Security Threats in South Asia: China’s Revised Assessment: Part one

by Mian Hameed 1 June 2020

Wisdom in my younger life was an unknown entity to me. In due course, I was able to fine-tune a process to gain wisdom. Though I am of no consequence here, the wisdom of the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi has implications for India.

Here, I will not uncover the reasons for Modi’s recent decisions to support certain laws, but his stance on domestic issues certainly places Modi’s wisdom under scrutiny. Modi’s wisdom has imposed consequences and challenges upon the Indian foreign policy practitioners. One of significance that speaks to the challenges is abrogating article 370, which allowed an internationally recognized disputed territory, Kashmir, to come under the Indian Union has risked peace in the region.

After abrogating article 370, India coined additional ambitious statements hatched from Modi’s wisdom. One statement of aggression was to snatch the Pakistan controlled Kashmir and the Northern areas of Pakistan—vital to CPEC. No sooner than these ambitions were aired, which are acts of aggression, Pakistan became an a la carte matter of China’s preemptive security policy strategy.

However, it is worth noting that following the abrogation of article 370, the Indian media did not adopt rational analysis in an intellectual manner to examine the wider geopolitical implications to India. In fact, the debate in media was influenced by Modi’s motivators in his decision that became the de facto rational for debate for the majority of the country.

Hence, the nation’s strategic thinking-capital was spent on the technicalities of article 370. In participation, the Indian media’s sensational theatrics flirted with certain academic arguments, where noisy laps reminded me of a race on the short Bristol Motor Speedway ending in complete disappointment if there were American spectators. It is because the Indian media showcased pseudo intellectuals, the “conformist subservient to power.” There was an absence of the exhibition of courage or the metaphoric missing true skills of zipping dashes of 0 to 110 MPH in a few seconds of the Bristol Speedway as the bunch of spirited ‘outlaws’ raced from their zeal testifying to their wisdom to win. However, all those in the Indian media that participated in any one of the ‘laps’ secured a prize—a validation certificate of promoting fascism. Someone forgot to bless them with a logo hat, “Make India Great Again!”

To reconstruct the history of those ‘laps,’ I provide a few examples of arguments that were debated: The Kashmiris may terminate the accession agreement for which 370 was the basis – Article 370 was temporary in nature and was attached to another leg, the plebiscite – Does the affirmation of article 370 through the Nov. 13, 1974 Kashmir Accord lend legitimacy to article 370? – Do the Judgments in the matter of Sampat Prakash Vs. State of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K,) Maqbool Damnoo Vs. State of J&K and Lakhanpal Vs. State of J&K make the amendments to article 370 by J&K constitution valid? There was no limelight argumentation on genocide or the lockdown of Kashmiris. The apathetic disinterest in the Indian jugglery – perhaps by design – further encouraged Modi to act like a modern Hitler. The world was told that all was normal in the Indian occupied J&K.

The aforementioned preamble of botched-thinking causes India to face the consequences of their wisdom. In fact, I would place Modi’s decisions coming from the nymph of reason (the imagined beauty in reason) by personifying his ideological norms that will usually banish wisdom Vs. his counterpart, the leader of China, Xi Jinping’s grooming.

President Xi’s grooming and drive comes from his late father Xi Zhongxun, and China’s reformer Mao Zedong, revered by the Chinese nation, which makes President Xi a product of a wise traditional force.  The elder Xi in my opinion had ideas of a visionary economist and acumen of a businessman with his open views coming from his honesty, which also landed him in prison. Therefore, it inclines Xi to interact with the world in that manner.  Unlike his father, he has learnt to guard his cards, and would like to trade with his near neighbors on the theory of comparative cost advantage, a redefined international trade principle that fetched Dr. Paul Krugman a Nobel Prize.

Xi understands China is a brand name and it has become more so important to project China’s image as a congenial power because of China’s unfavorable disposition in the U.S. and among her close allies. Xi would certainly like to interact with the modern world with sophistication, but on occasions, China is critically evaluated for its baggage. For instance, “chilling moves by China against Uighur Muslims in reduction camps” and how much is Xi persuaded by Mao’s “Palm of hand with five fingers” strategy. Palm is Tibet, which at the moment is detached from its five fingers – Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, and Arunachal—formerly the North-East Frontier Tract (NEFT) because India-gate is in the middle.

China does not have the luxury to act as a rogue nation State amidst Mao’s unfulfilled dream to rejoin the five fingers with Tibet. Though, when opportunity permits, he may follow the examples of big super powers—immoral intrigues. Some may argue that China’s current venture into Ladakh (a disputed territory) is because of reviving Mao’s strategy. In thinking so, this will make them overlook the security threat posture India has created for China.

