India must be prepared to use all its diplomatic and militaristic assets to dissuade further Chinese misadventures that impinge on Indian sovereignty
In its Communist avatar, the regime in Beijing has shed its Confucian moorings and practices realist theories in an expansionist ethos. American Political Scientist of the realist school, John Mearsheimer's 'Theory of Offensive Realism and the Rise of China' clarifies this phenomenon. Mearsheimer writes at length about his theory's implications regarding the rise of China in the 'Tragedy of Great Power Politics' (2001). In 2010, he had argued that that there is no way to accurately predict China's current or future intentions, that it is difficult to distinguish between China's defensive and offensive military capabilities and that China's past peaceful behaviour is an unreliable indicator of future behaviour. According to him, China singularly espouses single-minded pursuit of power of one's own nation over others.
History tells us that this Chinese trait traces itself to the Han regimes in the past, which purposefully expanded their lands and culture influencing many neighbouring countries such as Korea, Mongolia, Vietnam and Japan. Through a series of military campaign and expeditions, it created what is now modern China and Northern Vietnam. The military campaigns and Chinese immigrations created a culture that merged Chinese traditions with indigenous elements. The likes of which we observed in the occupation of Tibet. The expansion of China from North China to the South reached its height under the Han regimes. But despite this aggressive and expansionist trait among the Chinese leaders and the members of its Communist Party, the global community embraced China and welcomed its presence in the United Nations and then into the Security Council. We went along with the rest of the world and all Indian regimes in fact promoted it in different ways. It was a philosophy we in India did not want to acknowledge and even now are looking at China with liberal spectacles. Their activities in the South China Sea and on our borders did not seem to prepare us for the nefarious syndrome as we perhaps looked at ' Bon Homie' as the ultimate tool in diplomacy.
And we have fallen into this trap and they are knocking at our doorsteps and we are seemingly succumbing to their pressures. They have made such deep inroads into India's trade and technology that it is nearly impossible to extricate them from this entanglement. Over the years, their investments and funding have permeated into NGOs with linkages with political parties across party lines going back several decades. In recent times, there have been reports of party delegations having met members of the Communist Party of China to seemingly understand nuances of cadre building. The explanation that they were duly vetted and cleared and even supported by the regimes of all times indicates acute blindness in strategic vision and security safeguards. The Chinese have been playing mind games with us and that has shut ourselves out in putting our finger on our vital interests. We have to play the realist game on all fronts.
First of all, there is an urgent need to stop them in their tracks as they enhance their activities in the DBO Sector, the Galavan Valley, at the Pangong lake and anywhere else. And we are doing that quite well on the ground. A warning has also been issued by the Ministry of External Affairs against any attempts at changing the status quo at the LAC. We need not wait for their confirmation of actions as it is quite difficult to recognise Chinese games and trust is a great victim. We should act now.
First and foremost, Indian Navy must commence naval exercises on the lines of Exercise Malabar, scores of which we have conducted along with the US Navy in which even Japan participated.
The best location to hold these exercises would be on the sea lanes on which the Chinese mercantile material is taken from Peru in South America to Chinese ports throughout the Malacca Straits, carrying 58 per cent of China's copper needs. This action will serve to delay the Chinese production capacity which has already been affected by the aftermath of the Coronavirus impact. Similarly, exercises with similar goals need to be conducted on the shipping lanes carrying fuel and hydrocarbons for a very thirsty Chinese industry
Additionally, there is also an urgent need to activate the Quadrilateral regime grouping in which India is joined by Australia, Japan and the USA. The objective should be to conduct naval exercises within the Nine-Dash Line in the South China Sea to prevent the Chinese Navy from trying to intimidate Vietnam, Philippines and perhaps Indonesia as well. All ports in the South East Asian region including Singapore should be persuaded to not allow Chinese ships to enter their harbours through a strong diplomatic overture. It is time to discover our friends in ASEAN countries who value our role and friendship.
India must devise, conclude and activate a speedy methodology to rupture all Chinese linkages of trade, industry, culture and even people to people contact. One concedes that it will not be an easy path to pursue but that is a price nations pay for their sovereignty and freedom.
The writer is a retired Air Commodore and a strategic affairs commentator. Views expressed are personal