Taming the Dragon or riding along?

For expansionist force like China to be thwarted, India must be adequately prepared to challenge the Dragon on its own

For expansionist force like China to be thwarted, India must be adequately prepared to challenge the Dragon on its own
For expansionist force like China to be thwarted, India must be adequately prepared to challenge the Dragon on its own

The credit of turning an outbreak into a pandemic certainly goes to the Dragon

While the world is battling the COVID-19 pandemic for over a year, the Dragon’s curse for humanity that has wiped out more than 2.85 million human lives and several dimensions of economic progress off the face of the earth, the Dragon simultaneously seems to be evolving. Whether the SARS – CoV-2 is a dragons’ hatched egg or not is a matter of further research and investigation however the credit of turning an outbreak into a pandemic certainly goes to the Dragon.

Anyhow this doesn’t seem to prevent the Dragon from further evolving. Be it its misadventure in Ladakh or flexing its muscles in the South China Sea and the East China Sea or it exhaling the fire of cyber attacks on potential dragon tamers (US, India, Japan and Australia).

A CIA map of Kashmir with red circles marking the rough locations of the conflicts near the Galwan Valley (top), the Hot Springs checkpoint (middle), and Pangong Tso (bottom).
A CIA map of Kashmir with red circles marking the rough locations of the conflicts near the Galwan Valley (top), the Hot Springs checkpoint (middle), and Pangong Tso (bottom).

Elephant vs. Dragon

The Galwan valley incident of last year led to the Martyrdom of 20 Indian soldiers and at least 4 casualties on the Chinese side as per their own admission and as high as 20 to 35 as per US intelligence[1]. Despite 10 rounds of high-level disengagement talks China is still squatting on either the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) or along the LAC. Although India has de-escalated from the Kailash range that it has occupied as a strategic height after the incident of Galwan valley the Chinese forces are yet to disengage from Gogra, Hot Springs, Depsang and Demchok[2]. India has come to consciousness about the fact that China has been squatting on several hundreds of km2 of territory belonging to either the Indian side of the mutually agreed LAC by both nations in 1993 agreement of peace and tranquillity which was further elaborated (or made much more complex than it already was) by the four follow-up agreements between India and China in 1996, 2005, 2012 and 2013 or along the LAC.

One begs to ask our beloved PM that did he ever in between the jhoola, nariyal pani, drums and Bharatanatyam raised this issue with Xi, was he even made aware of this issue?

The mutually agreed LAC was only delineated on the map and not demarcated on the ground since both nations had agreed to follow and respect the delineated LAC on the map only which has not been demarcated exactly on the grounds. Thus, the scope of the conflict is rather natural however the Chinese tactics of aggression and occupation doesn’t seem natural but intentional. “The process of clarifying the exact alignment of the LAC is going on since 2002”, Chief of Army Staff General M M Narvane told the media recently and added that we have not lost “an inch of land” during the stand-off in eastern Ladakh that began in May 2020[3]. Then how come China is occupying several hundreds of km2 of Indian territory other than 43,180 km² of Indian territory that includes 5180 km² which was ceded to China by Pakistan by the Sino-Pak agreement of 1963 and 38,000 km² of Siachen as reported consistently by Indian and International media.

The answer to this question is best given by the UPA1 era foreign secretary Shyam Saran according to whom China had occupied 640 km² of Indian territory in eastern Ladakh by 2013 which is now widely accepted by PLA (People’s Liberation Army) and that China made nearly 600 incursions into the Indian side from 2010 to 2013[4].

The question that arises is what was the UPA government doing about this other than dreaming to give away the Siachen glacier to Pakistan[5]? The answer to this question perhaps lies in the MOU that Rahul Gandhi signed in his capacity as the general secretary of Indian National Congress (INC) with the director of the International Liaison Department of CPC in the presence of Sonia Gandhi President of INC[6], and Xi Jinping or perhaps the fact which the PGurus have now established beyond reasonable doubt that the “C” in the Congress party stands for corruption and the proceeds of corruption need to be hidden “offshore”. One such offshore evolved in the past two decades is Macau which is relatively even tougher to get to by the intelligence agencies as compared to the offshore of 80s and 90s; the Swiss[7].

