Chinese Goal: India's isolation and encirclement
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 19 Jul , 2013

Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China Li Keqiang and the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

Recorded history shows that India and China have loomed large in each other’s consciousness from well before the first millennium. As both nations became independent almost at the same time, it was inevitable that both will compete for domination in Asia. While China has gone about achieving this goal in a most systematic manner, our China policy is confused, timid and lacks focus and will laid out goals. The result is that Chinese have hemmed us in South Asia and it is ensuring that we are not able to break out from this stranglehold.

A hostile and nuclear armed Pakistan in the West, a sullen Nepal in the Centre, a bullied and frightened Bhutan in the North East and inimical Bangla Desh and Mynamar in the East.

In order to achieve this aim, the Chinese have employed a two pronged strategy. Overland, she is cultivating India’s neighbours – and has managed to put a ring of hostile/inimical states around us. A hostile and nuclear armed Pakistan in the West, a sullen Nepal in the Centre, a bullied and frightened Bhutan in the North East and inimical Bangla Desh and Mynamar in the East. This is amounting to strategic encirclement of India. In the Indian Ocean, the Chinese strategy is better known as string of pearls strategy. The aim is to acquire port facilities starting from Gwader and Karachi in Pakistan, pressurising Maldives and Sri Lanka to grant berthing and refuelling facilities and naval base in Coca Islands in Northern Andamans.

The crucial difference between India and China’s standing in the South Asian Region is one of image. All South Asian nations fear China and in order not to annoy her, try and placate her by acceding to her demands. Whereas in the case of India, these very same nations hold us in contempt – our claim of India being in the race for Asian domination notwithstanding. They see India as a soft power unable to evolve a coherent policy in the neighbourhood and beset with a vast array of internal problems. Our neighbours see us appeasing China at every step and opportunity and feel it may be safer to follow the suit. Coming to our relations with our neighbours. Pakistan is openly hostile, pursuing its aim of balkanization of India with great focus and elan. Our response is patchy, confused and one of helplessness. With every terrorist attack, we run to USA asking her to restrain Pakistan. This is not helping our image in the neighbourhood. No self respecting nation should be whinnying before the super power but should take measures to counter an adversary. As far as Nepal is concerned, despite our bending over backwards to its needs, we have failed to stop it from falling into the Chinese arms.

Bhutan has more or less abrogated the India-Bhutan Treaty of 1950 which requires her to be guided by India in her foreign relations. Not only is she helpless to stop increasing Chinese intrusions into Western Bhutan but negotiating with China independent of India. Chinese want Bhutan to establish diplomatic relations with it which will happen sooner than later. Bangla Desh’s relations with India depend on which Begham is in power but irrespective of the regime, Bangla Desh can be expected to do the Chinese bidding. Chinese support to the Military junta in Myanamar is an open secret. They are grateful to China who is not treating them as untouchables like India. Apart from giving them the permission to establish a naval base of Coco Islands in North Andamans, talks of Stillwell Highway being resurrected are doing the rounds. So Mynamar is firmly in the Chinese camp.

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Now the string of pearls strategy. Pakistan has already accorded berthing and refuelling facilities to Chinese navy at Gwader and Karachi. Chinese are now pressurizing Maldivas and Sri Lanka to do likewise. It should not come as a surprise to anyone if that happens. China helped Sri Lanka during its war against LTTE while we squirmed due to the pressure from DMK and other South Indian political parties. Maldives apparently has forgotten that we saved the govt of President Gayoom in 1987 from Muslim predators. It may well grant refueling rights to Chinese navy.

In view of the focused and well thought out strategy of the Chinese if we think we are going to give the Chinese a run for their money in Asia, we need to refocus on the region instead of cosying upto the super power who is treating us with barely concealed ‘ contempt. Pakistan’s proxy war needs a strong response including punitive air strikes to take out the known terrorist camps in POK. Chinese intrusions must not be treated with the famous oriental calm. We must ask China to vacate our area in Aksai Chin – something we have never done so far. Concurrently infrastructural development in border areas must be taken up in right earnest. Nepal needs to be firmly told to be sensitive to Indian interest and not play footie with Pak lSI and Chinese failing which a blockade can bring her to her senses. Indo-Bhutan Treaty needs to be renegotiated and Bhutan must be given all help including military to counter the Chinese aggression.

Bangladesh must be firmly brought in line. Fencing must be completed and even cross border raids can be launched to destroy camps of ULFA and other militant groups on its soil. Mynamar junta must not be treated as untouchables. You have to do business with whoever is in power.

Relations with Sri Lanka and Maldives need to be energized. In short stop taking our neighbours for granted. This has been the greatest failure of India’s foreign policy in six decades and has allowed China to keep us unbalanced, unhinged and confined to South Asia.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Maj Gen Sheru Thapliyal, PhD

served in the Regiment of Artillery and was awarded a Doctorate for his research & thesis on "Sino-Indian Relations".

