Despite tensions, we can do business with China: Ex-NSA

India cannot be ill-prepared while dealing with China: Former Pak envoy Husain Haqqani.

Bengaluru: Experts in international relations put their heads together during a panel discussion of 'Does it have to be India vs China?' at a conclave here on Sunday.

Former Pakistan ambassador to US Husain Haqqani took a pragmatic view, warning India of its lack of preparedness when it is up against China, to counter a more positive view put forth by former national security Shivshankar Menon. The latter had opined that India can tap opportunities, despite the ongoing tussle with China over border issues.

Writer Andrew Small dwelt on the economic situation in China and the debt trap it has created in other countries. "We need to look at the big picture. Doklam is in the news now, but what is China's long

term game? China has an economy which bigger than India’s by five times. Their long term plan is encirclement, that is they want to encircle other countries before the opposite happens," Haqqani said, warning India of its insufficient military spending.

"Pakistan has cast their lot with China and has thought of India as the eternal enemy. India does not understand the long term game of the Chinese. India does not want to fight, but if there is competition, China outspends India 2.5 times in defence. India needs a 50-year plan as well," Haqqan observed.

With respect to encirclement, Menon pointed out that China has a crowded neighbourhood with 14 countries and two friends (Pakistan and North Korea). "China needs the global market. India's external merchandise trade has jumped from 18 per cent to 40 per cent of the GDP since 1991, with focus on eastern trade in the South China Sea. It is therefore about periphery and not competition. India has new friends too in South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, etc. India will co-operate when she can and compete at other places with China. It will be more than just bilateral interplay," Menon explained.

Andrew Small, added that China's market is worsening internally. Most of the private sector is still under China's ruling party, more so than before. Explaining China's strategy with ally countries, Haqqani gave an example of Pakistan and China. "China-Pak relationship is useful in tying down India.

China gets a secondary deterrent from North Korea to threaten South Korea and Japan, so the two countries lose focus on China itself. The same applies to tying down India using Pakistan. It is not that they care for Pakistan's well being," he said explaining their strategy.

According to him, this has already played out in history when India was unprepared during the 1962 war. "India's shortsightedness is its weakness. The fact remains, China has muscle and it is willing to flex it under Xi Jinping. Pak is just a pawn used to keep India at bay. It is time for India to change is approach," Haqqani said.

"India must change from its non-alignment outlook, where they believe everybody is nice. What if everybody is not nice? What will you do then?" he wondered.

Menon on the other hand believes that there are bigger fears than security, as China is an economic superpower. This is not a bad situation, in his opinion, as it creates opportunities for India.

Brushing off the fear factor, Menon said, " What can we do to maximize our interests in the Asia Pacific region? Security is an easier issue to deal with. Maritime interests and terrorism are things that unite the two."

Agreeing that China had an economic advantage, Haqqani said Indian strategic advisors and diplomats need not 'worry', but have to think and plan. "The idea is to have a free and open Indo-Pacific market, which Jinping does not subscribe to. India has to work towards it and it will solve smaller issues like terrorism," he said.

Highlighting China's economic strategy, Andrew said it wants to create debt traps as a counter-bouncing mechanism. "They are using it through Hungary and Greece, which need leverage against Russia. The world needs a good economic alternative to reduce their dependence on China and climb out of the debt trap, created to favour China," he added and asserted that the favour would have to be returned, a point seconded by Haqqani.

Taking the conversation forward, Menon said India treats ties with China like a T20 match, where every move must earn wickets or runs. He felt that India's steps need not be so calculative and concluded, "We need to have a modus-vivendi, which means, we will keep our borders but also work together with China on trade. Now the Modus Vivendi is broken, causing great stress be it the South China Sea or China's presence in our periphery. Does it make sense to seek confrontation with China? India needs to expand its interests and get a life."

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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