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  Opinion   Columnists  24 May 2024  Abhijit Bhattacharyya | The pushback against China has started: India must join

Abhijit Bhattacharyya | The pushback against China has started: India must join

The writer is an alumnus of the National Defence College, and the author of China in India.
Published : May 24, 2024, 1:48 am IST
Updated : May 24, 2024, 1:48 am IST

As India-China tensions persist, Beijing's new ambassador to New Delhi aims to reshape diplomatic relations through strategic gestures

China's new ambassador to India, Xu Feihong. (Image: Twitter)
 China's new ambassador to India, Xu Feihong. (Image: Twitter)

Amidst the fast-developing poisonous hatred of the 21st century “world wars”, the joint geopolitical plan by Nato and the European Union to overwhelm both Russia and Ukraine, the wholesale retaliatory bombing by Israel in the Gaza Strip and the terror strikes by Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis, the India-China bilateral imbroglio has lingered on for seven decades and appears completely insoluble and irreversible. As long as the Communist Party of China maintains its vice-like grip on the land of the Dragons, New Delhi’s duel with Beijing is bound to continue.

Amid the ongoing general election in India, President Xi Jinping has sent a new ambassador to New Delhi, Xu Feihong, after the post was left vacant for 18 months following the departure of his predecessor Sun Weidong, to take charge of the “Forbidden City” like embassy building in Delhi’s Shanti Path. China obviously didn’t want to be unrepresented as a new Government of India takes charge in early June, not so much for diplomatic reasons but due to the Dragon’s own economic self-interest and its aspirations to global supremacy.

Irrespective of whether the incumbent government is re-elected or a new team of ministers takes charge at South Block, the Dragon would like to ensure that it makes the right diplomatic gestures, for the optics if nothing else. It might find things a little easier if it has to continue to deal with the same set of people, but in case a new team takes over it might need a fresh angle of vision, which would require extra diligence and a different approach to intelligence-gathering, which of course is the Dragon’s forte. If there is no change, the Dragon would say: “Hello, friend, we knew you will be back. Here we are to greet you. Heartiest congratulations to you for the unprecedented success, as we again look forward to working together.” And if a new government takes over, Xi Jinping’s new envoy would emphatically give an ostentatious display of ecstasy: “Best of compliments; we had the gut feeling that India was on the threshold of change. We want to make the China-India relationship more relevant to move forward as China is ready to work with India for mutually acceptable solutions to specific issues”. And that is exactly what the new ambassador had to say on his arrival in India. Either way, the Dragon’s diplomatic presence must be seen, felt and spoken about by the glitterati and the elite.

The new ambassador is, therefore, pretending to be hopeful of resolving the border and territorial disputes by rattling off the same, but meaningless semantics of his predecessors and his political overlord in the Forbidden City. Note each and every word by Xu Feihong: “I will do my best to deepen understanding and friendship between two peoples, expand exchanges and cooperation in various fields, improve and advance the bilateral relationship”.

The Chinese aim is clear. The first priority is to influence the gullible and innocent Indian citizens, who hardly have time to know Chinese, Beijing being alien, incomprehensible and inscrutable. Being a soft target, they need to be made to get into the spirit of “understanding and friendship”, which means you make ordinary Indian citizens “deepen friendship” with the Chinese without “understanding”. Second, the rather vague and mysterious words “expand exchanges” and “cooperation in various fields?” What are those exchanges? Is it between governments, people, merchants, militants, the military, mendicants, mechanical engineers or what? Third, what are the “various fields for cooperation”: agricultural field, football field, horticulture or pisciculture? One feels sorry to make the point with a tinge of irony because when China penetrates big countries like the United States or India or the 27-nation European Union, it is multi-dimensional and deep. The CPC has mastered the craft of cracking the opponent from within, and that regrettably is repeatedly missed out by non-Chinese people, whose desire to make quick money makes it easier for the Chinese to sweeten the pot and lay honey traps.

One can easily see the damage that China has inflicted upon Indian industry through India’s traders, as pungently picked up and pricked by India’s external affairs minister earlier this month, within days of the new Dragon envoy’s arrival in Delhi, who began with a Confucius-like sermon. The Indian minister’s rejoinder was hard: “I have a neighbour like China. I have to learn to compete. By my complaining, China is not going to stop doing things”. The point was made.

Nevertheless, why are those countries who are not Beijing’s neighbours and are far from it complaining against China in chorus and trying to curtail the Dragon’s all-embracing malicious shenanigans? Why did US President Joe Biden, surrounded by labour union members at the White House, sign an executive order on May 14 imposing 100 per cent tariffs on China-made electric vehicles and a series of goods to protect the US strategic manufacturing sector from low-cost competition to save and increase jobs for American citizens despite the higher consumer prices for imported products? Even in the heartland of capitalism it remains the bounden duty of the State to protect its industry and try stop reckless imports. Those days are now history!

The pushback against China has begun all over the West. There is no reason for India not to do likewise for the sake of the protection of its industrial capacity development and take action against the group of reckless trader-importers who are coming in the way of India’s manufacturing sector.

For the Dragon’s new ambassador in New Delhi, the task is cut out. He has to look after his boss’ interests. India must import and not step up its industrialisation. More cheap and sub-standard Chinese goods must be pushed through traders to swamp the consumer market and raise India’s bilateral trade deficit to astronomical heights. It already stands at over $100 billion.

If India is further pushed to the point of no return in imports, there will not be any problem pertaining to China’s bid to push into Indian territory, from Ladakh to Arunachal, to cut New Delhi’s influence across South Asia’s smaller nations, till now India’s best friends. Ambassador Xu will certainly do everything to turn India’s landlocked neighbours and islands in the region from friend to foe.

Thus, whoever takes charge of India’s destiny for the next five years, after the Rashtrapati Bhavan swearing-in ceremony in early June, needs to revisit the entire China spectrum in depth and not allow itself to be taken on the road to ruin by the CPC. India has had enough. It’s time to be at par on diplomacy, and not succumb.

 

Tags: india china relations, china ambassador, soft power