG) and MEA — withdrew post haste from the high points on the Kailash Range without requiring the PLA to reciprocate in like terms, didn’t they? The PLA pullback eastwards from Finger 4 to the Sirijap plains on the Pangong Lake shoreline can almost instantly be reversed by motor-mobile Chinese troops using metalled roads to reoccupy all the Fingers up to the Indian Dhan Singh Thapa post on Finger 3. Will the Indian Special Frontier Force commando be able to as quickly regain, unmolested, the highpoints on the Rezang La-Rechin La Ridge?

Then again, the geniuses in CSG and MEA didn’t discern the historic pattern (outlined above) in the Chinese policy in Ladakh and evidenced elsewhere as well. Like in the South China Sea. Had they done so and alerted the Indian military, the latter’d have been better prepared for, and not been surprised by, the PLA moves in eastern Ladakh in April-May 2020. So now mull over what Wang said vis a vis the South China Sea.

“Countries in the region and around the world in recent years can all see clearly that the factors for instability and security risks in the South China Sea come mainly from outside the region,” Wang said, referring to the US naval ships, including nuclear aircraft carriers, loitering in the sea expanse within the ‘9-dash line’. Such American sailings almost dared the Chinese Navy to do something and thus establish an operational baseline. The Chinese Navy did not rise to the bait. Instead Wang lied saying China and ASEAN had reached common understanding on maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea. The truth, however, is that there is no understanding and agreement that Beijing itself has not repeatedly violated. It did not deter Wang from charging the “the US and some other Western countries” with thereby creating “instability in the region”.

In a similar situation with regard to the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Island chain in the East Sea, he responded to Japan’s concerns about a new Chinese law permitting its Coast Guard to fire on ships not respecting Chinese territorial claims on the sea by assuring Tokyo that that law was not targeted at any particular nation, especially not Japan.“The key to Sino-Japanese relations is to have perseverance, and not to let short-term events cause disruption,” he clucked soothingly.

The prompt for Wang’s statements was seemingly US President Joe Biden’s promise to beef up US military presence and security arrangements involving traditional allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific, and the upcoming virtual meet Washington has scheduled with Narendra Modi, Yoshihide Suga, and Scott Morrison, heads of government respectively of the three other member states of the Quadrilateral — India, Japan, Australia, a loose grouping Wang has dubbed the ‘Indo-Pacific NATO’. “An improvement in Sino-Japanese relations”, Wang concluded, “would be mutually beneficial for our people and regional stability and peace. It should not be taken for granted and we should treasure it.”

It is clear what Delhi must do. As I have long maintained, assuming that strategic mindset and sensibility are absent in the Indian government, members of the CSG and MEA should stop taxing their little heads and simply emulate China strategically, do what Beijing does which is this:

Step 1: Stop talking about how the Indian army CAN occupy vantage points along the Line of Actual Control, including sites well inside Chinese claim lines, and task the army to do precisely that, without losing time, in short, surrepititiously occupy these strategically located high points.

Step 2: Play up the 1962 Resolution of Parliament, which has force of law; better still, legislate a new law — call it ‘Restoration of Territories Act’, to sanctify all actions, steps and measures implemented to restore the India-Tibet border as existed in 1950 when the PLA invaded and occupied Tibet, and voice the country’s determination to implement bother the letter and spirit of this law, and call out Beijing to respect Indian sovereignty and to not heedlessly jeopardize the traditionally warm and friendly relations between the two countries by resorting to any precipitate actions leading to the breakdown of peace, etc. and here MEA can do what it does best — wax abstract, rhetorical, whatever. In Mandarin.

Step 3: Accelerate the buildup of infrastructure and forces on LAC buildup, and enlarge the system of provisioning and logistics system to enable sustained warfighting. After all, now with two offensive mountain corps (I and XVII) in the field a far larger, longer and stronger supply chain becomes necessary.

