[op-ed snap] Smart-balancing China

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Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood- relations.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: How to cooperate with China, and related issues


News

Context

  1. The article talks about the IR issues related to China and gives some possible solutions for the same

Possible effect of the Quad Grouping on Sino-Indian relationship

  1. The recent revival of the ‘Quadrilateral’ (or Quad) and the consequent talk of an ‘Asian NATO’ have brought the India-China rivalry back to the limelight

India should be cautious

  1. How to ‘balance’ China will occupy a great deal of India’s strategic attention in the years ahead as China charts its heading towards superpower status
  2. Any such strategising by India needs to be prudently thought out

How will China influence the world in future?

  1. China’s superpower ambitions are bound to have a system-shaping impact on the Asian region
  2. There will be China-led alliances, Chinese client states and the establishment of Chinese spheres of influence
  3. The alleged China connection to the recent ‘regime change’ in Zimbabwe is perhaps a indicator of things to come

Main focus of China

  1. China is ensuring that its access to overseas resources/markets and the oceanic trade routes are unhindered
  2. In doing so, it is increasingly seeking to build military facilities overseas and offset the U.S.-led coalition in the region

Is aligning with the US not good for India?

  1. In the big picture of Chinese grand strategy, India, seen increasingly aligned with the U.S., is a spoiler
  2. Denying India entry into (1) the Nuclear Suppliers Group, (2) repeatedly blocking UN sanctions against Pakistan-based terrorists, (3) and ignoring India’s sensitivity over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor are outcomes of this vision(according to some experts)

Why is Sinophobia increasing in India?

  1. For one, Chinese revisionist claims in the land and oceanic space have been a major source of concern
  2. Beijing’s deployment of naval assets to enforce its claims across the South China Sea,
  3. construction of artificial islands in the region
  4. and the rejection of a UN tribunal judgment on a complaint filed by the Philippines, last year have only strengthened this feeling
  5. China has also been increasing its naval presence, including dispatching its nuclear submarines on patrol, in the Indian Ocean
  6. Second, along with military assertion, China has also been stepping up its political and economic footprint in the region
  7. Third, the ever-strengthening China-Pakistan military alliance and its implications for India

Why is Quad with the US not a good idea?

  1. There are several problems with this approach:
    (1) the U.S. is a quickly-receding extra-regional power whose long-term commitment to the region is increasingly indeterminate and unsure;
    (2) U.S.-China relations are far more complex than we generally assume;
    (3) and Australia is caught between the U.S. and China
  2. While India may have shed its traditional reticence about a strategic partnership with the U.S., it would still not be what Japan is to the U.S.

What should be done on military side?

  1.  Military preparedness to offset any potential Chinese aggression is something that India can and should invest in
  2. But again, Chinese military aggression has really not been India’s central concern, but a China-dominated region in which India is surrounded
  3. Military preparedness, in which we will inevitably lag behind China, alone cannot address such a concern

Strategy of countering China with Trade restrictions

  1. Some have suggested that India should use its $70 billion-strong trading relationship with China as a bargaining chip to check Chinese behaviour
  2. However, doing so would hurt both sides
  3. While it is true that India-China bilateral trade is heavily skewed in favour of China, let’s not forget that China’s exports to India comprise under 3% of its total exports
    (and India’s exports to China is 3.6% of its total exports)
  4. Boycotting Chinese goods would also mean Indian consumers paying more to get them from elsewhere

What should be done in this situation?
First

  1. India would be better served by adopting a more nuanced balancing strategy, a strategy of ‘smart-balancing’, towards Beijing
  2. A strategy that involves deep engagements and carefully calibrated balancing, at the same time
  3. First of all, it would involve co-binding China in a bilateral/regional security complex
  4. Some efforts in this direction are already under way such as India-China joint anti-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden
  5. The two countries could consider initiating regular, structured consultations in this regard
  6. In other words, enhancing security cooperation with China is a sure way of alleviating the persistent security dilemma between them
  7. A mutual ‘complex interdependence’ in economic, security and other domains should be strengthened and front-loaded over zero-sum competition
  8. This security cooperation should most certainly be enhanced in the Indo-Pacific where India should talk of cooperating with China
  9. Language is important: talk about security community and joint efforts than containing China

Second

  1. Second, India should cooperate with and trust China while at the same time keeping Military prepared
  2. After all, the role of military strength in guaranteeing national security cannot be underestimated

Third

  1. Third, India’s response to China’s refusal to act against Pakistan-based terrorists needn’t be strait-laced
  2. However, while China is unlikely to make Islamabad politically uncomfortable by public terror-shaming, the more China gets involved in Pakistan, the less it can afford to ignore terrorism within Pakistan

The way forward

  1. India urgently needs to develop a clear vision for a stable regional security order
  2. And work out what role India would like China to play in that vision and how it can nudge China towards that
  3. Keeping China out of the regional security order is not realistic, letting China dominate it is not desirable: smart-balancing China within such an order is indeed the optimal strategy
Foreign Policy Watch: India-China
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