If February 14 will henceforth be known as the day of the Pulwama attacks, it is equally important for India and the global community to mark March 13 as another black day in the calendar. On this day, China has for the fourth time; significantly after the Pulwama attacks just a month ago blocked UNSC from designating Jaish e Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist under the 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee of UNSC. JeM has claimed responsibility for the dastardly Pulwama attacks.
India had the support of the entire global community barring China in its fight towards international terrorism. This stand close on the heels of Pulwama clearly shows China’s real face in clamping down on terror making it a clear terror apologist as well as a proxy leader whilst it stands solidly behind the rent-a-terror-group state of the world, Pakistan. This is laughable because Pakistan uses fundamental Islam to brainwash foot soldiers into carrying out its state terror policy while China is cracking down on the same in Xinjiang and even forcing moderate Muslims to shave off beards, eat pork, drink alcohol and attend concentration camps under the façade of reform classes to completely Sinocize the country.
As Indians and citizens of countries that have been victims of terror, China’s action should make us very angry. For those who claim insolence, it would be wise to remember that terror knows no boundaries and tomorrow the victims can easily be you or your loved ones. In short, this is a problem which affects us all and it is time that we asserted that we will not accept these sham statements, crackdowns any more.
India should be angry, very angry. If we don’t learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. China has revealed its two faces to us umpteen times and it is high time we stopped buying into its harmonious rise, peaceful neighbourhood, and civilizational brother nonsense and instead recognize it for the terror apologist it truly is that wants to prevent an Indian rise at all costs. Our Balakot response has redefined the Indian national security paradigm and must be expanded to include China. For it may have been the gun of the JeM foot solider and Masood Azhar that planned the attack but the trigger was undoubtedly Chinese.
Thus, India must adopt a two-pronged strategy in dealing with the Sino-Pak axis. India has plenty of ways to play hardball with China and it must use them effectively. China understands only strength and every time we do a repeat of Wuhan we are effectively going one step forward and two steps behind. Our China and Pakistan policy has largely consisted of flip flops. This is surprising as we have done a very good job in all other foreign policy aspects and even managed to better relations with the GCC. It is almost like every Prime Minister wants to be the one to better relations with China and Pakistan. This baggage has been perpetually weighing down New Delhi. After Balakot, India must shed and burn this baggage in the fire and accept that China and Pakistan will never be good neighbours. They will never be happy with India’s rise and no amount of respect, people to people ties, cultural ties, largesse and other goodwill measures are ever going to change that.
It is important to stop thinking of Pakistan as a rational country that wants peace and development. Pakistan is a feudal state run by its army for profit. Fundamental Islam is the tool. Terror groups are its assets. Terrorists are the army’s foot soldiers in civilian clothes. Thus, terrorists and its army must not be de-hyphenated. The generals in Rawalpindi have always used these groups to gain strategic depth to enrich themselves along with carrying out a low cost war against India to bleed it with a thousand cuts. They have no sympathy for the average Pakistani citizen who struggles with inflation, power cuts, water cuts etc,. While the state of the average Pakistani citizen is appalling, Pakistan has cleverly used this spiel into convincing India via Track 2 events that the average Pakistani citizen wants peace with India and it has no control over its non-state actors and itself is a victim of terrorism.
The fact is Pakistani civilian government is a puppet with no authority and the country is living on perpetual handouts. Pakistan has less than $6 billion in reserves while its army’s business revenues are $500 billion! The army controls almost all aspects of manufacturing in the country. Hence, India needs to stop deluding itself about any peace overtures from Pakistan. Also, the Pakistani citizens have been indoctrinated with hatred for India over generations by the good generals in Pindi who need this propaganda to carry out their terror tasks. Thus, sad as it may sound while India and any responsible nation must adopt a counter terror policy of no collateral damage; it must also stop separating the Pakistani citizens from the terrorists. It is very simple, where are the terrorists in Pakistan coming from? The Pakistani families cannot claim to be impervious to their children’s activities and any lack of denial automatically construes acceptance. It should be obvious that for the Pakistani army to maintain power two things are needed; their business empire which allows them to support the groups and fundamental Islam which ensures constant recruitment of terrorists. The army also outsources these groups to its investors which have largely been the USA, Saudi Arabia and China for their interests. Thus, any crackdown on terror only brings irrelevance to the Pakistani Army which safely means that any such actions must be taken with a very big pinch of salt.
