Only our fears can encircle us

Discussion in 'Defence & Strategic Issues' started by ejazr, Sep 27, 2010.

  1. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    The Hindu : Opinion / Lead : Only our fears can encircle us

    Instead of being alarmed at China's growing inroads in the region, India needs to take a harder look at its own role and find new ways to win neighbours and increase influence in the region's growth story.

    No one would accuse Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of being alarmist. So when, addressing the Heads of Missions last month, he spoke of paying close attention to “global powers exercising influence in the Indian Ocean Region,” it was assumed that the Prime Minister was genuinely concerned about China's growing role in the region. When he spoke to editors some days later about his concerns on China again, the assumption was sealed.

    India's growing concern rose from two factors — the first, Beijing's sudden decision to provide Northern GOC General Jaswal with a stapled visa, saying his command includes a ‘disputed' region; and the other, newspaper reports that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) had approximately 11,000 soldiers in Gilgit-Baltistan, digging tunnels and posing a direct threat to India across the LoC.

    Diplomats on both sides now say they are ‘sorting out' the visa issue, with Beijing on the back foot, particularly given that General Jaswal has travelled to China in the past. Meanwhile, the reported build-up in PoK was aggressively denied by Beijing and Islamabad, both insisting that the troops are there to help contain flood damage, and the impending threat of the Hunza dam overflowing, and also to work on the Karakoram Highway project. India's suspicions that China's army is now securing its land route to the Arabian sea via PoK have nonetheless grown, given that China has also wrested control of the Gwadar port back from the Singaporean Port Authority. The development ties in with the fear of India being choked by a strategic “String of Pearls” — a U.S. Defence Department term for China's ambitions for bases in the Indian Ocean Region. With Gwadar in Pakistan, Hambantota in Sri Lanka, Chittagong in Bangladesh, and the Sittwe port in Myanmar, it would seem the string is slowly turning into a choke-chain for India.

    At one level, the fears of China overrunning Pakistan to open a front with India may seem far-fetched, even hysterical. At another, it may be a much needed wake-up call for India to reassess its preparedness to counter an increasingly assertive Chinese military. At an entirely different level, New Delhi's alarm in the past few weeks could be most constructive if it ensures that India takes a closer look at its own role in the region, and why China is making headway with so many of our neighbours.

    Take Sri Lanka that has many reasons to welcome Indian investment. Whether it has been the tsunami, the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), or the post-war demining and rehabilitation effort, Indian agencies have been at the forefront to help. And yet, as Sri Lanka recasts itself as the Singapore of the region, it is China that is its biggest infrastructural investor, bagging many coveted projects given China's deeper pockets. Much of it is a result of Indian apathy – the Hambantota port, for example, was offered to India first. New Delhi's lack of interest in developing this strategically located harbour was easily the gain of China, which worked double time to complete the project with $60 billion funded from China's Exim bank, building the port, the city centre, the airport, a stadium, and a massive convention centre. Many in India worry that Hambantota's future could include a Chinese naval base too.

    While Indian concerns about Hambantota are well known, practically no one speaks of the port project that India does have, in the northern town of Kankesenthurai (KKS). Originally, after the tsunami, the project was handed to the Dutch, but after India showed interest, the Sri Lankan President tore up that contract and invited India to build the port. Yet 18 months later, this harbour near Jaffna has seen little by way of construction; even a feasibility survey taken in June 2010 has not yet been finalised. Meanwhile Hambantota will receive its first ship in November, some six months ahead of schedule. The contract for the Colombo port has just gone to a Chinese consortium — no Indian company having even tried to bid for it. Given that the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC)-Sampur coal 500-MW plant is already delayed years beyond its 2011 deadline, it is hoped that other projects India has committed itself to including the northern rail line, the Palaly airport and the Jaffna stadium will be dealt with more expeditiously.

    While many in India would see these projects essentially as aid to a needy neighbour, it is time to invert the prism and see them, just as we accuse China, as ways of increasing our footprint and extending our ambitions to a sphere of influence well beyond our land mass.

