Opinion Columnists 23 Mar 2021 Abhijit Bhattacharyy ...
The writer is an alumnus of the National Defence College, and the author of China in India.

Abhijit Bhattacharyya | India should not fall for China’s charm offensive

Published Mar 23, 2021, 11:55 pm IST
Updated Mar 23, 2021, 11:55 pm IST
Why do we forget humiliation and treachery when the adversary puts on its benign mask and pretend to place all animosities on the backburner
Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister. (http://in.china-embassy.org)
 Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister. (http://in.china-embassy.org)

Is gullible India once again falling for the Dragon’s charm offensive? After the betrayal and battering this country and its valiant forces faced at the hands of the People’s Liberation Army in Galwan Valley, Pangong Tso, Depsang and Gogra/Hot Springs last summer, and at the Doklam tri-junction earlier, why do we forget this humiliation and treachery when, for good reasons of its own, the adversary puts on its benign mask and pretend to place all animosities on the backburner. How else does one deal with the words of Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, who also holds the weightier post of state councillor, as he appeared to reach out to New Delhi earlier this month: “China and India are friends. Should end suspicion.” “Should not undercut each other.” “Boundary dispute not the whole story”, as the “rights and wrongs of the Line of Actual Control conflict clear”, and “let’s resolve border issues”.

Too good to be true? It’s all beautifully crafted, carefully scripted and tries to bypass the real issues to paint India as the villain, with the aggressor playing the victim card! The press, of course, laps it all up, and forgets to play its real role – to ask the tough questions? Of WHY China is doing this, and at the present juncture. Instead, there are headlines like: “Dragon turns dove, talks peace, partnership with India”.

 

It is a truism – but worth repeating now – that peoples and nations which forget their own history are condemned to repeat it. Have we forgotten that when Chairman Mao’s People’s Republic was born in October 1949, India, which had attained independence just two ears earlier, was one of the first major countries outside the Communist bloc to extend the hand of friendship to the new revolutionary nation? And how did Mao and his cohorts respond to Jawaharlal Nehru’s overture for peace and partnership across the Himalayas? By invading Tibet in 1950, driving out the Dalai Lama into exile in 1959 and then, just three years later, trying to invade India in 1962. For Nehru, who actually believed in the concept of “Hindi Chini bhai bhai”, it was a shock and a betrayal from which he never recovered, but what excuse do we have today for forgetting the lessons of history? Is that what Wang hopes for, that Nehru’s successors in Delhi will similarly be taken in by Beijing acting nice?

 

But why criticise Wang alone? Is he the only one showing India in poor light? Aren’t Indians themselves busy pulling down their country in the face of the Communist Party of China’s ferocious aggression? It’s because China’s biggest consumer-supporters are inside India; along with Delhi’s powerful business and trade elite. So even if India’s Prime Minister ceaselessly impresses upon the nation to pursue the goal of “Atma Nirbhar Bharat”, top Indian corporates are singing a different tune. Said one corporate leader: “We like to believe we are global company… and must continue to trade with China. Because if we conduct our business by excluding such a large country … and market … we will be poorer for the loss of that experience”.

 

This unabashed dependence on China, and by extension of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC), is all pervasive, and extends to the nation’s largest corporations, whose motto clearly seems: “Company first; country later”. This, of course, is true for most large companies worldwide. No wonder several countries, from the United States to Australia, and to China, are now busy trying to rein in mega corporates who have become too big for their boots -- and feel emboldened to challenge the State with impunity!

But some business deals have more serious implications than others. It was recently reported in the Indian media that “Bharti Airtel has awarded a telecom infrastructure expansion contract worth Rs 300 crores to China’s Huawei”. What is disturbing is that Airtel’s national long-distance network – which will carry inter-circle and international traffic, as well as Internet traffic and that from main landing stations – and will now be run by Huawei, which has connections to the CPC.

 

Is this a Greek tragedy? At a time when the PLA soldiers are forcibly entering Indian territory and killing Indian soldiers, a CPC-run Chinese company will earn crores in the guise of managing sensitive, secret, critical communications deep inside India. Is this the kind of unequal war we want to engage in?

That’s a basic contradiction in India today. The PM is pushing for self-reliance, while our corporate honchos appear to have another agenda.

Sadly, the matter doesn’t end there. The entire world knows about China’s global cyberattacks, with India being a priority target due to the CPC’s deep penetration in Delhi. So, when reports emerge of a “Red Echo over India”, there’s hardly a whimper, only deafening silence. It’s akin to acceptance of the Dragon’s malice: with Chinese malware on the rampage, targeting India’s power grid utilities.

 

The Chinese have dug so deep within India that they have learnt to take in their stride the occasional outbursts by Delhi, with some minor glitches like a few anti-dumping duties or the ban on a few Chinese apps – which are really too insignificant for the CPC to worry about. For they know that Indians have a weakness for all things Chinese – from consumers to corporate bosses – just as in the nineteenth century the Middle Kingdom was addicted to Indian produce. Today, in a bewildering role reversal, Indians seem totally addicted to Chinese cars, computers, cellphones, toys and lamps.

 

At the same time, the rising anti-Chinese sentiments among some sections are giving birth to new forces and alliances like the “Quad”. Has Delhi suddenly become the pivot for both the success and failure of China’s geostrategic goals in 2021? As Xi Jinping’s CPC looks ahead to celebrating its centenary on July 1, 2021, this year is critical to establishing the success of “Xi’s Way” in its capitalist wonderland. Beijing thus suddenly feels the need to mend fences, but can Delhi take advantage of such overtures, and for once act in its own self-interest?

 

Post-script: As the “Quad” raises the heat, the Dragon is at it again, trying to blackmail soft target Delhi. A new dam on the Brahmaputra will control the waters flowing into India, and no Indian will get a Chinese visa without a “Made in China” Covid-19 jab. Can India reciprocate, using the same formula to deny Indian visas to aspiring Chinese without an India-made jab? How long can India take this Chinese blackmail, humiliation and battering?

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