Step 4: Forward deploy nuclear-tipped short and medium range Agni ballistic missiles in Ladakh theatre as tripwire in case a conventional Chinese military advance gains traction. And pre-warn beijing about the Agni missiles and talk of them as a like response to the augmentation of Chinese SRBMs and MRBMs on the Tibetan Plateau — the densest such concentration outside the Fujian coast opposite Taiwan.

Step 4: Quite literally dump bunches of the Brahmos supersonic cruise missiles on priority basis on the militaries of all countries disputing Chinese claims on the South China Sea, including states that have not sofar been active/aggressive in advancing their claims — Brunei and Malaysia. And make the deals for the Brahmos unrefusable by making them available at low to very low “friendship prices”. This will require the tripling and quadrupling of Brahmos missile production. This can be facilitated by handing over the job to the more productive and efficient private sector. And along with these missiles should be sent, as per the deals, Indian army artillery teams to operate and service these Brahmos batteries and to train host country crews

As advocated in my 2018 book (‘Staggering Forward’), this single measure of bulking up littoral and offshore Southeast Asian states with the Brahmos missiles will “narrow the seas” to the Chinese Navy’s detriment and the advantage Beijing thinks it has gained by constructing new islands out of coral reefs, sand and cement mid-channel will be instantly neutralized. Because now Chinese warships passing through these narrower waterways on either side of these ersatz islands will be easy targets for the coastal Brahmos batteries of numerous nations. It will have the effect in crisis of bottling up the powerful Chinese South Sea Fleet in its Sanya base on Hainan Island.

Step 5: While all this is taking place, Delhi should take the offensive in bewailing the record of Chinese aggression and its history of inhumane activities, including the ‘ethnocide’ of the Tibetan people in Tibet and, in recent years, the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, and take their case to the International Court, etc. At the same time, MEA should weekly enjoin Beijing to not let any of this spoil bilateral ties, and to even out the playing field for Indian companies in the Chinese market.

Step 6: Ask of Chinese companies what Beijing asks Western companies in China to do — sell in the Indian market but only on the condition that they transfer the technology-set whole — designs, source codes, and process and manufacturing technologies to Indian government certified Indian commercial entities. And not permit them to escape this obligation by doing what Huawei is trying to do now after the imports of its 5G system was banned. Correctly reading the atm nirbharta campaign as a sham — the Huawei India head says the company would be happy to jointly manufacture all its 5G telecom equipment in India by transferring its “production nodules” to an Indian firm — which is another way of saying — screwdriver tech. No way, Jose!

Such are the sort of steps India must implement to take the game to China on the pain of being driven from the Asian strategic field altogether. But will the Indian government, even in these dire circumstances, do any of this? Nah!

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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32 Responses to Use the Chinese approach against China

  1. Amit says:

    Well said Sir! Perhaps the only way to ‘manage’ China, which is India’s stated goal…

    • San Mann says:

      Amit@ — Another thing is that we should go out of our way to blame Emperor Xi Jinping, more than CCP or China itself. Because Xi has provoked resentment among his sidelined partymen, then they too are not too fond of Xi, and wouldn’t mind seeing him gone. All of China’s suffering international relations should be blamed on Xi’s reckless decisions. He has led his country into a worsening position, resulting in alliances being forged against it. He has burst the myth of the “peaceful rise of China”.

    • Amit says:

      Amit@ — An additional comment I wanted to make about this aggressive strategy to manage China – like with any strategy, there are benefits and costs. And India may have to deal with the potential costs of antagonizing China, which could include economic warfare, political blocking in international institutions, enticing India’s partners with incentives, punishing Indian partners etc.

      To better manage against these potential costs, India absolutely has to close the GDP gap with China. It has to grow faster than China for the next 15-20 years. If not, it will become increasingly difficult for India to maintain an aggressive stance against China. On a PPP basis (yes, that’s what really matters not actual GDP) China is about 3x India’s size…that ratio should come down to less than 2x. China will then find it difficult to steam roll India and in fact India can punish China more effectively for its transgressions against India. Otherwise, just like Russia is having problems with the US and aligning with China, India may have to align more with the US. So its critical to get the economy growing while also implementing an aggressive strategy.

