India – “Keep It Real” with China – Words from C. Raja Mohan

Last week, we described how recent Indian behavior with China was analogous to the behavior of Indian Kings towards British East India Company in late 18th & early 19th century. That British trading company was an agent of a Britain on its way to becoming a global power.

Today China is on its way to become a global power and India is right smack in the middle of that way. So it is imperative for India, in the words of C. Raja Mohan, to “inject much-needed realism into Delhi’s China policy”. Surely, realism is the cornerstone of any country’s foreign policy, right? Wrong because India’s policy has been anything but realism-based, according to C. Raja Mohan. How does he describe it in his article in Indian Express?

  • Through the second term of the UPA government, Delhi has allowed
    ideological romanticism and political timidity to overwhelm common sense
    in dealing with China. Worse still is the relentless mystification of
    Chinese policies. Consider the recent psycho-babble in Delhi about the
    logic behind China’s Depsang intrusion.

According to Mr. Raja Mohan, Chinese behavior is only to be expected:

  • “historians of
    international relations tell us that rising powers tend to demand a
    revision of territorial status quo
    . Confident of its expanding economic
    and military clout, Beijing is doing precisely that…The problem, then, is not about the opaqueness of Chinese intentions; it is entirely about Delhi’s self-deceptions.”

What are some of Delhi’s self-deceptions, according to Mr. Raja Mohan?

  • “Delhi persuaded itself that a China currently preoccupied with territorial disputes in the east would make nice with India. This is rooted in a profound misreading of Beijing’s sense of its own power, and a terrible underestimation of the new Chinese determination to make good on its long-standing territorial claims everywhere, including those against India. Delhi deluded itself that a boundary deal with Beijing was around the corner, even as the evidence pointed in the other direction. China had, in fact, walked back from the earlier understanding, arrived in April 2005, on a three-stage solution to the boundary dispute.”

These self-deceptions resulted in a bad bet by the Indian Government:

  • “The UPA government also bet that by reinventing the rhetoric of non-alignment and slowing down its relations with the US, it could persuade Beijing to do the boundary deal. This, again, has been a massive misjudgement of Chinese attitudes….”

This is exactly the bet regional Indian Kings made 250-200 years ago when they bet on appeasement of the British East India Company as the way to deal with the increasing might of that British private company. And the appeasement of this Indian Government is even worse than that of their ancestors 250 years ago. As C. Raja Mohan writes:

  • “In the last few years, Delhi has bent over backwards to assure Beijing that it will not join the US, Japan and Vietnam to contain China. Beijing has offered no such assurances to Delhi. It has persisted in deepening its long-standing strategic alliance with Pakistan. China has expanded nuclear and missile cooperation with Pakistan in defiance of international rules, and signalled that it will help Pakistan maintain strategic parity with India.

Such appeasement is in Indian blood. As we wrote last week, Indian leaders always react with panic during a military crisis with an invader and post-crisis gloss over their defeats with verbose rhetoric. Mr. Raja Mohan seems to share our views because he advised this week:

  • “In dealing with these imbalances, Delhi must discard its current diplomatic style towards China, which involves pushing difficult issues under the carpet, masking major disputes in resounding rhetoric about anti-Western solidarity, and conflating enduring interests with empty slogans.”

So what should the Indian Government do?. Mr. Raja Mohan opines:

  • Chinese leaders are steeped in the realist tradition and appreciate the logic of power politics. Li might respond more positively to a frank discourse from Singh than Delhi’s self-deceptions that have so misled India’s Chinese interlocutors.”

Here is where we disagree with Mr. Raja Mohan. Delhi is not deceiving itself. Indian leaders understand themselves just as well their ancestors did 250 years ago. They know they are weak, they know they have always been defeated. They have learned over 1,000 years that fighting a strong determined invader leads to humiliating defeats. This deep-seated inferiority complex, this deep-seated fear of inviting military conflict by angering invaders, is what leads India’s leaders to avoid building up their military strength. So they make their fear, their weakness into a virtue and cloak them with noble words about peace & goodwill towards neighbors.

Just read what Prime Minister ManMohan Singh said in his speech this week about their part & alliance (UPA):

  • UPA is working to realize your dream of an economically resurgent, socially just India.

Notice the complete absence of any mention of military strength. A strong India with a dominant military is simply not an objective of today’s Indian leaders. If they cannot even talk of a dominant military, can they do anything except try to appease China?

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