FB   
 
Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies
 
 

 
Doklam denouement: India needs long-term strategies to counter China
Updated:Aug 30, 2017
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
By Admiral Arun Prakash (Retd)
 
Accustomed as we are to shrill hyperbole in India's public discourse, the description of the tense Himalayan face-off as the "incident at Doklam" and its denouement as "expeditious disengagement of border personnel" by the Ministry of External Affairs came across as refreshing examples of phlegmatic understatement. The diplomatic finesse shown by India stood in stark contrast to the Chinese spokesperson's gauche declaration that India had "pulled back all the trespassing personnel and equipment".
 
Political pundits and diplomatic analysts are likely to spend days deciphering the hidden meanings underlying the Chinese conduct and dialectic, seen and heard during the past six weeks. The common man has, understandably, heaved a sigh of relief at the (short-term) resolution of a dire crisis; an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation between two major military powers and nuclear-armed states.
 
The Chinese do not risk the outcome of a conflict on a single clash; they plan elaborate multiple strategies and the patient accumulation of small gains. Doklam was, by no means, India's last confrontation with China and there is, thus, no cause whatsoever for our soldiers, diplomats and political leadership to become complacent -- for four reasons.
 
Firstly, our 1962 military defeat was due to the egregious misreading of China's intent by India's political leadership. Fifty-five years on, clarity and resolve are still lacking vis-a-vis our strategic stance and policies towards an increasingly bellicose China.
 
This seeming diffidence is partly rooted in a fear of the unknown, our profound ignorance about this huge neighbour. We have neither created a substantive pool of Mandarin speakers, nor fostered many organisations dedicated to researching China's history, culture, economy, industry and strategic thought. With bizarre perversity, we have been spurning the huge window, into China, that a willing and cooperative Taiwan has been offering to us, for years. We need to stop groping in the dark and create strategies to counter China's long-term intentions.
 
Secondly, China, translating its enormous economic gains into coercive military power, expects neighbouring nations to voluntarily submit to Chinese hegemony. This is a clear echo of the distant past. In 416 BCE, when the mighty Athenian state overpowered the tiny island of Melos, it had delivered an ultimatum, using a similar chilling phraseology: "The strong do what they can, and the weak suffer what they must."
 
Servile personalities like Philippine President Duterte have given China false illusions of grandeur and power by kowtowing for economic gains. These illusions have been reinforced by America's aborted "pivot to Asia" and ineffectual "freedom of navigation" operations by US Navy. The artificial South China Sea islands are here to stay and China knows that possession is nine-points of law.
 
PLA Colonel Liu Mingfu's 2010 book, "China Dream", provides many pointers. It defines China's national goal as to become "number one" in the world, but rejecting the "peaceful rise" thesis, it advocates a "military rise" along with its "economic rise". A part of the "Chinese dream of national rejuvenation" is the establishment of a "unified global system", or Empire, termed tianxia in Mandarin. Order, in this system, is maintained under the aegis of a hegemon state, which dominates by virtue of its acknowledged superiority.
 
According to former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the Chinese have been shrewd practitioners of realpolitik and follow a strategic doctrine distinctly different from the rest of the world. Followers of the game of chess or "shatranj", Indians think in terms of striking blows, decisive battles and finally checkmating or claiming total victory over the opponent.
 
The Chinese counterpart of shatranj is the game of "wei-qui", based on "surrounding pieces" and "strategic encirclement". Opponents seek empty spaces and building up of strength, surrounding and capturing opposing pieces. While chess encourages single-mindedness, wei-qui generates strategic flexibility. Let us learn to play wei-qui.
 
Thirdly, while patting ourselves on the back for deft diplomacy, let us not forget that we have had a close call. While our gallant armed forces could certainly have given a "bloody nose" (so eagerly sought by militant TV anchors) to the PLA on many fronts, a general war or even a limited clash would have been equally damaging to both nations and their economies.
 
