THE then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, sincerely tried to maintain good relations with Chinese leaders Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, individually as well as institutionally. However, he misread the situation and died shattered and distraught after the Himalayan blunder. Even 58 years after his death, Nehru is blamed for the ills plaguing India-China ties.
To an extent, the criticism of Nehru’s failed China policy is justified because he did ‘over-trust’ the Dragon even when unfavourable and adversarial signs emerged from the October 1950 Chinese invasion and forced occupation of independent Tibet.
Understandably, India’s wounded psyche took time to recover from the humiliation and ignominy of the 1962 war. A long interlude of inactivity, therefore, was inevitable as the Delhi-Beijing bilateral went in deep freeze. Nevertheless, when relations thawed, and bilateral trade began at the turn of the 20th century, the very first year (1999-2000) saw Chinese exports worth $1.282 billion coming to India, and $539.04 million imports from India. New Delhi’s recurring adverse trade balance had begun. The inaugural year’s $743.85 million trade deficit was a bad omen for India. Yet, the beginning of bilateral trade also raised the hope of a rapprochement between the two unfriendly Asians.
Fast-forward to the current decade. Among other things which propel Beijing-Delhi ties, trade indisputably has taken the centre stage, with an exponential growth. But, yet again, trade has created problems rather than subdue Chinese hostility towards India. India’s trade deficit is heading towards and beyond an unbridgeable $100 billion-plus by March 31, 2023. The soaring ‘current account deficit’ today constitutes a major political headache and embarrassment for the Indian establishment.
Things, however, did look promising during Communist Party of China (CPC) supremo Xi Jinping’s visit to Ahmedabad in September 2014, which was reminiscent of the 1950’s spirit of “Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai”. Like Nehru, Prime Minister Narendra Modi initially showed bona fide intention to be friendly with an enigmatic and erratic, but a potential, enemy nation. The present Prime Minister must take a cue from Nehru’s China fiasco to avoid being harshly judged by history. It’s time to draw a line of point of no return. Delhi must reorient its China policy to avoid inflicting self-injury or scoring an own goal.
It’s, therefore, time for New Delhi to see through the Chinese psyche and take a hard look at recent bilateral exchanges. A peep into Mao’s ‘Red Book’ and volumes of political thoughts would reveal as to what extent Xi, the present CPC-PLA core leader, claiming himself to be a reincarnation of Mao, has become a veritable megalomaniac as far as India is concerned.
China doesn’t recognise India as an equal sovereign nation because the CPC-PLA duo only understands power, money, military power and vassals who kowtow to the Dragon. However, it knows that New Delhi is the biggest and most formidable hurdle to its ambitious projects — from the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), establishing a diplomatic mission in Bhutan to unbridled entry to smaller South Asian territories for access to the Indian Ocean, capturing landlocked states, control ports, economics, commerce, banking, communication and sabotaging rivals’ polity.
The recent chronology of India-China events, however, shows that things are becoming quite menacing. The June 2017 Doklam incident was a desperate, devilish design to devour the Druk behind the back of Delhi’s defence and diplomatic corps. In April 2019, India walked the extra mile to Wuhan to mend ties and followed it up at Mamallapuram in October 2019. Indeed, India even coined the acronym ‘Strength’ for better bilateral ties — Spirituality, tradition/trade/technology, relationship, entertainment, nature conservation, games, tourism and health/healing. But it all went in vain.
The Dragon would have none of it. Instead, China, having tasted India’s market accessibility, would like to have its way to further expand and consolidate its own prosperity and profitability to reach the pinnacle of world economy. India has bound herself to China’s money power. Hence, despite the Galwan killings of Indian soldiers, China didn’t lose her Indian market presence one bit.
There now exist at least four Ts through which India is suffering as the CPC-PLA inflicts ceaseless economic injury on Delhi. The first T is $100-billion trade deficit, the second is territory slicing which compels India to divert hinterland development funds to the Himalayan frontier, third, the CPC-PLA abetment to terror in the Indian neighbourhood and the fourth, Chinese telecommunication companies' mastery of the craft of looting through fraud.
The most deceptive of the Chinese acts, however, is to turn bilateral issues into real or potential multilateral problems. Thus, the ‘bilateral’ Jammu & Kashmir issue is now trilateral owing to PLA’s forced occupation of Indian land. What happened in Doklam was an act of desperation to throw India out of Thimpu and open the Dragon’s diplomatic mission in Druk land. The Maldives, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are all on the CPC-PLA radar to undermine the Indian influence there.
What then should India do now? Drastically curb one-way trade because it gives a destructive advantage to China. The CPC-PLA earns billions of dollars from Indian traders. Compare this $100 billion-plus loss owing to individual profits of say 1 million traders to $100 billion-plus remittance of 10 million working-class NRIs. Whereas traders bleed India, reducing foreign exchange, the millions of Indian workers are replenishing the foreign exchange kitty, thereby helping India reduce its annual fiscal deficit.
India must understand that there are numerous ways in which China eats into Indian economy. The Dragon swears by profit and self-interest despite harping on the pipedream of ‘collective prosperity’.
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