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  Opinion   Oped  26 Mar 2019  China is playing a long, deep game: India needs a more robust strategy

China is playing a long, deep game: India needs a more robust strategy

The writer is an advocate practising in the Supreme Court. The views expressed here are personal.
Published : Mar 26, 2019, 12:56 am IST
Updated : Mar 26, 2019, 12:56 am IST

Playing the traditional Chinese waiting game to wear out, exasperate and exhaust the rival, opponent or critic.

China’s ambassador to India Luo Zhaohui
 China’s ambassador to India Luo Zhaohui

China’s ambassador to India Luo Zhaohui has once again has done well for his country by suggesting during a “Holi Milan” function hosted by his embassy on March 17 that “China fully understood India’s concerns on the Masood Azhar issue”. Further, by expressing confidence that the issue, regarding the proposal for the UN Security Council’s listing of Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist would be “resolved” soon, Mr Zhaohui bowled a perfect googly to deflect the seriousness of the issue and deflate and defuse the (temperamental) passions of an inherently innocent, flexible and gullible India. Mr Luo surely gauged New Delhi well, having read the psyche and studied the contours of the election-mode domestic polity. Playing the traditional Chinese waiting game to wear out, exasperate and exhaust the rival, opponent or critic.

Indeed, Mr Luo does possess the required professional skill and diplomatic acumen to come out unscathed from difficult foreign stations to tackle the noisy, yet harmless, free press of Indian democracy’s equally harmless (though occasionally cacophonic) public opinion, which is historically benign, benevolent, and forgiving to foreigners, unlike the domestic audience of the Chinese diplomat.

Thus, it must have been a memorable experience for Mr Luo to get a ringside view of momentous happenings in, and from, Pakistan, during his ambassadorial tenure in Islamabad (March 2007 to June 2010). This was when Gen. Pervez Musharraf was forced to hand over the baton of Army Chief (after being there from October 6, 1999) to Gen. Parvez Kayani on November 27, 2007; the Benazir Bhutto assassination of December 27, 2007; the Mumbai mayhem of 26/11/2008, perpetrated by the Pakistani military-militant-mullah-mosque “quad”; and Asif Ali Zardari becoming the biggest beneficiary of his wife’s murder by the Army-ISI duo!

Without doubt, therefore, Mr Luo is a “Pakistan expert” with a vast knowledge and deep connection with the Army-ISI duo owing to his country’s “all-weather” friendship with lslamabad. Besides, Mr Luo’s subsequent stint as ambassador to Canada — May 2014 to August 2016 — too must have had given him insight on Huawei’s and its CFO’s, Meng Wanzhou’s (presently on bail), operations, which now seems to have created an unprecedented Sino-Canadian-American diplomatic-cum-politico-commerce crisis.

Mr Luo has been in India since September 2016 and he already has seen several “situations”. Gurudaspur, Pathankot, Doklam, Pulwama and Balakot. Understandably, his eyes today are firmly glued to Bhutan. First, to open a diplomatic mission and then follow up with the “ultimate political mission”: to grab more South Asian territory. China forcibly occupied Tibet; grabbed the Aksai Chin on the sly; physically penetrated PoK/Gilgit-Baltistan to access the sea; will not accept a solution to the Sino-Indian border; almost created havoc in Doklam; made an absurd claim of an entire “sea” as its “own territory”, and now shows the desperation to connect Beijing with the Bay of Bengal, thereby breaking the monotonous dependence of the vast swathe of landlocked terrain in middle-Central Asia on South Asian gateways to the sea. The Chinese ambassador aspires for access to both; eastern and western waterfronts of South Asia, thereby reducing time, expenditure and distance for the movement of men and material to the sea and back to the remote Chinese mainland. Thereafter, Mr Luo could well claim unprecedented credit for opening the Arabian Sea port of Gwadar, along with five to six Bay of Bengal ports of at least two South Asian nations. Routing through landlocked Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal and the eastern and northeastern states of India, that happen to be favourable hunting grounds for the Chinese Communist Party since its birth.

Mr Luo, therefore, is well aware as to what it takes for India to take on the Sino-Pak axis across its entire land frontier, compounded further by the aggressive Chinese penetration into India’s economics, finance, commerce, industry and polity; all in the guise of “mutual benefit”, “shared prosperity”, “a win-win situation”, even if there is none.

One question here. Why is China paying huge amounts of cash to certain individuals and institutions? To buy them over? To black out adverse news on China? To mislead Indian public opinion? To achieve the ultimate gameplan of breaking India as planned by the Communist Party of China since long, which hates competition and believes in monopoly in everything? From polity to economics? Religious repression to suppressing the voices of disagreement and dissension?

Coming back to the public “Holi Milan” diplomacy of Mr Luo, assuring his Indian guests that the terrorist issue will be “resolved soon”, one is compelled to quote media reports wherein Mr Luo himself had said two years ago, on March 22, 2017, a few months after assuming office in India: “Discussions on for listing Masood Azhar, just wait” — “says the Chinese ambassador”. Mr Luo “told reporters on the sidelines of the China visa application service centre inauguration ceremony in Delhi”. “China supports India and other countries on terrorism. Discussions going on. It takes time”, Mr Luo said and “advised Indian media to focus more on positive cooperation between India and China”, thus implying that the Indian media was unfocused. That’s the Chinese ambassador’s obstinacy and insensitivity towards the Indian media and India itself! That was two years ago. Have things changed?

The parting shot of Mr Luo, in March 2017, on being asked by the media about China’s opposition to India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group, was: “It’s the same, discussions going on”. It was a clear signal that he was not interested in answering any unscripted questions.

Incidentally, the same day when Mr Luo was trying to acclimatise in Delhi on March 22, 2017, India’s then foreign secretary, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, was in Beijing to “co-chair a China-India strategic dialogue with the neighbouring country’s vice foreign minister Zhang Yesui” in which the Masood Azhar issue was discussed.

It may well be asked why I am being “alarmist” and taking “divergence”, instead of “convergence”, in Sino-Indian bilaterals? The answer lies in the question itself. I find there are innumerable “convergence” takers of the Chinese version, who tend to be extraordinarily optimistic, and virtually none to point out that “there is the other side of the ‘divergence’ story too”. It’s good to be optimistic, but it’s also essential to focus on “divergence”, and the unfolding scenario around us.

It is worth analysing China’s on-ground actions in the India’s Northeast and the eastern state of West Bengal, which were devastated by the Chinese brand of communism (masterminded by Beijing) from 1967 to the early 1980s. I understand a sizeable number of Nepalese too have real-life stories to tell on the Communist Party of China’s shenanigans. I, therefore, am convinced that if the earlier destruction had affected the entire Northeast, West Bengal, and a landlocked Nepal, tomorrow will definitely be the turn of Bhutan and the rest of India, under the guise of “convergence”. The majority of Indians are by and large simple, gullible and easily winnable with (deceptive) sweet words. They cannot decipher the Chinese pictographic language, psyche, and global targets. Indians rarely try to fathom the overall Chinese strategy, being benignly indifferent, as in the past.

Tags: luo zhaohui, masood azhar