India is Not Pumping the Brakes Hard Enough on China


                  [Foreign Ministers Jaishankar & Wang Yi]                                                          

The Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, having joined with Pakistan in berating India on Kashmir at the conclave of foreign ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) called by Islamabad, which he attended as an observer, breezed into New Delhi for a pow-wow with the Indian government, confident that he’d be able to convince the Narendra Modi regime to overlook that little matter of the Chinese annexing some 1,000 sq kms of Indian territory in eastern Ladakh. And secondarily, to firm up Sino-Indian solidarity on Ukraine owing to “similar if not identical” views. “If China and India spoke with one voice,” he told the Press, “the whole world will listen. If China and India joined hands, the whole world will pay attention.”

Errors In Strategy And Thinking

Rather than using the God-sent opportunity to pay Beijing back in the same coin  and use Wang’s OIC provocation as a prompt for slinging the highly merited charges of “genocide” of Uyghur Muslims by China and thereby establishing equivalence between the Chinese foreign minister’s raking up mistreatment of Kashmiri Muslims and New Delhi’s siding with the Uyghurs for use as negotiating leverage in the future, the Ministry of External Affairs, as expected fluffed it.

“We reject the uncalled reference to India”, the MEA spokesman whimpered before pointing out the obvious that Kashmir was a domestic Indian issue and Wang had no business bringing it up. Is the Narendra Modi regime under the impression that this slight tap on the wrist is going to make the hardboiled straight shooters at Zhongnanhai rear up in fear of what New Delhi might do next?

Apparently, it is not just the MEA which believes this Indian non-response will have a salutary effect on the Chinese. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh too thinks the Modi government did right by not even acknowledging Wang’s straight right to India’s chin. Ram Madhav, who is a member of the central executive council of the RSS and a former national general secretary of the BJP, in an op-ed, not only failed to notice the missed chance of hitting back at China, he congratulated Jaishankar & Co. for sticking by neutrality on Ukraine, and on insisting that normal relations will only be on the basis of restoration of the status quo ante in eastern Ladakh. He explained such policies as being “as much about principles as about interests”.

This proved, once again, that neither the Indian government nor the ideologues of the party in power have the faintest idea about “principles” – which, incidentally, are distinguished by their absence in international affairs, and even less about “national interests”. If the Modi regime and the BJP were wise about the world, they would have throttled the unhindered flow of Chinese consumer goods to India at the first sign of Chinese hostilities on the Galwan in 2020.

The Modi government, perhaps, realizing the foreign policy boo-boo it had made with Wang belatedly appears to have leaked the story about an airborne “insertion” exercise involving 600 paratroopers in the Silguri Corridor being timed to coincide with the Chinese foreign minister’s visit, but to send what message? In 1958, a Chinese military delegation visited Ambala to observe a military exercise which featured waves of attacking aircraft paving the way for Indian infantry. Unimpressed, the Chinese delegation head while referring to the display of airborne firepower as impressive, asked the Indian army chief in attendance if aircraft would be available for ground operations in the mountains? Four years later, the Chinese supplied the answer!  

What China’s ‘Three Point-Approach’ Asks Of India

But, to get back to Wang, why was he hopeful of India joining hands with China considering the disputed border in Ladakh is live with 1 lakh troops on either side of the Line of Actual Control and the possibility of military hostilities at any time? Apparently, for two reasons. The Chinese government believed that owing to the fairly relentless pressure from the US and the West to side against Russia in the Ukrainian crisis, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was sufficiently softened to welcome this Wang overture, confident New Delhi would perceive the situation the way it does — of two Asian powers standing with Russia being better than only one of them doing so and then exclusively facing the sanctions music for supporting Moscow.  And because, as in the past, the Indian government, he believed, could be bamboozled into compromising on its stated position on the border in Ladakh by vague promises of peace but, as always, on Chinese terms, which Wang, this time around, revealed as his “three point-approach”.

This approach is: Negotiating with “a long term vision” without the border dispute colouring India’s attitude; A “China-India-plus” initiative for joint projects in South Asia – which is a plea to not hinder Beijing’s realisation of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as part of its larger Belt and Road Initiative; and Cooperating with each other in multilateral fora.

The first point requires India to forget about the Chinese grab of  a vast expanse of Indian territory.

The second is an attempt to dilute opposition to CPEC and permit the Western Provinces of China – Tibet and Xinjiang, in particular, to have all-year, all-weather access to the warm water port of Gwadar on the Baluch coast, thus lessening the pressure on Chinese trade that otherwise has to negotiate the Indian-controlled Malacca bottleneck.

