Encircling China

India has participated in the newly formed "Indo-Pacific Region" comprising Australia, India, Japan and the United States, but excluding China even though China is the dominant player in the Pacific region. The "Indo-Pacific Region" being seen as an American effort to encircle China with Japan in the east and India in the south. India's participation in the Indo-Pacific Region signals her joining the United States against China—which are the two global centres of power today. This stance of India is driven not by the long term geopolitical considerations but a hangover from the 1962 War that Indians are unable to overcome. In order to put the issue in perspective one has to look at the histories of China and the United States.

The Chinese civilisation is basically inward-looking. Her main problem has been that she has been repeatedly subjected to attacks by neighbours from Mongolia, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Burma and Tibet. About 2,500 years ago during the Chin dynasty the Great Wall was constructed to keep the tribal intruders away. In sixth century during the Tang dynasty, peace was bought by handing over defense to non-Chinese peoples and generals. In the tenth century, the Sung dynasty bought peace with the tribal people in the north by agreeing to pay a yearly tribute to them. In the thirteenth century, Mongol King Genghis Khan captured Beijing. China was encircled by France in Vietnam, England in Burma, Russia in Manchuria and Japan in Korea before the Second World War. The main problem faced by the Chinese rulers has been to protect their territory from such intrusion from the outside. Indeed, Chinese rulers have intermittently attacked certain neighbouring countries but that has been short-lived. In her long history of about 4,000 years China has not ever espoused imperialistic ambitions She has not conquered a single foreign land to plant her flag.

Tibet could be touted as an exception. But Tibet has been under Chinese suzerainty for some history, at least. It also acts as a buffer against foreign invasion from the southwest. Hence its position is more like that of Bhutan and to some extent Nepal with India rather than of an independent nation marauded by Chinese conquerors. Presently the Chinese are trying to integrate Tibet with the mainland economy by building a railway line and settling mainland people in the region. The Tibetan leadership-in-exile considers this to be an affront to the culture of the Tibetan people. But as far as basic economics or politics is concerned, China is behaving like a big brother. The way China is deliberately changing the demography of Tibet and attacking its cultural heritage in effect strengthens China’s imperial posture towards Tibet. For all practical purposes Tibet maintained a status of semi-independence under Chinese suzerainty. It’s no more. Tibet is now China which it was not before 1948.

In comparison, America, of course, has been an aggressive country. Its foundations have been laid on the blood of Native American Indians. European intruders killed the natives mercilessly and forcibly captured their territories. America has launched wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq since the Second World War. It has unseated a number of democratically elected leaders like Salvador Allende of Chile and routinely supported blatantly anti-democratic regimes like that of Saudi Arabia for its commercial gains.

Fundamentally China and India are similar and have lived peacefully with each other for 4000 years for this reason.

The main impediment to friendship comes from the 1962 war. In his book "India's China War," Neville Maxwell had provided a wealth of data establishing that the war was triggered by India's Defense Minister Krishna Menon's reckless "forward Policy." Indian army made various uncalled for incursions in the disputed areas traditionally controlled by China. The Chinese have a saying called "teaching a lesson." It is a part of their strategic vocabulary. As far as they are concerned, 1962 was not about grabbing territory but it was about teaching India a lesson. France has made common cause with Germany despite it having been conquered and marauded by the latter. There is no reason why India and China cannot settle the border issues.

India is caught between two contradictory signals from China and the United States. China has a 4,000-year-old history of peace while it has fought a war with India in 1962. The United States, on the other hand, has a 500-year-history of violence and war but has helped India, for example, by providing wheat as ‘aid’ to overcome the drought of the sixties. Short term events like the 1962 War with China and the food aid in the sixties must be seen as aberrations in the basic character of the two countries.

A friendship between India and China does not suit the clever American cat, however. The United States has employed Indian professors and bureaucrats to ramp up anti-China hype in the country in order to hide its own basic militant character and divert attention to the short term event of the 1962 war. No doubt bureaucrats sing the American tune in the hope that they will be landed with plush assignments in the World Bank, United Nations, other multilateral agencies dominated by the Americans, American Universities and American Multinational Corporations. One former Secretary of Power to the Government of India proudly said that 'the World Bank had given him an assignment that paid Rs 65,000 per day'. He would naturally toe the line of the American masters of the World Bank. Bureaucrats and professors spontaneously toe the American line in the hope of getting such assignments. Thus the clever American cat has got India and China—the two foolish monkeys—to fight with each other.


Vol. 50, No.23, Dec 10 - 16, 2017