In every nation’s history comes a watershed moment that decides the future course it will take—the way it will shape up as a nation, the place it will take in the comity of nations. It will not be an exaggeration to say that India is standing at one such moment—at an inflection point. The Galwan valley battle, which killed 20 of India’s brave soldiers—and probably more than double the number of Chinese PLA soldiers—was a wake-up call, if any wake-up call was needed about the real face of China. As India-China relations go into a deep freeze, the obvious question is: what next? What next so that China does not treat India as a pushover, a sub-regional power, to be scowled at and swatted away every time it suits its interest—a pushover whose territory is to be nibbled away at will? A military skirmish is always a possibility, as otherwise it looks unlikely that China will vacate the territory it has occupied in eastern Ladakh, with the obvious intention of eliminating Indian presence from, and securing the broader region through which the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passes. Only time will tell if any possible conflict stays confined to this particular region or if its echoes are heard right up to the South China Sea, the Taiwan Strait and even the Sea of Japan. That is the strategic aspect of it. But no strategy can be drawn without taking the economic aspect into consideration. And it is here that India needs to take strong action against China in terms of cutting its dependence on a country which is clearly an enemy. Cancelling a project here and another there, holding up shipments from China for a few days is not enough action, when the danger is that China controls the global supply chain, and thus, by default, India’s too. It can turn off the tap at any moment, leaving India’s strategic goals in tatters. Take the example of telecom, a sector completely dominated by the Chinese. The whole telecom infrastructure of this country is full of Chinese equipment and that also from companies that are alleged to have strong links with the PLA. So India’s communication network is already compromised and is a sitting duck when a crisis befalls the country. Then medicines. India imports from China the bulk of its APIs (active pharmaceutical ingredients) and KSMs (key starting materials) that are needed for the manufacturing of bulk drugs. That supply chain will be anyway disrupted if a conflict breaks out. And these are just two examples. But it is in these areas where China has a chokehold on the Indian economy that China must be blocked—not just to send a message but also to ensure that India attains self sufficiency, if not now but in a few years, and even at the cost of some pain resulting from supply chain disorder. In fact, now that the 5G rollout is about to happen, it will be insane to allow Huawei to participate in the trials and then possibly win the bid, because of the low prices it will offer. It will be like handing on a platter to China 1/3 of humanity’s—a combined population of India and China—metadata, which is needed for developing Artificial Intelligence and which will give China a huge advantage over its competitors. Is this what India wants? Then take Indian military’s dependence on Russian platforms—Russia, which is so closely allied with China that indications are that Moscow will side with China in case of a military conflict in Southeast Asia. But it is Moscow which is supplying India with the S400 missile system, which it has already supplied to China and the fear is that this system will leak like a sieve, with all information going to China in case of a conflict. This is a watershed moment because this is when India needs to choose where it wants to be. Whether it wants to be with the clearly developing axis of China, Russia and Pakistan, or if it wants to be with the “free” world which is being threatened by China. It is in choosing the right path that India’s future depends.

 

One Reply to “It’s time to choose”

  1. China has evolved into India’s “natural enemy” but containing and constraining India at every turn. China did this to itself and to India. However, the same cannot be said for USSR/Russia which stood by India at other inflection points. International relations are fluid and Russia may have moved itself into the China Camp. But for India, China is the natural enemy, not Russia. So, despite global supply chain disruptions, etc., snapping off ties with China will be “easier” than with Russia.

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