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Is China losing an undeclared war with India?

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Writer is a post graduate in Economics from Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi. Currently working in private sector as a data analyst.

An unprecedented game between two economic giants is going in Asia. The game has the potential to swing the global geopolitical strategies not only for India and China but also for great powers like Russia, the US, and the EU for the remaining century. There are different perceptions among the strategist, defense analyst, and think-tankers on the reason behind ongoing stand-off between these two countries i.e. recent construction activities by Indian side along LAC, abrogation of article 370 in J&K, China’s expansionist policy to encroach neighbor’s land that India termed it “Salami slicing”, China’s diverting tactic from its own internal problems like Hong Kong protest, Covid-19 disruption, economic downturn, heckling their nearest power to show strength, equating the Dhoklam fallout; and political aspirations of one man Zhao Zongqi commander in general of PLA’s Western theater command. No doubt all these issues might have some importance or link to the ongoing stand-off, but giving the inconclusiveness of Indian policy in China expelled all of the above reasons out of the discussion except Salami slicing, Dhoklam’s fallout, and Zhao’s political aspirations.

History has a lot of examples where an individual’s aspirations have ended in the political disaster or sometimes a war whether he is Hitler or Yahya Khan. China has been following the policy of delusion with all its neighboring countries, imposing its territorial claims that don’t have the potential to escalate the war and are enough to bring embarrassment to them. Countries like Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, western neighbors (except for Pakistan which allowed China to rule a part of PoK later claimed as a gift to China) Russia and India are all facing the same challenge since the inception of Mao regime in China. In the case of India, an unfortunate diplomatic and political failure of government headed by then PM Nehru resulted in the military and moral defeat to the nation in 1962. Indians have considered this war as an unfinished war as the military establishment had not taken into cognizance properly. It was Nehru’s blind trust in China that country is still bleeding.

However, the Indian military has proved their caliber in 1967 Nathu La clash when it was again trying to rebuke India and interfering into the Sikkim. It was Rajiv Gandhi who decided to meltdown ice between these two countries followed by all other prime ministers thereafter. In between, it was an agreement between two countries in 1995 under which peace and tranquility on the border got its importance. Since then everything was on the track in the political stream of India except former defense minister Mulayam Singh and George Fernandez who were quite vocal about the treachery of China.

Both of them raise their eyebrow on China’s huge investment in the periphery of India, continuous support for Pakistan to contain Indian, interference into the Indian domestic affairs through the Indian Maoists and communists, destabilizing central states through its proxies i.e. Naxals and Maoists. Forces raised the issue of funding from China and Pakistan to the north-eastern militants. Given this history, any blind trust in China will ultimately provide our own graveyard. However, the NDA-I government did the same in a hope that China will not repeat it and It will accept New Delhi aspirations and sovereignty. India appeased China on many occasions i.e. It never commented on the Human rights violation in Tibbat, Xinxiang province, and Hong Kong Never commented on SCS despite its interests lies there.

Rise of China as a global economic power, its desire to invest outside China accompanied by high demand for investment in India cooked up a perfect curry for the nation to achieve its economic dream. Wuhan and Mahabalipuram Summit got global headlines as the world was perceiving this as a permanent tuning between the elephant and dragon. It is a parallel view in Beijing that New Delhi should be taught a lesson as it is tilting toward the west. Though India has its own interests in the Western world but it has never shown as a sign to ally with the anti-China alliances. Under the most dramatic decision, giving the profile of the nationalist government at the center, India backed down in the matter of Dalai Lama surprised many analysts.

In response to that, let’s discuss what China does with India. It is the only country which opposes UNSC permanent seat to India. It is the only country that opposes NSG membership to India (ready to allow if all other countries also backed Pakistan for the same). It used its veto against the blacklisting of Masood Azhar as a global terrorist. It supplies all the major arsenals to Pakistan. It constructed the OBOR into PoK despite India’s objection for the same. All these issues are irritating New Delhi for a long time. A recent martyr of 20 soldiers at P14 in Galwan Valley after a pre-planned attack of PLA’s soldiers under the guidance of Zhao Zongqi erupted the anti-China sentiment at the mass level in India. Now it seems this was an insane move by China to tackle India in this way.

As per my perception, China put a lot in the stake which it didn’t consider properly. Given the staunch support for BJP at all levels of democracy (except left-liberals and communist) and hard-liner image of Narendra Modi will make it tough for him to back out from the stand-off. Other than that people at the heart of decision-making (CDS Bipin Rawat, NSA Ajit Doval, HM Amit Shah, DM Rajnath Singh) are well-aware of China’s bullying attitude and also believe in hard power. Encroachment of 100-200 meter land by PLA is not an unusual activity. It is in their DNA (remember the born of PLA) to grab more and more land. While It is the attitude of the Indian government in recent years which is unusual.

India seems ready to bear a big loss even if it occurs as China understands only the language of power. The recent move of raising the economic cost to China, a clear message sent by Delhi through diplomatic channels, and a continuous movement of forces in the forward positions are all in the same direction. On the other hand, China is also not in the position of backing off as if it does so, India will get an upper hand as Indian media is the best when it comes to beating the drum. It will get an approval of the world as an only Asian country that can contain China which is something dragon doesn’t want. China understands the power of the market and consumer which itself made it a significant global power. Hence, both countries will be standing off in the coming days may be until winter. In between, anti-China sentiments are likely to go up in India.

This uneven and undeclared war is going to hit China more in all three possible scenarios. First, if China gets back off, India will be projected as an elephant who can crush the dragon. Here we should note that people from Taiwan, Japan, and the US all are raising their helping hand in this kind of nationalism in India as everyone wants to contain China but no one wants to take a lead. 

Second, if ongoing stand-off will take time to reach into the permanent disengagement, China will be bearing big long term economic cost which it could earn in the world’s biggest market in the next one and two decades. This is a huge cost to China as it is still a developing country, prevailing poverty, and economic downturn there will make it worse. As one of the former Indian ambassadors to China said that it has lost one generation of India just for minor tactical gain. 

Third, last resort for both the country to sort out this stand-off through limited war along LAC which no one wants. But here come to the biggest problem when we choose the military to solve the problem possibility of full-fledged war can not be ruled out. This will bring other power into the game as everyone wants to contain China and India will be a beneficiary, in this case, to have their support partially or fully which is also conditioned on Pakistan’s action along LoC. However, India should be ready to fight its war alone if it chooses to do so.

As I said initially it is an uneven war so any losses to India will have a lesser impact on its image while a minor loss to China will shatter its dream to become an only global power by 2049. Even a limited war with India has the potential to roast its dream. India has short term losses in all the possible scenarios along with one long term loss that It will have two declared permanent enemies. As Indian has decided to kick out Chinese investment from its soil so war has been started. Delhi is also seeking this an opportunity to turn its fate of dependence into self-reliance. It is safe for Indians to just focus on their work, be safe at their home, pump up more economic nationalism, park your investment at the right corner and extract the best of it as you don’t have anything too loose.

In this game, you have your consumer power at your hand and no one can snatch it from you without your consent. China is a good merchant, it will realize sooner or later that it was a complete miscalculation from its end to provoke Indians. You can read the latest comment of the Chinese government and global times for which are trying to cool down the scuffle. This is a complete contrast if you see China’s history to tackle the US, Japan, and other western countries.

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Writer is a post graduate in Economics from Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi. Currently working in private sector as a data analyst.
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