Remarks from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the wake of India’s attack on Balakot in Pakistan and the subsequent tensions between the two South Asian neighbours appeared to suggest that Beijing was taking a more or less neutral stand. The official spokesperson’s answers to repeated questions on the Indo-Pak incidents stuck to the same overall formulation calling for restraint from both sides and for de-escalation.
A Pakistan Slant
However, the fact is that this apparent Chinese neutrality also creates a false equivalence between India and Pakistan in which Pakistan’s original sin as the perpetrator of terrorism, including the Pulwama attack, is erased and equal responsibility assigned to both India and Pakistan for the current instability and tensions. Continue reading China’s Reactions to India’s Attack on Balakot, Pakistan
Chinese Defence Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe’s visit to India in late August is an occasion to consider the state of India-China military exchanges.
While military-to-military exchanges are important, there seems little to them in the India-China case beyond merely keeping up appearances. Gen. Wei’s visit was preceded by the late July visit of Gen. Liu Xiaowu, deputy commander of the Western Theater Command (WTC) with charge of the border with India and in mid-August, of the head of the Eastern Command of the Indian Army, Lt Gen. Abhay Krishna.
Even the business of familiarization as is the case with these visits of theatre commanders does not mean much because they do not have any regular schedule and can be easily disrupted. Continue reading Chinese Defence Minister’s Visit: To What End for India?
Book Review: Pravin Sawhney and Ghazala Wahab. 2017. Dragon on our Doorstep: Managing China Through Military Power (New Delhi: Aleph Book Company).
Dragons sell. Especially on book jackets and in book titles. Red dragons, baldly hinting at China, sell even better, perhaps. The title of this book is however, somewhat misleading for it is in the main, actually a very good overview of the structural problems that hold India back from its ambition of becoming a regional and global power. China is merely the counterpoint against which these problems are magnified and shown as requiring urgent resolution.
The authors start off with a cutting Introduction that blames various levels of India’s political and military leadership for mistakes in multiple conflicts and crises – the 1962 conflict with China, the 1965 war with Pakistan, ‘the wily Bhutto outsmart[ing] Gandhi’ in 1971 on a Kashmir resolution, the ‘panic reaction’ of Operation Meghdoot to hold Siachen, the ‘Pyrrhic victory’ of Kargil and the ‘total disappointment’ of Operation Parakram. China makes an appearance only on and off here but most notably in the concluding assertion that ‘the problem with Pakistan is inextricably linked with the China problem’. Continue reading How India Deals with its China Challenge
Book Review: Shiv Kunal Verma. 2016. 1962: The War That Wasn’t (New Delhi: Aleph Book Company).
This is a well-written book and goes into some considerable detail on each of the major battles of the 1962 conflict between India and China in both the Eastern and Western Sectors. The narrative is riveting and supported by maps particularly of battles in the Eastern Sector as well as reproductions of photographs of many important personalities and events associated with the conflict culled from multiple sources. These definitely add a heft and immediacy to the book often lacking in many historical texts. Without doubt, this is a labour of love, much effort, including by the author’s own family members has gone into it. To recreate the amount of detail there is in the accounts of battle the Verma certainly had access to some very personal reminiscences and he communicates the immediacy and tension of battle as well as the bitterness of defeat with verve and feeling. For these reasons alone, this book must belong to the shelves of any student of India’s wars.
And yet, this book is not without its flaws. Continue reading 1962: A Very Particular View
Book Review: Shishir Gupta, The Himalayan Face-Off: Chinese Assertion and the Indian Riposte (Gurgaon: Hachette India, 2014).
Shishir Gupta says clearly at the beginning that the ‘book is not about China but its policies and mindset towards India as perceived by the top Indian leadership, political parties and the public’ (p. xi). Within this framework he tries to give an organized picture of the ebb and flow of Sino-Indian relations during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime. While the coverage ends sometime in 2013 well before the UPA regime ended its tenure, the change of regime in New Delhi does not materially alter the nature of relations with China and Gupta by highlighting in his title, the fact that there has been an ‘Indian Riposte’ to ‘Chinese Assertion’ deserves full credit for standing out from the crowd and differing with general public perception of the UPA government’s tenure as being one of inaction and incompetence when it came to China policy. Whatever the UPA’s sins of omission or commission in its domestic politics or in its foreign policy in general, on China policy at least, a combination of focused political and military leadership and competent bureaucratic support ensured that the new NDA regime will find little to change except to provide greater direction, resources and speed and perhaps, with the backing of majority in Parliament, bolder engagement or even, out-of-the-box solutions to resolving ‘The Himalayan Face-off’. Continue reading Of Perceptions and Policies
Grand strategy on China requires political attention, bureaucratic competence, military capability and academic expertise. If any one of these is missing, strategy is hobbled, and one can forget about grand strategy altogether.
With the Indian political leadership reeling from corruption scandals and already in preparation for general elections, foreign policy has suffered from lack of political attention. In fact, the impression has gained ground that policies related to defence and external affairs have of late been outsourced to the bureaucrats. While most criticize the government’s China policy, calling it pusillanimous and ineffective, the more serious issue is missed – no matter how competent the bureaucrats, policy in a democracy must be seen as being initiated and guided by elected political leaders. Continue reading China Policy in India: For a Revolution in Mindsets