Monday, November 22, 2010

The China Syndrome By Harsh V Pant: A Review

By John Cheeran
The problem with India’s diplomatic class is that it does not believe in the argument of power but in the power of argument. The power of argument does not take you far and the rise and rise of China is an example for that.
The Chinese Communist party knows what it wants and goes about achieving it without any moral rhetoric. Not for nothing then Deng Xiaoping said: “It does not matter whether the cat is black or white as long as it catches the mice.” China deals with anyone and everyone if it serves its agenda. It has no qualms about striking strategic partnerships with Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe or dictatorships in Africa or Asia, including the Burmese junta in India’s backyard. It doles out aid to authoritarian regimes in Asia, Africa and Latin America with no strings attached so that it can get what it seeks, be it energy or geopolitical advantage. It has powered Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions, is in many energy deals with Iran and buys arms and ammunition from Israel. It, apparently, knows how to project power.
On the other hand, India’s diffidence in power projections is creating a perception in South East Asia that there is nothing to fear from New Delhi.
Harsh V Pant, who teaches at King’s College in London, in the Department of Defence Studies, flays the Indian establishment in his new book The China Syndrome, for not having a consistent, reasoned policy to deal with the dragon.
Pant is quite blunt in his assessment of India, especially in the backdrop of the recent chatter of India taking its rightful place in the comity of nations, along with the US and China and says India should stop talking about becoming a global leader. He adds that no one takes such claims seriously when India has been unable to get a grip on its own neighbourhood.
Pant excoriates the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) for not conceptualizing a long term strategy, especially when negotiating with China. So one day China is India’s enemy No.1, then becomes a good neighbour and later wooed as India’s greatest neighbour.
Pant chides prime minister Manmohan Singh for buying into the liberal fallacy that assumes only if nations trade with each other more, the world would become more prosperous and peaceful. Sino-Indian relations rely too much on this premise, forgetting geopolitical narrative. So even though China is India’s largest trading partner, India’s relationship with the middle kingdom remains uneasy.
India’s inability or rather unwillingness to see the world as it is rather than as it should be has become the bane of its foreign policy, argues Pant.
He writes that China is not a malevolent, sinister international entity out there to demolish India. It is a state which is simply pursuing its own strategic interests in a hard-headed fashion on its way to achieving the status of a super power.
Tibet lies at the heart of the deep distrust between India and China. Pant correctly observes that the world is not willing to confront on China on any issue. That makes Sino-India relationship all the more challenging.
2010 marks 60 years of the Chinese occupation of Tibet. The Chinese conquest of Tibet in 1951 should have led to a fundamental reassessment regarding China’s motives with respect to India. And, India lost the 1962 war with China.
Yet, even in 2010, China’s gradual encroachment of Indian territory continues to surprise the Indian leadership, writes Pant.
India needs to urgently review its defence prepardness vis-à-vis China. The real challenge for India, however, lies in China’s rise as a military power. In the post-26/11 scenario, it has been pointed out that India seems to have lost even its conventional superiority over Pakistan.
The very fact that the United States is willing to back India in its quest for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council stems from the Obama administration’s strategy to contain an ever rising China, militarily as well as commercially, making use of India as its bulwark in the East. It is now for the Indian establishment to play the game.

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