India must counter China's imperial ambitions
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Issue Vol 24.4 Oct-Dec2009 | Date : 06 Aug , 2021

First published on IDR print Issue Vol 24.4 Oct-Dec 2009.

New Delhi cannot afford to sit around while others plot its destruction.

Surrounded with sullied strategic environment and the spreading fire that engulfs the region, New Delhi can either continue to live in fear as it has in the past, or fight back.

There are two distinct threats that endanger the existence of the Union.

Equally true is the fact that Americans are fighting India’s war too. If they withdraw from the AF-PAK area, the entire Jihad factory will descend mercilessly upon India to create mayhem.

First are the imperial ambitions of China that threaten to ultimately dismember the Indian Union in twenty or thirty parts. To succeed in its aim, Beijing over a period of time unleashed the first phase of the strategy and intelligently encircled India.

This initial phase resulted in shrinking New Delhi’s strategic frontiers in its vicinity. Indians unwittingly made the Chinese task a cakewalk, as they were preoccupied with internal bickering for short-term personal gains, overlooking the vicious expansionist agenda designed jointly by Beijing and Islamabad to tear apart the Union.

Even as it pretended to withdraw its covert support to the rebels in India’s northeast in late seventies, China took advantage of Islamabad’s hatred for India, and deftly invested in Pakistan to carry out the task on its behalf.

The primary segment of the Chinese strategy moved with clockwork precision by investing in autocratic and Islamic fundamentalist elements in countries on India’s periphery, i.e., Myanmar, Bangladesh and Maoists in Nepal. In Sri Lanka, while Indians dithered, Beijing and its proxy Pakistan quickly moved in to help arm Colombo against the LTTE, develop the Hambantota port, etc. While the adversary invested in encircling India on its land and sea frontiers, Indians merrily continued to indulge in their favorite past time, i.e. meaningless and endless debates.

Invited by Islamabad, the Chinese moved into Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK). With growing irrelevance of Pakistan as a nation-state, this area in times to come will become Chinese Occupied Kashmir (CoK). Similarly, China fabricated its territorial claim on Bhutan and is working to eclipse the prevailing Indian influence there.

Is New Delhi prepared to defend its strategic frontiers in Bhutan unlike our timid response in Tibet?

The second phase of the long-term strategy to unravel India based on smaller geographical regions is now underway. After successfully encircling India, the recent spurts in Chinese incursions on the border, objections to the PM’s visit to Arunachal, lobbying against India in ADB, the drama of apportioning official annual budgets for the development of the so-called Southern Tibet (Arunachal), devising opinion polls against India, issuing visas on separate sheets to residents of India from Kashmir, etc., are clear pointers in that direction.

The concluding part of the plot of unraveling the Union, if successful, will remove the challenge to the unquestioned supremacy of China in Asia.

China’s initial thrust succeeded not only in effectively rolling back India’s influence in its external periphery but also helped its proxies to extend their tentacles deep into India, threatening the Union’s internal stability.

Kashmir legally acceded to the Indian Union, therefore  there is no dispute. However, Tibet and Sinkiang (East Turkistan) were forcibly annexed by China. These indeed are matters of dispute. New Delhi should learn to think differently!

Therefore, the second distinct aspect that endangers the existence of the Union is the rapidly increasing internal security threat.

While the external adversary devised strategy to shrink India’s influence in its ‘near abroad’, the individual States’ inability to govern ensured rollback of authority towards their respective capitals. Indian sway unwittingly stands reduced simultaneously, within its borders and in its immediate vicinity. Combined intensity of the external and the internal threat, where each feeds on the other, if not handled with ruthlessness, will unravel India in times to come.

Negligence in governance is primarily responsible and permits the hostile external actors to take advantage of the internal dissent to further their imperial ambitions.

To power itself out of the largely self-inflicted external-internal encirclement New Delhi should work out a comprehensive counter-strategy with an offensive orientation. For an enduring win against the heavy odds, the national goal should be to emerge as the single most dominant power in Asia by 2020.

This aim envisages an economically powerful India backed by extraordinary military capabilities and reach, and formation of potent international alliances that help defend multi-cultural democratic values under adverse conditions in Asia. Instead of endlessly ceding strategic space as in the past sixty-two years, we must learn to fight at multiple levels, and secure and extend our influence in Asia through hard and soft power on land and sea.

