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India is losing the battle — 5 things Modi must do to rescue his image and China policy

Several rounds of military-level talks and conversations led by Foreign Minister Jaishankar and NSA Ajit Doval have produced zilch.

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The Chinese have just sent us another “dare”. We can’t afford to ignore it. After engaging in fruitless discussions over the Ladakh border incursions, some of the major Chinese brands – OnePlus, Vivo, MG Rover – have started advertising big in Indian media.

This could not have happened so soon after many Indian consumers called for a boycott of Chinese products unless this is just another way for the Communist Party leadership to check how far India will go with its economic counter-measures in retaliation for Chinese aggression on our borders. If we blink once more, we will lose the battle.

We blinked once when we even agreed to negotiate a de-escalation, but several rounds of talks between military commanders and conversations at the level of the External Affairs Minister and the National Security Adviser have produced zilch.

Despite some cosmetic pullbacks, the Chinese have not vacated the strategic points in Pangong Lake and Hot Springs-Gogra area. The Indian Army now knows that it has to prepare to dig in for the long haul, including a painful winter in these ice-cold heights.

Also read: Dropping lightweight tanks in Ladakh not enough. India’s forces need to be made more lethal

Samir Saran, president of the Observer Research Foundation, says there are five takeaways from China’s recent moves on India: One, for Xi Jinping global opinion does not matter. He sees India as an enemy and “the diminishing of India’s role, growth, weight and presence as a key foreign policy objective”.

This implies that there is not a snowball’s chance in hell that China will ever allow India to obtain a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, or enter the Nuclear Suppliers Group. China will block all measures against Pakistan’s terror groups. The UN and the World Trade Organization will be in permanent deadlock, this time with China replacing the Soviet Union as the rogue power.

The other points Saran makes are the following: a) China is comfortable with waging war on one front and continuing trade on the other; b) the Chinese know how to use democratic regimes to create their own internal enemies so that they can’t take decisive action against China.

We can see this in how Rahul Gandhi and the Congress party, not to speak of the Community Party of India (Marxist), are holding India more accountable than China for the border standoff.

The fourth and fifth points relate to Huawei, which can’t be allowed an entry into India’s 5G mobile services, and China’s reassessment of its military responses after the 16 Bihar Regiment gave Chinese soldiers a bloody nose in Galwan Valley in the mid-June clashes.

Also read: India has two options with stubborn China. The better one involves taking the battle to them

If Saran is correct, and there is no reason to doubt his assessment, Narendra Modi’s China policy is in tatters. He can go to Ladakh and talk about the end of the era of “vistaarvaad” (expansionism), but the Chinese don’t care for words. They came with a plan when they entered and occupied territory where previously both armies were only sending unarmed patrols; they are unlikely to go back any time soon.

If Modi is to rescue his image and China policy, there are five imperatives.

One, of course, is a willingness to accept economic damage as India extends its China ban from 59 Chinese apps to Huawei and other Chinese imports. India-China trade has to whittle down, and Chinese involvement in Indian infrastructure limited and ultimately excluded. This has to be done even at significant cost to the Indian economy. You don’t trade to strengthen the enemy, never mind what trade theorists say.

Two, the trade war will take some time to prosecute, but the immediate need is to send a clear message that India is not going to cave in on trade counter-measures or Chinese military intimidation. There is no question of compromise unless status quo ante as in early May is restored on the borders.

This messaging need not be verbal. It must involve action: one action would be to ask Indian nationals and managers working in China to return in order to avoid being held hostage if things deteriorate on the border. This will send the message that India is preparing to dig in its heels.

Also read: Opaque disengagement process at LAC and ‘we won’ noise will hurt India

The other action should be to call off military level talks. There is actually no need to talk if the Chinese position is that the status quo cannot be restored. Talks make sense only after status quo is restored. We should tell the Chinese there will be no talks till the border position is restored to what it was on 1 May.

Three, the Prime Minister has to formally acknowledge to the nation that the Chinese have encroached on areas where earlier both countries patrolled. Maintaining the fiction that nothing much has changed no longer works, and will, in fact, impede any government decision to extend the economic counter-measures.

