A cyclist wearing a protective mask rides past a banner of Chinese president Xi Jinping in Shanghai | Qilai Shen/Bloomberg
A cyclist wearing a protective mask rides past a banner of Chinese president Xi Jinping in Shanghai | Representational image | Qilai Shen | Bloomberg
Text Size:

Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat said this week that there are military options available if the talks between India and China over the Ladakh crisis fail. His statement came as an unexpected verbal bazooka fire amid the stand-off with China that has now been on for over 100 days.

While the military options before India have always been on the table ever since the Chinese PLA made intrusions, it is for the first time that someone from the top in the current security establishment has openly hinted at this. Till now, India has stuck to the line, saying ‘the focus is on talks’ without any major breakthrough since July and the Chinese continuing to occupy various positions along the LAC. However, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar in an interview to Rediff said that all border situations were resolved through diplomacy—a statement that is now being seen contradicting CDS Rawat’s views.

Military action or not, China is not going anywhere soon from our territory. Hence, India should continue to hit China where it hurts the most – economy. The economy is the biggest advantage and disadvantage that the Chinese have.


Also read: Chinese tech giant Alibaba puts investment plans for India on hold amid ‘souring relations’


Make China ‘pay’

While India has already taken some measures to penalise China—imposing higher tariff on certain Chinese products, restricting participation of Chinese firms in government contracts and banning 59 Chinese apps—it is time for the country to escalate the costs for the neighbour. However, this should be done only after due diligence by the government and industry as the trade deficit between the two countries is heavily tilted in favour of the Chinese. Also, the Indian industry, especially pharmaceuticals and auto, is heavily dependent on imports from China. So, snapping trade links with China without arranging for alternatives won’t be a good idea. The government should make sure that the steps taken have no ripple effect on our economy in the long term.

India needs to set specific timelines before itself to inflict economic costs on the Chinese and send them a clear message—move back or lose money.

I had argued in April this year, before the LAC tensions began, that India should use domestic markets to its advantage. This is so because Indian markets have the capacity to counter China’s advantage on the border.

According to the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), in 2018-19, while India’s imports from China stood at $70 billion, exports were a meagre $17 billion. The trade deficit shows how India is a huge market for China. India needs to diversify its imports basket and ensure that there is a focussed Make in India approach to tide over this problem. Heavy Chinese import sectors such as pharmaceuticals, automobiles and telecom should come under immediate focus. The Narendra Modi government should attract foreign companies to set up manufacturing facilities in India.


Also read: US-China tensions rise with ballistic missile tests, sanctions


China’s real power lies in its economy

The Chinese belligerence on the LAC emanates from its economic might—being the world’s second-largest economy after the US. Apart from mending the military differential, India must also try to close the economic gap with China.

China managed to become the workshop of the world. As per data from London School of Economics, in 1978, Chinese exports were at $10 billion, less than 1 per cent of world trade. But, by 1985, the exports hit $25 billion, and a little under two decades later they were valued at $4.3 trillion, making China the world’s largest trading nation in goods, according to a BBC report.

According to a 2019 World Bank report, more than 850 million people have been lifted out of poverty in China since reforms were first introduced, and the country is on track to eliminate absolute poverty by 2020.


Also read: Indian envoy calls for promoting mutual understanding with China amid tensions over LAC


Covid opportunity

China’s global standing has taken a hit by the coronavirus pandemic and this gives India an opportunity to stand up and replace it as the ‘workshop of the world’. According to a Bloomberg report, India’s latest set of incentives to entice businesses moving away from China seem to be working, with companies from Samsung Electronics Co. to Apple Inc.’s assembly partners showing interest in investing here. India has also extended similar incentives to pharmaceutical businesses, and plans to cover more sectors, which may include automobiles, textiles, and food processing under the program. However, according to the report, while companies have been actively looking to diversify supply chains amid the US-China trade tensions and the coronavirus outbreak, it hasn’t yet translated into big gains for India despite the nation making it cheaper for businesses to open shop.

According to a recent survey by Standard Chartered Plc, Vietnam remains the most favored destination, followed by Cambodia, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Thailand. India needs to quickly get on to this list to really hurt China.

China was never an ally of India. It has always supported insurgency in the Northeast, shielded Pakistan, which is the main exporter of terrorism in the region, and remained a bully. Now that China has publicly shown that it cannot be a trusted ally of India, it should be a wake-up call for the country to begin focusing on our abilities and threats.

Views are personal.

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it

India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.

But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.

ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.