The third makes virtue of necessity because without a commonality of views and of policies on multilateral issues (trade, climate, etc.) the two countries would find themselves unable adequately to resist the US and the West, which seem intent on obtaining progress at the expense of India’s and China’s national interests. 

Fortunately, Jaishankar and Modi’s national security adviser Ajit Doval, despite Wang’s sweet-talking the latter (“China does not pursue the so-called ‘unipolar Asia’ and respects India’s traditional role in the region)”, held their ground at least for once.

Switching From Wang To Lavrov

The question is, with the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov visiting New Delhi later this week, will the Indian government be deft enough to keep relations with Russia on track (setting up a rupee-ruble payments track, etc.), but point out the need for urgency by President Vladimir Putin to somehow bring closure to his mismanaged military invasion in Ukraine before it takes a toll, among other things, on India and Indian relations with Russia? At the same time, India needs to remind Lavrov about just how slippery and opportunistic China is as a strategic partner and why the long term threat it poses to both the countries should not be forgotten or underplayed for any reason.  


Published in, March 29, 2022 in my ‘Realpolitik’ column, at

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, Central Asia, China, China military, civil-military relations, Culture, Decision-making, Europe, Geopolitics, geopolitics/geostrategy, 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, Indian Navy, Indian Ocean, Indo-Pacific, MEA/foreign policy, Military/military advice, Pakistan, Pakistan military, Relations with Russia, Russia, russian assistance, russian military, sanctions, society, South Asia, Strategic Relations with the US & West, Tibet, Trade with China, United States, US.. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to India is Not Pumping the Brakes Hard Enough on China

  1. From Lt Gen Kamal Davar (Retd)..

    Tue, 29 Mar at 1:50 pm

    Hi Bharat, thanks for sharing your aptly articulated views on China. Its going to be a long haul for us and we better be prepared with determination and foresight. I think the resolution of the boundary dispute has to be ensured expeditiously otherwise the Chinese will continue with their salami slicing. Some mirroring actions also need to be taken after some preparation. Why do not we as a quid pro quo rake up the Tibet and Uighur issues. Regards, Kamal Davar

  2. Ayush says:

    putin should end this war in ukraine NOW! West has finally started pumping in sophisticated air defenses and EW platforms which are jamming their tactical battlefield comms.Once the 10,000+ mutilated bodybags return home and sanctions begin to have an impact on the ground,his throne will start shaking.Continuation of this war will certainly blast RUSSIA BACK to the 1990’s.That is NATO’s real objective-to reduce russia into a mil-eco irrelevance,so that US can secure its european flank and go all out in indopac region.
    Besides,he can’t keep his eastern mil districts stripped of combat power indefinitely knowing all to well that the mighty PLA northern theatre command is itching to swallow vladivostok.Russia’s N bluff was called by the chinese as far back in 1969 zhenbao island,they will not think twice before doing it again.Modi has to make this point clearly in a face-to-face meeting with Putin.He has to immediately sign a face saving ceasefire,accept zelenskyy’s “neutrality”,withdraw his conscripts back to the starting lines and starting licking his wounds.It might already be too late.Biden has clearly signalled he is not withdrawing the sanctions’ regime or the brutally effective cyber campaign as long as putin remains in power.He might very well sabotage any attempt at ceasefire for obvious reasons.Biden’s logic is simple.He wants to get rid of weaker,junior partner putin first before dealing with Papa Xi.

  3. Sankar says:

    “Errors In Strategy And Thinking” –

    It has captured everything in a nutshell for the Modi Raj.
    Hindu Modi rose up as the CM of Gujrat. His only driving instinct is to inflate India’s commerce with China for the benefit of the Gujju mafia who hoisted him to power. He is a bully to India’s masses. It is futile to expect him to stand up for Indian sovereignty.

    • Deepak says:

      @Sankar,So called Hindu Hridaya Samrat spoke good words about Kashmir files.But he is not at all interested in resettling Kashmiri Pandits by carving them small part of Kashmir valley as per demands of Kashmiri Pandit. We do not need empty words and future promises by our leaders but want action on the ground which is missing.
      He is promising development,jobs for people who are waiting for 72 houris in the jannat thinking that they will be satisfied with this and support India.If this is not Error In Strategy And Thinking then what is?

  4. Amit says:

    In Hindi they say ‘unnees bees ka pharak’. I’m not sure what the big difference between your views and the Indian government are on how it handled Wang Yi’s visit. You are splitting hairs on this I’m afraid.

