China is proceeding exactly the way England did a few centuries ago, though, there are remarkable differences between the two countries. England, rather, the East India Company (EIC–that was incorporated in London in 1600), landed in this country with the express objective of initiating trade with India. Thereby, in a number of quick moves, EIC waged local wars, captured territories and controlled trade and business till a day came that they ruled India in its totality.
Beijing’s game is no different (although China has been at the receiving end of the British for a long time). It is now encircling India and fancies propping up neighbours like Pakistan with whom we don’t have cozy terms. Pakistan does not have the best of relations with the US for the last few years and is looking for a new patron. It has consequently fallen for the Chinese bait.
China is financing the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a huge road infrastructure extending from the Xinjiang province in China, through the Himalayas, down to a newly executed sea port in Gwadar in Western Pakistan. This will allow easy access for Chinese goods from Xinjiang (otherwise located over 3500-4000 km from the Pacific sea coast) to the Arabian Sea, and, from there to Europe, West Asia and Africa. To make it attractive, China is financing it – on easy terms vis-à-vis the cost of building the road — and has also financed the port construction and a SEZ. Once the corridor is ready, the infrastructure created will give a kick up to the Pakistani economy.
In other words, the infrastructure created will increase the dependence of Pakistan on the Chinese to a level that Islamabad can never really free itself from Beijing. A few days ago, just before resigning as Pakistani President, Imran Khan spoke enviously about India and how it was not dependent on foreign governments and could take decisions independently. Though Imran Khan might have hinted at the influence of Washington on Islamabad, who knows if he was actually referring obliquely to Beijing’s influence on Pakistan?
Similarly, China is increasing its influence on other neighbouring countries that include Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Maldive; this also extends to Thailand. This influence will ultimately zero in on India which can rival China in terms of size and could effectively be used to dominate over her. This is the reason why China wants to keep India hemmed in.
Sri Lanka, an island republic that has been caught in a trap that has seen mounting inflation in the last few weeks and huge internal unrest, has been a major beneficiary of Chinese largesse in the last few years. This includes the construction of a deep sea port of Hanambata and a SEZ. The money comes via loans from China which appears ‘cheap’, but, actually is not (considering all the conditions). Needless to add, one of the conditions is that the project has to be implemented by Chinese companies. Thus, employment and work is created for the Chinese.
India is alarmed at the developments and has rushed in by providing economic support to Sri Lanka. On the Indian Ocean – far off from China but too distant from Kerala – aid is being provided for ‘listening posts’ in Maldives, which is otherwise considered insignificant.
Indeed, this is not all!
THE CHINESE have also roped in the Nepalese – a country with whom India has had close relations — traditionally. Being a landlocked country, Nepal is dependent on Indian ports for its imports and exports. But, China is now planning a ‘mountainous’ way for Nepalese exports /imports. This would be via China through where the stuff could go to a port. The infrastructure would be costly but will be financed by China and this will loosen the contacts between India and Nepal.
Similarly, Bangladesh is being roped in by the Chinese. A huge road infrastructure providing connectivity between the Myanmar and Hunan province of China is planned. This will cut through the Himalayas. The road proposed to be built will finally extend to Bangladesh. All this is part of the OBOR (One Border One Road Project) of China that has been on since 2001.
India has also been invited to be a part of the OBOR, but, realizing the trap, it has very wisely refrained from being part of the plan. With this OBOR infrastructure, and even with India not being part of it, China would have effectively encircled India. Surely, this is not enough.
The dragon country is now directly coveting land over which India has suzerainty. In 2020, China launched aggression in sub-zero temperatures over Indian territory in Ladakh, specifically over Pangong Tso lake. Why China had launched aggression on what effectively is a no man’s land remains unclear, but analysts believe that it has to do with many hidden reasons.
This includes a clear unobstructed view from Ladakh of the area through which CPEC will travel, although the distance is 500 km. China does not have any indigenous source of petroleum and natural gas and a pipeline is being constructed next to the CPEC to transport liquefied gas and petroleum. The control of Ladakh would allow China to protect the pipeline from a distance. It will also allow a closer distance to Pakistan and may allow protection of the river Indus which flows downwards from Tibet to Pakistan. The waters of Indus are of great value to China because it is planning to impound it to manufacture telecom equipment in the area.
Besides this, as it is, China dominates over India in matters relating to trade and commerce. Already, China is India’s largest partner in export and imports (pushing behind the US) but the trade is greatly skewed in favour of China. India’s trade deficit with China in 2020-21 was $44.02 billion, although this is less than what it was in 2019-20, when it was $53.57 billion. Still, the amount is significant and is a cause for concern.
Noteworthy is the fact that many products from China are today well known in India – this is especially so for cell phones which have become household names. Till last year they were title sponsors for the Indian Premier League cricket tournament. The growing dependence of India on China is hardly a matter of comfort to our country. India should try to get out of this Chinese grip and ensure that this salami slicing policy of the dragon land is quickly reversed.
Though Indian-Chinese food served in restaurants across India is very popular, to make a point, perhaps, public interest groups should initiate a movement calling for a ban on such a move. This will focus public attention on the matter. As things are, Indian tourists in large numbers are going to China every year. Many rich Indians also visit China to import large quantities of household products. Clearly, this has to be discouraged in national interest.