Millennium Post

India must brace for dousing dragon fire

In the backdrop of Chinese troops’ incursion by 10-km inside Ladakh, new anxieties dog the Indian psyche over the missed opportunities, squandered during its 60’s, 70’s and 80’s in the many areas.

Indian intelligentsia is since ringing the warning bells about possible larger face-off with China under a new leadership, apparently more impolite than Xio Den. The most recent and the first meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and new Chinese President Xi Jinping over the transparency of China’s dam construction on rivers flowing into India has been unproductive so far. China seems to have been well prepared for a deeper face-off against India, and the incursion is just an indicator to its preparation during the last three decades.

One of the most important opportunities missed so far is that of harnessing potentials of non-conventional energy, water-harvesting and surface water management. China, India’s most important of the two hostile neighbours, have since built up on these areas. Let us not forget, these two countries also remained hooked to some kind of wars in other parts of the world during these three decades, whereas Indian remained embroiled with avoidable partisan rife and militancy within the country.

Pakistan systematically built up relations with China on anti-India feelers and acquired mass destructive weapons from that country, which are only to be applied against India.

Pakistan also took India to international tribunal on a small river project. All this happened when India has excellent river water-sharing pacts in place and the sites of both countries are on routine vigil, by each other. Over the last three decades India only remained lost in the fantasy that its diplomacy alone can solve all its problems with China and Pakistan. China, which seldom respects any neighbouring country’s water needs and would occasional release its dams and barrages if overflowed by excessive rain, never once shared the dam sites inspection with any of its riparian neighbours, even those friendly to it, e.g. Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Kazakhstan. Almost all its riparian neighbours taste furtive water diplomacy of China.

During last three decades, China built dams after dams over the Brahmaputra with a view to reducing, if not stopping, its water flowing into India, and refused to international formality of the dams’ site inspection protocols.

In three fronts -- water, solar energy and hydro-energy -- India still depends on other’s consideration, and does not have self-dependency factors. Who knows in the near future, for water and energy India would have to depend on China’s sweet will, and pay heavily for its over confidence in the country which historically pooh-poohed India, and never wanted to take up the confidence-building measures with India?

These three areas – water harvesting, solar power and hydro-energy – are essential components of Mahatma Gandhi’s economic principles for building up vibrant rural economic activities and to bolster the national economy thereby. This modern India has chosen to forget, even as our political leaders never tire in breathing Gandhism every second.

Ironically, neither Pakistan nor China did invade India when Gandhiji was disseminating his economic principles. It was only the truncated British power which was the only adversary Gandhiji and other Indian freedom fighters were to handle. Our leaders had never met the massive powers like PLA, formed of peasants and workers.

India today is fast being cornered within its own territories, with serious threats to lose water inflow into its rivers emerging from Tibet, which India disclaimed and supported China to claim, and other parts of China. The dam with cascading cover on the Koshi is likely to affect water flow into the Ganges.

China seems to have been clandestinely working to build all these dams for these three decades, probably soon after its aggression into Indian soil in 1962. It is strange to understand why India continued to fail to appreciate that China would never do beyond its own national interests. It has been proved time and time again, since the time Zhou Enlai And his protégé Deng Xiaoping.

But India remained engrossed during these three decades, particularly in turbulent 70’s and 80’s, in partisan politics wasting nation’s money and squandering economic advantages. Such parochial has been the vision of most of the Indian leaders during these decades that they ignored how China always systematically worked to build up its capacities in high seas, landmass and weapon-development. Many of them even were all gaga about Chinese Communism till 1991, when the USSR dissolved. At the same time, China systematically stymied India’s outreach to international bodies, with an ulterior design to annex strategic Indian lands by crook, and it has partly been successful in its attempts too.

In the area of solar equipment manufacturing, Indian manufacturers are facing cheap Chinese equipment choking domestic production. The Indian Solar Manufacturers Association (ISMA) has already pressed a panic button seeking to impose anti-dumping duty on cheap sub-standard solar equipment imported from China. The situation is such pathetic, that on one hand the government is failing to encourage domestic production of solar equipment to its current and future requirement, adequately; on the other, it also fails to gather strength to impose punitive duties on cheap Chinese products being supplied in bulk to India. At least in this domain, India could have emulated what they did in Italy and Canada. The dumping of cheap Chinese solar equipment has been possible because Indian authorities went by the paradigm of costs than quality while choosing for product imports. This is
mindset prevalent in Indian system. Just because the lowest quotation has to be granted, therefore quality is often eclipsed. Traditionally the government companies evaluate efficacies of services or products by the policy of costs and not quality. Even in crucial services like training and important information research, costs come to score over quality. In the case of solar panel equipment import, the government must necessary do two things : First it must develop domestic capacities to manufacture them in the country, and gradually erode dependency on imports, second, it must institute a policy of quality in the issue. As are demanded by the ISMA, the government must be able to come out with a clear policy about the import to not only save the domestic producers of the sola equipment, but also to boost the capacity building measures in the domain. China has already done all this, why India cannot? It is time India had thought strategically more than just diplomacy through trade and commerce. Even in this area, the balance of trade is tilted favouring the important countries like China, Australia, Japan and the USA. One would definitely love to argue that -- had India harnessed its potentials in the natural resources with which the country is so much endowed, half these problems would have minimized. Of course the government alone could not have done all this, considering the incapability of raising the national revenues, particularly the expected income tax realizations. With Reforms given a good space now, the government can easily organize to pool resources through private-public partnerships towards self-sufficiency in renewable and solar power equipment manufacturing.

These apart, India still can do much in the area of water-harvesting and surface water management. There can always be a solid beginning keeping future probable constraints in mind. What is most required is a mechanism to develop political will among states and the Centre for speedy consensus for infrastructure development. (IPA)
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