However, Narendra Modi led NDA government is in power since 2014 and PM Modi has had 18 one-on-one meetings with Xi Jinping and had visited China 9 times (5 times as Prime Minister and 4 times as chief minister) which would be perhaps greater than the combined number of China visits of all the previous Indian prime ministers combined[8]. One begs to ask our beloved PM that did he ever in between the jhoola, nariyal pani, drums and Bharatanatyam ever raised this issue with Xi, was he even made aware of this issue?

Modi however raised the issue of finalizing the LAC with China on his visit to Beijing in 2015, his request was ignored if not rejected and in return, he got a lecture from Huang Xilian deputy director-general with the Asian affairs department in the Chinese foreign ministry as to how these things were tried before Modi came to power and how it doesn’t work and “encounter difficulties which lead to even complex situation” and that from now on whatever we do we should make it more “conducive to peace and tranquillity and not complicating things further”.

At a speech in Tokyo September 2014, PM Modi declared:

“Everywhere around us, we see an 18th-century expansionist mind-set: encroaching on another country, intruding in others’ waters, invading other countries and capturing territory.”

In return When Xi Jinping made his inaugural trip to Delhi weeks later, the visit was overshadowed by a three-week PLA intrusion across LAC.

Much heed must have been paid to these Chinese nuances.

It can be interpreted that the Chinese don’t actually want to finalize and demarcate the western sector of the LAC in Ladakh rather they want to go along by the means of aggression and occupation as it suits the pursue of their grand plan for CPEC (China Pakistan economic corridor)[9], and Karakoram pass which ultimately is a crucial part for the PEACE cable (Pakistan & East Africa Connecting Europe) and China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to revive the ancient silk routes of China (for China data is the new silk)[10].

America and its allies Japan and Australia need India to be their strategic partner, a key stakeholder of QUAD and play a vital role in shaping the geopolitical scenario of not just the Indian Ocean but of the entire Indo-Pacific.

Moreover, the recent aggression against India by the Chinese in several key positions in Ladakh across and along the LAC or in Arunachal[11], or last year’s misadventures of Nepal regarding Lipulekh and Indo-Nepal border by the Communist leader of Nepal K P Sharma Oli[12], or the cyberattacks on India’s power grids[13], or institutions for Research & National Security and even private firms[14], or naked propaganda in the Chinese press (which are mostly all the mouthpieces of CCP)[15]. The Dragon is signalling not just to India or to the other members of the QUAD but to the whole world that India which is incapable of protecting its own territory[16], securing its own borders and is absolutely incapable of protecting itself from cyber-warfare attacks is definitely not an alternative to China in being the manufacturing hub or the supply chain for the world or for any other aspect for that matter[17].

Elephant’s dilemma

The recent developments in a geopolitical scenario lead to the Indo-Pacific ties where China along with his poor cousin (who often comes in for cold as Dr Swamy puts it in his latest book[18]) Russia hoping to dominate again for the purpose of BRI. The US along with its allies Japan and Australia are trying to counter and contain the Dragon. India, however, finds itself in a rather tricky situation where on one hand it tries to be a significant member of the QUAD 2.0 (new agenda) by being active in the QUAD meets and the historic Washington post-op-ed coauthored by American President Joe Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison[19][20]. Be it Trump administration’s former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s frequent visits to India in the last 1 year or much recent Biden administration’s Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin’s India visit (despite the political differences and propaganda of Democrats against Modi’s leadership in their election campaigns) the signals are loud and clear that a new Indo-Pacific order consisting of democratic nations committed to rule of law is being set up to counter the Dragon[21]. The QUAD stands for open and free Indo-Pacific region as per international laws[22]. America and its allies Japan and Australia need India to be their strategic partner, a key stakeholder of QUAD and play a vital role in shaping the geopolitical scenario of not just the Indian Ocean but of the entire Indo-Pacific.