    In January this year, a historic agreement with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina seemed to redefine how India would deal with its neighbours. Amongst a slew of agreements came India's $1-billion credit line — for 14 infrastructural projects. Even while the agreements were being finalised — Dhaka delivered some of the most wanted United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) militants. Despite opposition cries of a sell-out, Sheikh Hasina's India deal won her accolades in Bangladesh. Yet it took eight months before Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee flew to Bangladesh to operationalise the credit line, and by the time he reached, India had decided to change its earlier offer of $1bn at one per cent interest to 1.75 per cent — terms that took many in Dhaka by unpleasant surprise. Also, unless India relaxes its trade barriers to Bangladeshi goods, it will be accused of exploiting the transit rights only for its own benefit. It is hoped that Dr. Singh, whose trip to Dhaka is imminent, will address some of those concerns. Meanwhile China has moved into the delay gap on projects like the Chittagong port with ease, funding much of its refurbishment, as also the construction of the second Padma bridge, as it vigorously pushes MoUs on road links via Myanmar and a rail line connecting Beijing to Dhaka — as part of a $2.2-billion Chinese package on infrastructure.

    A bolder move, but one that would win many hearts is to consider lifting tariff and non-tarrif barriers and duties unilaterally in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) region altogether. Suspend the reality of our relations with Pakistan for a moment to think about the impact of ending such protectionism in a year that has so devastated Pakistan's economy. According to estimates, the destruction of standing crops on two million hectares has virtually wiped out Pakistan's staple revenue from export of cotton, rice, and sugar. The country will be dependent on importing these for the next few years. With 77 million people likely to go hungry, and Pakistan's projected growth likely to fall by half to about two per cent, it is only natural that China's interventions in flood relief, rebuilding destroyed roads, schools and bridges, aid and trade will grow. The question is: will India watch with its customary alarm but do nothing?

    On our other frontiers, it must be said, the government has made some moves — increasing development aid to Afghanistan to $1.2 billion and discussing a $1-billion dollar credit line to Myanmar as well. Describing some of these initiatives at Harvard University this month, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said: “Today, with sustained high economic growth rates … India is in a better position to offer a significant stake to our neighbours in our own prosperity and growth.” It is equally important to stand that assumption on its head, and consider India's stake in the prosperity and growth of its neighbours. Whether it's Mauritius or Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Afghanistan or yes, Pakistan — these are countries with close cultural, linguistic, historic ties to India no other country can match. As a result, it shouldn't be possible for China or any other superpower to encircle a country like India. The only thing that encircles us is our fear that they will.

    (Suhasini Haidar is the Deputy Foreign Editor, CNN-IBN.)
     
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  3. johnee

    johnee Elite Member Elite Member

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    This is called 'red' journalism. As long as the subject is China, 'cHindu' will see no threat whatsoever...
     
  4. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    ^^I think you missed the point of the article which was written by a CNN-IBN reporter. Its basically talking about how to tackle our neighbourhood constructively rather than always be reactive to Chinese moves.

    At an entirely different level, New Delhi's alarm in the past few weeks could be most constructive if it ensures that India takes a closer look at its own role in the region, and why China is making headway with so many of our neighbours.

    It is fine (to an extent) when babudom causes the failure of CWG as it doesnt' directly affect national security. When they start delaying improvement in bilateral ties with neighbours its a matter of national security. Look at the case of Sri Lanka, similarly the delays in implementing deals with Bangladesh in particular the border deal. All of these are allowing China to move in. Myanmar is another example where India has been just paralysed and watching with just "alarm" at what the Chinese are doing. The main point being that we have to give a stake of prosperity to our neighbours and show that joinig India would give them more prosperity by actions not just words.

    It is equally important to stand that assumption on its head, and consider India's stake in the prosperity and growth of its neighbours. Whether it's Mauritius or Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Afghanistan or yes, Pakistan — these are countries with close cultural, linguistic, historic ties to India no other country can match. As a result, it shouldn't be possible for China or any other superpower to encircle a country like India. The only thing that encircles us is our fear that they will.
     
  5. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    China is no longer the apple of the eye for Asian countries given her hegemonic aggressiveness as observed in the latest spat with Japan.

    Notwithstanding, it is ideal time for India to be proactive.
     
  6. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    The 1962 moment

    India must not permit China to misread the CWG disaster and shame for strategic unpreparedness, says N.V.Subramanian.