Pursuit of this singular national goal will automatically force us to gear up the entire infrastructure, resources, policies and strategies towards the fulfillment of this endeavor. At present, we are an inward looking, bickering, dithering and indecisive nation. New Delhi lacks the key aspiration and therefore the vision, that motivates and impels a nation to excel and achieve worthy living standards for its citizens. Centrality of such national core ambition will remove the prevailing confusion and the attendant aimlessness.

However, to be the pre-eminent Asian power, it is essential that New Delhi first set its own house in order by reclaiming the space lost within to the non-state actors.

…railway lines and roads can move traffic in two directions.  We must ensure military wherewithal to dominate these railway lines and use it to induct our troops in the reverse direction.

Lack of skills and direction, self-serving gimmicks and dwindling integrity in the Civil Administration ended up in handing over the control of forty percent area to the Maoists and ten percent on the borders to the insurgents. It is vital that the State recaptures this space in the shortest possible time frame and establishes its authority up to the borders. Otherwise, India will be the next state after Pakistan to be consumed in by civil war.

Since the Maoists and the insurgents are armed and supported by the external actors, it is appropriate that they be dealt by exercise of requisite military force, before development and effective policing can take roots. The nation is witness to the fact that Indian Police or for that matter the Civil Administration just does not have what it takes to disarm those who wield weapons against the State.

To rapidly develop the sinews of the Civil Administration including the Police to face war like situation brewing inside, it is crucial to inject military thinking and the muscle. First, the State should infuse military talent by offering attractive terms and conditions to the retired military personnel on fixed tenure and contract basis to take the battle effectively into the heartland of Maoists and the insurgents. They are fairly young, have military skills, are motivated, and understand combat in all its hues to take on the Maoists and the insurgents.

Second, from the pool of retired military personnel, create military advisory cells in the Home Ministry of the states and at the centre with adequate resources. Inter-link them with each other on a national grid to develop military appreciation of the situation on the ground and offer clear and decisive options. Third, since its a long haul, the central and all state police forces should pay the Indian Army and the Navy to select and train at least 100 constables each year in their various regimental training centre to augment the armed constabulary. Fourth, Indian Army can select and train a few officer cadets every year for Indian Police Service, in its Officer Training Academy in Chennai on the same tough pattern as the military officer cadets. This will rapidly induct military thinking  and sinews that the Civil Administration urgently requires to fulfill the task at hand.

The success of expanding Chinese strategic reach in Asia is due to the singular fact that, unlike other communist parties, Communist Party of China from its inception has the advantage of precise military thinking inside the party, as PLA officers are integral to it. The above suggestions are particularly relevant to pacifist India, as military thinking in most of the other cultures, is a natural component.

In addition, remove all man made barriers like inner line permits etc to allow inter-mingling of citizenry, and establishment of businesses and industry into the Northeast and Kashmir and other states. While the terrorist, jehadi and the infiltrator forcibly change the demography, citizens are not allowed to settle and buy land in many areas of the Union. Such contradictions besides being illogical defy national integration, consolidation and fusion of the nation into one entity. However, we should avoid forced settlements like the Han Chinese in Tibet or Pakistan in the Shia majority Northern Areas.

India had developed its military power on requisite scale and demonstrated the gumption to use it when and where necessary “Don’t mess with us!”

But of course, the writ of the state cannot be re-established within, unless it can deliver high quality governance and development programs.

If India had developed its military power on requisite scale and demonstrated the gumption to use it when and where necessary in the past sixty-two years, if the foreign office had injected military spine into its policy making, and if the enemy knew that New Delhi would respond ruthlessly if threatened, with a clear message, “Don’t mess with us!” — I am convinced that multiple wars would not have been imposed on India. Neither export of terrorism would have occurred on the scale it does, nor China would have dared to be so nasty. Adequate military preparedness and the ability to wield it tellingly act as deterrence, taking away the cost-benefit ratio of war from the adversary.

To emerge as the dominant force in Asia, it is therefore, essential that offensive orientation in thinking be injected across the spectrum from a young age. This entails confronting adverse geopolitical situations differently to achieve dominance.