Let us, also, remind ourselves that the PLA is undergirded by a military-industrial complex, established in the 1950s, which is a prolific producer of missiles, tanks, fighters, warships, submarines and ordnance. While the world has an inkling that the "Make in India" project is awaiting take-off, the feckless office of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India saw it fit to choose this juncture to reveal every single shortcoming in India's half-full arsenal.
 
Avoiding knee-jerk responses, let us undertake long-term measures to ensure that our armed forces are always equipped and ready to fight a 30-day "intense war".  also find ways to prevent statutory bodies like the CAG from endangering national security.
 
Finally, while the vision of China's grandiose, "One-Belt One Road" (OBOR) may be impressive as well as intimidating, the project relies on ports, seaborne commerce and sea lanes. India's non-participation in the project is already causing concern in Beijing. Chinese President Hu Jintao's famous reference to the "Malacca dilemma", which acknowledged the vulnerability of China's seaborne trade and energy, was, no doubt, rooted in India's dominant oceanic location and the possibility of trade warfare being waged by the Indian Navy. India must do everything to keep Hu Jintao's nightmare alive.
 
(Admiral Arun Prakash served as the Chief of Naval Staff of the Indian Navy and Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee, from July 31, 2004, to October 31, 2006. He can be contacted at arunp2810@yahoo.com)
 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

Disclaimer: South Asia Monitor does not accept responsibility for the views or ideology expressed in any article, signed or unsigned, which appears on its site. What it does accept is responsibility for giving it a chance to appear and enter the public discourse.
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
spotlight image Ties between India and Japan are probably at their best ever, Japanese Ambassador to India H.E. Kenji Hiramatsu told India Review & Analysis’ Nilova Roy Chaudhury, as he outlined how the two countries have moved closer. Ahead of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit
 
read-more
The eight members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) should strengthen cooperation against terrorism and build it into its framework, India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said in New York on September 20.
 
read-more
That regional cooperation in South Asia is lower than optimal levels is well accepted. It is usually ascribed to – the asymmetry in size between India and the rest, conflicts and historical political tensions, a trust deficit, limited transport connectivity, and onerous logistics, among many other factors.
 
read-more
Reflections on September evoke a host of memories.
 
read-more
  During the budget session of the legislative assembly, the Chief Minister informed the  House about state’s missing children. According to her, as many as 162 children have gone missing in the past three years.
 
read-more
The Communist Party of China (CPC) is expected to amend its constitution at the upcoming national congress.
 
read-more
Finally breaking her silence on the Rohingya exodus, Myanmar’s state counsellor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has said that her government would like to understand the root causes of the refugee crisis and investigate charges of human rights abuses.
 
read-more
U.S. President Donald Trump’s opposition to the Iran nuclear deal is not new. But by choosing his first address at the UN General Assembly
 
read-more
It is a privilege to be invited to this most prestigious of law schools in the country, more so for someone not formally lettered in the discipline of law. I thank the Director and the faculty for this honour.
 
read-more
Column-image

Title: A Bonsai Tree; Author: Narendra Luther; Publisher: Niyogi Books; Pages: 227 Many books have been written on India's partition but here is a firsthand account of the horror by a migrant from what is now Pakistan, who ...

 
Column-image

As talk of war and violence -- all that Mahatma Gandhi stood against -- gains prominence across the world, a Gandhian scholar has urged that the teachings of the apostle of non-violence be taken to the classroom.

 
Column-image

Interview with Hudson Institute’s Aparna Pande, whose book From Chanakya to Modi: Evolution of India’s Foreign Policy, was released on June 17.

 
Column-image

This is the continuing amazing spiritual journey of a Muslim man from Kerala who plunged into Vedic religion after a chance encounter with a Hindu mystic under a jackfruit tree in the backyard of his house when he was just nine. It is a story w...

 
Column-image

History is told by the victors but in our modern age, even contemporary events get - or are given - a slant, where some contributors soon get eclipsed from the narrative or their images tarnished.

 
Subscribe to our newsletter
Archive