The only way to get to this hydra is squeeze its funding. USA has started cutting aid to Pakistan but China remains its largest sponsor due to its major investment in CPEC along with using Pakistan’s terror groups as a low-cost containment war against India. It is not that China is unaware of Pakistan’s activities but rather cleverly using it for its interests. Simultaneously, as Pakistani army is being openly called out for its terror activities globally, it is being forced to resort to sham crackdowns and create laws which further impact its bottom lines. China’s CPEC investment has also gone way over budget as Pakistan has tried to milk China. In short, the only way to actually target Pakistan is to hit the army’s bottom lines. Pakistan managed to stay on the FATF grey list on February 22 all thanks to China that holds the vice-chairmanship. Masood Azhar’s designation as a global terrorist would have made India’s case for putting Pakistan on FATF blacklist much easier; severely impacting FDI in Pakistan and hitting the army’s businesses. Indian actions after Pulwama have resulted in a squeeze on funding and it seems to have an impact; as Pakistan fully aware of the blacklisting implications is amending its Money Laundering Act to include terrorism and is also amending Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997. However, these actions will always be temporary and reversals will follow as soon as things cool down which means India must maintain the policy of bleeding Pakistan financially along with using its diplomatic clout to ensure Pakistan gets on FATF black list.
Now we come to the elephant in the room; China. First of all, the Wuhan spirit must be binned for eternity and India must play China’s game with it. Economics is on India’s side. Chinese economy has showed a significant growth reduction per official numbers and going by Chinese propaganda, the actual numbers should be even lower. USA is squeezing China for a trade deal playing hardball and this is the perfect opportunity for India to start showing her claws. While China has rewarded India with greater military participation of J-17 with Pakistan and backing Masood Azhar, India has rewarded China with a threefold increase in trade deficit! This makes absolutely no sense as we are effectively paying China with our money to attack us. This blow, hot blow, cold policy must stop and we must develop a comprehensive 10 year plan to contain Chinese footprints in India.
Make In India is slowly taking off and the sheer influx of Chinese goods in the country cannot be stopped overnight in absence of options. However, other countries that are Chinese competitors can and must be encouraged. For every Oppo and Xaomi, we must have 4 Samsung’s and Toshibas. China’s Huawei must not be allowed to bid for Indian 5G. Huawei is being globally called out for its violations and this is the perfect opportunity for India to strike without inviting singular Chinese retaliation. A policy to reduce Chinese dependence for imports and generic drug API’s must be taken up as a strategic security initiative. India must use its diplomatic offices and call out China’s acts of IPR thefts, cyber hackings, and currency manipulation. Being a country of a significant Muslim population, India must use its relations with GCC and OIC countries to call out China’s mistreatment of the Muslim community. The Chinese foreign policy has always been completely shameless in the pursuit of its interests along with cleverly using international law where convenient and shunning it as imperialism where inconvenient. India must learn some of these tactics to give China a taste of its own medicine.
China has constantly played the one step forward and one step back game with India. It supports it just enough to not push India in the USA side of the camp in the emerging Cold war 2.0 while going one step back to ensure India doesn’t rise too fast. India must finally accept this and take a stand. It can be a US ally and still adopt a multipolar policy as long as it maintains a steady China policy. Accordingly, greater engagement with Vietnam, Japan must be pursued. India’s hesitation to the Quad must be shaken off. It must further ties with Afghanistan and put Turkey in the list of categories that form the Sino-Pak axis and choose its trade policy with Turkey accordingly. Most of all, it must better ties with Russia. While it may not be possible to increase defence ties with Russia significantly, trade in other sectors must be increased, Russia and China have a temporary marriage of convenience and India must ensure its old ties stay strong. We have discussed the blunders of the Nehruvian Sino policy in our book ‘The New Global Order’ along with the ‘Alliance of Democracies’; and it is this playbook that India must emulate. China only understands the language of money and strength and India must make it clear on multiple fronts that it also seeks a ‘civil’ relationship with its neighbour but if it wants to continue enjoying access to India’s large market it must make some hard choices. Most of all, this Indian attitude must become a norm and not last for just a season or a reason. We must remember as Cold war 2.0 gets stronger, Chinese backing of Pakistan will result in more Pulwama’s not just across India but also other geographies that China considers a target. Thus, after Pulwama, if India was baying for blood and rightly so; China’s March 13 action should bring about a call for vengeance by every global citizen and nation whose life, community and society have been bloodied and will be bloodied by Sino-Pak proxy actors. For India, anger is not enough anymore; it is the time to get even.