Zhan Lue, in his article published by the China International Institute for Strategic Studies on 8 August 2009 titled “If China takes a little action, the so called Great Indian Federation can be broken up”. The writer has tried to identify various fault lines that have existed in India, based on religion, caste, region and languages for centuries. He suggests that a China Centric Asian strategy should be there to exploit these and split India into 20 to 30 smaller countries. Outrageous, nonetheless let us discuss in the present day’s milieu.
The writer feels that India wants to develop Great Indian Federation from Afghanistan to Burma and threaten Chinese interests in South China Sea by getting into an alliance with other South Asian countries mainly Vietnam.
The essence of this article lies is a fact that India is seen as a major hurdle towards the growth of China into an unquestioned leader in twenty first century; the Asian Age. Another side of this article is the reflection of their insecurity and a threat posed by India. What if India succeeds in implementation of an India Centric Asian Strategy and play a spoiler to the Chinese dream? The writer feels that India wants to develop Great Indian Federation from Afghanistan to Burma and threaten Chinese interests in South China Sea by getting into an alliance with other South Asian countries mainly Vietnam. While the idea of Great Indian Federation may sound relatively overstated more so if SARC is in context. Nevertheless this argument does make a larger strategic sense.
Before we try to give logic to this absurdity, let us try and understand China of twenty first century. The Chinese after their independence have consolidated their nation largely confirming to the boundaries of the empire of Manchu dynasty. Vietnam, South Tibet (Arunanchal) and Taiwan are some of the territories that are still out of Beijing’s control. The territories of Inner Mangolia, Tibet and Xinjiang have still not settled with the idea of China. It may be interesting to recall that the process of consolidation of approximately fifty six nationalities was carried out by Mao through the cultural revolution of the 60s. Anything that was not in confirmation or different from the Han Chinese, be it the faith, language, architecture or any other aspect of a nationhood was brutally suppressed and replaced by the guidelines set by Mao. Thousands of people were killed and displaced in this process. The scars of which have not healed till date.
The reforms that began in the 80s by Deng and Li have propelled the China’s socialist market economy into the world’s second largest economic power. Today massive industrialisation followed by urbanisation has transformed China into the fastest growing economy in the world as it stands with a GDP of approximately $ 8.25 trillion in 2012. China is energy hungry nation consuming 9,400,000 barrels of crude per day and this demand is likely to shoot up ten times by the turn of the next decade as analysed by the experts.
The fast pace of economic growth has not been even, there exists East to West slide in this economic progress. Some of the Eastern provinces like Shanghai have a GDP which is equivalent to any of the US states at $ 4,80,184 while towards the West some provinces like Hainan, Ningxia, Qinghai, Tibet and Guizhou have their GDP ranging from $7,578 to $ 4,674 only comparable to the economy of countries in African Sahara like Algeria and Egypt at $ 7,400 and $ 6,600 respectively.
These disparities have led to disconnect of various nationalities with the aspirations of Han Chinese; there is a resurgence of suppressed nationalities in Yunnan, Tibet, Xinxiang and other provinces.
This huge economic gap amongst the provinces and rural urban gap within these provinces is a big challenge to the Chinese policy makers and strategists. These disparities have led to disconnect of various nationalities with the aspirations of Han Chinese; there is a resurgence of suppressed nationalities in Yunnan, Tibet, Xinxiang and other provinces. In China, each year we regularly hear of protests, riots and mass demonstrations (in 2010 there were estimated 1,80,000 such protests, riots and demonstrations) arising out of the economic disparities, exploitation by the Chinese authorities and various other suppressive Communist Chinese polices that affect the day to day lives of a common man. I am sure these dissents would be a great discomfort in the equilibrium of the Chinese empire.
The Chinese strategists strongly advocate the two oceans theory for their country as a key to economic prosperity in their Western backyard. They seem to be convinced that an uncontested access to a second ocean will facilitate economic equivalence amongst its provinces which will also be much faster than witnessed in past decades. They derive support to this argument from the global stature of the United States, who dominates the world both economically and militarily, because it has an access to both, the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans.
There exists a worldwide perception that an autocratic Chinese empire can hold itself in its present boundaries only till such time the economic progress continues and that to evenly. The unity of this empire to many within also appears fragile and their fear of the fate met by the erstwhile USSR so real, that the Chinese are very sensitive to any free flow of information, the internet, human rights, civil liberties, Dalai Lama and even the Indian media apart from many other anxieties.
In an eventuality of hostilities with their Southern neighbour, they rightly fear that India will cut off this sea lane which will have a serious and a crippling effect on the Chinese economy.
Today eighty percent of Chinese imports pass through the Strait of Malacca to the harbours on its Eastern coast. In an eventuality of hostilities with their Southern neighbour, they rightly fear that India will cut off this sea lane which will have a serious and a crippling effect on the Chinese economy. Indian Navy off late has been active in the South China Sea despite the Chinese warnings. Indian Naval chief on the 4th of December in 2012 said that the Indian Navy is preparing for the contingency that it could be called upon by the Govt of India to protect Indian economic interest in the disputed South China Sea. This became a serious cause of concern to the Chinese and they took no time in reminding the Indians of the vulnerabilities existing on the LAC. We witnessed intrusions in the Depsang valley and few others in Chumar and Arunanchal Pradesh in quick succession supported by their all weather friend “Pakistan” flaring up the situation on LOC in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The message was clear; don’t try to change the status-quo, just stay perched up on the Himalayas since the South China Sea is a bit too far and far too risky.
