"Jhoolanomics" and "Jumlaanomics" Don't Tame the Dragon
India was left squirming at the latest incident of the Chinese intransigence on NSG, clearly “Jhoolanomics” (swinging merrily on the banks of Sabarmati) and “Jumlaanomics” (“The Chinese are not opposing membership of India in NSG”) is not working! Charm offensives make for great photo-ops and internal impressions – but these don’t make for compelling plans on the hard tables of international diplomacy. China’s expected snub was projected as a sudden shock, this for a nation that had blocked declaring the Jaish-e-Mohammad Chief, Maulana Masood Azar, a terrorist at the UN, just three months back.
Deciphering the dragon has never been our strength – from the ‘Hindi Chinni Bhai Bhai’ debacle of 62’, to the simultaneous presence of 350 Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers in Chumar region (J&K), just when the supposed chemistry of the Chinese President Xi Jingping and the Indian Prime Minister was sizzling in Ahmedabad, is a testimony to the consistent, iron-fist-in-a-velvet-glove stance of the Chinese. The two nations and their respective governing instincts are as dissimilar, as can be – hence, requiring the hard nosed rigour of the old fashioned diplomacy that recognizes, appreciates and modulates the mutual differences, and then templates the course of future alignments, striped of the hyperbole and razzmatazz.
Base disengagement emanates from a fundamental difference – The Chinese are crystal clear about their “end-game” and have a strategic roadmap to accomplish the same, no amount of collateral damage will detract them from pursuing the same. Whereas, India is excited about its future but has not envisaged or chiseled the contours of the accomplishing the same – moreover, India suffers a debilitating lack of strategic culture.
The defining Indian concept of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakm’ (Whole Earth is one family) leads to uber-noble positions of contemplative passivity, where “means” become more important than the “ends”. For the Chinese, “ends” are all that matters, so there are no questions of morality involved in the realpolitik of befriending and abetting “rogue nations” like North Korea, Pakistan or the erstwhile, junta-ruled Myanmar.
Similarly, the bottom 4 countries in the “Fragile State Index” of the world i.e. South Sudan, Somalia, Central African Republic and Sudan, are the recipients of the dragon’s largesse and strategic outreach, ignoring the ethicality of dealing with some of these governments, as long as the road to the “end-game” hegemonic reign of China is paved through these nations. Perversely, India’s vibrant diversity and liberal instincts in conjunction with the system of participative democracy necessitates certain behavioural constraints on the governmental actions that are simply swept away in the Chinese context of a determined one-goal and one-plan, existence.
Critically, the Chinese diplomacy is multi-dimensional encompassing elements of geo-political, ideological, economic and military imperatives in consonance with each other – whereas, Indian diplomacy is inadequately meshed with the economic and military dimensions. CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) is a classic and brazen example of a multidimensional strategic sweep that serves the political, energy and security dimensions. Indian diplomacy is more unidimensional and therefore perennially struggling to comprehend the dragon’s contradictory moves (e.g. the joint presence of the Chinese President and the PLA soldiers on Indian soil, simultaneously) – perfecting the art of running with the hare and hunting with the hound.
Unwavering continuity and long termism is a Chinese specialty – whereas, alternative political dispensations in Delhi add, delete and modify the texture of Indian diplomacy to postulate and propagate varied positions, styles and intensities, whilst engaging in the contentious issues like border disputes, infiltrations, alignment in multilateral forums etc. Therefore, the tenure, tonality and terms of Indo-Chinese engagement do not retain their line, serious rigour and clarity in the inching forward to make continuous headways e.g. the recent hyperactivity and accompanying dosages of nationalistic testosterones saw an unprecedented censure by the pro-government Chinese editorials calling India ‘spoiled’, ‘smug’ and alluding to “adulation”.
The unitary government-party structure in Beijing affords a certain a speed and purpose to all actions that can hardly be matched by any other country. No protracted internal alignments are sought and interacting countries are enfeebled by the pace of decision making and strategic outreach by the Chinese. An outward looking culture with the promise of a Chinese domination or era has captured the popular imagination and strategic thinking, whilst the Indian diplomacy and language seeks to impress and pander internally, a lot more that scoring mean international goals. The multi-hued composition, clarity and persistence of the Chinese negotiators is dangerously holistic and ambitious. Nepal and Maldives were two providential opportunities that were virtually offered on the platter by Indian mismanagement that were rapidly lapped up and usurped by the Chinese.
Recent setbacks to direct Indian interests has spawned some wrongly inflated belief of an India-infatuation and India-centricity in all Chinese moves – whereas, the view from Beijing is a lot less dramatic and direct, with India increasingly seen as an important cog in the US wheel or calculus, however, the real devil and competitor for the dragon is unequivocally the United States of America. The Global Times editorial alluded to same by stating, “US backing adds the biggest impetus to India’s ambition. By cozying up to India, Washington’s India policy actually serves the purpose of containing China. The US is not the whole world. Its endorsement does not mean India has won the backing of the world. This basic fact, however, has been ignored by India.”
Internationally, Chinese make convenient bedfellows, they do not lecture countries on democracy, secularism, human rights and ostensibly practice “non-interference” (read, Nepal) – this is in sharp contrast to the preachy and judgmental, “Brahmanical idealism” of India. The Chinese therefore have the sworn loyalties of the most dispossessed and disowned nations, whilst the Indians spend millions to earn the fickle loyalty and votes of unsure and uncommitted nations, ensuring the age-old prominence to the “means” deployed for garnering support, as opposed to the Chinese style of the, “ends justifying all means”.
With the Chinese, India clearly needs to cut down the futile pyrotechnics, shenanigans, lower the decibels and self-righteousness. First and foremost, is the invaluable task of defining a strategic vision and roadmap with clear deliverables, milestones and imperatives – this ought to be encompassing a holistic perspective of geo-political, economic, social and military dimension.
This “position” should be protected and promoted in the spirit, as originally conceptualized and envisaged, irrespective of the change of ruling political dispensations in Delhi. Clarity and consistency of line and purpose should define the terms of engagement, whilst, nippy realpolitik of engaging like-minded countries in countering the dragon should muster adequate firepower and numbers to trigger the requisite changes with hard bargains in multi-lateral forums, as countries like China do not get impressed or moved by emotional pathos.
The Chinese truly understand that the real power “flows from the barrel of the gun” – the gun in this case could be a joint economic or joint military bloc (there is an increasingly dragon-wary line of nations from Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Australia, Thailand to now perhaps, even Myanmar).
Hope is a very bad plan with the Chinese. At one level it is very simple, to ward off the Chinese you need to “out-size” them – economically or militarily, since neither is logically possible in the near future, given the existing scale of differences, the answer lies in joining hands with like minded anti-dragon countries and formations. As, Sun Tzu says, “Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting” – a hard working and uninterrupted engagement, along with some innovative realpolitik is the only way to tame the dragon.