  5. Deepak says:

    India always failed to raise Human right abuse by other countries who always showcase India is not safe for minorities.
    Hindu files should be opened and presented in UN with facts which are already available.
    Hindus faced worst genocides than Jews for more than 1000 years but India is unable to highlight this fact.Countless millions of Indians perished from British engineered famines,islamic invasions but 1 akhlaq,1 buran wani dead there is a huge cry India is not safe for minorities.
    Chinese abuse of all ethnic minorities,Pakistan abuse of religious minorities and Baloch should be highlighted in every forum.So called Indian friend United states who always lectures India on human right abuses should be 1st asked to do justice with Native Americans from whom they stole the entire country by centuries of genocides.

  6. Ayush says:

    Wang Yi’s meeting with Doval was protocol violation.He is only supposed to be meeting with jaishankar.Rival’s Chinese counterpart is yang jiechi .Lol wang is not even a politburo member.He had the audacity to ask for call to Modi, without a letter of request from emperor Xi.He was correctly denied.There is word that the Chinese wanted to discuss our superb covert war in occupied Balochistan and Kpk.Doval refused to even mention a word-the issue of cpec and our covert war is an absolute non-starter for us.

    • Gaurav Tyagi says:

      @Ayush- 100% spot on comment. I also had the same thoughts when he met with Doval however, it takes two to tango.

      Wang Yi was in India so Indian side should have followed the protocol and denied Wang a meeting with Doval.

      Don’t underestimate the money power of the Chinese. The proof of the pudding lies in its eating. Covert operations should be continuous, one cannot sit idle.

      When was the last time there was an attack on Chinese projects in CPEC? btw the NSA’s son is running a hedge fund business from Singapore.

      It doesn’t take long for self interest to trump national interest.

  7. Debanjan Banerjee says:

    Dear Dr Karnad, Looking at the current situation in Pakistan, PM Imran has done something very interesting. 1. He has practically polarized the whole Pakistani pollitical narrative on the issue of independent foreign policy and US influence. The Pakistani civilian and military elite who have always sided with US now have to make a choice since anti-Americanism is very strong in almost all of the Pakistani society. 2. The next Pakistani elections will be fought on this very specific issue of who is an Imranist and who is anti- Imranist. Here Imranist means someone who adheres to an independent foreign policy. For us in India this is very similar to what Mr Modi did in 2014 and 2019. 3. By visiting Mr Putin at this time, Mr Imran has demanded from the West , the same respect that the West offers to India when it comes to having an independent foreign policy. This will surely open up more spaces for the Pakistani foreign policy in future. I would love your views on my analysis.

    • Debanjan@ — A very good read of the current situation in Pakistan. But the reason the West or Russia ir rest of the world for that matter won’t treat Pakistan the way they treat India is because size, economy and resources-wise it is a pygmy, and relatively will remain so.

  8. From Air Marshal Harish Masand (Retd)
    Date: Tue, Mar 29, 2022 at 10:55 PM
    Thanks for sharing Bharat,

    I agree with all you said and have written on similar lines earlier. Unfortunately, we seem to be going about the Chinese issue meekly for a long time. The diplomats are unable to change tack for fear of the risks involved and without the hard power to back up for their errors and the politicians don’t know any better since none have perhaps even read the entire historical background with any appreciation of the great game being played for a long time.

    Unfortunately, I wonder if anyone is even listening, much less hearing, what you are trying to convey.

    Warm regard

  9. Ayush says:

    Indian generals now have to present a clear, honest picture to modi.I remember modi shouting hoarse in early 2020 that “ India can defeat Pakistan in 10 days”.LMAO, two months later pla struck in ladakh.Enemies are never to be underestimated.If we had gone into pak after being humiliated in op swift retort, pak would have destroyed our useless russian Tin-90s down to last without using tacnukes.Pak has a LOT of ATGMs.
    Also, experience in CT ops like in chechenya, Syria or in Kashmir cannot be called “combat experience”.The problem of the russian army is shared by our side.Barring Gen Narvane, the vast majority of our generals are CT Experts, not technocrats.Most of them have no idea about high tech “informationized” warfare.IAF had learned the lesson in the nick of time from op swift retort.They discarded useless russian radios which were easily jammed by PAF F-16s,also the junk R-73/77 bvraams.Our sukhois are today Russian only in name.They now have Israeli secure software defined radios, operational data links, I derby ER bvraams, ell-8222 jamming pods ,spice 2000 bombs and so on.Today’s IAF is a far better force than in 2019.

  10. Debanjan Banerjee says:

    @Dear Dr Karnad, To continue with my analysis on the current situation in Pakistan…

    1. The main objective of Imranist foreign policy has been to create more political options for the Pakistani foreign policy in future. The logic here is simple. If the US allows India to have close ties with Russia , Pakistan also wants similar concessions. 2. Given the dominance of the narrative of independent foreign policy in Pakistan, I believe it will be increasingly difficult for people like the Sharifs and Bhuttos to change the narrative here. 3. It will be increasingly difficult for the post-Imran Pakistan to offer concessions to India.

