India can hit China where it hurts – Nilanjan Ghosh

China the bully of Asia

Nilanjan GhoshChina has acted in a way that can be best be described as “opposite of the optimum”. China is not just emerging as a “global bully”, a deeper insight may reveal that its policy and governance brings it very close to North Korea. – Dr Nilanjan Ghosh

What does China want? This question is now ubiquitous after China’s reprehensible misadventure with the Indian army near the Galwan River. Just when the concerns between the two armies were supposed to deescalate, China’s dastardly act creates a more resolute India in its vision of China. This became evident from PM Modi’s speech in which he highlighted on India’s peaceful resolution while emphasising that “sovereignty and integrity of India” can never be compromised.

Knee-jerk reactions

There is a certain perception that China is no Pakistan: they execute well-thought plans! If at all true, the obvious concern will arise with China’s rationale behind such a provocative move, which not only makes India react but also places the former in a very negative light in front of the global community. China’s new misadventure with unilaterally redefining a loosely delineated LAC, and then escalating this to a rustic, wild street fight with the clubs and stones can be interpreted as a panic reaction. The Indian reinforcements in the geo-strategic domains are possibly one of the reasons that are clearly cornering them.

There is also the Covid-19 issue, where China is the clearly identified villain for the global community. Their misdemeanours in the South China Sea with escalated stand-offs with Vietnam and Malaysia are readily reported. Their open threatening of Australia for the latter’s call for independent Covid-19 investigation and their wolf-warrior diplomacy is falling flat on its face! In the scenario of this pandemic crippling the global economy and polity, instead of maintaining a low profile and act as a partner trying to promote global peace, China has acted in a way that can be best be described as “opposite of the optimum”. China is not just emerging as a “global bully”, a deeper insight may reveal that its policy and governance brings it very close to North Korea. China is indulging in what are more knee-jerk reactions than well-thought plans. It is possible that India’s exalting positions over the last few years in the geo-strategic space and reinforcement in the borders are making them wary of their Himalayan neighbour.

The Covid-19 scenario has been witnessing the QUAD (a potential security arrangement among Australia, India, Japan, and the US) in the Indo-Pacific projecting a more prominent role for India in the region, whereas China has lost substantial grounds in the geostrategic space. It is no longer a trusted partner except for a few nations that have already fallen prey to its “market imperialistic” design of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) due to lack of vision, wherewithal, and diligence. So one hand, such knee-jerk reactions may emerge out of sheer “geostrategic jealousy”.

The provocation

On the other hand, China may have been genuinely concerned with India’s reinforcements of borders ever since the Doklam skirmish. Probably, China apprehends that any reinforcement in the form of deployment can indeed render China-occupied Aksai Chin and the western parts of Tibet vulnerable, thereby jeopardising the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The third possibility remains India’s strategic proximity with the USA, Australia and Japan. The US President’s prime weapon to ensure incumbency in the forthcoming US presidential elections in November happens to be feeding the Electoral College with rants against China. Australia and Japan are also supporting Indian causes in geopolitical forums. Hence, this “club and stone” skirmish may be a veiled threat from Beijing to Delhi for getting close to the US and other allies.

Beijing’s self-goal

This is where China is committing its biggest mistake. With a negative public sentiment about China prevailing in India, China, with delinquent antics, is virtually pushing itself to lose out on the buoyant and burgeoning Indian market. This will hit them hard! There is hardly any other market in the world that can boast of having more than 50 per cent of its population below the age of 25 and more than 65 per cent below the age of 35, and whose incomes have increased annually in the range five to 8.5 per cent between 2009 and 2018.

While Covid-19 will shrink the Indian purchasing power, it is bound to grow fast over time. Earlier, China understood these dynamics, and therefore, wanted to establish the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor with the tacit objective of exploiting the cheap factor markets (human and natural capital) of eastern India and capturing the growing demand or the product markets of the western, southern and northern India. India gave the project a cold shoulder.

India further had various issues with joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a regional trade agreement with 15 other members (including ASEAN and Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea) and withdrew from the trade pact. One of the major problems in the trade pact for India was the very presence of China. Therefore, with Australia and India showing clear proclivities of reducing their Chinese import dependence, the geopolitical and geostrategic problems of China with various ASEAN nations whether over the issues over the Mekong or the South China Sea, won’t it be a wise move to eject China out of RCEP to begin new negotiations? There cannot be a more potent weapon than the economic one. – Daily-O, 22 June 2020

Dr. Nilanjan Ghosh is Director, Observer Research Foundation (ORF) Kolkata. 

China in the South China Sea


3 Responses

  1. China ordered attack on Indian troops in Galwan Valley: US intel assessment – Anubha Rohatgi – Hindustan Times – 23 June 2020

    A senior Chinese general authorised his forces to attack Indian troops in the Galwan River valley last week, resulting in a brutal skirmish that killed dozens and dramatically escalated tensions between the two Asian powerhouses, according to a U.S. intelligence assessment.