In my view, I do not think Xi intends to pry open the Indian-gate as was contemplated by Mao. Xi would certainly use soft power to win over a few of the fingers—case in point Nepal, which China has. The world has China’s track record before them. From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, in the midst of criticism, China is faring well through the use of soft power.

China’s actions in Ladakh are due to Modi’s magnified security threat to China. The current conflict’s key reason is a small town called Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO). In this town, India had a several decades old small military base about nine miles from Karakoram or Karakorum Pass (KP). A source informed me that in the last year or so, India raised the military base’s strength to a brigade level, and connected it to the internal road network by completing Darbuk Shyok Daulat Beg Road (DBO road.) The sole purpose of DBO road is to provide logistics to the DBO brigade. I was not able to confirm the troop’s level.

Let’s enunciate the threat to China: A disputed territory by India is brought under the India Union, and has threatened Pakistan to strip them of Kashmir and the Northern areas, which has the main road artery Karakorum Highway for the CPEC project—a major Chinese economic initiative. Additionally, a brigade level strength brings Galwan Valley into Chinese consideration because Galwan Valley provides the Indian Army, at the moment brigade strength, easy access into Aksai Chin.

Previously, in 2008, India reopened an abandoned landing strip in Ladakh. It did not alarm China. Now, with the escalated threat from buildup, and India’s plans of a new airport construction in Ladakh, the dynamics have changed in the disputed area. In disputed areas, one is not free to disrupt the status quo.

Disputed regions simmer in relative peace per the agreed principles, i.e., “neither side should seek to alter the status quo by any means.” This principle was a reiterated proposal by Chou En-Lai, agreed to by both China and India around August 1959, and is mentioned in Steven A. Hoffmann’s book.

The Chinese have responded to the altered status quo by landing 5,000 troops into the tight Galwan Valley. The western ridge of the valley covers the newly constructed DBO road. China has sealed off the mouth of the valley and India has lost control of the supply chain. This move has cut the logistics support to the brigade, leaving logistical air drops an option. The value of the brigade is compromised. India’s media claims, a similar strength of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) crossed into the Pangong Lake sector. Please reference the map to understand the proximity of the Indian brigade to KP, a Chinese interest, and PLA presence.  (Galwan Valley marker and Pangong Lake on the map are placed to provide context.)

The situation can drift badly, and it did in 1959-1962, which started the Sino-Indo War. Conditions can deteriorate not only because Modi has compromised the status quo, but also because he has shown to the world that he does not have the correct senses to negotiate on principles, taking into account the Security Council resolutions against Kashmir towards the dispute. The problem of not exhibiting the correct senses was the case with some of India’s founding fathers as well. 

When General Dwight Eisenhower, later President Eisenhower (“Ike”) met the Prime Minister Pandat JawaharlalNehru in the United States in December 1956, the incorrect senses trait of PM Nehru were noticed in Nehru’s conversation that traversed a black and white understanding of a view in an overarching point of view. Eisenhower concluded, “Like Prime Minister Nehru, Pandat Jawaharlal Nehru was not easy to understand: few people are, but his was a personality of unusual contradictions.” –Bruce Riedel.

The contradictions, which I equate to a foul sense of logic, was seen in Nehru when he asked “Ike” for a third party (the U.S.) influence to settle the issue of Goa. Bruce Riedel quotes, “Nehru pressed Ike to get Lisbon [to] let go of its vestiges of empire.” This comment was in reference to Portugal. While Nehru was holding on to Junagadh, Hyderabad, (which had acceded to Pakistan,) “Nehru was critical of Portugal, which still was holding onto its small colony in India at Goa.” Gao was taken by force and is a State of India that currently enjoys special status under article 371. The example of Kashmir has cautioned the Gao folks.

Perhaps these contradictions (foul senses) of Nehru made it impossible to come to an agreement with the Premiere of China Chou En-lie in 1959 when negotiating disputed borders.  For instance, the Indian government’s counter proposal to Premiere Chou En-lie was to vacate “about 20,000 square miles and relinquish their control over the Aksai Chin road. For India it would have meant evacuating a section of about 50 square miles only, although important Indian position in Ladakh would have been sacrificed.” –Hoffmann. China did not accept the Indian proposal and China’s proposal was rejected by India assuming it had a trick. –Hoffmann.

