A few years back, the then Defence Minister of the NDA government, George Fernandes created quite a furore when he stated that China was India's enemy No. 1. Was he wrong?
On the face of it, trade between India and China is booming. Indian IT companies are entering the Chinese market. Indian manufacturing companies are poised to leverage on China's low cost manufacturing. We are too happy to import anything Chinese. We apparently crossed the Great Wall, ever since Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's Beijing visit in 1988.
On the other hand, India remains the only country with whom China has not moved an inch for resolving the border disputes in Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh. China has still not recognised Sikkim's amalgamation into India. Every now and then, whispers are heard of Chinese incursions across the border and ensuing skirmishes. Very recently, there was a news on an evacuation from Nathu-la. A major skirmish was suspected. There was complete silence from officials.
And if you think these are small insignificant incidents, then sample this. China has followed a policy of encircling India, creating a "string of pearls". It is building a naval presence In Myanmar. It has set up a "listening" station in the Coco Islands of Myanmar, to snoop on India's missile test site in Orissa and ISRO facilities at Sriharikota. Not too much is known about the two deep-water ports being constructed by China at Kyaukpyu and Sittwe. Undoubtedly, these strategic assets can be used against India if the need arises.
Sri Lanka has been a significant recipient of Chinese military aid to help it fight the LTTE, while India looked the other way (though it is rumored that Indian military strategists and intelligence assets were readily made available to the Lankans). Further, the Chinese are building a port at Hambantota, in southern Sri Lanka. This is suspected to be a naval base and fuel bunkering facility for the Chinese.
Chinese involvement in Nepal is well known, so is their de-facto alliance with Pakistan. The Chinese have been heavily investing in the development of the Gwadar port in Baluchistan which is strategically located at the head of the oil tanker routes in the Persian Gulf and is rumoured to be a future naval base. Their investments in Gwadar would give them not only energy security but also an opportunity to choke oil supplies to India.
It is also suspected that when Pakistan decided to go nuclear immediately after their 1971 debacle, the Chinese not only did help provide (read: proliferate) nuclear technology to build the bomb, but also allowed the Pakistanis access to their Lop Nor nuclear test site in Xinjiang, much before India went overtly nuclear in 1974. Such support is continuing till date. Hasn't China signed the NPT?
Arming the Pakistani military was always a non-issue for the Chinese. The Chinese have apparently facilitated the transfer of North Korean missile technology to Pakistan, which was the foundation of the Pakistani IRBM programme.
The Chinese have also built the Karakorum Highway right from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir into Xinjiang. This undoubtedly is a strategic asset for both countries - China gets a road access to Pakistani ports in the Persian Gulf while all-weather road transport facilitates Pakistan's easy access to heavy-duty Chinese military hardware. China has very smartly propped up Pakistan, as a constant threat, a constant pin-prick to keep India occupied to further its agenda of dominance.
China is also focussing on building a strategic relationship with Bangladesh, along similar lines.
China has played quite a dubious role in promoting insurgency movements in the North-East as well as the Maoist and Naxal movements all throughout the mineral rich areas of eastern and central India. It is a clear attempt of weakening India from within, an act of war, which we have failed to recognise till date.
A few weeks back, on August 8, 2009, newspapers here covered an article, authored by Zhong Guo Zhan Lue Gang, which appeared on a Chinese website (http://www.iiss.cn/) captioned 'If China takes a little action, the so-called Great Indian Federation can be broken up'. The article which been analysed on rediff.com clearly talked about breaking India into 20-30 pieces.
Clearly, the Chinese are following Deng Xiaopeng's doctrine of "Keep a cool head and maintain a low profile. Never take the lead - but aim to do something big." They appear to be overtly warm and friendly but do not spare any opportunity to undermine India.
Talking of undercutting, Chinese intentions became crystal clear when the Indo-US nuclear deal was being culminated and the Nuclear Suppliers Group was considering the US sponsored India-specific waivers. The Chinese all along indicated their support but started dithering just before the vote. It took a desperate phone call from the then US President George W. Bush to the Chinese President Hu Jintao at 1 AM Washington time to get the Chinese on board.
Chinese lobbies worldwide have been fairly active in supporting the grand objective that China has. Australia under Prime Minister John Howard was quite eager to start uranium supplies to India. However, John Howard was succeeded by Kevin Rudd, who has been experiencing an orgasm with China, as he has himself said!!!! Now Kevin Rudd had been a relative unknown on the Australian political theatre and his election was marked with controversies of Chinese funding benefiting him directly! Australian blogs have sarcastically been calling Rudd a Mandarin Chinese!
Now Rudd did a complete U-turn on assuming office - he stymied all attempts to sell uranium to India citing a stand of non-proliferation. He tries to project an image of maintaining a moral high ground, but his actions are quite suspect. On whose insistence is Rudd taking this stance? I think we have sufficient clues on this.
The scramble for resources has led both India, China and other powers into Africa. The Chinese have very often outbid all other competitors. Very often this has achieved by bribing successive regimes. If the incumbents do not oblige, the Chinese arm insurgents. The Chinese have had quite a success in acquiring such assets, but their subsequent actions and attitudes towards the locals have brought fears of a second round of imperialism. This has happened in Zambian copper mines and tin mines in the Congo, besides other African countries. Chinese "neo-imperialism" has been well covered in the international press, including the The New York Times.
Why is China playing the Great Game to outbid, outsmart and keep India on its toes?
The answer lies within China.
China is a multi-ethnicity rag-tag union held together with an iron fist. The recent Uighur unrest in Xinjiang and the Tibetan protests in 2008, which were spontaneous but heartfelt, indicate a very strong undercurrent which would erupt at any moment the fist loosens.
That is precisely what the Chinese establishment is scared of. It needs to keep the economic miracle running. This can be sustained only by gobbling up whatever resources are available.
India can possibly be the only challenge that China faces for dominance in Asia. "How can India (despite being a multi-"ethnicity" country still thrive?" is a question that bothers the Chinese establishment. It therefore has to prove a point that India is a horrible example to look up to. This is a point which has to be proved at any cost. And Pakistan, Bangladesh, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) do the job well for the Chinese establishment.
India, in a sense, can also be called a multi-ethnicity union. But the difference lies in the a benevolent governance here unlike an iron fist. While there is discontent from time to time, every "ethnicity" does get a voice, is heard and issues do get sorted out.
That is something which is hugely comforting, but is not enough till the Great Game is on. Sadly, few Indian governments have ever recognised the Great Game.
The Chinese philospher Sun Tzu had said "For, to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill." China is doing just that.
The Great Game is an all out war, without combat, without war being declared. George Fernandes recognised this fact.
India needs to recognise that the Great Game is being played.
India needs to evolve a set of carefully calibrated strategies to play Great Game. I would be talking of some of these strategies in my subsequent blog posts.