When an assertive China outsmarts a clumsy India by G Parthasarathy 2/6/2013
Unlike India, whose leaders and strategists are guided by Western diplomatic and strategic thinking, China is guided primarily by the strategies enunciated in the 6th century BC, in the words of one of its generals, Sun Tzu. Drawing on the sayings of Sun Tzu, China has outmanoeuvred a clumsy India, held in awe of Chinese economic and military power and its impressive infrastructure on its borders in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh.
Sun Tzu proclaimed: “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting,” adding, “All warfare is based on deception.” Under siege on its coastal frontiers over maritime territorial disputes with Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia, China’s rulers have evidently decided that it is necessary for them to keep their western frontiers with India quiet. But, for this it was necessary to force India into a position of immobilisation on its borders, which would preclude it from building its defences or infrastructure along the Ladakh-Tibet border. By moving merely 50 soldiers into Depsang in Ladakh in April, China rattled India into a virtual surrender.
In Chinese/Tibetan maps between the 17th century and 1919, Depsang has been clearly depicted as being on the Ladakh side of the Ladakh-Tibet border. What China achieved by its intrusion was a pullback of Indian forces and a removal of defence structures on India’s side of the boundary and a virtual veto on India’s forward infrastructure and defence build-up on its borders. Sun Tzu would have been proud of his teachings of victory without war.
Proceeding to Pakistan while escorted in Pakistan air space by JF-17 fighters designed by Russia but supplied by China, Prime Minister Li Keqiang further rubbed India’s nose in the dust. Much of his time was spent in Islamabad on improving road connectivity through Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. This, after he secured India’s silence by getting India to agree that “the two sides are committed taking a positive view and support each other’s friendship with other countries”.
In effect, he had secured an Indian commitment not to raise inconvenient questions about Sino-Pakistan nuclear, missile and military collaboration. Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are of Chinese design, its Plutonium facilities and ballistic missiles are of Chinese origin. China has emerged as Pakistan’s largest weapons supplier, with weaponry ranging from fighter jets, to frigates and tanks.
China’s official mouthpiece Global Times gloated over what had transpired. It first ridiculed India’s concerns about Sino-Pakistan nuclear cooperation. Then for good measure it added: “India must accept and adapt to the enviable friendship between China and Pakistan. China cannot scale down this friendship merely because of Indian feelings.”
New Delhi appears to have been so overawed by China’s leadership that it did not take up the significant shift that has taken place in China’s nuclear doctrine. In its recently published defence white paper, China has for the first time omitted all mention of its long-term policy of “no first use” of nuclear weapons. This implies that in the event of tensions escalating with Pakistan over a 26/11-style terrorist attack, India could conceivably face the threat of nuclear blackmail from China.
While we have endorsed China’s role in the Gulf of Aden, why did we not secure a similar Chinese endorsement of an Indian role in the South China Sea? On issues of water security, we have secured no guarantee from China on prior consultations on upstream projects across the Brahmaputra. All that the Chinese have agreed to is the provision of “flood-season hydrological data”.
Having proclaimed that “the greatest victory is that which requires no battle”, Sun Tzu must be grinning in the high heavens over what China has achieved in India in a matter of a few weeks.
It is perhaps time for our mandarins to do some serious reading of Kautilya’s Arthashastra and to heed Defence Minister A K Antony’s words that there can be no “miracles” in India-China relations.