Most Indians will see no need for making any economic sacrifices on cheap Chinese products if they are not aware of the dangers looming on the border. Accepting that the Chinese have backstabbed us may, for a bit, make Modi look weak, but the key to winning both the domestic battle for public opinion and the eyeball-to-eyeball with China depends on honest disclosure.

Four, India now needs to up its economic and military diplomacy in order to build a consensus for lesser trade with China, and increasing sanctions on Chinese companies.

Currently, it is only the US and Britain that have acted against Huawei; but the action needs to encompass more countries in the European Union, Australia, and India. All countries must prepare to sanction China more, despite the economic costs.

The Uighur situation needs to be tom-tommed in West Asia, so that they can consider restricting energy supplies to China. But US foreign policy has actually ended up giving China an opening. By sanctioning Iran, the US has allowed China to seal a deal with that country.

Also read: As armies ‘retreat’ at LAC, India must turn to options it hasn’t used against China so far 

Fifth, and this is most important, India has to up its propaganda in Europe, the US, Australia, Africa and West Asia, so that the Chinese bid to confuse issues involving India are not only addressed, but also denuded of credibility.

The media war, of course, needs to be played intelligently and not be as crudely as China does. India has more credibility than China, but one also has to reckon with the Western media’s general unsympathetic tone on India ever since Modi came to power in 2014.

Modi does not have time on his hands, as the war against four C’s – Covid, China and Corporate and Consumer diffidence – has to be fought simultaneously. The China counter-measures can be announced together with a stimulus plan for Indian consumers and companies.

The author is Editorial Director, Swarajya. Views are personal.

The article was first published on Swarajya.

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  1. What kind of a stupid stupid Media you are.
    There is no encouragement from your side.
    I wish I could tag Hindustani Bhau Lol, so that he could teach you some lessons.
    You suck !!
    Change your Headlines.
    You people are influencers, so good influence will take you ahead with country.
    I wish that people like you get birth in Middle East, so that you can only print what their King wants.
    133 Crore Middle Fingers for you…

  2. This is most stupid word I have heard from these stupid media. Why border issue is so important when both army do not really want to have a war with each other. The world need to calm down to develop economy , especially for poor country, like India. US is the biggest enemy of China for decades. But China leaders choose to work with US and officially claim that China do not have desire to replace USA . China even did not get his official lands back yet, like taiwan and hong kong. But China choose to wait . The more peace time to develop economy, the more powerful later. Keep the status quo until you are really powerful . Buying a lot of foreign expensive weapons will only make things worse. China can manufacturing its own weapons. is India rich enough to compete.

  3. The fascistic Hindu regime bringing up human rights in China?
    Ok, then let China bring up Kashmir, Khalistan, Naxal and other independence movements. Plus the way you treat your Muslims especially after the mosque destruction shows you have no right to lecture others.
    If Hindu fanatics can violently take over a mosque, why can’t China violently over land in Kashmir?

  4. Blaming RG and CPI(M) for inability of the BJP government to take decisive action against China? Expecting readers to believe this?

    “Tom-tomming the Uighuyr situation”…let the Muslim world take care of it! Why should India spend it’s diplomatic energies on this? Let’s first resolve our own issues in Kashmir by winning the trust of the Kashmiri people and bring back peace and stability there without the need of armed forces there. Those living in glass houses should not throw stones at others.

  5. dont know how people are agreeing to this if u are saying that we should ban all the chinese items in sake of country then half of the business will drop small shopkeepers will die and much more if it really happens then maybe country will be there but their people will die of hunger and starvation .
    plzz note BANNING IS NOT THE SOLUTION COMPETING IS ! we can compete with chinese goods and provide better and cheaper goods than china then i don’t think people will have any interest in buying those goods.

  6. Other countries want to do trading and business with China! Recently 10 ASEAN countries, and their bigger partners Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, and South Korea decided to sign trading agreement RCEP. They would soon start trading, and have invited India to join! Australia told the US that it doesn;t want to harm its ties with China, as per a recent Reuter report: “WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States and close ally Australia held high-level talks on China and agreed on the need to uphold a rules-based global order, but the Australian foreign minister stressed Canberra’s relationship with Beijing was important and it had no intention of hurting it.” The US has signed a trade agreement with China in January last. According to this agreement, China is supposed to buy $200 billion worth American goods by the year end. Trump is anxious to see China buy American agricultural products that would help his reelection campaign, and help American economy that is in recession!

