In India there are two ancient sources from which we should learn our diplomacy after duly taking a bow: Chanakya & China, in that order. Both great masters, the latter with 3000 years of governance continuity. Not only China, many strong global players have taken note of coming to power of Narendra Modi with a type of plurality and a resolve to use it that has made these countries sit up. USA, Japan, UK, EU, Russia and China among others. What could be the reason. The reason is that they realise that with firm government under a strong leader after a decade of paralysis India's economy and military strength could go up significantly in as little as five years and definitely by 2025. It means that India is very much likely to become a global player sooner rather than later. At that stage the country, if still under strong leadership, will no longer be punching below its weight. The charm offensive by China is the most significant. They realise that a confident Modi-led government could and will play a pivotal role in Southeast & East Asia without having to look over its shoulders at the USA or elsewhere. Having factored in the likely trajectory they want to ensure that Narendra Modi does not go all out to take India's relations with Japan to new strategic heights as is likely to be the case as things stand. China will try and prevent such an outcome even if it has to make significant concessions at this point in time as sweeteners to the new government. As is being done by NM India should match China's sweetness from its side without giving up its options of strengthening its flanks, which is the sine qua non of any military strategy. On its periphery and in Asia India's flanks should rest on Vietnam and Japan in the East and Afghanistan in the West. Should that come about India would have assured its minimum level of security, in fact much more. It should be noted that China is pushing ahead with its claims in the South China Sea, it makes sense to have a tactical or strategic pause with India and see to it that India thereby does not significantly alter its position. Further India's policy makers cannot fail to note that China has continued and will continue to strengthen its alliance with Pakistan, further empowering it in every possible way. It will continue to make inroads in Nepal, Sril Lanka and further to our West and North.
Having said that, in the long run, may be a decade or two from now the best case for peace and stability in Asia has to be a high level of rapprochement beween China and India. There can be no doubt on that score. That rapprochement would entail not only the settlement of the boundary question; it would include free movement across the Himalayas via Nepal and Tibet all the way between New Delhi and Beijing. The time for that state of well-being will come only when China and India negotiate as equals or near-equals.Stable relationships can only be assured among equals.
May 30, 2014
* Attention is invited to the paper presented in 1998 "Dealing with China in the 21st Century
", especially the models therein projected for China's growth trajectory. China had not yet taken off. These models and the paper were scrutinised in the West and elsewhere, not so much in India. Reference is invited to book 'Restructuring South Asian Security
' that came out in 1980. It had good global reception. Based on this book the writer has been invited by several governments, especially in SE Asia as keynote presenter at several global fora on the South China Sea. Most recently he was a special invitee at the Asian Centre of the University of Philippines as a standalone speaker on the subject given by him "Can India Provide Balanced Multipolarity in South East & East Asia
". The talk was attended by the top brass of the Philippines government and the diplomatic corps as well as the ASEAN media. Details on site www.vinodsaighal.com