Enough is Enough | Calling China’s bluff

Enough is enough

Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of G-20 summit, in Buenos Aires. PIB Photo via PTI

I had said it was time for India to say, ‘Enough is enough’ in these columns in the context of China’s bullying ways. I think it is time to reiterate the same message –- India needs to be far more assertive against the habitual bully. 

Our cathedral-like silence in the face of China repeatedly kicking us in the eye is galling, especially when contrasted with our raving and ranting like the devil possessed and chest-beating like a moonstruck gorilla at the slightest provocation from Pakistan.

China first made it a habit of registering shrill protests when our President or Prime Minister  visited Arunachal Pradesh. Beijing had the gall to rudely summon our Ambassador to complain about the Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, even as it runs roughshod over Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, building its Belt and Road Initiative. It continues to trample upon the rights of other nations to navigate in international waters of the South China Sea. It had the temerity to issue stapled visas to Indian citizens of Arunachal Pradesh, going to the extent of denying visa to Bamang Tago, the manager of India’s badminton contingent who hails from that state, to the China Super Series. Beijing flexed its muscles at Doklam. And now, for the fourth time on the hoop, they have prevented Masood Azhar from being declared a global terrorist. China may as well use its veto power in the UNSC to prevent Mount Everest being declared the tallest mountain in the world because it favours K2 on the Pakistani frontier!

China’s double standards, forked tongue and habit of running with the hare and hunting with the hounds are getting increasingly obnoxious and yet, strangely, there has never been a squeak from any of our governments ever; not even from the current one, which otherwise boasts of a very broad chest. It is about time we took a slew of measures to let China know that their bullying and two-faced ways will cost it.

China is crying to be hit where it hurts most, which is, economically.  It is time to bring in a national policy to put an embargo on all imports from China. Of course that would hurt us a tad economically given the imports are typically low-cost, but since when did one ever hurt a hostile opponent without incurring a cost? Also, we could defray some of the pain by shifting our trade more in favour of Taiwan and Vietnam and other Far Eastern economies.

We should establish stronger diplomatic relations with Taiwan, energising the burr under China’s saddle and develop stronger defence relations with Japan, US and South Korea.

But, of course, these measures will have teeth only if our own housekeeping improves drastically. To reiterate, if we have aspirations for a seat on the UNSC and if we are to raise our stature in the international community and stand up to the likes of China, we need to earn every bit of it. We need to deploy the power of economics and diplomatic relations far more effectively in our international relations than we do currently.

While we ban Chinese imports, we need to simultaneously give some real substance to the ‘Make in India’ campaign. We need to go on to develop clean and corruption-free systems and processes for keeping our defence forces upto date. Towards this end, we need to build up our military hardware, speed up and scale up defence R&D and ramp up manufacture of missiles, fighter planes and submarines domestically on a war-footing. 

The quality of our science, engineering and technology institutions should all be accordingly cranked up. Parliament should enable applied research institutions like the DRDO and production companies like the HAL, etc, to become the best employers for the best products of the best of our institutions.

We need to unite the country by launching a concerted war against corruption rather than use communal forces as the binder. Towards this end, we need to urgently initiate key electoral reforms, put a powerful Lokpal in place, deploy IT power so as to minimise the petty bureaucrat’s discretionary powers, improve the judiciary and justice delivery systems and strengthen the quality of governance all around.

China-centric approach

We must constantly remind ourselves that we are a far bigger boy than Pakistan in the international community, and it is time our body-language and action on the ground show it beyond surgical strikes. That means, we should learn to be China-centric in our mindset, rather than Pakistan-centric. True, we are not in China’s league yet. But then, nor was Pakistan in our league, ever. And yet, Pakistan is able to stand up to us while we are unable to look China in the eye. And that’s where we have some learning to do.

No, we do not want or need to be a belligerent power; but we do need to be a strong and confident power. In any case, gone are the days in international polity where guns and bombs alone meant strength and power. Economic strength and diplomatic relationships are perhaps as, or maybe even more, potent weapons today, and especially so if we are to stand up to China.

It is time our politicians worked collectively towards articulating an effective stand-up-to-China policy and implemented the policy diligently. We should be far-sighted, as China is. If we want to break out from the shackles of a victim mindset and emerge a winner, we need to look, feel, be and behave like a confident nation which the ASEAN region, if not the world, looks up to as an inspiring nation. We cannot remain laggards in every index — social, economic, legal, administrative, health or literacy — and hope for the world to respect us or for the likes of China not to bully us.

(Raghunathan is an academic and author)

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