India’s Friendly Gestures towards Both will find NO Reciprocity
When in 1998, India’s then Defence Minister George Fernandes described China as a bigger enemy for the country than Pakistan he was pilloried by the opposition Congress party and others sharing warm vibes with the Communist giant.
Subsequent developments have gone to establish how right he was.
- China’s incursions into Indian territories (Ladakh/Aksai Chin, Arunachal Pradesh and other border areas) are routine despite an agreement between the two to respect the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
- The inroads China has made into India’s South Asia backyard – Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, etc., helping with massive infrastructure development in those countries and boosting trade
- An ambitious push with a vision for South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), aided by Pakistan, gelling with its Silk Road Vision
Not Good News for India: It has now emerged that Pakistan is China’s only real ally, and not North Korea. It may be taken to mean that China has no real friends given its expansionist ambitions and behaviour as a big bully.
But it is not good news for India, given that China has become buddies with all of India’s neighbours.
“China is potential threat number one,” Mr Fernandes had said then when the BJP government led by Mr A B Vajpayee was in power.
Vajpayee Unhappy: The BJP leaders themselves, including then Prime Minister Vajpayee, were seeking to distance themselves from the statement in an effort not to jeopardise relations with China.
The backlash made Mr Fernandes, a socialist leader, tone down his anti-China stance, even visiting Beijing later – the first Indian Defence Minister to do so.
But when you act with no spine, ties can seldom improve. India will only present itself as a weak country that can be trampled upon with ease.
There has been a certain degree of paranoia over China’s might, resulting in India’s leaders staying reluctant to visit Arunachal Pradesh that is a part of the former’s expansionist aspirations.
Some of the reasons that Mr Fernandes had advanced to describe China as a greater threat than that of Pakistan are:
- The stockpiling of nuclear weapons in Tibet along India’s northern borders
- The training of Myanmar army by China
- Alleged illegal building of a helipad within Indian territory by China
One-Sided Displays of Trust and Warmth: Importantly, 1962 remains a grim reminder about how China backstabbed India, establishing that trust and warmth were one-sided displays shown by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
China is not going to be perturbed by the report about a lack of real friends. Its economic clout is supported by companies from the West amid all the anti-China rhetoric emanating from there.
India has to rethink its strategies with regard to Pakistan. Whatever friendly gestures India may make towards Pakistan it is unlikely to find reciprocity. China will take precedence over India for Pakistan.
Unless India becomes an economic superpower it will only be seen as playing second fiddle to China. Gaining economic strength and upstaging China will only be a pipedream as long as the BJP government lives under the illusion that majoritarianism and its mediocre leadership can take India forward.
G Joslin Vethakumar