Beijing has created an excellent infrastructure of roads and railway network in Tibet that allows them to bolster its hostile posture towards New Delhi. To create similar infrastructure on our side of the border is going to be time consuming.  Therefore, if push comes to a shove, how can we innovate to neutralize the imminent threat posed by the adversary? We should induct massive heavy lift capabilities for troops by introducing fleet of helicopters and transport aircrafts on war footing. Initiation of superior means of mobility for the troops and extraordinary firepower will act as a robust deterrence.

We should create military capabilities to disrupt enemy’s rail supply line to Tibet. Indian thinkers are nervous at China’s declaration to further extend the railway line to Nepal and Myanmar. Brought up on pacifism, they forget that railway lines and roads can move traffic in two directions. Therefore, in case hostility breaks out, we must ensure military wherewithal to dominate these railway lines and use it to induct our troops in the reverse direction.

We must always plan to take war to the enemy using his vulnerabilities!

New Delhi must contest and reclaim the strategic space lost within and in its vicinity. Otherwise, in times to come, the Union will slip into civil war and finally wither away.

Kashmir legally acceded to the Indian Union, therefore, in my mind there is no dispute. However, Tibet and Sinkiang (East Turkistan) were forcibly annexed by China. These indeed are matters of dispute. As sovereign nations, India and Tibet did not have any major boundary dispute. Therefore, illegal occupation of Tibet by China does not bestow on it any legitimacy to raise bogus boundary claims on India. Similarly, Baluchistan was tricked into joining Pakistan. This also can be a subject of dispute.

New Delhi should learn to think differently!

Wielding the weapon of psychological warfare, the Chinese recently prodded their friends in Pakistan to project via the Indian media that this is going to be the Chinese century and in Asia, the American influence is going to disappear leaving Beijing as the dominant power. Therefore, India must decide whether it wants to side with the losing Western Alliance led by America or the winning side led by China? These are symptoms of acute anxieties in Beijing and Islamabad. The presence of Americans in Afghanistan–Pakistan and the growing Indo–US strategic partnership unnerves China.

New Delhi should learn to think differently!

However, despite technological superiority, Americans in Afghanistan without India’s help cannot win the war. They just do not have adequate boots-on-the-ground. Similarly, India on its own cannot prevail in this region and requires assistance of the Western Alliance. There is a synergy of purpose. Equally true is the fact that Americans are fighting India’s war too. If they withdraw from the AF–PAK area, the entire Jihad factory will descend mercilessly upon India to create mayhem. Hence, it is in India’s national interest to synergize with the West in AF–PAK to benefit from the resource rich Central Asia and deny the centuries’ old route of invasion to the adversary.

New Delhi must contest and reclaim the strategic space lost within and in its vicinity. Otherwise, in times to come, the Union will slip into civil war and finally wither away.

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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

Bharat Verma

A former Cavalry Officer and former Editor, Indian Defence Review (IDR), and author of the books, India Under Fire: Essays on National Security, Fault Lines and Indian Armed Forces.

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16 thoughts on “India must counter China’s imperial ambitions

  1. Bride trafficking along the ‘Game Changer’ China-pakistan economic corridor [CpEC]: More than 600 beautiful pakistani girls and women were sold as brides to Chinese men over a period of nearly two years.                               

  2. The conclusion is now completely out of date, given the American withdrawal from Afghanistan.

    The hard fact of the matter is that India has to go it alone. And in order to do so, it will need to radically change its internal political and economic structure – away from the liberalism of the past, towards a radical nationalism, combining realism in international relations with heavy economic protectionism.

  3. Wonderful article, giving hard hitting messages to each and every relevant thorny issue. Offensive orientation and not idealism is the language or the mode most essential to dealt with such rogue neighbours. We did few blunders in past when we sacrificed British inherited extra territorial rights in Tibet to China, signing Panchsheel agreement and then openly accepting Tibet as Chinese territory ( 2003 Vajpai Wen declaration): we lost every thing. Now with Eye on Tibetan water and valuable natural resources China is harping that Arunachal Pradesh is their territory, and India is almost silent to the noise and meekingly respond to confront it. It is still time to wake up from our slumber.
    A must read article.

  4. Dear Bharat Sir,

    As we have twin threat form both enemies and China plans to gift 3 Submarine to Bangladesh this is matter of concern. Also IAF running shortage of 300 Fighter almost 15 + Squadron but Govt poor response on modernization is hurting.
    Atleast MOD must open eyes and go for 6 more Scorpene Subs with 3 to Built abroad at French Shipyard and 3 at Home or Any Russian Subs.

