Thirty Hindu tributaries for the Middle Kingdom

How China might reshape the world—Undo the Indian Union edition

A realist theorist in Beijing goes into the forest to do tapasya. After 9 years of meditation and a hard ascetic life, there is a flash of light and Lord Shiva himself appears in a flash of light. He grants the Chinese realist theorist a boon. “Ask, O mortal, what ist thy dearest wish?”

The realist then asks for something similar to what appeared (via C3S India) on several websites in the People’s Republic of China, including on that of the China Institute of International Strategic Studies (CIISS) (here’s a Google translation of the article). “O Ni-La-Kan-Ta” he says, “then let China break India up into 30 small nation-states.”

But then, in the real world, realist theorists in Beijing don’t do tapasya for 9 years. So such wishes remain wishes. But let’s grant one thing—if you are a growing global power north of the Himalayas, you would rather not have another one next door. Not only is the absence of a peer-competitor better from a strategic perspective, it is also more comforting to a Middle Kingdom mindset—one that sees tributaries in neighbours, not sovereign equals. So calling for China to bring about the break-up of India into 20-30 small states is perfectly understandable.

Now it is all very well if Beijing’s think tanks allow their theorists to fantasise in this manner, but an article appearing in government- and party-linked publications must be interpreted as a subtle threat that China might revive its long-running programme of supporting separatist insurgencies in India’s North-east and elsewhere.

The cocksure Chinese realist didn’t account for two things: that China’s political fragility is all the worse because of the rigidity of the Chinese state, and might yet implode even if India doesn’t attempt to return the favour. And second, an event that leads to the break-up of the region south of the Himalayas into ethnic nation-states is unlikely to spare the region to their north. It makes sense, therefore, for Chinese realist theorists to be careful in what they are wishing for.

10 thoughts on “Thirty Hindu tributaries for the Middle Kingdom”

  1. Nitin, what is your basis for this assertion,” an event that leads to the break-up of the region south of the Himalayas into ethnic nation-states is unlikely to spare the region to their north.”? China has demonstrated an ability to hold together, even when there was turmoil in the neighbourhood.

  2. However, if India becomes a zone of turmoil according to this chinese fantasy, then China’s use of extreme force will not be enough to keep down separatist movements in China. Just think of Nepal and India being the equivalent of what Pakistan is to India.

  3. Now this thing is ridiculous,
    There has already been rumors that a war between India and China can happen before 2015 and seriously we aren’t prepared for this. They have already started saying that Arunachal Pradesh is a part of China, they call it South Tibet . All our military is centralized towards Pakistan and we hardly have a hold in East India. People there are facing problems with many naxal groups, ULFA and many other small groups, its our problem that we don’t give an equal attention to those states and such countries are trying to take advantage of this. I don’t know what their long term plan is but even if they try to divide one single state we won’t take it. Our Government shouldn’t be submissive anymore, till they at least solve the border issues.

  4. China has been cracking down on porn. The Chinese are onto other fantasies to satisfy their entertainment needs.

  5. I agree with raj (#1). It is ridiculous to suggest that India breaking into pieces will somehow affect China and hence they shouldn’t do it LOLZ. I sometimes wonder why India can’t take care of her own security and instead have to depend on “goodness” of others to do it?

    Chinese govt understands only 2 things – power and loss of face. In terms of military or economic power, I don’t think India can match China for the next 10-20 years. So a war should be avoided as much as possible by India. If Chinese are rational they will avoid a war as well, just having more power doesn’t necessarily mean u can “easily” win a war as US learnt the hard way in Iraq. India should also increase the “exposure” to events when Chinese step out of line and show how stupid sometimes they really are as in the case with Arunachal. That is how u make them “lose face” by shining sunlight on their idiocy.

    The article itself seems to be stupid of course. The guy doesn’t seem to understand India. Not to mention splitting a stable (and that too democratic) country that has been independent for quite sometime is pure fantasy. To break a country into pieces requires lot of planning and groundwork. That said, CIIS itself is a pretty influential “think tank” in Shanghai. So I’m not sure why this was published in open. Two possible explanations

    1. Chinese are trying to be “bold” with their approach. They have already laid groundwork and at this stage don’t care. If true this is scary. But I don’t think it is.

    2. Some of the players inside China’s bureaucracy are probably facing internal power struggles. And making India the crucial enemy strengthens their position. There is probably a segment within government which is rooting for Indo-Chinese Cold War.

    I think it would be a mistake to brand the entire govt. in China as anti-India. See this video which discusses China’s POV at Arihant’s recent launch and look at India’s map at 4:25 (it includes Aksai Chin and AP!!)

    You could say that map was probably a “mistake” but the overall program itself is pretty balanced (listen to opinion of this other CIIS analyst who seems to be more “grounded”). So I think there is the “well refined” smooth but calculating faction in CCP on the one hand and the hardliner PLA guys on the other hand.


    Note: Arvind, final warning. Please use proper HTML while citing URLs or your comments will be deleted. — Ed

  6. Nitin – Although an interesting read, I don’t find anything particularly original in the article, except its timing.

    That the Indian state was a doomed project was a popular thesis in the 1950s and may be the 1960s. Obviously the Chinese have been aware of this, so either they’ve been trying balkanize India since then – and failed – or for some reason some guy from their think tanks wants to do it now
    Whatever be the case, advertising this goal will only harden public opinion on both sides and make political maneuvering more difficult. That would make sense only if China is not interested in resolving the boundary issue soon. But why?

    Another possibility: Given the economic recession, some people in the Chinese government want to create a ‘monster’ from India so as to improve China’s own political stability. Nothing like a war to get people together, eh?

  7. Its Pure Game :), Chines are afraid India doing this on them, especially on Tibet and Uighur regions, which is always a India’s strength to make them worry, but India never used it. With this article they are ahead of the us in a silly game.

  8. The chinese inclusion of AP in their maps is just tactical and is meant to evoke the response seen here, which is to drop one’s guard since the Chinese have “accepted AP as part of India”. Don’t be too surprised if the chinese publish a map with AP as part of China a few months from now. Do not listen to the lies the chinese tell (you can recognize the CCP/PLA is lying when their mouth is moving) but do pay attention to what the chinese are actually doing on the ground.

  9. Shouldnt the Chinese include Bengal and Kerala in their map of Greater China? ๐Ÿ™‚

    The sad part is, militarily & economically, the Chinese have left us so far behind we can only ignore their obnoxious statements. Once the Merchant of Death or a 2nd incarnation of Mrs. Indira gandhi takes over we can start to even compete with the Chinese. If you cant join or beat your enemy, play dead.

  10. Raj,

    China has demonstrated an ability to hold together, even when there was turmoil in the neighbourhood.

    Not sure which period of turmoil you are referring to. But before the 1950s, China was separated from its current day neighbours by buffer states. Only after it annexed Tibet did it come to share a border with India. So it has held together only after the turmoil of 1947.

    My general point is that if it is possible to conceive Bengal seceding from India, it should be possible to see Tibet and XInjiang seceding from China.

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