However, there was a clear-cut message for India about the Russian big daddy SAM the S-400[23].

The albatross of S-400

The Russian S-400 developed by Almaz-Antey is undoubtedly the most advanced Surface to Air Missile system (SAM) and certainly better than its American counterparts the THAAD or Israel’s David Sling but it comes with an American pack of problems the CAATSA (Countering American Adversities through Sanctions Act) against the Russian military equipment especially the S-400. Due to the possibility of compromising the security of the American military equipment especially the F-35 Lockheed Martin the most advanced fighter jets America[24]. In 2018, India finalized the contract of purchasing S-400 from Russia for a price tag of US $5.43 billion now India doesn’t have any F-35 but the sanctions will eliminate the possibility of India ever owning an F-35 or any of the American advanced military equipment and not only this but few strategists argue it may even impact the weapon deals with other NATO countries and France which is a NATO country might face sanctions for India’s Rafale deal due to the Anil Ambani’s company dealing with
Almaz-Antey[25]. The fact that there will be Russian boots on the ground for the maintenance and initial operations setting up of S-400 make the US or even India prone to espionage by the Russians. Just like in Turkey who purchased S-400 and then later faced some problems or malfunctions in the S-400 and there were talks to finally call the Russians to assist the Turkeys in setting up the S-400[26].

Another fear that prima facie seems rather naïve however given the Chinese ability of cyber warfare and their proximity with the Russians which shall be evidenced by the fact that when in June 2017 Xi Jinping said Vladimir Putin is “my best friend and colleague” and Putin on 23 October 2020 said, “could enter into a military alliance with China.” This kind of bonhomie is never seen before between the Sino-Soviet (at least what remains of the Soviet) leaders. The extent of this once upon a time communist love affair rather Russia’s dependency on China is also evident by the fact that Russian trade with China doubled in past years and that the Russian Central Bank has increased the reserve for Chinese currency from less than 1% to over 13% and the fact that China is now the main supplier of industrial and technical parts to Russia. In short, the Dragon’s money is helping the rump called Russia to escape from US sanctions. After all, it was the Russian highest authority that had assured India that China was only amassing troops along the LAC for a routine annual exercise last year, we now know where that went. The PLA even now has shown not much interest even after 10 rounds of high-level de-escalation and disengagement talks and India’s de-escalation from the strategic heights of Kailash range which India occupied after the events of Chinese aggression unfolded last year, the Chinese forces are yet to disengage from Gogra, Hot Springs, Depsang and Demchok. The Russian equipment cannot be trusted in an event of armed conflict with China[27]. Moreover, the Russians have postponed our delivery of S-400 which was due in January 2021 to almost a year and simultaneously have supplied the same to China. This has given India an opportunity to cancel the order of S-400 and get out of this Sino-Soviet albatross[28].

Not to mention the Americans are very clear in their tone as the chairman of US Senate foreign relations committee Senator Bob Menendez urged Mr Lloyd Austin to make it very clear to the Indian counterparts that if the Indians went ahead with the deal of S-400 they will be sanctioned under section 231 of the CAATSA[29]. This will make India unable to have US military equipment in near future and that is the biggest help Putin could do for Xi Jinping. Sanctions against India are not yet kicked in as Russians delayed the delivery. India might not need any foreign help to secure its borders in Ladakh but it does need hard and soft intelligence, technical and equipment support as even now India uses American maps in the Himalayas.