    • San Mann says:

      Amit@ — I still think we should focus on buiding up forces near Straits of Malacca to apply pressure on China’s maritime supply lines. That area offers the most favorable environment to confront them.

      • Amit says:

        @San Mann…Agree. India should apply pressure from all fronts. Military, diplomatic, economic, political like the Professor has outlined. The kind of military expense we need implies we absolutely need to get the economy right.

  2. Sunil Kumar says:

    As you said, NAH! Not even when China does another 1962 on India. We just don’t have the imagination, gumption, or even self-preservation to defend ourselves. For past 1000 years, invaders have come in easily and ruled us happily. We just don’t learn it, do we. We are happy spouting inanities about World peace, coexistence, and comity of nations. Nations grow on efficient economic systems and institutes of science and technology. We are busy creating oligopolies and finding airplanes in Ramayana. Pray find the jet engine detailed design for AMCA there.

    • SHANAL SHEKHAR says:

      Sunil Kumar@ — I don’t think it is about gumption. I think they have this pre-determined thought that we’ll not succeed or the collateral damage will be high. And that can play a role in domestic politics.

  3. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    It is utterly incomprehensible that Indian establishment vacated the Kailash heights without Chinese removing the Y Junction blockade at Depsang.

    The force was already deployed. Peak of winters are behind us. What was the need for this useless agreement with the Chinese?

    WhatsApp University of BJP fan-club is already celebrating this so called victory of the ‘chosen one’

    This is all they know, alter historical facts, change the narrative to turn their defeats into triumphs.

  4. Kunal Singh says:

    Arming China’s peripheral states, ah! We haven’t given them vaccines on top priority basis. Canada is getting the vaccine before strategic Taiwan. The chinks are ready to lose their people in war and here we are scared of death. Like an Indian mother (bacche ko kuch na ho jae). What a fall.

  5. From Joydeep Sircar by email, 10 March 2021:
    l agree with you. The Cowardly Scared Group and the Nervous Shilly-shallying Adviser have let us down.

  6. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    Myanmarese Generals are asking India to hand back these refugees to Myanmar. Chances are high that China is behind this demand of theirs.

    • San Mann says:

      I’m concerned that at some point Myanmar’s generals will start playing an Oli game with us, at China’s urging, and start to issue new border maps claiming Indian territory. We shouldn’t host the escaped Myanmar policemen on our Indian territory, and should instead let them go to the West, where they can testify in front of US Congress.

      • Gaurav Tyagi says:

        The Myanmar Generals will definitely try riding on two boats simultaneously. They will seek favors from both India as well as China.

        The best way to deal with this situation is to maintain high alert level at the Myanmar border.

        There is no need to indulge the Myanmar army because they will then start seeking more and more favors (monetary assistance, which will end in army general’s secret bank accounts)
        Just ignore them.

        India should not hand back these Myanmar refugees. They will definitely be killed by the ruthless, corrupt army crooks in Myanmar.

        What if US does not provide visas to these Myanmarese refugees? India cannot just leave them on a boat in the high sea.

      • San Mann says:

        A prime concern of Myanmar’s generals is separatist militancy by various ethnic groups, including the Naga. We too share a common concern against Naga militancy, and can make this a common point of cooperation with Myanmar’s ruling junta. China, on the other hand hand, has tried to arm various separatist factions to weaken Myanmar. India and Myanmar share a common interest in fighting separatism, and this common interest should be pursued to the maximum, in order to counteract China’s influence, since it runs contrary to China’s traditional stratagems in the region.

  7. whatsinitanyway says:

    If Only

  8. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    There are also reports that the Indian government has earned approximately 20 Lakh Crore Rupees through increase in oil prices.

    There is no dearth of financial resources so, why is the political leadership afraid to confront China?

    The answer may lie in secret deals between the Chinese and the key Indian policy makers.

    Vivo, the Chinese company is back as the title sponsor of this season’s IPL.

    • San Mann says:

      Gaurav Tyagi@ — That’s an absurd argument. India is a net oil-importing country, and any increase in oil prices means an increased financial burden on India. Anybody knows this – it’s basic knowledge.