    Even India is buying FROM CHINA, right this very moment, THE TEST KITS IT SO BADLY NEEDS FOR COVID-19!

    In view of all this, it wouldn’t be easy for India to implement your five suggestions.

  7. FYI, RG has been asking the government to take action against China, and admit the intrusion, not the other way around!

  8. Agree with all your views except stopping the talks. It makes no sense at all! Keeping the channels open can only be a good thing.

    To highlight the Uighiur situation, we need to get the Kashmir situation back to normal. People are not stupid enough to not realise that the lack of protests is due to the fear of the gun. The government has also been trying to make demographic changes in an underhand way. When you do exactly what China does, you can’t credibly criticise them. World leaders are not andh-bhakts! As has been pointed out on this site, Modi’s bigoted domestic policy has undermined his international policy, as well as our standing in the world.

  9. Jagananthan is such a genius that I ma sure Modi will accept all his suggestions. Once implemented it will be only a matter of time before China surrendered. Only thing left will be to fix time and date for surrender ceremony

    • Sarcasm noted. It also means that you have nothing constructive to offer. Hatred for Modi cannot be a solution. Wake up and participate constructively. Before you lose Kerala to the BJP.

  10. All the valuable, and intelligent suggestions put by Jagananthan will be accepted by Modi. Will be implemented by Modi by August end.China will surrender by mid Septmeber or October at the latest.Fix the date and time for signing the ceremony. Jaganthan is really a genius

  11. I agree with everything! If India bow down to China now, it will happen again in future for sure!

  12. Everything was good except the Rahul Gandhi stuff. It is in the author’s DNA to hate Nehru Gandhi family. Rahul just asked Modi to speak the truth. Modi as the author himself has stated does not tell the truth. Like a shy Hindu bride, Modi has not yet taken the name of China as the aggressor.

    • Is it realistic for the head of a state to accept publicly that a part of his country’s territory has been occupied by an enemy? In matters of national sovereignty, it is foolhardy to accept this publicly. The only solution is to push them on the ground. So for RaGA to “ask for truth” shows his intellectual maturity and a lack of understanding how security risks are handled.

  13. This is a very interesting analysis.All the suggestions are highly relevant and the Modi Government should give these serious consideration.It is high time for India to adopt pro-active policies vis a-vis China rather than being reactive.China has presumably got the impression that India can do only some verbal protests and hope for international support.This will happen only if we are economically and militarily strong enough for China to take note.The Chinese are adept at soft summit dialogues and ruthlessly stabbing from the back. simultaneously.It is high time to realise that personal summit meetings with the Chinese head of state as the ones at Ahmedabad, Wuhan and Chennai are just atmospherics and serve no useful purpose at least as far as India is concerned.

  14. As usual a long prescription has been propounded by a RSS affiliate without taking into consideration whether India actually has the capacity to do so. Howdy Modi and jhappi-pappi diplomacy looks nice on TV but it impresses only credulous domestic audience. Westerners are not going to do something just because India asks them to do. For quad to work, India has to commit troops, weapons and treasure – which till now it has shown reluctance in doing.

    RG criticising Modi is not equal to supporting China. This is another balloon floated to take advantage of the fact that most Indians (including many in the present govt) do not understand democracy. It is the opposition’s job to point out mistakes in the govt policy. All that RG was saying is that the PM wasn’t truthful when he said “No one entered each other’s territory.” Now even you have validated that fact and asked the PM to come clean to the nation. Infact RG has been fully vindicated by your article. In a democracy, opposition’s role is as important as the govt. Partisan agenda should not be allowed to undermine democracy itself.

    The rest of your prescription involves the Indian nation making enormous sacrifices for a long time. I doubt whether we as a people (I mean poor Indians not keyboard warriors of the BJP) have the capacity to undergo such prolonged suffering especially when we know now that this govt has a very poor record at managing economic issues. And that is the main reason for China attacking India. The wilful degradation of the economy started on 08 Nov 2016 and neglecting to correct the same after 2019 mandate has sapped our economic strength and allowed enemies to poke and wound us.