Support Our Journalism

VIEW COMMENTS

20 COMMENTS

  1. India is a trapeze artist on a rope with pots on both hands and on the head.(china, Russia and us)
    When a distant house is torched(south china sea) by vandals(Chinese), our great artist thinks oh! not my house burnt. When distant house owners asks for help to defend against the vandal our great artist says i will be imbalanced if i help you , you know the vandal is also good friend of mine. But i make pots , so i will send piece of mud(offer usd 100 million) to rebuild your house.Our great artist house hold members say , what are you doing to counter rogue vandal , our artistic owner says we need balance , see with great balance you do not need to fight, you do not need to spend for defense , since we are very poor and we got lot of internal problems, let us have a multi decade plans (quad, indo-pacific charter, Russia in pacific, bla bla) for tackling, imagining his house is safe and need not bother because he thinks he is the wisest. He thinks no body on the earth is doing this kind of balancing.
    The artist thinks he is the smartest diplomatic juggler in the world.
    When neighbor’s house(border infrastructure, cpec, inimical activities by china) is torched, our great artist will add one more pot on one hand (offer trade concessions to china , issue statement of civilization countries , room for both the countries) and adding another light weight pot another hand(because the artist does not have equal weight pot to balance) by dusting off multi decade plans and issues bravado statements and by increasing puny defense budget or by sanctioning some more defense purchases. But there is already slight imbalance and he struggles and people feel amazed how with unequal weights also trying to balance. Oh! great.

    When our great artist’s house is torched by the same vandal , our great artist says Too! Too! we talked and agreed that you do not touch my house. The vandal says no! no! your crow from your tree is flying over my house(Article 350 scrapping). This we did not discuss. But the artist does not have balancing pots so he starts placing different weight pots on both the hands and on the head, and starts tumbling . He puts one weight on one hand (Russia indo pacific), puts another pot on another hand (quad we will start in months, but alas our artist did not think it can not be completed in months) , try to put another pot on the head (buying of emergency arms) and finally falls down.

    Moral of the story:
    1. You should not be half clever juggling all the pots.
    2. You should have few pots , so that he can think about others (industrialization, deterrence)
    2. The artist thinks he is the most cleverest , but onlookers thinks why he is trying with so many pots , he could have tried with few pots and be stable.
    3. When you have few pots and stable there is calm , you can plan cleverly, because when the crisis comes, he can jump safely with fewer pots and is ready for the crisis. With so many pots , he can not jump but will try to balance with more pots , but in the crisis he will not get equal sized pots (Russian meditation, us muscle flexing , emergency arms purchases) urgently so he tumbles down.

    • Ha!! Ha!! The trapeze artist has to deal with the pots he has when the donkey’s divided the zoo to please termites!! Following the division, they even kept most termites inside the zoo, nurtured trash instead of gold, signed deals with monkeys instead of tigers..!! The zoo thus became ever weak!! These donkeys came from the same dynasty!! Inbreeding and eating as much as they could was their only interest!! The zoo & it’s inhabitants were left unattended while the foundations of the zoo were weakened by the termites!! A new foundation must be laid so that the zoo is made of home soil, not foreign termites!! That’s the only struggle!!

  2. As the old adage goes: Fool me once shame on you fool me twice shame on me.
    The strong do what they can, and the weak suffer what they must.
    In crisis there’s always opportunity. Some significant ones are coming.

  3. Our CDS is a Complete Disaster of a Soldier. Stupid to issue threats which China can take it seriously and counter it by taking the initiative. Has Gen Rawat forgotten the Forward policy of Nehru – Menon which got the Chinese to take it seriously with disastrous conseqences. While there is no doubt that our Forces are better prepared today we are by no stretch of imagination strong enough to evict the Chinese. At best we can give them a bloody nose.
    I wont be surprised if the Modi Govt asked him to make that statement as a strategy to convey to the Chinese that we are not afraid to fight a war. The fact is China has ignored the statement and not budged.
    My guess is we are stuck and China is not going away from Pangong Tso, Depsang and wherever. The US, Japan, Viet Nam, Korea, Philipines & Taiwaan can be sure all the sabre rattling in the South China Sea will not faze China. Xi is repeating Hitler’s pre World War strategy of occupying Poland etc. till a war was started by Britain. Unless all these nations can get togther and decalre war China is not going to be fazed.

