India’s key stakes

US-China Rivalry

By Dr. D.K. Giri
(Prof. International Politics, JMI)

The rivalry between the US and China should intensify until one of them, mainly the latter concurs in the US position as sole super power, that it has been since the disintegration of the Soviet Union. The rivalry manifests currently as trade war, US imposing taxes on Chinese products, sanctions etc., but it runs much deeper covering many other facets. India has a lot at stake in the US-China competition, and unless, it plays its cards well, it may lose heavier than China, or USA.
I intend to adumbrate India’s approach to US-China turf war, as evidently, New Delhi’s China policy appears to be muddled. My contention, which I have elaborated in this column in last two weeks, in two consecutive pieces, is that Nehru fumbled on China, made big mistakes for which India has to face serious negative consequences. Worse, the NDA governments principally the present one, now facing elections, could not correct the fault lines although it claimed to undergo a radical departure from the Nehruvian approach both in domestic and foreign policies.
How should India redraw her strategy vis-a-vis China, and especially in the light of US-China contest for world supremacy? Before that, we should unravel the rivalry; identify its nature, dimensions etc.
From the China watchers in USA, it is understood that the US would need China to be a market based economy, which is open to competition. It should also facilitate free trade under WTO rules. The second big concern of USA is to protect its intellectual property from theft and forced transfer by China. The Trump administration has made it crystal clear that, unless these two issues are addressed by Beijing sooner than later, there will be a bigger trade war to the detriment of China. So Beijing can no longer soft-pedal these issues.
Evidently, China is attempting to steal intellectual property in order to become a leader in the areas of space technology, artificial intelligence, Robotics and quantum computing. China wants to take over USA and India in software in the foregoing four areas. The United States has detected the threat and is drastically re-adjusting its China strategy to address it. Is India doing the same? One is not sure.
On global expansion, China is trying to outmanoeuvre US through its ambitious Silk Road through Italy to Europe, through Pakistan to Central and South Asia, and through Bangladesh to South-East Asia. All three countries targeted by China are the failed States and are vulnerable to Chinese economic power and domination. But the European Union, at the behest of the US or otherwise, is trying to dissuade its member-State Italy from falling into the Chinese trap. They are contemplating vetoing Italy’s joining the Silk Road.
Why has India not done such a thing to pull two SAARC members out of Beijing’s grasp? India has failed to wheedle Bangladesh out of falling into Chinese debt trap. New Delhi has declared Pakistan as its sworn, incorrigible enemy, while it is quiet on China’s aggressive agenda. The current government found Pakistan-bashing easier than taking on China.
True that Pakistan’s nefarious intentions and actions have to be rebuffed with a multi-pronged retaliation. Yet, we could pause a bit and explore if New Delhi daring China would also hold Pakistan back. Pakistan on its own is incapable of inflicting any damage on India. Islamabad was earlier using dubiously the US support to foment trouble in India, now it is doing so openly with backing from Beijing.
Talking of the economic warfare, the key to Beijing’s internationalism, the US is not interested in low cost manufacturing that boosted Chinese economy, and as the FDI to China depletes, New Delhi should quickly step in to replace China as the manufacturing hub of the world. India enjoys the same comparative demographic and labour advantage as China did. New Delhi is lagging instead of adopting an aggressive posturing on this.
The US has its focus on space and military superiority using automated planes, ships, submarines, tanks and drones etc. The US thinks that it is unbeatable in these areas, and it can control the space better than anyone, and can prevent the militarisation of the space. India is catching up slowly after it has launched its satellite this month. It is now one of the four world powers in space technology, USA, Russia, China and India. Yet, admittedly, it has a long way to compete with other three in this field.
China is an authoritarian State, suppressing any form of dissent. It believes that its command economy is better managed than those of USA and India who facilitate free market in a democratic political structure. China also believes that its quasi-police State with state control of politics and economy is more conducive to growth and governance. Beijing wishes to advocate its model of growth as better than those of USA and India, and other countries believing in freedom of speech, free enterprise etc. It has built a state capitalist economy, and the next stage, according to Marx, is imperialism, and China is ostensibly trying to move to the next stage. In its quest for the status of world power, China sees India backed by the US as major threat. Beijing competes with Washington and sees New Delhi as a ‘thorn in the flesh’.
Strangely, New Delhi fails to recognise the Chinese threat and is falling into Chinese trap. New Delhi is not forcing a permanent resolution of the boarder conflicts with China which keeps racking it up to justify conflicts and continued antagonism. India is likely to concede its edge in software as it is not building the embedded technology driven by artificial intelligence. New Delhi must do all it can to retain the market edge it possesses internationally. It must identify the areas which China is focusing to beat India.
Beijing is wanting to bleed India by supporting her neighbours – Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Maldives, Myanmar and even Bhutan. It is trying to drive a wedge between India and US, so that the latter does not build India as a counter-weight in its Asia strategy. New Delhi failed to see this during Nehru era, and even now. Narendra Modi took a non-confrontational approach to China, which weakens India. One is not sure if South Block is aware of China’s designs on India, or is taking an ostrich-like attitude.
To be sure, if China becomes stronger, neutralises US vis-a-vis India, it would make India a subservient State. It has already sounded its bugle on India. It claims Arunchal Pradesh, a large State of India in the North-East. It has said it would not accept the next Dalai Lama from India. There are many more contentious bilateral issues China raises off and on, in addition to encircling India, having bought-into her neighbours.
My strong contention is India has earned Chinese antagonism forever by sheltering Tibetan leadership and Dalai Lama. Why is it still wanting to play the balancing-game which made us the loser in the past and will do so in future? Why is India avoiding deeper military cooperation with the US and pursuing a go-alone strategy? Why is it taking one step forward and two steps backward towards China? These are the questions the present government must answer in the election time, not seek a mandate on Pulwama alone, and purely an anti-Pakistan stance. —INFA