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China Rattled by Growing US-India Strategic Convergence on South China Sea Issue-Part II

Paper No. 6083                                 Dated 03-Mar-2016

By Dr Subhash Kapila

In continuation of Paper No. 6081 dated 01 March 2016 a similar sabre-rattling by China against India has come to notice which seems to suggest that China using different mouth-pieces has begun a calibrated campaign against India to submit to Chinese pressures and back-off from any strategic proximity to the United States.

The latest salvo, and a more explicit and potent one at that has been fired in a recent media interview by Professor Shen Dingli, Fudan University in Shanghai and the learned Professor well-known in international academic circles had recently asserted: “China actually has many ways to hurt India. China could send an aircraft carrier to the Gwadar Port in Pakistan. China had turned down the Pakistan offer to move military personnel in their country. If India forces China to do that, of course we can put a navy at your doorstep.”

It is well known that in China no such utterances can be made by any authority without the security clearance from the highest levels. The fact that such military coercive statements against India are emanating suggest a crude attempt is being made to swerve India away from its policy swing of a closer and substantial strategic partnership with the United States.

This calibrated campaign against India is not South China Sea-centric but those watching China would have observed that there has been an evolving pattern in play. It commenced some years back when Chinese military officers in Chinese-language military literature commenced shrill cries that India once again needed “to be taught a lesson” like China did in 1962 to put India in place. Later, the evolving US-India Strategic Partnership became a bug-bear and Chinese criticism started emanating. The latest campaign seems to have taken off after a Reuters report suggested that the United States was engaging India in discussions for joint naval patrols in the disputed South China Sea.

In both cases of different Chinese assertions quoted in my two Papers carry the implicit warning that China is capable of creating military trouble for India should India not desist from inching closer to the United States or conducting joint trilateral or quadrilateral exercise with USA, Japan and Australia.

The crucial question in terms of Indian policy responses is whether to just ignore such Chinese proxy assertions mouthed through its intellectuals or whether these need an official rebuttal by India using proxy Indian channels that China should back-off from issuing coercive warnings on India’s future strategic directions. I would recommend that the latter course be adopted.

When t comes to dealing with China, as history would indicate, that there is no scope for Indian “Gandhi-giri.” China despises the weak and in Chinese perceptions, post-1962, India is timid and vulnerable to coercion of all types.

Significantly, Professor Shen Dingli has revealed in his warnings to India that Pakistan had offered to have Chinese troops stationed in Pakistan. While China seemingly may have declined the Pakistani request but its possibility in the near future cannot be discounted.

The China-Pakistan Axis is currently in play, both in terms of military moves and geopolitical manoeuvres. While the Indian military establishment would have already factored-in the full materialisation of the China-Pakistan Axis play in their contingency planning, it is the Indian Government which needs to be seized of the urgency of the China-Pakistan Axis threat to India.

It is for the United States also to note that while Americans are over-eager to rope-in India as a military counterweight to China in the Indo Pacific, United States policy formulations do not seem to impose any deterrence on China or Pakistan which could affect the military balance against India. The United States cannot have it both ways. In India impressions do occur that the United States is not fully committed to enlisting India as a counterweight to China. By its own lights, the United States should adhere to its cardinal call to other nations that you are either with us or against us.

Notwithstanding the above, India’s political masters in light of veiled coercive Chinese warnings should “fast-track” the glaring inventory deficits of the Indian Air Force.