India has to resist China’s assertiveness
By Ravi Shanker Kapoor
By obliquely objecting to ONGC Videsh Ltd’s exploration in what Vietnam claims is its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea, Beijing has once again shown that its hegemonistic designs are a threat not only to the Far East but also are directed at hurting India in every possible manner—economically, politically, militarily, and diplomatically. It has truly emerged as what American foreign policy expert Michael Ledeen called “a mature fascist state”.
Recently, the Chinese foreign ministry said that it was “opposed to any country engaging in oil exploration in waters under China’s jurisdiction.” The next day, an editorial in The Global Times, a mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China (CPC), threatened India that “serious political provocation” would “push China to the limit.” Beijing was angry that an Indian vessel, INS Airavat, had entered what it claimed were “Chinese waters.”
New Delhi confirmed that the Indian ship was on a friendly visit to Vietnam. It went to assert: “India supports freedom of navigation in international waters, including in South China Sea, and the right of passage in accordance with accepted principles of international law. These principles should be respected by all.”
The incident should be seen against the backdrop of China’s increasingly imperial aspirations. An important element in these is to contain and encircle India, the other Asian giant. Beijing wants to ensure that our neighbourhood remains hostile. It has been arming and abetting Pakistan to jeopardise our national defence and security. It has also been aiding insurgent groups in the North-East so that we continue to fritter our energies fighting them. On September 16, Intelligence Bureau Director Nehchal Sandhu talked about China’s support to insurgent groups in the North-East. Addressing senior police officers at a conference in New Delhi, Sandhu emphasised on the need to review the “fresh evidence of intrusive Chinese interest in the affairs of Indian insurgent groups.”
China has also threatened to undermine our economy. An article published in the Qiushi Journal in February this year, the CPC’s official publication, said suggested that Beijing should use its economic muscle and trade as a weapon to subdue its neighbours. “China’s neighbouring countries need China’s international trade more than China needs them, with the vast majority of China’s trade deficit caused by these countries… China should make good use of these economic advantages and strategic power. This is also the most effective means to avoid a war.”
In its jingoistic pursuits, China sees itself as a rival of the US; and it wants to counter, if not vanquish, America by using all kinds of means. One of them is economic warfare through strategies to contain the US dollar and effective use of international bodies such as the International Monetary Fund. The article favoured alliance with countries with good foreign reserves like India to counter US influence.
China’s arrogance and military build-up have not gone unnoticed in the world. In its 2011 report on Chinese military and security developments, the US Department of Defense (DoD) said that “China has demonstrated occasional signs of assertiveness in Asia.” Further, “the United States and China continue to hold differing views over the rights of coastal states in the waters and airspace beyond their territorial seas.”
Apart from trying to browbeat India and adopting an aggressive posture in the region, China has a penchant for befriending rogue nations like Pakistan, North Korea, and Sudan. Accused of supporting jihadis by the Washington, the Pakistanis, instead of behaving themselves, have decided to get closer to the China—that champion of international unruliness. In the bargain, Beijing got an assurance from Islamabad that the latter would not train Uyghur insurgents. Similarly, China’s relations with North Korea are so good that it is widely believed in the West that Beijing can greatly influence decision making in Pyongyang. China also has excellent ties with Sudan, the African nation that has been spearheading Islamic terror and violating human rights over the years.
In a nutshell, Beijing’s petulance in South China Sea should not be viewed as an aberration or the rant of some irresponsible official; it is in character with the country’s political, economic, and military policies. The United Progressive Alliance regime’s slipshod handling of security matters has only emboldened the dragon which now harbours imperial ambitions. For a change, however, the Indian government categorically asserted its right to navigate in international waters. The assertiveness should be the cornerstone of China policy, for appeasement never checks fascist aggression.
(The author is a freelance journalist).