Opinion Columnists 30 Jan 2021 Abhijit Bhattacharyy ...
The writer is an alumnus of the National Defence College, and the author of China in India.

Abhijit Bhattacharyya | China is on the rampage: Is India’s elite sleeping?

Published Jan 30, 2021, 7:20 am IST
Updated Jan 30, 2021, 7:20 am IST
On the Republic Day eve, it was clear the Dragon’s aim and design was to devastate Delhi, to bleed India white and to humiliate the nation
An American study published in 2020 shows striking similarities in the methods adopted by the People’s Republic to target both the United States and India as part of its global “political warfare” to further its superpower ambitions. (PTI file Photo)
 An American study published in 2020 shows striking similarities in the methods adopted by the People’s Republic to target both the United States and India as part of its global “political warfare” to further its superpower ambitions. (PTI file Photo)

The year 2021 has begun with a bad omen as the People’s Liberation Army, the military force run by and serving the interests of the Communist Party of China (CPC), repeated its traditional violation of Indian territory, and brutally reminded us of the 1962 invasion, with a renewed thrust into India on Wednesday, January 20, at Naku la in Sikkim, on the Line of Actual Control. This is virtually the same spot where a major clash had taken place on May 9, 2020. If morning shows the day, 2021 could be worse than the 2020 Ladakh, Galwan, Pangong Tso and Chushul-Demchok axis.

We must remember 2021 is the CPC’s centenary year and it will be foolhardy to presume the CPC will allow India, or for that matter any of its target enemy countries, any respite from trouble, or that it will leave New Delhi to live in peace. Xi Jinping, the CPC’s dictator boss and his country’s President for life, must show self-styled narcissism of being a “superpower” in the making. The flexing of muscles, suppressing his own people, playing to the Hans’ gallery… it’s all a part of the wider gameplan.

 

On the eve of Republic Day earlier this week, it was clear the Dragon’s aim and design was to devastate Delhi, to bleed India white and to humiliate the nation. It was also to compel the government to incur an exorbitantly high expenditure in the Himalayas. China well remembers how the once-mighty Soviet Union fell apart with the collapse of its economy in December 1991. If a strong, united Communist Russia could become history in one stroke, what would be India’s fate?

Way back in August 2009, Zhan Lue published an article in a publication of the CPC-sponsored China International Institute for Strategic Studies: “If China takes a little action, the so-called Great Indian Federation can be broken up”. A large section of influential Indians prefer to ignore this because they still regard China as a source of lucrative business, this despite the death of 20 soldiers and grievous injuries to many in Galwan in June 2020. China’s shenanigans have little meaning for some of India’s urban elite given their supreme indifference to these matters. They simply can’t see or choose to be blind to the nefarious games China plays with India, and in India.

 

The extraordinary gullibility of the Indian State is equally unfortunate. More unfortunate is the constant attempt to underplay, or even cover up, the reality at Naku la, Sikkim. India’s forces, at least, must not allow such trust deficit between the State and its citizens regarding China, which ceaselessly targets this country on every front: from foreign policy to defence preparedness to economics, trade, commerce and banking. It unleashes criminals to penetrate deep inside India, entering through the open India-Nepal border.

An American study published in 2020 shows striking similarities in the methods adopted by the People’s Republic to target both the United States and India as part of its global “political warfare” to further its superpower ambitions. The study noted the decline of US understanding to assess the irreversible damage Beijing has been inflicting on Washington in the last 30 years. This is equally applicable to India too, perhaps on a smaller canvas.

 

Just see the headlines about China on a single day in India’s newspapers:

“Chinese using Indian roads for trespass: Nomads asked to vacate traditional grazing areas”; “Uttar Pradesh ATS arrests two Chinese nationals for fraud and money-laundering”; “Chinese troops in Indian territory”; “China trying to undermine India in every international forum”.

But despite all that, we continue to keep talking at the military level and otherwise, in Ladakh and elsewhere, but to what purpose? The PLA has dug in its heels in eastern Ladakh nearly nine months ago and shows no signs of retreating. India’s traditional weak-kneed China policy is too well-known and too well-documented. Yet, the fear psychosis born after the 1962 disaster, due to political ineptitude and military’s professional incompetence, linger. It is in fact strengthened by the added lure of financial benefit to a section of India’s trading class. That constitutes the gravest potential danger.

 

The Chinese have not only sized up Indians but succeeded in what former US President Barack Obama couldn’t do: to fulfil his emphatic desire to prise open India’s markets. China has done what Mr Obama couldn’t do. The CPC succeeded in opening up India’s markets to its advantage. The one-way traffic of goods is “profit CPC” and “loss India” in bilateral trade.

Can the eyes of Indians be opened by seeing how the United States has fallen due to its own collective folly, failure, ignorance, and complacency of the past. The US now belatedly acknowledges that the Chinese resorted to long-term “political warfare”, in which they are “devilishly good”, to achieve their mission, as a result of which America faces an “existential threat”. The CPC doesn’t bother to hide its disdain for democracy, the rule of law, freedom of speech and human rights, and is determined to create a “new Chinese world order based on its totalitarian model”.

 

The CPC is moving ahead viciously to “divide and disintegrate the USA and other foreign nations”. The US had so far failed to recognise that “China” was the real “threat”. The US had always thought that after the Soviet collapse in 1991, it was living in a unipolar, non-threatening world, that led to the closure of its “cornerstone political warfare institutions and capabilities”; having dropped their guard for nearly three decades. The offensive and defensive political warfare skills of the US thus simply “atrophied”.

 

Today, at many American universities, students are generally taught that the People’s Republic is a “partner” and not the real existential threat to the US itself. There’s also a rampant feeling, cutting across departments, that while China “is important, but it’s not my job”. An extraordinarily perceptive book, Stealth War: How China took over while America’s Elite Slept, by Robert Spalding III, narrates the agonising experience of dealing with “it’s not my job” syndrome which today has brought the US to the brink. It’s America today… will it be India tomorrow? Or will India precede America? Will India’s elite, which identifies itself with the United States in so many ways, succeed or precede the US in this respect too? India’s future may depend on that.

 

Post-script: On Thursday, January 28, external affairs minister S. Jaishankar publicly conceded that “India-China ties are under exceptional stress”. What then is the way out?

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