India has lots of facts and good conduct on its side while China has many skeletons in its cupboard
‘China’ has always been antagonistic towards India and has used Pakistan extensively to fight its battles with India. But for China, there’s a reasonable chance that the Indo-Pak conflicts may have been resolved long back.
The idea is to paint China for what it is, as an aggressive bully which wants to grab land, money (through unfair trading) etc from across the world, by all means, fair and foul, even from tiny powerless neighbours
China has created vested interests in the Pakistani military and ISI establishment to ensure that Indo-Pak conflicts are not resolved. So, one can say Indo-Pak conflicts are, to quite an extent, China’s proxy wars with India.
China comes into direct conflict with India only when it has to fight its battles (or wars) by itself. China’s current bid to take control of the strategic Doklam area in Bhutan comes immediately after the OBOR initiative (which resulted in the near isolation of India), flexing its muscles in the Indian Ocean, winning over of Russia to its side, settling of its border disputes with neighbours, and sensing of the vulnerabilities of the US (under Trump) and Europe.
Being a non-democracy, Chinese establishment enjoys the freedom of a kind which a democracy like India can’t dream about. And on top of it, given its financial muscle power, China has everything going for it.
Even if the defence risks on the Doklam area itself may be manageable, China’s military power puts India at risk at the long stretch of Indo-Chinese borders elsewhere. Its economic power (its share of NPA worries notwithstanding) and acknowledgment of its economic and military power by the rest of the world work to its advantage.
Indo-Pak conflicts are, to quite an extent, China’s proxy wars with India
How long a tiny country like Bhutan can hold out against China when China wants to build a road up to Doklam area is uncertain; China may offer all kinds of disproportionate inducements to have its way.
Yet, being a rising economic power, China may not want to be seen as a bully by the rest of the world, even as it goes about bullying, grabbing land, etc. China is trying to paint India as the aggressor and itself as the aggrieved in the Doklam standoff, with its press statements. It is abandoning all diplomatic niceties and openly threatening India, even appearing to burn bridges.
In this scenario, what are the options open to India? India can’t afford to (and by its nature, won’t) openly quarrel with China, unless China forces it to. India will want to examine all diplomatic and ‘wearing out the enemy’ options.
But there’s one thing India can do, at the lowest cost, and should start doing from now on, whenever China drags India to conflicts. Indians are good at English (and even French, Spanish, etc which Chinese are not good at) and use of (non-Chinese) social media. And India has lots of facts and good conduct on its side. China has many skeletons in its cupboard, including nuclear powering Pakistan and North Korea.
China is abandoning all diplomatic niceties and openly threatening India, even appearing to burn bridges
Indian Government can covertly provide support in the form of factual content and sponsor lots of writers to write articles in their personal capacities, in print magazines and online blogs, and put out social media messages (through Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, etc), in all the world languages (but most prominently in English) and populate the entire internet, reaching almost the entire world virally, but surely countries that matter most, exposing China. I’m not advocating overt campaigns by the Indian Government because that will only escalate tensions.
The idea is to paint China for what it is, as an aggressive bully which wants to grab land, money (through unfair trading) etc from across the world, by all means, fair and foul, even from tiny powerless neighbours. This kind of messaging would work when there is a context and is propagated in spurts. It can be deployed immediately whenever China attempts any aggressive means, without giving it an opportunity to gain time and react. Being a non-English country, its defence will be lacking in the sting. Also, Chinese press releases will lack credibility, provided we propagate our message powerfully enough.
Will this stop China from pursuing its wily designs? There’s a reasonable chance it will. If not, it will at least weaken China’s position when it tries to build its case in the world forums. In any case, messaging is not going to be our only weapon against China.
1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.