    More over Indias Soft image will be Positive for Pak based JIhadi group.
    Defence Budget need to Hike 4% of GDP. It is sad that Def Min says he don’t have money and also demanded last year 50000 cr but govt turned down.

    FM Chidambaram raised closed to 61000 cr from sell of 2G Licence and addl 30000 Cr from Sell of PSU Shares and Dividend receipt.

    Indias threat will increase Once USA leaves Kabul.

    Govt also has to now think Serioulsy on NFU No First use of Nuclear Weapons atleast against China and Pakistan immediately.


  5. china japan conflicts and the question of tibet should be highlighted .and by improving the economy 2020 goal should be reached. india israel and america nexus is must for counter islamic radicalism and armed communism. cpi maoist is proxy for china and im is for pak. both china and pak are united as well as cpim and im. narendra modi is the only hope. for 2020.

  6. These are critical moments in the formulation of the Indian geopolitical strategy. Indian alliance with the NATO, Japan and Australia is a must for the future security and peace in Asia. Chinese threat must be counterbalanced with a firm military posture and there is no time to waste considering the developments in South China Sea. The goal is not to start a war but to prevent a war. History is replete with examples of the wars where the side that believes it is stronger invariably fires the first shot. The Indian leaders have succeeded again and again in throwing their lot on the wrong side of the history. Since independence India has been in league with nations that don’t have much to show in terms of progress today. Enough of the nonsense of neutrality and non-alignment. None of these mattered when India fought three wars with Pakistan and one with China. Only the military muscle decided the outcome and safeguarded India’s interest. The time is now to learn from the history, join hands with more advanced democratic nations like US, Japan and Australia. Minimize our reliance on Russia which will continue top play second cousin to China in any conflict with that nation. Pakistan will self destruct and need not be the focus of the Indian Military strategy other then putting down the hammer on the Pakistani terrorists where ever they raise their heads.

  7. MR INDIAN chankiya siasat chorin is se aap ko kuch hasil nahin ho ga, kashmir na kabhi aap ka tha aur na kabhi ho ga. kashmir ke roots pakistan main hain jo hum kashmiri hain. kashmir bhe azad ho ga sss, sikh aur maos sub azad hon ge. just wait and see INSHA-ALLAH

  8. The USA , Russia & China are all imperial powers-However after the disintegration of the USSR the 2 main imperial powers in the world are the USA & China..However,China’s imperial ambitions directly threaten the very existence of India.India made a major policy blunder by accepting Chinese rule over tibet.The Chinese strategists also annexed Sinkiang [East Turkestan ]. After having Secured its underbellies,China embarked on a Confrontation with India to Pull india down in the eyes of the world. It is now time that india shed its pacifist policies & joins the Great game of Geopolitics played by the imperial powers.India’s relations with Russia are good though Russia is slowly coming closer to China by the formation of the SCO which is clearly dominated by China & Directed against the USA.Therefore India MUST come closer to the USA & along with Japan work closely to counter China.The USA withdrawl from Afghanistan in 2014 may see the region witnessing Major changes. The Taliban & Jehadi factories may be a source of renewed infiltration across the Border,but the Indian army has managed to contain them. But China may also face the music !! .Remember,if the Taliban jehadists could oust Russia from Afghanistan, they will oust the Chinese from East Turkistan also. India should work towards Tibetan Independence from China & be sympathetic to Independence of East Turkistan also. If China is encircling india, it is also getting the same Treatment from the USA. The Indian Establishment needs to play its cards well in the game of Geopolitical Chess.

  9. It seems impossible that a part of Kashmir be a part of China. Pakistan would have an army, which would seem to have no identity as an army. A strong Pakistan military is good for India too. It appears, that Kargil was a war, where Gen. Musharraf didn’t want the peaks of Kargil, at all. He was intimating, that nuclear weapons didn’t make any such event as the Kargil conflict, a conflict. He might have staked the Pakistan army’s operational ability, otherwise. It seems not a possibility, that he thought the Indian army would not recover Kargil. The bunkers on Kargil, must have been evaluated, by senior army personnel.