    • Your analysis is better than the author’s.

      Projecting Modi and staying in power through mainstream media and social media is an easy job . Building an economically strong nation is a different task altogether.

      It took decades of silent and hard work by the Chinese to build globally competent tech companies like Huawei, Xiaomi etc. Too much sloganeering from our bureaucracy like Make in India, Smart Cities, Skill India etc. was not necessary. Too much talk and marketing distracts us. Better for us to be silent, work hard to improve the lives of our countrymen and bide our time.

  15. Isn’t the article too naieve. Dont confuse consumerism and foreign policy.

    1. The consumer will always look for the best value and the recent online sales prove it. So of course Vivo will advertise. It means nothing.

    2. Modi was taken for a ride. And he doesn’t accept the blunders he has made. If you don’t accept, a course correction is impossible.

    3. India may not be an enemy for China. Don’t base arguments on fallacies. China may just be protection what it thinks are assets for the future at any cost. Doesn’t make India an enemy. There is a difference. We have just have to prove to the Chinese if that is their attitude then, India will make it very expensive for them through global alliances, battles, diplomacy and all also by finally allowing Panchen Dalai Lama and Dalai Lama to visit Sikkim and Tawang.

  16. Do you think that these simple points are not pondered by NSA Ajit Doval and EFM S Jaishankar?
    The reason people of India are with the government on this is that they know the current team is the best there is.
    No government in the world would admit to losing territory even if we did lose some.
    Although Shekhar Gupta himself said that it was a tie between the two countries.

  17. R Jagannathan of Swarajya is a male version of Tavleen Singh….waking up to reality a bit late….

    What a moronic fantasy he is indulging in when he wishes that other European countries should ban Huawei… Does this man know that China is building one of the most sophisticated fuel cell plants in Germany for Volkswagen and Germany is the biggest trading partner of China in EU ?

    Amit Shah’s son is rooting for Chinese companies in IPL sponsorships… And Jaggi is talking of reducing dependency on Chinese companies…

    Modi is nothing but a fictional Wizard of Oz…. An intellectual pygmy grinding this country to eventual destitution and chaos… GST, Demonetization, Economy, Foreign Policy are there for everyone to see

  18. Rahul has only asked Modi to tell the truth. Nothing more, Mr. Jagannathan. As of today till now Modi has not named China as the aggressor.

  19. India’s trade deficit with China in the last 20 years is about 550 billion dollars. China is increasing India’s defence budget and also harming the economy through the trade surplus against India. The Indian Government should correct trade deficit first and it is more important than border tension.

  20. You should be ashamed of yourself. Sitting in comfortable AC office, writing whatever that pleases you. “India should be ready for economic consequences”. Have you spared a thought for those who have been retrenched from Chinese companies, where will they get their next meals from? Useless posturing by good for nothing hawks like you (and ORF fellows), using broad level analysis such as this. “India should be ready for economic consequences”. What is India? It’s its people. You’re making the people suffer to further your own twisted strongman political agenda.

  21. The top executive, after his disastrous statement of 19 jun pertaining to Chinese incursions, must make amends post haste, and proclaim publicly the diabolical designs of the enemy at hand, including his questionable role in the unleashing of a pandemic . Take the nation into confidence and stop being in denial, for the PM’s credibility and more importantly, the nation’s image and security are in serious peril.