  11. Amit says:


    More than China, at this point how India handles the US and Russia will determine the state of geopolitics in the short term. The US has made several strategic mistakes – how it has handled Russia and Iran are two examples. While there are several international relations (IR) experts in the US who highlight this, it is unlikely that at a policy level anything is going to change immediately, as these IR realists are not in power.

    The only way the US will change its ways is if it is unable to forge global coalitions. So India should go ahead and sign a favourable oil and gas deal with Russia, enable Rupee-Ruble trade and start buying cheap Iranian oil. In fact, with Russia insisting on ruble payments for its gas from some EU countries, it is likely that oil prices will spike very shortly and the US may also open the tap with Iran and Venezuela. But someone has to stand up to the US and let them know that the world cannot pay for its strategic blunders.

    As for Indo-US relations, at some point realist thinking will dominate as more US policy experts realize that China is the real threat and not Russia. Until then, India should stick to its guns and face whatever music the US chooses to play.

  12. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    Factually speaking, there is virtually no reduction in the real economy w.r.t. supplies and demands for natural resources. The commodity indexes are rising only because of artificial supply risks created in the system and even more importantly because of the artificial supply of currency – both being a western malignancy. If the Russians are working overtime to to achieve its goals with a soft bang in Ukraine, then there is hardly any reason for them to cause mega-disruptions the flow of natural resources for the rest of the world. If anything they are giving out discounts to support their natural role as a supplier of natural resources. In terms of the real economy, the world will eventually adjust to new sources of supplies and new consumption centers but the overall supply and demand will remain more or less balanced unless sanctions are used to force third world countries into submission (but perhaps, not even then will the system be out of gear).

    Unfortunately most ruling cliques in third world countries have gotten themselves hooked onto a narcotic of greenback for several different reasons – debt, election funding, hawala, carry trades, remittances, security, energy, export dependence, import dependence.

    Both these sides of the equation create massive internal tensions for anybody who wishes to ally with the west. These internal tension will always influence any nation’s decision w.r.t. Ukriane crisis.

    In turn, what these countries do with respect to the Ukraine crisis for the immediate now will decide how much ‘support’ the west gives to their provincial pet projects (e.g. Chipak project in the case of India). The only antidote is to go full independent, but obviously that requires a certain degree of moral courage. The non-resident populations of the third world countries, their armies, their bureaucracies and their fellow politicians will always want full freedom to hang onto their respective comfort zones and will never allow a full independence to their respective countries. Result will absolutely always be a denial of resources to the massive populations held hostage by these ruling cliques (they don’t figure in this anywhere).

    It is strange how Indians everywhere have already convinced themselves that Chinese are a threat to US and they only have to convince the moronic state department on the issue. The reality is that China does w.r.t. manufacturing supplies what the Russia does w.r.t. natural resources supplies and hence the net result remains the same. And both Russia and China do that for creating surpluses and savings which, if left undisturbed would invariably fall in line to create demand support for the western debt markets. This essential process of creating surpluses can work only when the even more essential process of creating economic advantages and efficiencies are understood. An understanding that requires commitment. A commitment which will forever elude the people, whose first reaction is to hawk the Indian consumer demand, around the world. Obviously this strategy of hawking the Indian consumer demand will end up creating trade deficits and general economic incompetency. That is what it is driven towards achieving.

    What exactly does the west contribute to anybody, bar money printing and ‘market regulation’ !!?? They know their own status and that is why they merely mew a complain when India buys Russian oil and gas. That mew is certainly out of character because that is expected to work as an encouragement. Wait till the Russian energy supplies actually evaporate out of the markets and then you will see what sanctions can really mean and then the west will voice its own complains against India, at a decibel which more in line with its character. Russia (and China) are already working in ways to cause least amount of disruption to the consumption needs of the west.

    US is safe beyond oceans but their desire for ‘more security’, ended up sowing the seeds of NATO where western europe was to be the battle ground. The western europeans didn’t have much choice because they had run themselves into the ground already. Eventually the western europeans got ‘wiser’ and did onto the eastern europeans what the US had done onto western europeans. So now the east european lands were expected to be the battle ground. The eastern europeans also wanted more security and they in turn wished for traditional russian lands to be the new battle ground with may be a gentle beating to their neo-nazis. Well now Putin has just fulfilled your collective wishes gentlemen and still you are complaining :). What does the west really wish for now!!! A regime change in Russia to fulfil their security needs without disruption to their consumption needs? Well that can happen too but don’t bet that Putinism will be dead after Putin….:) There will always be a quid demanded and the west has to learn to deliver the quid, else…..

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.