Chanakya can trump Confucius, writes Abhishek Manu Singhvi
India needs to have a comprehensive diplomatic, strategic and economic plan to take on ChinaUpdated: Jul 09, 2020 19:45 IST
China is not only responsible for the spread of the Wuhan virus, but has used this crisis to fulfil its expansionist agenda, to inaugurate what its president defines as China’s “New Era” to its preamble. A major amendment to the Chinese constitution was passed unnoticed, adding “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” into its preamble. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is the most ill-concealed example of imperialism. That China has reached thus far in its expansionism is a tribute to its focus, tenacity and persistence.
A country whose nationhood idea hardly existed before 1912 is now claiming both contiguous territories as also geographically far away ones. From Mongolia to Manchuria, from Tibet to Taiwan, the list is endless. The Communist regime is even ready to take on Russia, by claiming authority over Vladivostok. The current stand-off in eastern Ladakh is but a small blip in its bigger world view. Facing enemies on two fronts and fighting the pandemic makes it tough for India. This, however, is when the tough must get going.
On the diplomatic front, there is a need to rethink and reject India’s “One China Policy”. Why should India continue to recognise “One China” if it stabs India in the back and tries to undermine “One India”, by salami-slicing at different points? Though India has adhered to the policy, New Delhi should find ways to violate it, if not in letter, then in spirit. Let us establish diplomatic relations with Taiwan and support the freedom movement in Tibet. The democratic movement in Hong Kong is receiving massive worldwide support. We merely need to add our voice at diverse forums. There are ways of doing all this while retaining official plausible deniability, and, yet, not missing the slightest opportunity to needle, embarrass and shame China. Indeed, we need to go further to underline human rights violations in Xinjiang (East Turkestan) and give oblique support to the Uighur and Turkic communities in their struggle. In 2016, India denied a visa to the famous Uighur leader, Dolkun Isa, to attend a conference of communities persecuted by China in Dharamshala. This is the time to provide unequivocal support to the Uighurs.
Indian parliamentarians should join the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, consisting of hundreds of legislators from eight countries and the European Union. The alliance has taken some prominent initiatives within a month of its creation. Yes, China will internationalise Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), but India’s restraint is doing nothing to stop it. Didn’t China attempt to block the attempt to designate Masood Azhar as a terrorist? Hasn’t it, in the past year, repeatedly taken up the issue of J&K at the United Nations? No. So, India has nothing to lose but its inhibitions.
Strategically, India must strengthen and streamline the working of global alliances against China. The global ambience has never been more conducive, given the anti-Chinese sentiment. Make the working of the Quad — India, the United States (US), Japan, Australia — active and ensure greater concrete cooperation qua the Indo-Pacific. There is urgent need to play a leadership role in the Democracy-10 alliance, comprising G7 plus India, Australia and South Korea. India should strengthen its diplomatic ties with Vietnam and the Philippines and provide them with resources. The US, especially President Donald Trump, is always an unpredictable ally, but at least till the November elections, Trump will do anything to critique China. It is we who must unabashedly know how far to leverage his electoral, anti-China instincts.
Economically, Chinese imports to India have been significantly declining, falling to $48.66 billion in FY 2019-20 from $63 billion in FY 2017-18. The major imports from China include electrical and electronic equipment, plastics, watches, toys, furniture, sports products, iron and steel, metals, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and fuel. We need a judicious mix of import substitution, discriminatorily skewed tariffs and steep anti-dumping duties, apart from bans in patent or gross cases. It is a misconception that these multi-pronged, shrewdly-designed measures will fall foul of the World Trade Organization (WTO). First, a specific level of protection for specific import categories is in accordance with WTO provisions. In the Australia-Canada salmon case of 2000, WTO held that “Australia was not in violation of Art. 5.5, as it found that although Australia was employing different levels of protection to different, but sufficiently comparable situations, the different treatment was scientifically justified, and not arbitrary or unjustifiable and the different treatment was thus not a disguised restriction on international trade.”
Second, India can use the logic of compliance with sovereign laws of the land. In the Argentina-Brazil poultry anti-dumping case of 2003, WTO ruled: “Argentina was not in violation of Art. 6.8 when it disregarded information submitted by a company that had not fulfilled procedural provisions of the domestic law...as information submitted by such companies was not considered appropriately submitted”. Since Taiwan manufactures many items that China produces, we must exponentially increase India’s diplomatic, economic and technological relations with it: Our trade has travelled from $66 million to $6 billion.
Benjamin Disraeli said, “What we call public opinion is generally public sentiment.” Never has any Indian government after 1962 got greater anti-China bipartisan support than now. We need only to lose our self-imposed chains. Chanakya can trump Confucius: “Do not reveal what you have thought upon doing, but by wise council keep it secret being determined to carry it into execution...Once you start working on something, don’t be afraid of failure and don’t abandon it.”