China has long harboured the dream of becoming a global superpower. But, it was not until the late 1990s, that it found the way towards this dream – manufacturing. With the advent of globalisation and more and more countries opting to push manufacturing outside their respective boundaries, China saw this as the perfect opportunity to put itself on the world map and establish itself as the world’s factory. Slowly, but steadily, it started expanding its economic and political footprint across the world, especially in Europe and the Middle east. China currently is the biggest trade partner of several countries in these regions, overtaking the US. Even the US heavily depends on China for finished goods, importing over $ 560 billion worth of goods from China in 2018 only. Thus, China, which contributed a meagre 3% of global manufacturing output in the 1990s, now controls almost 30%.
This kind of economic footprint and control over the global supply chain gives China leverage over a lot of countries. Add the Chinese debt diplomacy and projects like BRI to this, and you get countries that have no option but to surrender to China. Now, this plan works well only if China has complete control over manufacturing and supply chain. China feels threatened by anyone that tries to position itself as an alternative to China, even in the smallest of the terms. We have seen that happening with Vietnam and Taiwan and how China has been bullying these nations. But these are very small countries, incapable of challenging China on the global front, all by themselves.
The only country that stands a good chance against China is India, and China knows it too well to ignore it. That’s why during the UPA rule, China practically bribed the Gandhis to get India to join the RCEP negotiations and also tried to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with China. FTA with China would have spelled death for the Indian manufacturing and we would have surrendered to China even without a fight. Nothing much changed for a few years even after Modi came into power in 2014 since the NDA govt also kept a positive attitude towards the Chinese establishment. During that time, PM Modi was mostly focused on countering Pakistani narrative against India and improving India’s relationship with the world vis-à-vis Pakistan.
But, all changed with the arrival of the Wuhan virus and the pandemic that has gripped the world since. The Wuhan virus affected the supply chain of goods from China and the entire world started to feel the heat. China saw this as a golden opportunity to fasttrack its race to world domination. Taking advantage of the grim economic situation, China started acquiring distressed companies in the US and Europe, raising alarm bells across the world. But, the world didn’t have an alternative yet, till India arrived. PM Modi saw this as an opportunity to raise India’s stature in the world and give a major push to manufacturing in India. India, with its past record in services and recent success in the electronic and mobile manufacturing, could become an answer to the world’s overdependence on China. But, China didn’t like it, not one bit.
All the recent events on the Indian border with China point to the growing insecurity in the Chinese establishment regarding India and its growing might. The Chinese feel that the only way to counter this was to show to the world that India is no match for China. They felt the need to demonstrate that China can punish India any time it wants economically and militarily. To that effect, long before the Galwan valley faceoff, the Chinese troops steadily started increasing its presence along the Indian border from March- April 2020. The plan was to block the movement of Indian troops and challenge them to a fight. A skirmish with the Chinese that causes heavy Indian casualties would affect the morale of India and its troops and send a message to the world that India is not stable.
In fact, Galwan was not supposed to be a one-off incident, rather a part of such small incidents that would “show India its place” without an actual war. However, Galwan turned out to be a big misadventure for China because they didn’t expect the Indian response to be so powerful and brutal. The effect it achieved was the opposite – the Indian troops stood their ground, beat the Chinese black and blue and also showed the world that India can stand up to China, if threatened. The message from India was clear – We don’t intend to start it and we are capable enough to finish it.
China was taken aback by the Indian response, so much so that it still has not recognised the casualties it faced in the skirmish that happened in Galwan. India had done the unexpected. But, the Chinese are not the ones who give up without a fight. China’s plan of world domination is threatened for the first time, because if the world rallies around India, the Chinese dream is over as we speak. China needs to show to the world that there is no alternative to China and for that it has to make India fall on its knees. And there’s only one way to do that – war.
Whether we like it or not, China is preparing for it for a long time and has a head start. India needs to be militarily, economically and politically prepared for a war with China in the next few months if it does not want to repeat a 1962-like situation. There are a few steps in my opinion that India needs to do in the short, medium and long term.
Short Term ( 0 – 3 months )
- Kickstart QUAD at the earliest with Australia, Japan and the US. It can act as a big deterrent.
- Start procuring or manufacturing ammunition, rifles, tanks, etc needed in case a war breaks out.
- Creating infrastructure to make sure we can transport ammunition, food, clothing, etc to the possible places where the war can start, e.g., Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Uttarakhand. Make arrangements to protect this infrastructure that provides supplies to the border areas
- Mobilise Tibetan soldiers. Be ready to open another front on the Tibetan side in case the war starts.
- Expand Ladakh scouts and similar groups in Arunchal Pradesh and Uttarakhand
- Make sure the western border with Pakistan is unaffected by the war on the eastern front, because Pakistan will most likely jump into it.
Medium Term ( 3 – 12 months )
- Militarize the islands in the Indian ocean and the Andaman sea, especially the Andaman and Nicobar islands
- In case of war, we should be prepared to block the Chinese shipments that pass through the Indian ocean.
- Be ready to capture Chinese islands in the south china sea, if the situation prevails.
In case the war gets averted, India will need to take some measures to strengthen and modernize its navy and the air force for the long term. At the same time, we need bold labour and land reforms to project ourselves as a viable alternative to China by reducing time to set up manufacturing plants in India and making it easy for foreign companies to partner with Indian firms.
The year 2020 has been a defining year for the world in many ways, courtesy China and the Wuhan virus. China aims to achieve global domination in times when the world is reeling under a virus produced in China. India is the only impediment in its otherwise perfect plan. What happens between India and China in the next 6 – 12 months will determine the world order for the next 50 years. The world will take a stand, but India needs to make sure that the world can rely on India.