Handle China’s military intrusion deftly

G Parthasarathy | Updated on June 01, 2020

India must deploy adequate military power in the Ladakh region while maintaining a sustained dialogue with China

China’s ruler, Deng Xiao Ping, paid the first ever official visit by a Chinese leader to the US in 1978. Chinese propaganda had whetted the appetite of American businessmen, who were led up the garden path. The Chinese promised that scores of American companies, marketing items from Coke, Pepsi and shaving blades, to agricultural products, would benefit in China’s market. Some American business and media honchos even imagined that they would soon be swimming happily, in a bottomless Chinese market.

The Americans fell for the Chinese ploy. The Chinese soon got all the technology, money and capital they wanted from gullible Americans. China soon became an indigenous, industrial Goliath, with an annual trade surplus of $323 billion with the US, and foreign exchange reserves of $3,400 billion. This dwarfed Japan, with reserves of $1,387 billion and India, with reserves of $473 billion.

China’s policies for taking the Americans up the garden path, now lies in tatters, after thousands of Americans have died, thanks to the coronavirus, which emerged from Wuhan. China has, meanwhile, prematurely persuaded itself that its hour of fame has come, to become the unchallenged global leader. This propensity of China, to dominate markets abroad, has featured in its efforts to influence in India.

China has been continuously growing its annual trade surplus, now amounting to around $60 billion, has disturbed policy-makers in India. With India’s economy on a Covid-19 tailspin, Prime Minister Modi and others are understandably advocating economic “self-reliance”. China has been increasing its market presence in India, in areas ranging from electronics and power generation, to artificial intelligence, construction, and solar energy. Chinese business practices ensure that there is no transfer of technology to partners.

The Indian telephone industry, and indeed India’s entire electronics industry, is a classic example. The Indian smartphone market is rapidly expanding at 7 per cent annually, when smartphone sales worldwide have fallen by 6 per cent. India’s smartphone market is dominated by Chinese cellphone maker OPPO and three other Chinese brands — Xiaomi, Vivo and Huawei — who face some competition from South Korea’s Samsung. The combined sale of Chinese smartphones in India is estimated to exceed ₹50,0000 crore.

Chinese telecom companies openly and aggressively operate and compete in India. But what the Chinese transfer to India is merely “screw-driver technology,” involving mere assembly of components, produced in China. India’s concerns also arise from moves led by Huawei, for domination of India’s entire communications infrastructure. Huawei is Beijing’s principal instrument to dominate global communications, by promoting its 5G telecommunications networks.

Huawei has over 3,000 employees in its “Research and Development Centre”, in Bengaluru. The higher managements and planning structures of Huawei, in India and elsewhere, are exclusively Chinese. Recent revelations about China’s efforts to purloin technology from Western countries, principally the US, are now raising doubts worldwide, about China’s questionable business ethics. The US and its European allies, are set to be far more careful in their business dealings with Chinese companies, like Huawei.

Failure to indigenise

Despite its growing domestic demand for electronics products, India has been a miserable failure in indigenising its electronics industry. The time is now ripe for drastically changing our approach to indigenous development, of our electronics industry. We need to first and foremost, overcome hurdles to developing a robust electronics industry in the country, including basics, like the development of facilities for producing semi-conductors and computer chips.

Huawei is also Beijing’s principal instrument to dominate global communications, by promoting its 5G telecommunications networks. The Chinese domination of our silicon chip industry, however, now appears set to end. Recently imposed US sanctions against Huawei’s ‘Hi Silicon’ chip division, described as the “tool of strategic influence” of China’s electronics industry, will put Huawei in a difficult situation. According to American experts, Huawei will not be able to manufacture at all, or if they do, “then they are not the leading edge anymore”. We will, thereafter, be left with four centres of excellence in the crucial fields of computer chips and semi-conductors — the US, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

India has been treated casually and in a less than friendly manner by China, on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. India, has, however, for once, showed courage in its dealings with the Government of Taiwan, when two BJP Members of Parliament recently participated in the swearing in of the gutsy, re-elected Taiwan President, Tsai Ing-wen.

India is well-positioned now to respond to Chinese allegations that we are interfering in their internal affairs, if we have political level links with Taiwan, for economic cooperation. India could pointedly refer to the huge economic involvement of China in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK), which we regard as Indian territory, and to Beijing’s regular contacts with political leaders in PoK. China has prematurely overplayed its hand, after the Covind-19 developments commenced, in the belief that it was irreversibly heading to replace the US, as the most influential global power. Faced with allegations that it had acted less than responsibly, when the coronavirus crisis broke, China responded aggressively. This, at a time, when every country in the world was and continues reeling, under the pernicious, life threatening impact of Covind-19.

India has also been treated casually and in a less-than-friendly manner on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. China, however, recently received an unexpected setback in the World Health Organization, when 130 out of 190 members, including India, voted for holding an inquiry into events leading to the emergence of the deadly coronavirus. There is no doubt that the virus emerged either from research in a government laboratory in Wuhan, or from the Wuhan Wet Food Market, from where the infection was evidently passed on to humans through bats, snakes, bamboo rats, camels, pigs and hedgehogs, which are commonly available in the market.

India is naturally fully focussed on the recent, well-planned Chinese military intrusions in Ladakh. New Delhi has handled such Chinese intrusions in the past in a carefully crafted manner, involving matching troop build-ups on its side, during the Chinese intrusion into Arunachal Pradesh (Sumdorong Chu) in 1986, and in Doklam, across its borders with Bhutan, last year.

The present intrusion will have to be handled, as in the past, by deployment of adequate military power, accompanied by a sustained dialogue. Dealing with such issues in a cool, calm and calculated manner, eventually pays dividends. Such challenges from China presently are going to remain, a fact of life. A serious review of our economic and defence policies is required, to meet existing challenges.

The writer is a former High Commissioner to Pakistan

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Published on June 01, 2020
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