From the Viewsroom

The China Syndrome

J Srinivasan | Updated on June 24, 2020 Published on June 24, 2020

India must realise the power of its opponent and reinforce its own cause

It is well known that China became inward looking 1500 onwards, just after eunuch general Zeng He’s epic voyages circumnavigating the world, long before Portuguese and Spaniards set out to cross oceans. Just over a century later, another Asian giant, India, too became emasculated as the Mughals faded away and the sub-continent was colonised.

The subsequent centuries belonged first to the Europeans and then the Americans. But the 20th Century saw the wheel slowly but steadily turn around, and the faded Asian giants coming back. In the last three decades, especially, China has grown at a blistering pace to loom on the global geopolitical scene. India has made its presence felt, but just.

In 1987, India and China started off almost at par on GDP (nominal) terms. But in 2019, China’s GDP was 4.78 times India’s. Along the way, Beijing also built up a formidable military force. And, now, ‘Emperor’ Xi Jinping is ready to take the Middle Kingdom to the global high table alongside the US.

If Washington sees in China a formidable challenger to its World No 1 status, it has itself to blame, substantially. But for the US opening its economy to China so wholeheartedly, Beijing could not have become the power it is today. In his quest for world dominance Xi has bullied or debt-trapped nations through the OBOR plan — the Belt and Road initiative that runs through nearly 70 countries.

And, when nations like India refuse to play ball, the bully is upset. Problems crop up for them, as on India’s borders. For India, more will follow from China and its client state Pakistan.

So, what must New Delhi do? First, it must realise that it is confronted by a powerful nation, quite unlike Pakistan. Sticking to the iron-clad foreign policy tenet of “each for himself”, Delhi must strengthen India economically and militarily. It is most likely the US, too, will want to curb China and, hence, it makes sense for Delhi to make common cause with Washington, shedding the non-alignment ambivalence. It can also team up with Japan, and possibly Australia, to keep sealanes free.

World powers must realise that India is facing on its borders the first slash of the Chinese sword that will before long cut a wider swathe.

The writer is Senior Associate Editor with BusinessLine

Published on June 24, 2020
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