Indian MEA (Ministry of External Affairs) is still under the impression that their diplomatic skills will somehow persuade the Americans against the sanction however not much luck till now[30]. Not to mention Trump didn’t even spare his Megalomaniac friend Erdogan of Turkey which is part of NATO from American sanctions and even cancelled the F-35 program with them[31]. On one hand, India is full-on in the QUAD order with all the atmospherics and theatrics and on the other, it is completely caught up in the Sino-Soviet entanglement. Be it the recent talks of joint military exercise with Pakistan (Chinese pet dog) in the presence of Russia and China, the Shanghai cooperation, Or when in May 2020 Trump offered to mediate in the Indo-China border dispute, of course, India declined and rightly so but then in June, we went running to Moscow[32]. Or be it the upcoming BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) summit to be hosted this year by India in New Delhi where the high commands of China and Russia will be present for BRICS which is dominated by the Sino-Soviet partnership, Brazil and South Africa are only looking for Chinese investment[33]. Thus there is nothing for India to gain or be part of it or not host the Chinese while they squat on our territory.

The latest Chinese-Iranian co-operation deal that gives the back door entry to China in the INSTC (International North-South transport corridor) of which India is a major part and till last month MEA was pushing hard to be an even larger stakeholder of the INSTC by wanting to make the Chabahar port, also included in INSTC which will go all the way to Moscow along with already included Mumbai Port[34][35]. The backdoor entry of China will definitely align this INSTC with China’s grand plan of Belt and Road initiative and PEACE Cable moreover the Iranians went all the way to suggest that INSTC will be much more efficient than the Swiss canal and a better alternate to it[36]. Wonder what the Americans will interpret of this and the Indian involvement in INSTC which now is a segment of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and PEACE Cable will send some sort of message to the US that India otherwise doesn’t intend to when it became the part of INSTC. The recent Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov visit to India Where, on 6 April 2021 while India along with other QUAD members led by france conducts a 3 day naval exercise “La Perouse” in Indian Ocean region (which the CCP mouthpiece labelled as a “publicity stunt” to attract other NATO countries), The Russian Foreign Minister sitting with Indian MEA in New Delhi briefed the press, “It wasn’t me who said US exercised pressure on India but any other country (China?) which wanted to sign an agreement with Russia on the delivery of weapons… If the US says this overtly we all will know, but we also know the reciprocal reaction.”[37] [38]

“With India, we do not discuss these statements by the US. Instead, we confirmed that we are going into diplomatic military cooperation.” referred to QUAD as “Asian NATO” and urged that “security alliances” should not come up in Asia.[39]

and bringing along Russian special envoy to Afghanistan, Ambassador Zamir Kabulov to brief India on the status of the intra-Afghan dialogue which was hosted by Moscow with representatives from the US, China and Pakistan, of course, India was excluded[40][41]. Till now it was only the CCP’s mouthpieces that declared India as a “negative asset” for BRICS and if we fail to make up our minds it may soon be the Washington Post[42]. Certainly, the MEA is under impression that the diplomacy of double talks, spins and nuances is “The India Way” it is for sure isn’t the American way! They are pretty straight forward in what they want and what they are willing to give[43].

Note:
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.

References:

[1] China says four of its soldiers died in Galwan clashFeb 19, 2021, The Hindu

[2] India seeks quick solution to remaining friction points along LACApr 02, 2021, The Hindu

[3] Not an inch of land has been lost: Gen Naravane on India China conflictMar 30, 2021, ANI

[4] China’s long history of incremental occupation of Indian territory in LadakhMay 28, 2020, Outlook

[5] Exclusive: Did UPA want to hand over Siachen to Pakistan? Hear what ex-Army Chief has to sayJun 24, 2020, India TV

[6] Indian National Congress and Communist Party of China signed a MoU in 2008: Sonia GandhiAug 16, 2020, Goa Chronicle

[7] Corruption – PGurus.com

[8] What went wrong in Narendra Modi-Xi Jinping relations?Jun 23, 2020, PGurus.com

[9] China’s CPEC – “A Corridor to Nowhere”Jun 16, 2020, PGurus.com

[10] China’s grand plan for occupying Asia and Africa – its intrusions and incursions – a detailed look with Sridhar ChityalaFeb 04, 2021, PGurus.com

