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Statecraft beyond state

Statecraft beyond state

The logjam on Sikkim border between India and China is one that speaks of greater and deeper intricacies of statecraft. Dokalam, near Sikkim, is the Bhutanese name of the region which India recognises as Doka La (referred to as Donglong by the Chinese). This region is also India's last military post on the Bhutan-China-Sikkim trijunction. The standoff started after a Chinese army's construction party came in June to build a road in this region (a territory that is not disputed) which overlooks the strategic Chumbi Valley in Tibet. If constructed, this road would further alienate and isolate the Northeast from mainland India. But despite this grave border skirmish and its severe possible impact, there are no major indications of the dispute escalating.

Exactly two months back, a situation broke out in the Middle East with Qatar put in a position of crisis. There are significant points that eventually draw a parallel: this tiny Gulf peninsular country hinged on to Saudi Arabia is oil- and natural gas-rich, considerably progressive in a manner that has shown tremendous economic rise and considerable stability. With the highest GDP per capita, Qatar is the richest nation in the world. Such economic might has greater implications than achieving domestic goals. As characteristic of Middle Eastern politics, the value of a nation is not just in terms of its progressiveness but in terms of how much power it can assert in the region beyond national borders – that is, in terms of domination.
In the case of Qatar, the increasing scope of hegemony of this negligibly-sized nation, owing to breakneck economic development, was a source of insecurity for the power mongers in the region. Thus, a political clash with the Arab nations led by Saudi Arabia caused isolation of Qatar and put it in a tight spot. Qatar's economy spectacularly shifted base from pearls to hydrocarbon - a drastic change in economic orientation. Qatar is the world's biggest LNG exporter and has pipelines in the Gulf. It is analysed that if the dispute deepens, Qatar may retaliate by withdrawing supplies to its neighbours. Consequently, any instability in the region would also send the oil prices spiralling in the international market, thereby affecting economies of other nations. The Qatar-Gulf diplomatic crisis remains unresolved.
Given the dynamics of geopolitics, economic growth, political ambition of the leadership, and military might are both the basis as well as the re-enforcements of hegemony which a nation seeks to have in a region. Getting back to the standoff at Doka La, the Chinese intrusion in the region is clearly with a design to expand and assert its presence. But under this obvious cover of hegemonic step, some ulterior motives are suspected. One is the claim over Tibet that China makes, Doka La plateau overlooks Chumba valley in Tibet so capturing this point is of strategic significance to China over Tibet. However, this strategic elevation of China will be of no significant gain with respect to India.
Another speculation is that this psychological war fare is China's way of getting even with India for throwing a spanner in its ambitious One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative. The primary reason behind India's opposition to OBOR is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which passes through Pakistan occupied Kashmir. This brings economic and infrastructural development in conflict with geostrategic interests in addition to reflecting a concern over internationalisation of the Kashmir dispute and the growing influence of China in the Indian Ocean.
Indian Ocean is an important commercial lifeline for China as it imports fuel and over 80 per cent of its oil imports sail through the Indian Ocean or Strait of Malacca. Hence, it is in China's better interest to not irk India lest India decides to contain China by blocking the Malacca Strait and the Indian Ocean. This demonstrates that China acknowledges the fact that carrot and stick tactic is not one to work with India. Even though the two economies are mutually dependent, India remains a challenge and competitor to China.
Military might is an indispensable deterrent to keep frontiers secure but the military cannot and must not sustain a state. Only a sound economic structure can keep a state functioning steady. As far as India's dependency on Chinese products goes, it has gained a hold so tight that withdrawal is not a feasible option.
The only way out that remains is creating and facilitating indigenous replacement of Chinese makes and making them available at similar prices. It is thus imperative that an economy be self-sufficient and sustainable so as to be cushioned from any external turn of events. Enhancing foreign relations is obligatory for a nation to grow and develop but only domestic strength can sustain it.
(The author is Editorial Consultant and Senior Copy Editor with Millennium Post. Views expressed are strictly personal.)

Kavya Dubey

Kavya Dubey

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