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[Rajinder Puri] India must act if it wants to restrain China

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Published : 2014-02-27 20:59
Updated : 2014-02-27 20:59

After hearing the warning of Narendra Modi to China over its repeated claims on Arunachal Pradesh, the Chinese must be laughing their heads off. Making an election speech in the north-east, Modi ― Bharatiya Janata Party prime ministerial candidate ― advised China to give up its expansionist attitude.

He said: “No power on earth can take away even an inch from India. Moreover, the present world does not accept an expansionist attitude. Times have changed. China should give up its expansionist attitude and adopt a developmental attitude.”

Can no power on earth take away an inch from India? After losing thousands of square miles of Indian territory to China and Pakistan, which we have not recovered, one can only marvel at Modi’s source of confidence. The world may not endorse an expansionist mindset, but does China listen to the world? Modi advises China to adopt a developmental approach. Poor Modi! Does he not know that China has perfected its strategy for developmental approach in order to realize its expansionist ambitions? How does Modi intend to restrain China in Arunachal Pradesh?

Will he restrain China by spreading the red carpet for Chinese investments in Gujarat as he is doing? Will he allow a security risk of Chinese telecom multinational allegedly having aided espionage activities of the People’s Liberation Army to establish its Indian head offices in Gujarat? Will he accept frequent visits to Beijing and accept hospitality in return for furthering Chinese investments in Gujarat? Will he teach Mandarin to Gujarati schoolchildren in preparation for that distant day when they will be employable by Beijing’s firms? Could rulers in China ever hope for a better leader to help expand their interests in India? No other chief minister follows such a pro-China policy. Modi’s bluster over Arunachal is rubbished by his policies.

The Chinese respect only the language of hard action. If India wants to restrain China, it must act. More importantly, the government must know how to act. Forget military action. India needs only defensive deterrent capability. India can exercise leverage against China only through economy. Blocking imports from China and all Chinese investment will hurt Beijing much more than it will hurt India. India is an economy based on domestic savings. That is its strength. Although President Xi Jinping is strenuously pursuing course correction of the Chinese economy, Beijing still depends heavily, critically, on its exports in order to maintain stability. Curtailing Chinese exports would cripple China’s state-owned enterprises leading to closures, unemployment and seriously destabilize most of urban China.

After blocking Chinese investments, India should seek alternate sources in Japan and the West for building its infrastructure. Blocking Chinese imports would in fact give a much needed boost to India’s neglected manufacturing sector of industry. Even for necessary imports there are alternate sources available which India should explore. In other words, India would survive temporary dislocation if it blocked Chinese imports and investment. But by such blockade, India could initiate a global chain reaction from other nations aggrieved by Beijing’s policies.

There is also leverage India can exert over Tibet. The Dalai Lama has stated that he now considers himself a son of India. Consider the implications. Tibetans permanently residing in Dharamsala with the Dalai Lama based in India would continue to exert a profound influence over Tibetans inside Tibet despite all the repression unleashed by Beijing. In response to Beijing’s reiterated threats over Arunachal Pradesh, can India respond in similar fashion over Tibet? Most importantly, this writer believes that there exists an opportunity for an honorable peace settlement with Beijing only if the government in New Delhi knew how to go about it. The Chinese are hard-headed realists. A peace package that protects India’s core interests without hurting their core interests most likely would be acceptable to them. President Xi Jinping has given indication that he has liberal instincts. He might be persuaded for course correction of the subversive and expansionist policies pursued by the PLA.

India needs to recognize its core interests related to China. India cannot tolerate Beijing giving arms and providing sanctuary to anti-India insurgents. India cannot tolerate Beijing giving arms aid to India’s immediate neighbors with hostile intent to target India. India cannot tolerate China impeding Indian efforts to create a South Asian Union by trying to muscle in even though the present government is criminally negligent in pursuing this goal. If Beijing accepts these conditions, India should be prepared to welcome trade and investment with China by the united future South Asian Union. India should be prepared to exert its influence with the Dalai Lama to settle with Beijing provided China grants genuine, U.N.-guaranteed cultural autonomy to the entire Tibet region within China. India should be prepared to settle the boundary dispute with China, if Beijing relinquishes all claims to territory with settled populations. That implies renunciation of Chinese claims over Arunachal Pradesh. Recognizing China’s core interests, India should be prepared to cede territory sans population in Aksai Chin required by China to link Xingjian with Tibet.

President Xi Jinping seems to be a realist attempting reform against heavy odds. One believes that he recognizes that China’s global ambitions will be best served through its economic progress. He might well respond positively if such a peace package were attempted. The kind of empty rhetoric indulged in by Indian politicians bereft of any meaningful action on the ground would only encourage hardliners in Beijing to persist with expansionist policies. The proposed peace package is of course at present only of academic interest. No political party or leader presently in government or opposition provides hope of actually adopting it. The Indian political class at present is too heavily corrupted and subverted by foreign interests to pursue a genuinely nationalist policy.

By Rajinder Puri 

Rajinder Puri is a veteran journalist and cartoonist. ― Ed.

(The Statesman/Asia News Network)

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