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India's China Policy- Reset: Strategiclly inadvisable without clear bench marks:

Paper No.6409            Dated 16-Aug-2018

By Dr Subhash Kapila

(paper No. 6370 dated 23rd April, 2018 Revsited)

Misgivings on India’s surprise China Policy Reset in March 2018 marking a U-turn from India’s standing tall against China’s military provocations and intrusions in Dokalam analysed in the above referred Paper have largely materialised as evidenced by China’s unceasing buildup at Dkalam and repeat of Dkalam Standoff confrontation in Ladakh in end-July 2018.

Keeping Dokalam aside, China’s overall  policies in the  post- Wuhan Summit period have shown no positive U-turn from its decades-old ‘India Containment ‘policies, nibbling at India’s traditional areas of influence and now further reinforcing its buildup of Pakistan as the ‘Regional Spoiler State’ by solidifying the China-Pakistan Axis posing a Two War Threat Scenario. In short, China persists in its adversarial and confrontationist postures against India, notwithstanding its flowery rhetoric.

Has India’s U-turn policy of China-Reset Policy ensured that there will be no more Dokalams repeated by China in future? India would be strategically naïve to believe so. China views India in its ascendancy on the global power ladder and in its overall strategy gives priority to checkmating India’s rise.

India’s China Policy Reset was wrongly premised in repetitive flawed readings of China’s intentions by India’s foreign policy establishment emerging seemingly from the new Foreign Secretary having taken over immediately after his tenure as Indian Ambassador to China. 

“India and its foreign policy establishment’s most confusing conundrum once again is to clearly define whether in the larger and long range perspectives China is a ‘Friend or Foe’? India’s lack of discerning this distinction makes it ecstatically jump at every crumb of feigned friendship that China spasmodically keeps throwing at India.” So read the Opening Paragraph in my SAAG Paper No.6356 dated 14 March 2018 entitled “India’s Foreign Policy Establishment’s China Policy Conundrum”. This Paper was timed with the reset advocacy debate in March 2018.

A Strategic Reality Check’ post the much hyped Wuhan Summit of reviewing China’s demonstrated geopolitical policy stances and actions in India’s neighbourhood and the Indian Ocean Region in which India has legitimate and major stakes reveal that while India had genuinely attempted to rest its China Policy, there was no matching response from China to do likewise. So what was the Indian foreign policy establishment’s ‘China Policy Reset’ was aimed at?

To me it seems that the factors which prompted the Modi Government to attempt a China Policy Rest was prompted by a number of factors which were totally divorced from prevailing global geopolitical realities in which China stood globally cornered and made a feigned reachout to India tactically but not as a long range policy precept.

Firstly, Indian policy establishment was unnerved and uncertain of US President Trump’s foreign policy directions. This policy panic- attack itself was yet another misreading of United States intentions. United States recognises that India is the pivot around which the successful execution of Indo Pacific security architecture rests. This was evidenced by the US renaming its Pacific Command as the Indo Pacific Command.

 Secondly, presumably , the new Foreign Secretary’s readings on China’s intentions after his Beijing stint that a policy reset would bring good results was given primacy. It is amazing how India’s policy establishment could give primacy to one China specialist’s divination of China’s intentions? That too when China was under intense geopolitical pressures. Surprisingly, it did not occur to India’s policy establishment that what China was indulging in was nothing but a serious effort to wean away India from the United States.

 Thirdly, what I presume seems to have been an inspired move and what started appearing in orchestrated contours I public TV debates was painting pessimistic scenarios that India with its present military inventories was unable to fight a Two Front War foisted by the China-Pakistan Axis. The implicit underlying message sought to be conveyed such was that India should cool the temperatures in China-India contentious relations. This seems to have had an impact on India’s policy establishment. None of these worthies noticeably advised China to do likewise.

To the credit of Indian Armed Forces Services Chief’s none of them articulated such apprehensions or shared wrong divination of the China Threat to India. On the contrary they sought to assure during this period that they could take up any challenge so posed by China.

In the same Paper referred above, in the Concluding Observations one had taken pains to emphasise for the Indian foreign policy establishment that (1) Recognise that the China Threat to India is REAL and LIVE (2) China Threat should never ever be UNDERPLAYED or DE-EMPHASISED (3) There CANNOT BE TWO DIFFERING VIEWS within the Indian Government of any political dispensation on the “China Threat” between the Ministry of External Affairs and the Defence Ministry.

Finally, the most significant debilitating factor for India when it comes to preparing to ward off any possible China Threat manifestations is that India’s political parties, academia and its intelligentsia with utter disregard to prevailing global geopolitical realities publicly projects DIVIDED PERSPECTIVES on the China Threat and compulsively “politicises National Security Issues”.

Concluding, India’s China Policy Resets are meaningless without matching responses from China as quid pro quos on which India should articulate benchmarks for China to adhere to. India perceptionaly cannot afford to project the image of a push-over State.