[11] China occupying area since 1980s, construction of villages in Arunachal not new, says BJP MP Tapir GaoJan 19, 2021, India Today

[12] Understanding Nepalese PM Oli and his anticsMay 21, 2020, PGurus.com

[13] Ep 109: Proof of India’s Power plants being attempted to be hacked; US Congress passes $1.9 Trillion stimulusMar 03, 2021, PGurus.com

[14] 52% Indian firms endured cyber attacks in last 12 months: SurveyMar 30, 2021, CIO

[15] How China’s propaganda machinery is trying to get into the heads of IndiansOct 8, 2020, India Today

[16] QUAD – PGurus.com

[17] Chinese cyber attack foiled: Power MinistryMar 01, 2021, The Hindu

[18] Himalayan Challenge: India, China and the Quest for Peace – Amazon.in

[19] Ep-118 QUAD initiative its objectives, US-China talks, China Power plants on upstream BrahmaputraMar 16, 2021, PGurus.com

[20] Opinion: Our four nations are committed to a free, open, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific regionMar 13, 2021, Washington Post

[21] Elevating US-India Defence partnership priority of Biden administration: AustinMar 20, 2021, PGurus.com

[22] First Quad Summit | Quad leaders for ‘open, free’ Indo-PacificMar 12, 2021, The Hindu

[23] Austin says discussed with India its planned purchase of Russian air defence systemsMar 20, 2021, Economic Times

[24] Why the S-400 and the F-35 Can’t Get AlongJul 17, 2019, Defense One

[25] The S400 Deal – Will US Sanction Reliance Defense?Oct 16, 2019, Great Game India

[26] Turkey’s S-400 Systems Acquired From Russia Are Defective – ReportsSep 19, 2020, EurAsian Times

[27] Russia is not a friend of IndiaOct 31, 2020, Sunday Guardian

[28] S-400-deal – Did Russia ditch India by delaying start of supply to end-2021? China has already placed S-400 missiles system in Tibet aimed at LadakhDec 22, 2020, PGurus.com

[29] US senator asks Lloyd Austin to warn India of possible sanctions over S-400 dealMar 19, 2021, Business Today

[30] Jaishankar convinced he can persuade U.S. on S-400 decisionOct 02, 2019, The Hindu

[31] Turkey sheltered Al-Baghdadi and it is the Kurds who helped the US: Prof M D NalapatOct 30, 2019, PGurus.com

[32] Donald Trump offers to ‘mediate or arbitrate’ between India and ChinaMay 27, 2020, Economic Times

[33] Dr Subramanian Swamy with Prof M D Nalapat – “India’s Choice for the Future : QUAD or BRICS?”Mar 21, 2021, YouTube

[34] China, With $400 Billion Iran Deal, Could Deepen Influence in MideastMar 27, 2021, NY Times

[35] India pushes for Chabahar in India-Iran-Russia INSTC corridorMar 04, 2021, The Hindu

[36] China-Iran pact paves way for alternative to SuezApr 02, 2021, Asia Times

[37] Quad-plus-France drill is publicity stunt, won’t strengthen loose – Mar 16, 2021, Global Times

[38] No discussion on S-400 with India, US pressure will have reciprocal reaction: Russian foreign minister – Apr 06, 2021, ANI

[39] Russia underlines need for inclusive solution to Afghan crisis – Apr 06, 2021, The Hindu

[40] Ep-132: Russia’s FM Lavrov-coming to India next week – S400, AK 47-etc., France closes schools againApr 03, 2021, PGurus.com

[41] India not part of Russian meet on AfghanistanMar 10, 2021, The Hindu

[42] India seeking courtship with Quad a negative asset of BRICS, SCOMar 12, 2021, Global Times

[43] Focus on India-US bonding and China perspectiveAug 08, 2020, Sunday Guardian

Dhruv Saini
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