    Let not procrastination, and pussy footing be the guiding principles in the way forward. National will has to be on display without unnecessary distractions which certainly call for the PM’s now, as never before

  22. Wow! No wonder the Chinese are always smacking their lips at the prospect of taking on us Indians. We are emotional fools with about as much stomach for pragmatism and practicality as a carnivore for grass. Exempli gratia this article I am commenting on that so blithely misses the single most important non – negotiable aspect of the struggle if Indian is to succeed long term against China. We must develop economically and technologically. We must surpass China. Something easier said that done considering the lead China has on us. For all the propaganda and chest beating, we as a country come across as little more than amateurs striking pin pricks on the dinosaur (China) whilst suffering broken bones in our attempts to do so. There has been absolutely zero strategic communication from our government about the direction we as a nation are to take unless you count the political slogan ‘Atmanirbhar bharat’ as a strategic direction. The only reason for this could be failure on part of the government to itself resolve a clear direction along strength of conviction in its ability to walk the road thus declared. Ergo we get a China policy that is haphazard and confusing. A lot of noise but no actual work. Before we cast our trade with China to the side we need to built ourself up so that we do not suffer as a nation. Otherwise we are giving China the win without firing a bullet. It would be equivalent of China provoking us that causes us to beat ourself black – and – blue in fond hope that our neighbour would be outraged and chastised with our idiocy. The fact that this articles proposes that we must suffer to teach Chinese a lesson shows that the writer either thinks the government is useless or is convinced that our government has neither guts nor brains to come up with an actual strategic long term vision and implement it. Why else would he suggest that we string ourself to the roof with our balls and swing hard yelling ‘Doom to China!!!’. Well essentially that is what the bright author seems to recommend. I could see the Chinese strategist passing tea through their nostrils as they are laughing uncontrollably at our brainless and directionless response. Relations between nations are not matter of days, they are generational. Similarly, problems between nations are not to be solved in matter of days. Doing so when we are patently underprepared, weaker and overwhelmed would be a disaster. One of our own making. We must be smart. After all we are brethren of Chanakya. I am sure we can use our brains if we try.

  23. I find that most commentators on China are of recent vintage and that this “problem” as if it has cropped up yesterday. Here is a brief perspective.
    The LAC itself was ‘created’ unilaterally by India in 1959 when Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai wrote to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru offering a package deal for border resolution, which mentioned the “line up to which each side exercises actual control” in Ladakh. Based on this in 1960, India and China held a series of discussions on the LA which was inconclusive because of conflicting claims. The matter was left there as is where is despite the war in 1962.
    Next major move on LAC was in 1993, when India and China signed the agreement on the LAC without marking any Line on ground / map, with an only objective of maintaining , ironically, peace and tranquility. Of course, the line which India believed to be the LAC according to the 1993 agreement may not have been where the Chinese said it lies. For that, Beijing’s reference point was its 1959-60 claim lines.
    This was clearly a time bomb ticking. The peace largely held, with only a couple hiccups in between, till May-June 2020, may be because China did not feel the need to needle India more. World situation now has China centre stage and the power equations are changing. China now wants to send a message through India
    On May 5, the PLA crossed the 1993 LAC moving in to areas demarcated by its claim lines and came well inside land perceived by India as its own exposing a decades old problem.

      • Right…THAT is exactlly the point. All claim lines are fluid. What is “1960” for one is something else for the other. China, obviously does not want a denied IB, which will make INDIA strong in S Asia without bothering for and spending on a nebulous long border..

  24. Yes, Solid and concrete measures are to taken against China, even though if any backclashes on economy of india. NO GIMMICKS kind of action. Action we take should be realistic & create sort of fearness with china.

    We must ready to accept even loss in some corner. Thats the message china should receive. We need to give reply to ‘Sun tzu’ policy of china.

  25. The opposition is holding the government responsible for the failure to address the border stand off. Not for the stand off itself. there is a huge difference.

  26. The best way to change the way India is portrayed in the global media is to have a better story to tell. Fairy tales work well only with the pliable folk back home.

  27. Excellent article.People at the helm need to understand .They found caught napping on multiple fronts and it’s now time to get out of that mode.

    • Wonderful.Once accepted Jagananthan’s proposals surrender by China will be a matter days or weeks only

  28. Nice play of words. The Chinese have occupied not Indian territory but a swathe of No man’s land where both sides earlier sent unarmed patrols. A more forensic analysis of the situation would be found in Colonel Ajai Shukla’s column today in Business Standard. Dare toh bilkul kiya hai, lekin sawaal uthta hai ki hum Jung karna chahte hain kya. According to Shri Sharad Pawar, former Raksha Mantri, the issue should be resolved through diplomatic channels.

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