  4. We import more than 70 billion dollars of materials from China which is 2% of their whole exports. Many items like Bajaj fans, Bluestar Ac etc are which of Indian make are manufactured by China. In this way our country is loosing employment for our youth.and precious foreign exchange. I don’t know who is fooling who. Stop all the direct and to some extend indirect import from China. Tell China and remind them that we are a Nuclear Country..So China can wag it’s tail in the border areas.only. In real war we can thrash China also. But before that CDS should worry of its own soldiers. Our 1971 war hero Flying Officer K.P.Muralidharan MIA is not given his pending dues. How we can fight and win war with Pak and China in future wars when the IAF and CDS is not interested to recognise this brave and courageous pilot who sacrificed his life for his country.According to govt official list he is languishing in Pak jails. IAF bileatedly and repeatly recommanded Maha Vir Chakra posthumously but this govt endorses TIME BAR for bravery. What an insult to a true son of this country for his valour and war heroism.Even the Pakistan press and the enemy pilot Wing comdr Salim Mirza Baig eloquently praised this war hero,but our govt and IAF is not ready to recognise him. With few Rafael aircraft we cannot win war with China or Pak. We should have such brave and courages pilots who can motivate other soldiers and can change the game. He not only saved his commanding officer Sqn Ldr K.N.Bajpayee,s life in aerial dogfight but also destroyed many vital military installations in Peshawar air base in his three run over the air base He was shot down by the enemy pilot after a long air battle over the Peshwar skies. Oct 8 is Indian Air Force Day. Hope CDS and IAF Chief will correct the mistake and take up this case to award this poor soldier his award other wise the people of this country will not forgive the IAF Chief and CDS. jai hind. rajendrannairk1971@gmail.com

  5. In India you need about 80 NOC from various government agencies to even build a small warehouse on your own land. This takes a huge amount of bribe and still you need to run from pillar to post, even if you are willing to do all that it takes more than 6 months. Another difficulty added to this is is lack of credit availability from the banks.
    Compare that to china and other companies mentioned above, we don’t stand a chance.

    • It’s really Sad that the civilization which was built on science, nature & higher human consciousness is not just mired in bureaucratic corruption but also “fair & lovely” slavery of the Phoren!!

  6. This can happen only if the govt. becomes little more right wing in its business policy. unfortunately modi govt. is not willing to do so.

    • India has to turn right and smart or else it’s 5000+ year civilization, economy & security are all at great risk!!

  7. China’s exports are a mere 2% of its total exports to the world. China can forget this 2% export to India, and it wouldn’t cause a dent to its economy. Also, Chinese companies have lot of investments in Asean countries. They can sell goods to India from those countries. For instance, if a Chinese company in Vietnam is exporting to India, how would India deal with it? Don’t you think China may have thought what it would do in case India stopped importing from China? Or what to do next after India exercises its military option? It is in Ladakh for a long haul, and is not going to leave, as you say, regardless of what India does. A possible prospect is, India may have to live with a loss of territory to it, any remedial measures being even worse.

    • There are many ways to identify Chinese origin stuff & 2% is NOT small!! There are also other ways in which Indian can counter China but India must first set it’s own house in order while going back to basics of it’s civilization & culture!!

  8. It’s going to be a process where we might pay higher charges but atleast the money will circulate and percolate inside INDIA.

    Also MANY products we buy aren’t really required. It’s wastage .

  9. Gen Rawat seems to suffer from foot and mouth disease. There was a time when he boasted that India is ready to fight on two and a half fronts. So why were the Chinese not stopped when they were moving into Ladakh? Now, he is talking of a military option when the fact is that our military is not ready. Otherwise, why are we panic buying defence hardware and ammunition? The Prime Minister and Defence Minister have been cautious in their statements. But not Gen Rawat, who seems to believe in shooting from the mouth. Doesn’t matter if the target of his big talk is an enemy who is much, much stronger – militarily, technologically as well as economically.

    • Recall the statement, I wish they would pick up guns, then we could have … Or the letter of commendation issued to Major Gogoi, author of the human shield. Mastery over CT operations. Even better while dealing with civilians who have nothing more than stones.

    • A military person (Rawat) talks like a military person (aggressively). A diplomat, now politician (Jaishankar) talks like a diplomat (Softly). Politicians (modi and Rajnath) talk according situation. It’s all part of a coordinated strategy. No need of spoon feeding or giving lectures how to talk. They’re in respectable and responsible positions. They know what they’re doing. Don’t behave like a congressi and criticise everything without any knowledge of things.

    • Indian intelligence, economic, civilization-al and national security policies are pathetic!! A 2 year old well developed, non fair & lovely kid will do a better job!!

  10. Nice article,hope our government will allow home industries to thrive and survive.competing against china will require some serious body gear but first and foremost is low government interference in businesses and more subsidiary policies atleast for a coming decade after that it can safely compensate the industrial complex but first it needs to grow ..

Comments are closed.