      • Gaurav Tyagi says:

        @ San Mann- India is a net oil importing country. I know that.

        My point is central government levies taxes which comes out to be a whopping 33 Indian Rupees approximately per liter of Petrol sold at pumps nationwide.

        This has provided the establishment with enough financial resources to tackle defence related so called shortages.

        They are just making useless excuses to hide their incompetence regarding confronting China.


    San Mann@ — Is that why they hired Ari Ben Menashe for lobbying in USA?

    • San Mann says:

      Shanal Shekhar@ — Doesn’t matter which lobbyist they hire – it will be like spitting into the wind, since the outcry over Myanmar’s suspension of democracy is quite large. There was already much antipathy towards Myanmar’s military over the Rohingya issue, and now they’ve just made it worse.

  10. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    Check this out;

    Another feather in the cap of (Pseudo) nationalists.

    I remember in the 90’s, when Lallu Yadav was the CM of Bihar. During the wedding of his eldest daughter, Misa Bharti. Lallu’s henchmen went to Tata Motors showroom and took away all the new Tata Sumo’s over there without paying even a dime.

    The vehicles were used extensively for around a month before returning them back. No prizes for guessing in what condition they were returned.

    The same game is being played now by the fake nationalists.

    Expecting this bunch of RSS/BJP-wallahs to counter China is akin to searching for flying pigs.

    • San Mann says:

      Gaurav Tyagi@ — You’re always looking to damn the nationalists. If some miscreants from a nationalist party have engaged in wrongdoing, then the answer is to purge them from the party so that nationalism can be unblemished. But your whole focus of enmity is against nationalism itself, and it’s the very idea of nationalism which you find threatening. So you’ll always be catcalling against nationalists, and calling their glass half-empty rather than half-full, because you don’t want there to be any nationalism whatsoever.

      • Gaurav Tyagi says:

        @ San Mann- And you are forever looking to defend these so called nationalists.

        How and why are they nationalists? Just by shouting a few slogans and branding others, who don’t share their line of thinking as anti-nationals.

        Nationalism means doing something in the interest of the nation. Not lying about China’s blatant violation of the border by making useless comments like; “Naa koii ghussa hail……”

        Responsibility of countering any external threat lies with the central government of the day. Bringing in past governments into the debate is just shunning your responsibility.

        The reason I raised this subject of Gadkari is that these so called nationalists are all pseudo characters. They just wish to fill their coffers. National interest is nowhere on their priority list.

        You say 1-2 examples. I will give you another case study.

        Can you please enlighten me on what basis the son of India’s home minister is the Secretary of BCCI?

        Why don’t you share his cricketing achievements on this forum?

      • Gaurav Tyagi says:

        @San Mann- I don’t consider BJP to be nationalists from any angle.

        They are a bunch of corrupt, crooks who are forever ready to take any opportunistic party hopper in their fold.

        Raising slogans and handing out certificates of patriotism/nationalism doesn’t make this gang of thieves nationalists.

  11. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    @Amit- Get the economy right. India’s parallel economy is more than the real (on paper) economy.

    It suits the politicians, bureaucrats as well as the business owners.

    Let me illustrate by giving an example.

    We all know the amount of money minted by private schools, colleges, universities and last but not the least coaching institutions in India yet, their owners pay 0 income tax because all these educational institutions are registered as “non profit trusts”

    Even a nominal 5% income tax on all private educational entities can bring huge revenue to the establishment.

    Who in his sane mind would invest such huge sums to run the aforementioned businesses without profit motive?

    Governments keep on changing but no-one has the courage to bring this sector under taxation. The business owners give hefty political donations to all political parties to maintain the status quo.

    Expecting positive changes in India is a mirage.

  12. Kunal Singh says:

    Karnad sir,
    What do u say , here Ambassador Stobdan says that that Indian intellectuals/analysts failed to use civilizational facts to advance their arguments

    • It is true that civilizational reasons for the Sino-Indian conflict have not been deeply addressed, in the main, because most analysts, including me, are not as well versed in this subject. Ambassador Stobdan, a native Ladakhi, is however the exception and one should pay heed to what he says.