    Gen. Zhao Zongqi, head of the Western Theater Command and among the few combat veterans still serving in the People’s Liberation Army, approved the operation along the contested border region of northern India and southwestern China, a source familiar with the assessment says on the condition of anonymity.

    According to U.S. News, Zhao, who has overseen prior standoffs with India, has previously expressed concerns that China must not appear weak to avoid exploitation by the United States and its allies, including in New Delhi, the source says, and saw the faceoff last week as a way to “teach India a lesson.”

    The assessment contradicts China’s subsequent assertions about what happened on June 15.

    And it indicates the deadly and contentious incident – in which at least 20 Indian and 35 Chinese troops died, and reportedly a handful on each side were captured and subsequently released – was not the result of a tense circumstance that spiralled out of control, as has happened before, but rather a purposeful decision by Beijing to send a message of strength to India.

    Yet that plan appears to have backfired, as the incident sparked widespread outrage in India that continues a week later. And Beijing’s attempts to make India more amenable to future negotiations, including about contested territory, instead appear to have pushed the economic giant closer to the U.S.

    Much is at stake, far beyond territorial control. The U.S. has pressured India for months to back away from employing Chinese tech company Huawei to help build its 5G infrastructure. In the aftermath of June 15 incident Indians were reportedly deleting Chinese social media app TikTok and destroying phones made in China.

    “It does the very opposite of what China wanted,” the source says, adding that “this is not a victory for China’s military.”

    It remains unclear the extent to which Chinese President Xi Jinping was involved in the decisions that led to the bloody encounter, though analysts familiar with Chinese military decision making say he would have almost certainly known about the orders.

    Troops had massed on both sides of the border in recent months in the northern India region of Ladakh and the southwestern Chinese region of Aksai Chin, causing global concerns of a potential escalation between the two.

    Private geo-intelligence firm Hawkeye 360 recently reported that satellite imagery from late May showed a buildup on the Chinese side of what appeared to be armed personnel carriers and self-propelled artillery.


  2. K.P. Sharma Oli

    China could set up border outposts in encroached Nepalese territories – Shishir Gupta – Hindustan Times – 23 June 2020

    Massive road development projects in the Tibet Autonomous Region have led to rivers changing their course and expanding China’s boundary into northern territories of Nepal, a document by Nepal’s agriculture department has warned.

    The document, accessed by Hindustan Times, said patches of Nepalese territory in several districts had already been encroached by China and cautioned that Beijing could take over more territory in the north if the rivers continue to change course. The loss of Nepalese territory due to the rivers changing course could run into “hundreds of hectare land”, it said.

    “There is a high possibility that over the period of time, China may develop its Border Observation Post of Armed Police in those territories,” the document by the agriculture ministry’s survey department said.

    Nepal, which shares a boundary with China in the north, has 43 hills and mountains from the east to west, that act as the natural boundary between the two countries. The two countries have six check posts, essentially for trade.

    The survey department has assessed that the changing course of 11 rivers had already cost Nepal 36 hectare, or 0.36 sq km, across four of its districts; Humla, Rasuwa, Sindhupalchowk and Sankhuwasabha.

    The encroachment of 36 hectare land by China had been first reported to the KP Sharma Oli-led government last year. There were some street protests after the loss of Nepalese territory to China emerged in the local media But the Oli government, who is accused by his detractors of attempting to cosy up to China’s communist party, played down the encroachment by the Chinese and channeled the public outrage against India over the new maps issued by New Delhi in November last after the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir was split into two union territories.

    Instead, PM Oli went on to amp up the differences with India over Kalapani, Limpiyadhura and Lipulekh spread across 330 sq km in May this year after Chinese intervention helped him survive a rebellion within the party in April. That intervention, however, meant that he had to scrap two ordinances promulgated just five days earlier.

    PM Oli had seized the opportunity after defence minister Rajnath Singh opened an 80-km road that ends at Lipulekh Pass on the border with China.

    Analysts in New Delhi and Kathmandu believe that PM Oli’s hard push to Nepal’s new political map was an effort to whip up ultra-nationalistic sentiments targetted at India to consolidate his position in the government and the party. This is why he did, a diplomat in New Delhi said, PM Oli did not inform Parliament before it voted on the map earlier this month that he had ignored an offer of dialogue between the foreign secretaries of the two countries. Instead, he gave parliamentarians the impression that his government was forced to push the envelope since New Delhi had declined his offer for dialogue.

    New Delhi hardened its position after the map was cleared by parliament this month, asserting that it was for him to create a conducive atmosphere in case he is interested in a bilateral dialogue on the boundary issue.


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