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8 thoughts on “Chinese Goal: India’s isolation and encirclement

  1. This is the problem, India thinks she is a great country without realizing China took so much time building their economy, they remained calm they even solved disputes with the neighbors, if really India considered it to be a great country it would not have wasted time, fighting with Pakistan because then their focus would have remained on China,

    India never tried to find out why Pakistan is bombing Indian cities, the reason was Kashmir if India would have withdrawn her claim on Kashmir, or at least held a plebiscite in accordance with the UN resolution, there would not have remained any reason for the two countries to be in a fight with, this would have created endless options for India.

    Pakistani support would have been more useful than Kashmir, Pakistan was culturally close to India, cuisine, music, and language were common, so had there been all the issues solved with in the first decade there could have had a different picture altogether China and Pakistan had no language music or cultural similarity, yet the only thing that united Pakistan and China was Indian hostility.

    Through Pakistan, India could have exported goods to Europe, and Central Asia, this would have established Indian economy as strong as China, even the concept of Same Currency between Pakistan India and Bangladesh could have been materialized, India with her trade surplus money spent on military power, but India remained arrogant of their big population and land area, even Indian generals including general Bhukshi thinks 1965 war was a draw and if it India drew by the country 6 times smaller than India it is already a win for that small country Pakistan, in recent times when India tried Balakot fiasco, not only Pakistan not deterred by Indian action but also replied back in daylight, India while admitted Pakistan’s response and the downing of Indian plane, was an act of war, remained unable to respond, shows the incompetence of Indian forces.

  2. no no no!!! why cant we build up a good relationship with china, join the OBOR and in the long run get a better relationship with all neighbours by cooperation. why we indians want to play superpower but we have so many internal problems. why we need to cooperate with far away usa, japan, russia when we have a powerful neighbour with who we could form the biggest market in the 21th century.

  3. India needs to review her foreign policy towards her neighbor. She needs a total change in her hegimonistic attitude and work out how to be more friendly and respectful to others in true sense. Should strongly believe that respect is a business of give and take. She has to give more than she wants to get from others as a big neighbor. An overall positive attitude of India can help her to get others as good friend beside her. Other than this nothing can help.

  4. Maj Thapliyal article is thoughtful but fall short of what is needed by India to make up the lost grounds. No diplomatic pressure, no road building or mending relationship with Nepal, Maldives or Shri Lanka will turn the table. There is a need to present a strong posture in the classic military sense. The message should be loud and clear, if you attack us we will counter attack with twice the ferocity. So that this does not become another hot air burst from our incompetent leaders in Delhi, India needs to mobilize resources at the border now. This mobilization should include movement of arms and men. China can howl, but India will be doing what China has already done. To further back the response, India needs support of the non-communist powers namely, NATO and US. We have wasted 60 years in pursuing the failed policy of non-alignment, rubbing shoulders with despots kings, dictators and totalitarian societies. Today India is like in the old adage, “dhobi ka kutta, na ghar ka na ghat ka.”

  5. I agree with the Maj. Gen. that we need focus on our relationship with our neighbors. But for long term unity and peaceful existence of India, it is imperative that India is reunited with other South Asian countries. This should be done over a period of 2-3 decades with proper planning and military might. This can be achieved overtly and covertly. Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Burma, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Tibet should be united with India. This will required a large, lethal and highly mobile military. Even though Tibet was not part of India historically, It is important to liberate them from Chinese control. This is reduce the threat from China and end their linkup with Pakistan. Further, 6+ million pacifist Tibetans cannot secure their only land. Hence it is prudent for them to join the Indian Union. This can be done only through a full fledged war with China. Pakistan should also be annexed through militarily to end the terrorism and nuclear blackmail. Hence India should plan for a full-fledged war on multiple fronts, especially with Pakistan and China. It is obvious that other fronts will open up in case of a war with Pakistan and China. Saudi Arabia and UAE will come to the aid of Pakistan. Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Burma may also join the alliance. Hence it important to establish covert capabilities in these countries and make alliance of our own in West Asia, South East Asia and East Asia. Russian should also be convinced to stop military sales to China and help us in case of any war with China. Of course the military might of USA will be very helpful if they chose to intervene on behalf of India. However we should focus on building our military might, intelligence capabilities, covert capabilities, technological edge, economic might and political capability to achieve the task on our own.

    • @Ajay Krishna: If we apply your vision, the whole of South Asia will be rotting with corpses, and Indian sub continent will be occupied by Arabs, Chinese and Europeans. What an Idea Sait Ji.

      • Wrong again @Pats on.. There will be no rot. We cremate dead bodies. You do not need wood to do that. They burn in their own fat. Fatter ones burn faster. Which ones do you think are the Fatter(Arabs, Chinese, or Europeans).

  6. Philosopher and Spiritual guru Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar of Anand Marg once predicted that China will some time in the future invade India and will come all the way to Punjab. I can quote you the book, text where it is written but for that I will have to search through the truck load of books my dad has collected over years.

    Upon reading your article I can see that happening. Congress is Anti-India, Anti-Hindu, they are basically traitors of the nation and if India gets into trouble Sonia Gandhi is going to flee back to Italy with her family, Raul, Bianca…

    National Pride, Dignity, Self-Respect….they don’t belong to this Mughal Gayasuddin Gazi’s clan.

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