  10. Its strange that author is obsessed about China’s “imperial ambitions”. Before i discuss anything about China-India situation in the region. Lets talk about Imperial ambitions.

    There is a nation which has more than 1000 military bases in over 120 nations around the world. A nation which has deployed tactical Nuclear weapons around the globe. A nation which is the only one to actually use a nuclear weapon. A nation which has been involved in most number of conflicts post WW2. A nation which bypass UN security Council whenever it wants even if it means invading another sovereign nations. A nation which created Al Qaeda and Bin Laden. A nation which funds and support terrorists to topple Governments of sovereign nation (Libya and Syria are latest victims). A nation which dictates policies to rest of the world. A nation which is expert in economic warfare and sanctions. A nation which owns IMF and World bank and use them to pursue its goals. A nation which uses Drones across Africa, ME and SE Asia to assassinate anyone, anytime and anywhere. A nation which is responsible for most number of civilians deaths since WW2. A nation where Torture is a State sponsored policy (Water boarding, electrocution, Hypothermia etc).

    The author talks about imperialism. But he never ever has any criticism of the biggest Imperial power in the world.

      • The biggest imperial power is the closest ally of another imperial power that invaded India and ruled it for more than 200 years. This alliance of two imperial powers is what we know as Anglo American empire. I don’t need to remind how many atrocities were committed on us in 200 years of occupation. I don’t need to remind how many Indians were killed during that occupation.

        In present times and context. The author is of the opinion that Jihad factory runs from Pakistan. Pakistan is a just a small reseller of Jihad. The real Jihad factory is in Pentagon. From North Africa to the SE Asia, US has funded and supported terrorist groups as a part of its foreign policy. We recently we discussed Afghanistan. It should be remembered that USA was the one that sowed the seeds of present Quagmire in Afghanistan. Saudi Arabia provided Islamofascists, ISI provided tactical support. It was USA which provided weapons, training, funding and everything that’s needed to prepare Mujahideen to fight against Soviets. These Mujahideen are the most hardline terrorists of today and have spread worldwide. Some of them still on payrolls of America.

        The stability of entire SE Asia is in at risk because of America’s involvement in Afghanistan in past and present.

        Most of time of our independence, we weren’t independent at all. USA has dictated economic, fiscal and monetary policies to India through IMF and World Bank. USA dictates trade policies to us asking us to Boycott Iranian Oil. USA harmed our energy trade with Libya by overthrowing Gaddafi and replacing him with rule of Jihadi Militias. USA has fueled India-Pakistan conflict by silently provoking and manipulating both nations at times. USA is blocking our energy routes of Pipelines into Iran via Afghanistan and Pakistan. USA funds NGOs and Media to subvert India. USA is trying to sabotage Russia-India Nuclear power projects.

        It was Anglo American empire than orchestrated the division of India and created a permanent enemy for us.

  11. india should maintain as a non-allied state in the present cold-war and just work as a catalyst . and further try to engage u.s.a against china. atal bihari signing of tibet in favour of sikkim ultimately leads the tibet uprising in 2008 and develope u.s.a. concerns for tibet.

  12. The actual fault doesn’t lie with the Chinese or any other adversary of India, but within the artificial union itself, which has been created by the short-sighted and British educated elites, who were Britain’s servants that exploited the genuine mass-uprising against foreign rule for their own good. The system thus created was to peruse dynastic rule , while the disenfranchised were kept further and further away from participation. Like the Soviet Union that was to serve its people, but practiced genocide for its collapse, Indian union will soon meet the same fate. This should be a welcome sign for the regional peace and stability. What is the purpose of keeping this monster alive, while there are some 200 million people struggle for one meal a day. Use of force, like the former British occupier, to contain peaceful protest like the Koondm kulam issue, should sound alarm bells for the masses. In any case this setup should be dismantled to protect the many oppressed nations in it, and if Mao’s men would do that with the aid of clever Sinhala Buddhists, then it should be assisted in all possible means.

    • How of Pakistan commiting genocide in Baluchistan and also exterminating minorities like Shias and Ahmedis ? How about China sluaghtering Muslims in Xinjiang and Buddhists in Tibet ? Who should break up these two countries to liberate their masses from oppression ? Should they do it themselves ? Or should they help each other achieve that noble objective ?

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