…to overcome this hurdle they need to weaken India or simply break up “The Great Indian Federation” as advocated by Zhan Lue, a concurrent strategic challenge.
Hence, there are two major concerns or hurdles in front of China in becoming a super power, before it can challenge the global dominance of the USA. The first and foremost is an economic challenge in realising an even economic growth and development all across the Chinese territory. They consider the Indian Ocean as their Pacific with Burma and Pakistan as their California. The only hurdle in realising this economic challenge by an unopposed access to the warm waters of Indian Ocean comes from India. Indians dominate the Indian Ocean and will not cede to the Chinese so easily. Therefore to overcome this hurdle they need to weaken India or simply break up “The Great Indian Federation” as advocated by Zhan Lue, a concurrent strategic challenge.
Their first challenge is well addressed. China is busy developing energy and the trade corridors, one off the Arakan coast from port of Kyaukpyu at Ramree Island in Burma to Kunming in Yunnan province and the other from the Gawadhar port in Pakistan to Xingxiang province in China. Both these ports will be linked by rail and road network to major towns and cities in China. There is a major engineering effort underway to carry crude and natural gas through pipelines from these ports to the Chinese hinterland. This way the Western China will also prosper in the similar manner as the provinces on its Eastern sea board.
The second challenge is also equally well addressed. The ancient Chinese strategy to Besiege Wei to Rescue Zhao, that is to attack a weakness by finding a gap in the enemy’s armour. They are perusing their strategic aims by supporting the insurgent groups in the North East and the Naxilites in the hinterland both in terms of weapons and training. The Chinese supported, United Wa State Army which has been fighting the military Junta of Burma since its independence in the North is used as a cover to supply the Chinese weapons to these groups.
Today as we discuss, the Chinese are busy strengthening economic and military ties with all our neighbours in an effort to lay the noose all around us. The Chinese have developed the Sri-Lankan port of Hambantota. They plan linking of Chittagong port in Bangladesh to the energy corridor in Burma. They are developing a rail link from the Tibetan capital Lhasa to Khasa on the Nepal China border which will reduce Kathmandu’s hitherto dependence on India for imports. They also plan to develop Lumbini, birth place of Lord Buddha in Nepal as Mecca for Buddhists all over the world.
It is by this logic we must never see the Pakistani LOC violations and her strong support to the
non-state actors in isolation but factor-in the great Chinese design to simply break up “The Great Indian Federation”.
India, as is known to be a common enemy of Pakistan, Bangladesh and now, I dare say the Maoist Nepal, are all friends of China. ISI is actively providing support to the NE insurgents and the Naxals apart from various Jihadi forces operating in our country. There are elements within the Bangladeshi and the Nepalese establishment who openly harbour and support groups involved in anti India activities. It is by this logic we must never see the Pakistani LOC violations and her strong support to the Non State Actors in isolation but factor-in the great Chinese design to simply break up “The Great Indian Federation”.
Recently the Indian Prime Minister Mr Manmohan Singh said that the Naxals are the biggest internal security challenge. I feel it is not so because they have acquired such military dimensions that they can challenge the Indian union with impunity but the threat that they would present if they manage to linkup with the communist China through the Maoist Nepal.
In my opinion, Bihar is fast emerging as a frontline state and may serve as a bridge between the Maoists of the North and the South. And if this happens one can foresee three different sets of India; One to the West of Bihar with Kashmir as a continuous challenge, second to its South dominated by the Naxal territories and the third to the East with many aspiring nationalities.
The Great Indian Tamasha of our democracy is often played at the cost of the national security. One such mega event will be held in the summer of 2014 when the largest democracy goes into general elections. Over past one year as per the report of the Government of India, there has been a sizable reduction in Anti Naxal operations in Bihar while the activities of these Naxals continue to increase by each passing day. As our political parties race towards securing their respective vote banks, the Naxals and the Jihadis are increasing their signature with each passing day. In a country where votes measure up more than the national security concerns, I wonder if we are helping our enemy number one, in its nefarious design.
How will India turn the Chinese strategy on to them, the answers lay hidden in the Kaal Chakkra. In a country where there are no stated strategic goals, where there is lack of synergism amongst those who dictate the country’s foreign and defence policies. I wonder when India will transcend its mood in to will and actions thereafter. There are many questions those loom large. When will India start playing the Tibetan card? When will India step in aggressively to strengthen SARC or does it have the ability to do so? Will India step in the void in Burma to challenge the Chinese? Will India write the narrative of the Great Game in South China Sea or allow the Chinese to script it in the Indian Ocean? Or will the Look East end up as a sad Indian Eastern gaze. These are just a few questions that need to be answered by our strategic planners sooner than later if we wish to be in the reckoning of the power play of the twenty first century and effectively counter the absurd of the Zhan Lue.