Listen to article
Close to five months of Sino-Indian border standoff, hand-to-hand combat, and death of a few dozen soldiers in the Galwan Valley clash has led to many reactions from the intellectuals and ordinary citizens of both the countries. There are innumerable theories on plausible causes for China’s attempt to change the status quo on Sino-Indian line of actual control, especially in the Ladakh sector.
What leaves most analysts puzzled is that the skirmishes & disputes have come at a time which undeniably seems inappropriate for both India and China. India is battling the COVID pandemic, while China is fighting COVID after-effects and trade & strategic hostility from the US, Japan, Australia, ASEAN and even Europe all at once.
What leaves most analysts puzzled is that the skirmishes & disputes have come at a time which undeniably seems inappropriate for both India and China.
After hundreds of air-time hours & gigabytes of writing by geo-politicians, defence-experts, ambassadors & analysts, the cause(s) for China having undertaken this adventure of doubtful strategic advantage analytically can be classified into five categories –
The Chinese leadership, its strategists & policy-makers are clever and far-sighted. Any contrary assumption should be made at one’s own peril. Therefore, all attempts to ascribe their moves to some kind of folly have to be discounted. It is also very important to chaff off causes from effects. China creates causes but effects are not under anyone’s control. This is apparent from China getting a bloody nose in Galwan valley on the night of 15th June 2020.
Another equally important detail, which should not escape attention is that single point agendas are undertaken out of personal animosities whereas nations (like China) undertake high-risk ventures only if such ventures may result in multi-faceted, multi-pronged and sometimes counter-intuitive but beneficial anticipated effects for the impacting party (China) so that it gains more than the victim (India) actually loses. Furthermore, would I be a Chinese strategist, I would plot my moves so that Chinese Gain = Indian loss + ⧍ to make is more than a zero-sum game. Additionally, I would make this equation (of China gaining more than what India loses) hold true for China, irrespective of whether India chooses to act one way or another (in this case – ignore the incursions or counter-attack). It takes an immensely clever opponent to outflank an aggressive party (in this case China) because a good strategist would have gamed (according to the logic of Game Theory) everything innumerably and this is Beijing’s advantage vis-a-vis India. It means that any possible reaction (good, great or bad), has been gamed and anticipated by China. There is probably no way India can surprise China on this account.
The Chinese game and win battles in the mind. But here’s the caveat: because they fight in mind historically, they have also often lost mentally, without much of an armed struggle or a battle.
So what probably scares the Chinese? That which they have not gamed – surprises! How can we surprise the Chinese? By undertaking such actions that are not in response to prior Chinese actions while ensuring that the benefit from such actions for India is greater than the loss endured by China.
It is worthwhile to understand that India’s risk profile in this unwanted venture is exceptionally low vis-a-vis China. Risk arises from uncertainty. All of India’s considerations for not spoiling relations with China, not beleaguering or badgering it by raising the Tibet, Hong Kong, East Turkestan or Taiwan issues stemmed from New Delhi’s desire to avoid a border conflict. ‘Uncertainty’ about a possible border row with China held India back by posing as a ‘risk’. However, there is no more uncertainty about border conflict; it has happened and hence less of a need to hold back since China moved into territory which was treated as No Man’s Land before April 2020. The Chinese kept up with their reputation of claiming ownership of what is within their reach.
So, how to surprise Chinese, after sensible gaming of their possible responses, such that India’s win is more than China’s loss? Mirror troop deployment, banning apps, cancelling infrastructure contracts, befriending other states that have issues with Chinese, activating the QUAD were all moves foreseen, gamed and resolved by Chinese such that their gain will always be more than our loss.
‘Uncertainty’ about a possible border row with China held India back by posing as a ‘risk’. However, there is no more uncertainty about border conflict; it has happened and hence less of a need to hold back since China moved into territory which was treated as No Man’s Land before April 2020.
While there would be a number of ways to take them by surprise, this article will list three specific steps that can easily be initiated:
1- China is authoritarian. India should offer a stable refuge for persecuted or dissenting Chinese Capitalists in the mainland and Hong Kong, scrutinizing the legality of their investment just as much as required under FATF guidelines. It is well known that entrepreneurs who do not toe CCP-Xi line are threatened and discriminated against in China. Readers, do not be naive to think that Jack Ma resigned the chairmanship of Alibaba of his own volition. He had become too popular and iconic among ordinary Chinese and thus attracted the annoyance of the powers-that-be. I tend to believe that Mr. Jack Ma was given a hint that his Company might be snatched away by the State unless he entrusted it to a man of his choice but acceptable to the CCP. Ma was sensible to choose the latter option while he could.
India should carefully use its own intelligence resources and the more established US and Australian services to distinguish the PLA & CCP sponsored businesses from the independent ones seeking to move abroad. India should launch an investment-linked citizenship programme for Chinese and Hong Kong citizens. Large Corporates would often desire to shift their top executives with families. Many Chinese will consider coming and bringing their experience and business along because India is somewhat like China and attractive enough as a developing market. For a businessman operating in China, to shift his business to Austria or Portugal or another small ‘mature’ country is akin to retiring. India is a giant economy and will not give away people to the CCP. Their protection must be ensured to win the confidence of such investors.
India should carefully use its own intelligence resources and the more established US and Australian services to distinguish the PLA & CCP sponsored businesses from the independent ones seeking to move abroad.
2- China intends to harden the fluid line of actual control. India should initiate the hardening of the LAC on its side. There have been commercial proposals to the Indian Army to use advanced technology for freezing the LAC electronically, in its favour, which should be seriously considered.
3- India should represent to fellow nations the hazards of accepting the Yuan or Digi-Yuan as a global reserve currency. It should also consider coming closer to Taiwan – techno-economically, politically, in terms of defence cooperation and in matters of investment & business, even though the Taipei government upholds in principle China’s territorial claims in the Himalayan region.