FBI-MI5 warning on China is a wake-up call for India

Published on Jul 07, 2022 09:05 AM IST

FBI Director Christopher Wray and United Kingdom MI5 Director General Ken McCallum highlighted the threat from Chinese spies at a rare joint press conference.

Eternal leader and wolf warrior pack leader Xi Jinping.
Eternal leader and wolf warrior pack leader Xi Jinping.

A joint press conference by heads of US and UK security services on the threat posed by rising China is a rare event. What is extraordinary is that the chiefs of both US FBI and UK’s MI-5 on Wednesday warned the world about all out Chinese efforts to steal western technology and influence the government’s policy-making through lobbying and money power.

The presser, as the US influenced media calls it, should be also a wake-up call for the Narendra Modi government and India even as Chinese President Xi Jinping is slated to become eternal leader after winning the third five-year term at a Chinese party conclave later this year. While the Chinese autocrat will throw all retirement books to extend his political power, he will apply the same rules and conventions to ensure that he infuses fresh blood into the Central Military Commission and Foreign Policy. After all, Xi is the new emperor of a rising and powerful China.

It is also a manifestation of Chinese power that none of the Muslim countries including the OIC and religious rabble-rouser Pakistan have the guts to take on Beijing for serious human rights violations in Sunni-Muslim dominated Xinjiang region.

While the Chinese wolf warrior diplomats and bureaucrats are in synergy with the national growth requirements and power projection, the Indian bureaucrat is doing a “please speak” to his or her junior on every file to protect his or her turf as a true legatee of the Raj. Everyone in the national security and military is worried about the speed at which China is building massive military infrastructure all along the 3488 km Line of Actual Control (LAC), but files related to key infrastructure projects are still hanging fire in inter-ministry tussles. And all this is happening when there is a green signal from a workaholic PM Modi from the word go to any military infrastructure project. For examples, just type Shinku La tunnel or Project 75 India or delays in LCA manufacturing at HAL on google search.

At a time when the Chinese threat to East Ladakh remains high and can explode into a crisis at any given moment with the PLA refusing to restore the April 2020 status quo on the 1597 KM Ladakh LAC, the Modi government is dealing with sponsored or politically orchestrated crisis all over the country in rapid succession. To say that there is no foreign contribution to these mini insurrections in India is being naïve and plain stupid. One should not assume that what China is doing to Taiwan will not be replayed with India. After all, China still claims Arunachal Pradesh as South Tibet and is steadily moving towards enforcing the rejected 1959 line on East Ladakh.

Fact is that the PLA is already primed to take on the adversary with synergized theatre commands and cyber-attack capabilities in all spectrum war. Indian military commanders on the other hand are still debating over the pros and cons of theatre commands, which also included setting up of a new cyber command as per late General Bipin Rawat’s recommendations. Clearly, just like the farmers, the Indian military is also resistant to any reformation even if it's for their own good. The senseless Agniveer agitation and the year long farmer agitation are examples of this resistance. So what if the PLA is also a conscript army which is trained in latest communication and battlefield technologies to cater to a long term war. The Ukraine war has now stretched for five months but none of the global powers have the clout to make a nuclear-powered Russia stop the onslaught and sanctions are doing a fat lot of good in pushing Moscow to stop the bloodletting.

For India, the Chinese threat gets amplified as the Communist Party of China (CPC) decision making is multi-layered and nuanced with the democratic world caught up in mandarin pronunciation and reading the tea leaves. Do we even know why the PLA did the Pangong Tso strike in May 2020 knowing fully well that this would set back bilateral ties with India by decades?

While China under Xi is in single-minded pursuit of becoming the numero uno power in the world, its perceived adversary, India, is still grappling with political turmoil caused by never ending elections as part of its chaotic democracy. Rather than getting all elections completed in one go with the general elections every five years, India is hurtling from one election to the other because of which the central leadership cannot focus on the China challenge looming on the horizon. The danger is clear and present as Tom Clancy would put it. Accompanied with the local, state, bye-elections are mini revolutions all over the country with all and sundry people outraging with or without a cause.

If India aspires to be a global power and the aspiration is in order, then it must deal with the internal chaos with a firm hand and focus on the external threat currently posed by China, which has spread its tentacles into Indian polity, bureaucracy, and media over the past decades. Armed with tremendous money, muscle and power, China, like western powers in the past, can make life very difficult for India unless firm and resolute steps are taken to bring diplomacy, intelligence, military, and bureaucracy on the same page. To think that the world will benignly allow the rise of India without imposing any costs and hurdles is a pipe-dream.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Author of Indian Mujahideen: The Enemy Within (2011, Hachette) and Himalayan Face-off: Chinese Assertion and Indian Riposte (2014, Hachette). Awarded K Subrahmanyam Prize for Strategic Studies in 2015 by Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) and the 2011 Ben Gurion Prize by Israel.

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