    27 September 2010: China's contempt for India's strategic capabilities and resilience would have doubtless risen after the huge ratty publicity attending the disastrous and shameful Commonwealth Games' organization. Whether or not such a link exists is besides the point (it does not), but there is danger that China will misinterpret such a connection, because it scarcely understands India, Indians, Indian democracy or Indian society.
    And when China understands or misunderstands any rival power to be weak, the consequences could be harsh. So it is up to the Manmohan Singh government immediately to correct the picture with China, which is nearly regularly now showing one or the other signs of aggressiveness. The latest according to the wire services today is the doubling of hostile PLA border patrolling in parts of Ladakh where it is embarked upon illegal military infrastructure buildup. In the short- and medium-term too, India has to integrate itself to face China, because it is also undergoing political, military and politico-military transformations of its own that will hugely impact South Asia besides the rest of the world.
    China will get a new leadership in twenty-twelve with vice-president Xi Jinping likely succeeding president Hu Jintao and vice-premier Li Keqiang perhaps premier Wen Jiabao. This is the succession picture as it looks now which could alter but seems unlikely. Xi does not fit any of the traditional slots of "populist" or "elitist" although he is both plus a "princeling" and part of the Shanghai faction. Li is more robustly "populist". But both suffer from the handicap of limited international exposure as do others of their generation particularly at a time when China, as the number two economy and a rising superpower, needs a markedly worldly-wise leadership.
    This is not to suggest China is entering a phase where it may politically flounder but it certainly increases the responsibility on the existing leadership of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao to stabilize the country and contain its international concerns before handing over charge. At least some portions of China's current aggressiveness in India's northern and north-eastern borders, in the Indian Ocean, and in the South and East China Sea, may arise from anxieties of the current Chinese leadership seeing the future uncertainties.
    China's present aggressiveness also relates to the growing nationalism of the PLA and with the rising profile of the PLA Navy (PLAN), Air Force (PLAAF) and the Second Artillery Corps cutting into the historical pre-eminence of the land army. Because the army increasingly has been deployed in aid to civil authority (in flood and earthquake relief) and in suppressing uprisings in Tibet and Xinjiang, it has gained a considerable upper hand in the political calculus. And since China's economic and strategic security critically depends on free and unimpeded access to international waters, the other non-army PLA forces have shot up the hierarchy of the Central Military Commission.
    In a nutshell, the military has become dominant in a logical and organic manner. But at the same time, the Chinese political leadership transformations have been opaque, hard to explain or understand, and the particular transition to Xi-Jinping-Li Keqiang, if it happens, is saturated with imponderables. It is of course dangerous to exaggerate the coming political shakeup in China. But it is also true that the country has to do considerable additional balancing now than ever before to stay on course, which may demand more from the next generation of Chinese leaders than they are capable of delivering. In other words, China has entered a period of flux, where the military while not anywhere close to seizing power is becoming dominant and nationally assertive.
    Consequently, countries sharing land borders and seas with China growingly will feel its heat and be singed if they do not foresee and understand the dangers and take robust countermeasures. Specific to India, it would be perilous to let slip an impression abroad -- and especially to China -- that the CWG disaster reveals a lack of political will and somehow profoundly reflects India's strategic unpreparedness. It would not be an overstatement that China will misread a nineteen-sixty-two moment in this.
    N.V.Subramanian is Editor, The Public Affairs Magazine- Newsinsight.net, and writes internationally on strategic affairs. He has authored two novels, University of Love (Writers Workshop, Calcutta) and Courtesan of Storms (Har-Anand, Delhi). Email: [email protected].
     
  7. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Antony hints at military threat from China


    PTI First Published : 06 Oct 2010 08:15:55 PM IST
    NEW DELHI: In an apparent reference to China, Defence Minister A K Antony on Wednesday said India's neighbours are building military capabilities at a "feverish" pace and the country needs to be "vigilant and prepared".
    Without naming anyone, he said some nations were keen to "incite" threats to India's unity and integrity and stressed the need for securing the country's land, air and sea borders in view of the current security scenario.
    "Our neighbours are building their military capabilities at a feverish pace. To successfully meet such challenges, the need for us to be vigilant and prepared at all times goes without saying and is unquestionable," he said.
    Antony, who was speaking at the Field Marshal K M Cariappa annual memorial lecture here, did not name any particular country but was clearly referring to China which has been boosting its military capabilities close to Indian territories.
    China has been deploying missiles and constructing road infrastructure along the Indian border and recent reports suggested that it is also developing military infrastructure in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
    Antony pointed out that the strategic and geo-political situation along with the compulsions of history posed unique challenges for the country.
    Observing that country's economic success story, democratic political system and pluralistic society are an object of admiration and envy for several countries, he said, "Some nations are keen to incite threats to our unity and integrity."
    He said the prevalent security environment "necessitates securing our land, air and sea borders to effectively guard against traditional threats to our land borders, defending our airspace and protection of our maritime energy supply routes."
    At times, the strength we derive from our political system and social fabric throws up challenges, but the nation has by and large responded to these challenges in a mature and a peaceful manner, he said.
     

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