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China May be Militarily Powerful but Geopolitically Weak in Mid 2020.

Paper No. 6599                    Dated 15-June-2020

By Dr Subhash Kapila

India’s policy establishment must not be led astray by Indian media celebrities like one who asserted last week that ‘China is militarily powerful to alter the territorial status quo’. China may be militarily powerful to do so temporarily but I would like to assert that “China is geopolitically WEAK in mid-2020” with glaring vulnerabilities.

Glaring strategic vulnerabilities significantly existent in its outlying regions absorbed by China through military occupation neutralise all the massed Chinese military power superiorities transplanted in these regions. History is a witness to such realities.

Forcefully asserted in my Book: ‘China-India Military Confrontation :21st Century Perspectives’ (2015) was that the ongoing China-India Military Confrontation is less and less about ‘Boundary disputes’ but that in the 21st Century this has emerged as a major geopolitical power tussle between China and India in which Major Powers other  than China and India can come into play.

Geopolitically, in 2-2020, India has much powerful leverage against China to offset China’s military power and its aggression against India. Militarily, Indian Army’s postures in Ladakh, Sikkim and Arunachal are strong and daresay deterrent also.

In the present instance, China’s sabre-rattling has more to do with Pakistan to assure that China is taming India in the wake of India changing the status of Jammu & Kashmir State by abrogation of Article 370. China could not do this in Autumn 2019 as with impending winter China would have been at a disadvantage for a prolonged military standoff in Ladakh, especially. Hence the summer aggression into Indian Territory in Summer 2020.

China and the Chinese President are geopolitically beleaguered in mid-2020 and need to divert Chinese domestic attention from China’s on-setting economic problems already in play. Military aggression and military adventurism on China’s peripheries becomes a heady weapon to diver domestic public unrest.

China’s ongoing military aggression at multiple points in Ladakh commencing May 2020 along with similar aggression in Naku La area of North Sikkim are a Chinese manifestation of extreme frustration with the raid deterioration of China’s geopolitical environment adversely against China and a rapid downslide in China’s already fragile geopolitical stature globally post-China Wuhan Virus19 Pandemic.

China’s military aggression in mid-2020 is not directed at India alone but was in tandem with China’s military aggression in South China Sea against Vietnam and the Philippines. Now even North Korea has been goaded by China to generate tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Therefore, there is a discernible pattern in China creating military turbulence on all its peripheries in the Indo Pacific Region.

In relation to India the above has significant relevance as China’s riposte seems to be aimed at India for India’s intensifying its security commitments profile in the Indo Pacific, Should India be really deterred by such Chinese riposte? Certainly not, as India’s intended thrust has found its mark and should be pursued even more vigorously.

Curiously, China’s aggression in mid-2020 in South China Sea now stands enlarged to encompass the Muslim nations of Indonesia and Malaysia. What should Pakistan as the most hyperactive Muslim nuclear power of China’s making, and China’s only ‘natural ally’ in the world would make of the above contextually?

Putting the above aside, and moving on to the main theme of this Paper, it needs to be argued for the benefit of India’s ‘China Apologists’ which range from political dynastic leaders to Indian media celebrities of yore, that military power alone becomes extremely fragile when militarily powerful aggressive nations “crumble” when faced with contextual adverse global geopolitics that extinguish the ‘fire-spitting impulses” of such militarily powerful nations.

The most recent historical example is that of the disintegration of the former Soviet Union which preceded China as the only Communist Superpower in a bipolar world order till 1991.  Unlike China, which today also has pretentions to be a Superpower, the former Soviet Union at least had a bevy of Warsaw Pact nations as ideological allies. The latter also crumbled like Nine Pins simultaneously.

China unfortunately has no “Natural Allies” other than the rentier state of Pakistan ---a reality that stands pointed out by me in my writings from the beginning of the last decade.

China is also hurtling down the same path of self-destruction like the Soviet Union with impulsive “Imperial Overstretch” strategies and an economic slowdown likely to be aggravated by increasing geopolitical isolation post-Wuhan Virus19 Pandemic inflicted on the world wilfully, as Major Nations retrospectively analyse.

China’s growing political isolation especially after ascension of power in Beijing of President Xi Jinping stood pointed out in a number of my SAAG Papers of the last few years. Also pointed out in one of my past Papers was “China’s Strategic Vulnerabilities” and that contextually “Windows of Opportunity” stood presented to India to stand firm against China and exploit China’s vulnerabilities to India’s advantage.

Years down the line, after the above assertions, China in mid-2020 has downslided further deep on the global geopolitical calculus where even the most ardent supporter like the United States preaching “Congagement” earlier has now China in its strategic crosshairs as a veritable ‘“enemy “even if not stated so officially.

Contextually, what are the major lessons of the above for the Indian policy establishment in mid-2020:

  • India should continue to STAND FIRM in facing down China all along India’s Northern Borders with China Occupied Tibet. (Glad that many in media have started using the term China Occupied Tibet used in my past writings).
  • Highly ‘Nationalistic India’ of the second decade of 21st Century will not tolerate any China-appeasement policies of the Congress-era preached by them along with their media acolytes, unashamedly. The Indian people will solidly support the Modi Government in strategies which uphold India’s National Honour.
  • India’s ‘War Preparedness’ against China and its aggressive military adventurism be NOT SCALED DOWN on grounds of financial stringency. Many areas of populist schemes of past era can be struck down to divert funds for coping strongly with the China Theat.
  • The China Threat to India should not be ‘Underplayed’ or ‘De-Emphasised’ by the Indian policy establishment by words or deeds.
  • India as noted in my past writings should EXIT from Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, ADIB and all other China-originated or China-dominated organisations.
  • Indian Navy should be provided ‘Fast Track’ funding to carry out exponential expansion of its nuclear submarines and ‘Off the Shelf’ acquisitions of naval combatant ships from friendly countries like France, Japan, South Korea and even the United States.
  • The Central Armed Police Forces like the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, the SSB Battalions and the Assam Rifles need to be made ‘INTEGRAL’ to the Indian Army’s force structures. India cannot afford ‘divided command’ of all security forces on our Borders with China.

There are many more recommendations that can be made to stiffen our military postures against China pertaining to land, sea and air warfare. The serving military experts can surely come up with these.

Concluding, the Indian policy establishment needs to come to serious grips in neutralising the China Threat to India which in the absence of geopolitical leverages at China’s command leave it with no option but military aggression against India. In the ultimate analysis, it is China that cannot afford an all -out war with India under a highly unfavourable geopolitical environment ranged against China.