Author: Francois Gautier
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: March 5, 2003
There are two giants in Asia – China and India. And when the two are compared, India always comes out unfavourably. Look at the statistics: China gets over US $40 billion as foreign direct investment, while India gets only $2 billion. China had an export turnover of $322 billion in 2002, while India’s will not exceed $40 billion in 2002-03. China’s official defence budget in 2000 was $14.5 billion. In 2001 it was $17.05 billion. The actual figure could be about three times higher at $50 billion. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China, which has 40 members in the 160 member Central Commission, is insisting on a 17 per cent increase in the defence budget next year. China is moving, and moving fast.
Yet, the irony is that India is a democracy, while China isn’t; India is pro-West, while China is deeply suspicious of the West, particularly of the United States; India has been the soft target of Muslim fundamentalism, while China has ruthlessly clamped down on its own Muslim separatism. Yet the West remains totally enamored of China, while completely bypassing and ignoring India, its innate ally in Asia.
In 1948, China understood that its natural competitor in Asia was India, because India could not only match it in terms of manpower, but also in sheer skills and brains. It hit upon a very simple idea to keep India tied-up: It would support Pakistan militarily, even going to the extent of providing Islamabad with nuclear technology, so that it could have its own Islamic atomic bomb. Today, China supplies 70 per cent of military aircraft and main battle tanks (MBT) to Pakistan. Every missile project in Pakistan has been initiated through active Chinese or North Korean assistance and is India specific. The Kargil conflict even saw long lines of Chinese trucks along the Karakoram highway carrying military equipment to Pakistan.
By taking over Tibet, Beijing also made sure it would strategically overlook India. It also kept it destabilised by continuously claiming Indian territories such as Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. Beijing protested the loudest when the BJP exploded its nuclear device in 1998, but this is pure hypocrisy: China has today an estimated stockpile of 400 nuclear warheads ranging from 5 mt to low kt warheads. It has a wide range of missiles from 158 km range CSS-8 weapon systems to the CSS-4 with a range of 13,000 km. According to the CIA, China has transferred one-third of its nuclear arsenal to Nagchuka, 250 km away from Lhasa, a region full of huge caves, which the Chinese have linked together by an intricate underground network and where they have installed nearly 100 Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), many of them pointed at Indian cities. China is also rapidly modernising its blue water navy to achieve its aim of “power projection”. It has a large submarine force of some 71 submarines, though it lacks enough aircraft carriers. China’s immediate naval agenda is to control the sea-lanes of the Indian Ocean, along which a major share of world trade and oil is transported. The US estimates that China would be its main rival by 2015.
China has also been supplying arms to India’s neighbours Burma, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, in order to increase its influence in these countries. To the east of India, China’s close links with Burma has helped it to increase military activities in areas bordering the Bay of Bengal. The Chinese have also built a signal monitoring station in the Coco Islands. They have opened up the old Burma-China road as well as the Irrawady river for traffic. These will facilitate rapid troop movement as and when required. The Chinese navy has already started using Myanmar as a base for operations in the Bay of Bengal and the Malacca Straits. To the south of our country, China is trying to acquire naval facilities in Sri Lanka. To the north of India, China has considerably improved its military infrastructure.
In Tibet, China has constructed some 13 air bases and is laying the Gormo-Laksha oil pipeline to ease its problem of supplying fuel to its forces in Tibet. The problem of supply will further ease with the construction of a rail link to Lhasa on which work is reported to be in progress. On top of that, China still occupies one-third of Ladakh which it took during the 1962 conflict. China has thus thrown an iron ring around India’s neck. Unfortunately, generations of Indian leaders starting with Nehru have decided that India and China are natural brothers in Asia, the infamous “Hindi-Chini-Bhai-Bhai”.
Shortly before China’s attack in 1962, the Indian Army Chief of Staff had drafted a paper on the threats to India’s security from China, along with recommendations for a clear defence policy. But when Nehru read the paper, he said: “Rubbish. Total rubbish. We don’t need a defence plan. Our policy is non-violence. We foresee no military threats. Scrap the Army. The police are good enough to meet our security needs.” We know the results of this very foolish assessment.
Even today, barring Defence Minister George Fernandes, who alone had the courage to say that China is India’s enemy Number 1, everybody keeps mum. Yet the truth is that Pakistan is a small country which has lost all the wars it has initiated against India. Even a nuclear war would be a holocaust for Pakistan, while India would survive. What Indian leaders do not understand is that it is not China that has to be appeased to contain Pakistan; but rather, ultimately, it should be Pakistan that has to be appeased (in the true sense of the term: making peace with) to contain China. Because everything – bar religion – unites India and Pakistan: Their customs, languages, culture, ethnic stock, history. Whereas India and China have very little in common, except Nehru’s elusive dream of a socialist brotherhood.
Unlike Pakistan, China is a huge country, powerful, self-confident, crafty and it beat India hollow the only time the two Asian brothers fought. How come the BJP, which, before coming to power, was the staunchest friend of the exiled Tibetans, has not had the courage to support Tibets’ independence? It would unsettle the Chinese and give them a taste of their own medicine. For the biggest blunder of Nehru was to betray Tibet, a peaceful, spiritualised nation, which had always acted as a natural buffer between the two Asian giants. In fact, the Dalai Lama’s repeated the offer that Tibet be denuclearised and demilitarised between India and China, makes eminent sense today and Indian leaders should immediately adopt this line.
India’s great sage, Sri Aurobindo, had seen through the Chinese game: “The first move in the Chinese Communist plan of campaign is to dominate and take possession first of these northern parts and then of South-East Asia as a preliminary to their manoeuvres with regard to the rest of the continent, in passing Tibet as a gate opening to India”.