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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

What's Behind The Chinese High Decibel? - I

The Chinese, we are told, are very smart people. They have long term view of everything and all their actions, however irrational, have a deeper purpose. While we can't say the same about our own thinkers and doers, what should be make out of Chinese high decibel claims to Arunachal Pradesh? (This they do by telling us not to make an issue out of their every action related to border talks.)


There is some truth to the Chinese folklore. They managed to get Americans on their side by intervening directly in Vietnam war, creating a quagmire for the Americans, while pushing the Soviets around. The Americans responded by moving their entire manufacturing base to China within an short two decades while providing high tech IP transfers from jet planes to rocket (and multi-war head missile) to nuclear technologies. The Soviets too came around, not to be left out, and have a very healthy military technology transfer relationship with the Chinese. This they did while creating an all-weather friend out of our enemy by transferring nuclear weapon technology and enabling missiles technology transfer (from North Korea). They have created a cottage industry out of apparent indignation of Japanese war crimes, which they conveniently turn off and on, just-in-time as the Japanese are becoming normal to get serious about their own strategic interests.

Chinese Strategy:

So they have tied down Americans with business relationship and the Americans give wishy-washy statements of support to Taiwan. They tackled raising India - by tying it down with Pakistan with which they have been working since the 70s, and they're tackling the Japanese (with a little bit of help from Koreans). They are moving aggressively on the blue navy front - a fleet of five Jin-class nuclear submarines on the way, with the first one to be deployed early next year (bring the total number of submarines close to 40), while developing better ICBMs with the not-yet deployed state-of-the-art DF-31 ready for use if needed. And of course the recent ASAT test. No one in the world protests, except for murmurs from Pentagon (our media doesn't even bother to mention these developments), because everyone bought into the notion that China is strategic challenger to US - if you are challenger, you have a right to strategic balance.

Our Response:

So what is India's response to Chinese strategic game since the '70s. Not much. Even as a reactive nation, in strategic matters, we have little response to Chinese strategic moves. We did build up our nuclear strategic capability (mostly in response to Pakistan's covert capability) and, thanks to Vajpayee, are no longer dancing around the issue. We did fall into the Chinese trap by keeping level head with Pakistan instead of shaking off the South Asia dirt and start breathing the global air - at least until 2000. Thanks in part to George Bush, and again to Vajpayee with continued engagement from Manmohan, we started engaging with US at a strategic level, instead of we-tell-you-and-you-listen Clinton-Talbott years of the late 90s. Because, usually, where US goes so goes the rest of the world, we are now engaged with Europe, Japan and others, in various forums, as, mostly, equal partners (with high economic growth rates also helping). We have a working model of Agni III, finally, along with one (and soon to be, two) aircraft carrier.

Beyound engagement with global powers, our strategic capabilities are useful mainly during real action, and less so with some coercive capability during diplomacy. But surprising number of Indian policy makers and policy watchers was happy with we'll-beat-them-this-time mindset and perfectly happy with India's non-response to any strategic move by China. We may well be better prepared this time compared to '62 (war) and '64 (nuclear test). But we need more aces up our sleeves to sit with the Chinese when it comes border negotiations or strategic dialouge. We currently have none. Most serious countries build the aces slowly taking a long view - like the Chinese do. It's time we get started.

Need More Aces:

The aces have to be appropriate to the poker players at the table. For China, there are few we can built up: Taiwan, Tibet, Economy, Japan, Southeast Asia, U.S, and military.

...to be continued.


Apollo said...

Nice article. this is what i have been also trying to say. Indian diplomacy has no cards in hand when they sit at the negotiating table.

Indian diplomacy has recognised TIbet as part of China, has virtually done nothing to play the Taiwan card. so what do the Chinese have got to gain or lose? no wonder they are so happy with the status quo.

Chandra said...

It's pretty amazing that our guys will continue exercises even after repeated Arunachal Pradesh fiasco. It's all well and good not to shout at the top of your lungs, but business as usual just doesn't make any sense. Looks like we'll just act in a Chinese set directed by Chinese power players.

Apun Ka Desh said...

Your estimation of what china is upto is very correct.

We need leaders who can lead - not just stand their and 'be good'.