The feeling of tasting the unusual contradictions from India when settling her border disputes is fresh with the people of Nepal. India claims Kalapani as part of India and has built a road. Nepal is screaming, while India continues bullying a smaller country, whereby China has come to help Nepal—a situation similar to Bhutan. India claims China is bullying a smaller country, Bhutan, by making roads in the territory of Bhutan and India has extended her influence to Bhutan to mitigate the security threat to India.

Similarly, India, and rightfully so, sees China as a security threat in Doklam at the tri-junction area (Bhutan, China, India border,) where China can potentially sever India’s link to her Eastern areas by choking the chicken-neck narrow passage. Since India has joined the American camp, it should not come as a surprise if China chokes the passage.

In the past, India has emphasized border disputes as her internal matter. This tactic does not work for resolving conflict with a country more powerful than India, especially when the remainder of the world does not operate from the virtues of Modi’s reasoning that has tarnished India’s image. The world must revert to respecting the United Nations (UN) system, the rule of law – And India must embrace it – Or else India should prepare for the consequences. China is not Nepal or Pakistan.

The Sino-Indo confrontation has emboldened imagination in Pakistan. In Pakistan, there are two schools of thought. I will name the first school of thought as the forward plan. It is an offensive measure usually promoted by the cadre of retired army officers. I will name the second school of thought to deal with the tensions as the laissez faire approach, which believes that China will “reclaim her legitimate rights” from which Pakistan will benefit.

The first school of thought, as the situation escalates, offers Pakistan an opportunity to strike. The retired top brass in Pakistan are reminiscing the strategic grave mistake they made in 1999, by letting India  build-up in Kargil, including heavy artillery, while Pakistan dominated the heights looking over the LOC. Extending the thought from the lost opportunity, many are of the view to act upon the present opportunity and intercept Ferozepur-Srinagar road within Indian Kashmir boundaries to disrupt the Indian Army’s traffic, and also intercept the LOC of Kashmir—Kashmiris in theory will lynch the tired Indian forces, which will come next. They believe that this would be a more appropriate “befitting response” to the Indian shelling on civil population across the LOC in Azad J&K (Pakistan occupied territory.) It is a viable plan provided there is an actionable plan in place that Pakistan can financially afford if India counters. A challenge would arise on how both sides would ensure not drifting into escalation.

Whether Pakistan’s first school of thought’s thinking will materialize or not depends on how much China will ratchet up the ante. India is in trouble, and it is out matched by China’s economic and military power. India has not responded forcefully to China’s latest altercation with the Indian forces in the Ladakh area, which means Pakistan may not get a chance to deploy the forward plan.

The proponents of the laissez faire approach are of the view that Pakistan should remain neutral and rely on China’s policy that will adopt assertive and confident posture diplomatically, economically, and militarily, which would also fetch Pakistan’s interest. Such strategy would not lead to Sino-Indo armed conflict. A likely scenario is playing out right now.

The willing world has allowed India to gulp a disputed territory—Kashmir. The allowance to India is a bit more than an irritant to China, and may not perpetually restrain China, who per Bader at Brookings, “has generally respected the U.N. Charter’s prohibitions against use of force.” Chess moves are on the table, India cashing favors sans caution, but is soon to realize China can no longer lie low. The Decision Making World Community, by keeping silent over Indian crimes, has lost their moral high ground and provided China a perfect justification to follow the footprints of the “Big Powers.”

In conclusion, Xi has informed China that he aims to bring war to India as a check-mate to an inflated power projection and once and for all eliminate the Indian declared anti-China bogey supported by Israel and the United States. Xi is brighter than that and has placed all options on the table. A faceoff between the Chinese and the Indian forces at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is not likely. India will face China’s abuse from stone pelting as long as it takes and now and then throwing in a flying kick to break the Indian habit of pelting back the same stones.

As for Modi’s “nymph of reason,” which belittles wisdom, the outcomes only work on smaller countries, helpless Indian Muslims, and under lockdown-Kashmiris. All of this is a needle fixation ‘high’ for Modi, facilitated by those that matter – Those, for whom it is hard to act as a human, let Modi self-actualize and remain fascinated by his wisdom.

Read part 2

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2 Comments

  • Mian F. Hameed
    June 2, 2020, 10:19 am

    Correction from author: The text should say, "the Indian media did NOT adopt rational analysis…" I have requested the correction. Sorry for the inconvenience.

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  • Forwarders.najmi@gmail.com'
    Ahmad Najmi
    June 2, 2020, 8:37 pm

    Great

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