  13. For the past twenty-seven years, I write about the emerging Chinese threat. Except for Bharat Karnad Sir, nobody cared. But when my predictions become true, I feel no elation. Only sadness.

    Most Indian defense pundits ignore this; the Chinese opened so many fronts against us already. Economic, psychological, cultural, and cyber warfare. Under university guise, PLA, invites Indian defense writers, scholars, and journalists to Beijing. There they were subtly manipulated by Chinese mind control experts.

    Notorious Chinese Confucius Institutes slowly strangle American universities. Chinese export subsidies kill US companies. Hollywood, heavily Chinese-funded, changed plots of World War Z and Gravity. In the first film, India became the villain. Second, Russia. In both films originally the Chinese were the bad guys. After the Chinese takeover of the Opera browser four years ago, I abandoned it. I use a super-fast, secure Slimjet now. But overblown Chinese kill switch is a bogey. No, Beijing can’t shut down Indian web or power grids.

    • Gaurav Tyagi says:

      Josemanimalapala@ — Good points raised by you however, the manipulation is not only done by Chinese mind control experts but also by offering worldly pleasures of every kind.

  14. In the current unfolding, showdown with China we can count only on Russia, France, Israel, Vietnam, and Japan. In the Nuclear Suppliers Group entry fiasco, 2016, six so-called Indian friends, Turkey, Austria, Brazil, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Ireland, turned Brutus.

    Like PRC’s Six Wars China Is Sure To Fight In The Next 50 Years, declare forcible recapture of Aksai Chin as the Indian goal.

    • Declare Limited war with China at our own time and terms even inside Chinese territory. as the Indian intention.
    • Declassify full details of the 1962 war and 1967 1987 clashes
    • Full diplomatic recognition of Taiwan as a sovereign nation
    • Fortunately Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s first and current female president is a nationalist hawk
    • Appropriate full country Head-in-Exile status to Dalai Lama with equal rights to the Pope. Help His Holiness to open consulates in Japan, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Bhutan, Thailand etc. Invite Global Buddhist pilgrims and Hollywood disciples to Bodhgaya
    • Declare Tibet and Hong Kong as occupied territories. Raise Uighur issue in international forums
    • Change RIC Forum into RI. Save Mongolia from Chinese Dhritarashtra hug. Read the riot act to Nepal
    • Alert ED, Revenue Intelligence, and CBI about hidden Chinese takeover of weak Indian companies through middlemen. Prevent indirect Chinese economic invasion of India via Hong Kong and Singapore
    • Slowly replace Chinese investment with Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. Save sinking Indian companies from a suicidal fire sale. Chines planned financial takeover of post- Corona world
    • Neutralize Chinese funding and arming of Maoist outfits at the source. Strict vigil to unearth, expose well-entrenched Chinese fifth column
    • Gradual reduction of Indo-Chinese ties to cultural, humanitarian, and social levels.
    • See-through Chinese strategic doublespeak and different versions of the truth. Cancel all Indo Chinese border talks

  15. Gaurav Tyagi says:
  16. Vikrant says:

    We do not have the same economic, military and technological strength as that of China. Therefore, our approach has to take into account the power differential, and workaround that to mitigate the risks. Prolonged war with a bigger power requires different strategy, wherein kinetic approach is the least efficient and most costly. Whereas economic, technological, cyber, drug, information, lawfare and political approaches can be sustained for a longer period of time.

    If we’re going to take a lesson from the Chinese playbook then we should deconstruct Unrestricted Warfare Model and use it against China and America. General Robert Spalding’s Stealth War is also very useful.

    Nirbhay and Brahmos should be given to every South-East Asian nation hostile to China free of cost – call it a strategic investment.

    Rather than openly supporting the uighars, we should, instead, draw the Chinese into middle-east conflict by covertly turning the gaze of jihadists and Islamists towards China. Let China be the third empire to exhaust its resources in the Middle-east.

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