India has in recent months taken some initial steps against predatory Chinese capital and technologies in its economy. Without quite naming China, the Indian government has both tweaked FDI rules to limit acquisition of Indian companies without government approval and banned a few score apps of Chinese origin on national security considerations. These are welcome decisions that have long been called for and should not have waited for either a pandemic or tensions on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.
An idea seems to be going around that somehow, the Covid-19 pandemic is a turning point for the international order – that Pax Sinica will soon replace Pax Americana.
Such belief is premature to say the least, but it provides an occasion, nevertheless, to consider exactly what the world can expect under Chinese leadership.
Even before the pandemic, the rise of China had provided despots around the world with the confidence to seek centralization of power and to retain power by whatever means possible. The pandemic now provides an opportunity for such leaders as well as others potentially, to fast forward their agendas.
National security, like other issues of national importance, is seldom determined by the actions of any one government administration alone. Both failures and successes trace their roots to strategies and policies developed and actions implemented over time by successive governments.
While national security deserves a place in the electoral discourse, in the present elections it has been reduced to simplistic binaries and an unhealthy focus on Pakistan. China has undoubtedly been a major beneficiary of this proclivity of Indian politicians and people to get carried away by emotion and prejudice.
It is only the Indian National Congress so far that has come out with a full-fledged ‘Plan on National Security’.
2018 marks 40 years since China launched its economic reforms, and opening up that changed its domestic economic structure as well as set it on course to being the global economic giant it is today. Now, China’s significance in the global economy is not in question whether as an industrial producer, as a consumer of raw materials, or as a pioneer in pushing the frontiers of technology and its applications.
What has also been apparent since at least 2012 when Xi Jinping took over as general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC), if not earlier, is that China’s economic power is being put to political uses at both the regional and global levels. Somehow, the west, led by the US, appears not to have anticipated that the ‘rise of China’ would bring with it a challenge to not just western economic domination but also to American military might and perhaps, most importantly, to the very idea of democracy and other largely western political values and ideals.
A dynamic foreign policy
Originally published as, Jabin T Jacob, ‘Brahmaputra water diversion: India must go with the flow on this’, Hindustan Times, 16 October 2015.
China’s recent operationalization of the Zangmu hydropower station on the Yarlung Tsangpo, the largest such station in Tibet, is an occasion to reconsider the ‘water problem’ in India-China relations. Unsurprisingly, but sadly, mainstream Indian reactions have been kneejerk and paranoid rather than based on any rational considerations.
Any dam, even run-of-the-river projects will have effects on riverine ecology. However, the impact downstream must be balanced against the fact that most of the water that contributes to the volume of the Brahmaputra beginning in Assam comes from rainfall and tributary flows on the Indian side in Arunachal Pradesh. The more important issue in India is the lack of management of river water resources; thus, a huge hydropower potential remains un- or under-exploited on the Indian side.