By Dr Jay Dubashi
Power seems to have gone to China’s head. She has started using abusive language towards India, something she had refrained from doing earlier. It is true that most of the shouting is now being done by its newspapers and news agencies – including the official agency, Xinhua – but in a dictatorship, it doesn’t really matter who is doing the talking, or who seems to be doing the talking, for in a dictatorship not even a dog can bark without a signal from the master. And the real master is always the government.
The Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC) recently signed an agreement with Petro Vietnam on cooperation in the field of oil and gas, a perfectly legitimate commercial deal that has nothing to do with China. It was not a clandestine agreement signed behind the back of Beijing. It was actually signed in New Delhi on October 12, 2011 in the presence of our Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Vietnam’s President, Truong Tan Sang. In fact, there have been a number of such agreements earlier, beginning with one entered into in 1988, that is, more than 23 years ago, to which there was no reaction from China.
Of course, in 1988, China was not the country it has since become. China now seems to think it has proprietorial rights over the South China Sea which it claims as its own. South China Sea is not a little pond in China’s back garden. There are several other countries who would like to explore for oil and gas in the Sea, including Myanmar, Taiwan, Cambodia and Australia. “By currying favour with China’s neighbours, in particular those who have disputes with China, India is instigating these smaller nations to engage in a gang fight against China and contain China’s growing clout in the region,” said the article in Xinhua.
These are strong words but nothing compared to the slur in the reference to India’s defeat in 1962, “at the hands of the Chinese army.” This defeat is really the source of India’s deep-seated mistrust towards China, the article affirms. It goes on to advise us that “to grow up to be a real power and stand as a sound competitor, India first and foremost needs to break through its inferiority complex.”
In other words, we are not really a competitor to China, if that is what we aspire to become, and we are not a real power either. India is just a paper tiger with a terrible inferiority complex vis-à-vis China and should not ruffle feathers of countries like China, if we know what is good for us.
Can anything be more plain? This is the kind of language Hitler used to use before World War II, and before he started invading those countries. This is also what he used to tell the Allies, particularly Britain and France. And it is precisely this kind of language that China is using towards India.
Oil is only an excuse. China has been active in the North-East for a long time and has a grip on the northern frontier. This is well known. What is not so well known is the fact that Chinese vessels are prowling the Bay of Bengal possibly with an eye on a naval offensive through the straits of Malacca against Andaman and Nicobar group of islands. China has increased its presence in the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal. There are reports that Chinese fishing vessels usually make the rounds in the Bay of Bengal opposite our Eastern Sea Board, cleverly staying in international waters whenever India announces test firing of our missiles or space carrier rockets. There are other offensive activities also on the Himalayan border as also near Kashmir in conjunction with Pakistan.
India is not the only country China has an eye on. US President Barack Obama was in Australia last month when he signed a security agreement with Sydney for a defence base in Darwin, the first of its kind in Australia, where there will be a contingent of US marines, about 5,000 strong, obviously to keep an eye on Chinese activities in the South China Sea, close to the area where India and Vietnam will be engaged in oil and gas exploration activities. The Chinese have still not reacted to this development.
China used to be a very poor country, with a per capita income even less than that of India. It is still a poor country, but there are so many Chinese that their total income adds up to a huge amount, making the country the second largest in economic terms to United States. There is speculation that at the rate the economy is expanding, China will be No. 1 country in the world in another 15 or 20 years, in economic terms.
China as No. I will be quite different from China as No. 98 or 140, which it has been so far. And this seems to have unhinged the Chinese – Chinese government as well as Chinese newspapers. Otherwise, you wouldn’t expect Beijing newspapers to write the kind of stuff they have begun to do, exactly the kind of stuff German newspapers used to do before Hitler & Co. started attacking its neighbours.
China is itching to be No. 1 in Asia, before going on to claim the world title. And it cannot be No. 1 until it has first dealt with India, its only rival in Asia. This is not going to be easy. Germany wanted to be No. 1 in Europe and then, the world, and fought two world wars, which so exhausted the country that it gave up forever its ambition to be No. 1. China is shrewder than Germany – after all, it is an Asian country – and will tread carefully before it strikes. Even if it does not strike frontally, it will make forays into Indian territory from time to time, as it is doing now.
All this talk that what the Chinese newspapers are writing, and threatening, does not have official sanction, is nothing but wishful thinking. In a dictatorial country like China, nothing happens unless the government wants it to happen. We should, therefore, assume that the threatening language in recent news stories – inferiority complex etc – comes straight out of Beijing. China is spoiling for a fight and we cannot say we have not been warned.
There are only two rivals in Asia, and there cannot be a No. 1 until one of them eats, or is made to eat, a humble pie. China seems to think that, because of its economic clout, it will be able to carry the day. This is what Hitler & Co. also believed until all its enemies ganged up to finish it. Some countries may be eager to do business with China but that does not mean they are happy, with it. It also does not mean that the world will come to India’s aid if she (India) is attacked. There are lots of Chamberlains in India, but we should start looking for a Winston Churchill, for, in such cases, only the Churchills can slay the dragon.