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Tackling a Rising China

November 27, 2017
12 months

What is the issue?

  • The recent Quadrilateral alliance and the consequent talk of an ‘Asian NATO’ have brought the India-China rivalry back to the limelight.
  • Balancing a rising China requires a great deal of India’s strategic attention in the years ahead.

How prospective is China?

  • China is becoming a global leader in terms of composite national strength and international influence.
  • Globally, there is certainly a power vacuum, left by Donald Trump’s ‘reluctant superpower.
  • If China rightly utilises this power vacuum, its superpower ambitions are bound to have a system-shaping impact on the Asian region.
  • There could possibly be China-led alliances, Chinese client states and the establishment of Chinese spheres of influence.
  • China would not fail to ensure that its access to overseas resources/markets and the oceanic trade routes are unhindered.

What irritants does India face?

  • China is thus involved in a grand strategy to anchor its supremacy and eliminate any U.S.-led coalition in the Asian region.
  • There are several sources of fear for India which include:
  1. denying India entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group
  2. repeatedly blocking UN sanctions against Pakistan-based terrorists
  3. ever-strengthening China-Pakistan military alliance
  4. ignoring India’s sensitivity over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor
  5. revisionist claims in the land and oceanic space. E.g. revisionist statements on Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh
  6. increasing naval presence, including dispatching its nuclear submarines on patrol, in the Indian Ocean.
  7. China, stepping up its political and economic footprint in the region

Is India's current strategy effective?

  • Power - Currently, India is seemingly increasing its alliance with the US to deal with Beijing; most recently the Quad.
  • Amidst Chinese grand strategy, India's US-centric strategy could turn to be a spoiler. This is because:
  1. the US is a quickly-receding extra-regional power
  2. its long-term commitment to the Asian region is increasingly indeterminate and unsure
  3. the reliability of other alliance states like Japan to take forward firmly a strategic partnership with the U.S is highly uncertain
  4. US-China relations are far more complex than the general assumptions
  • Economy - The second broad policy direction seems to be to compete with China for regional influence in South Asia.
  • Clearly, trying to match the powerful yuan, backed by vigorous political support from Beijing, with our humble rupee is a losing battle.
  • It is suggested that India should use its $70 billion-strong trading relationship with China as a bargaining chip to check Chinese behaviour.
  • But doing so would hurt both sides, especially India, given the fact that India-China bilateral trade is heavily skewed in favour of China.
  • Boycotting Chinese goods would also mean Indian consumers paying more to get them from elsewhere.
  • Military - Military preparedness to offset any potential Chinese aggression is something that India can and should invest in.
  • However, military preparedness, in which India is inevitably lagging behind China, alone cannot address the concerns.

What then should India's strategy be?

  • One way is viewing China as part of the solution to the region’s challenges.
  • A mutual ‘complex interdependence’ in economic, security and other domains should be strengthened by initiating structured consultations.
  • E.g. the current India-China joint anti-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden.
  • India should certainly focus on the Indo-Pacific and consider cooperating with China, even while being part of the Quad.
  • India also needs to strategise a plan to nudge China towards playing a role so as to ensure a stable regional security order.
  • This is particularly in the context of its role in Pakistan, where China has to balance trade and terrorism.
  • Despite this strategy of mutual trust, the role of military strength in guaranteeing national security cannot be underestimated.
  • Thus, India would be better served by adopting a more nuanced strategy of 'smart-balancing' China.


Source: The Hindu

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Thanks Shankar IAS