The wolf in the cabbage patch

…is unlikely to be vegetarian

The tragedy of M K Bhadrakumar’s article in today’s Hindu is that one half of it is eminently sensible and the other, unsubstantiated wishfulness. Yes, it is important not to allow paranoia to determine policy towards China, but unless Mr Bhadrakumar is wired into the minds of the Chinese leadership, it is illogical and dangerous to assume that the wolf in the cabbage patch is vegetarian. And will remain vegetarian.

As I had tweeted earlier, reports of Pakistan handing Gilgit-Baltistan over to China are almost certainly exaggerated. This does not mean, however, that the scenario is implausible. To the extent that Selig Harrison’s article caused the public and politicians to consider the implications of such a scenario—and hopefully, prepare for it—it served a purpose. It is quite possible that Mr Harrison was an unwitting part of a disinformation operation, perhaps by the United States, to ensure that public opinion in India remains wary of China. If this were so, shouldn’t China be extra careful to ensure that it doesn’t deliberately carry out unfriendly acts like the visa denial to a senior military officer? Mr Bhadrakumar would have been on a firmer footing had he listed some measures China took to prove its bona fides vis-a-vis India. I myself can count none.

Mr Bhadrakumar goes on to make two key assertions. First, that stability in India’s immediate neighbourhood needs India and China to co-operate, and that China sees a stable subcontinent as in its interests. Second, that growing Chinese influence in the neighbourhood will not damage India’s interests. There is no basis for such beliefs, and surely enough, he does not offer any.

On the first point, there is direct evidence that China uses unstable states to indirectly keep its adversaries engaged. China deliberately transferred nuclear weapons technologies to Pakistan, Iran and North Korea so that India and the United States could expend their resources tackling the paw, not the cat. It is hard to adduce evidence to prove conclusively that China is deliberately destabilising the subcontinent in order to contain India, but no sensible person can dismiss the possibility. The onus is on Mr Bhadrakumar to produce evidence of Chinese moves to stabilise the neighbourhood in co-operation with India. Does selling nuclear reactors to a highly unstable Pakistan, in violation of its international commitments, count?

On the second point, realists will accept that China’s influence in the subcontinent will grow, whether or not India likes it. But that’s not the issue. The issue is, even in the unlikely event that China itself does not use its influence against India’s interests, the countries of the subcontinent almost certainly will. Bilateral relations with Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Myanmar and countries of ASEAN will get even more difficult to resolve, because their leaders will play New Delhi against Beijing. There’s evidence for this: King Gyanendra, Khaleda Zia and Mahinda Rajapaksa all pursued policies contrary to New Delhi’s recommendations. Two of them lost power, but not before plunging their countries into instability and crises. Mr Rajapaksa didn’t lose power, but thanks to Chinese influence, tragically believes he can avoid genuine reconciliation after the civil war.

While India cannot prevent China from increasing its influence in the subcontinent, there is no reason to welcome it. New Delhi must act to increase its own influence and counter China’s. That’s not all. The game is not restricted to the neighbourhood—it is global. Ergo, India must extend its influence in and around China’s immediate neighbourhood. As I wrote in my Pax Indica column recently, New Delhi needs a Look East Beyond Singapore strategy. Achieving balance within regions and balance between regions is the surest way to have a stable relationship with China.

Related Posts: M K Bhadrakumar routinely imputes benevolent motives to Beijing. Couple of instances: Worshipping false gods; John 8:7 doesn’t apply to international relations

8 thoughts on “The wolf in the cabbage patch”

  1. A well-written column. MK Bhadrakumar’s specious reasoning itself should alert India to take counter measures in dealing with China. I heartily second GK Parthasaarthy’s ideas in his latest column in The Pioneer.

    on the some of the measures India should take in dealing with this situation.


  2. Except for China, the neighborhood offers very slim pickings. Better let them balance out each other. Just offer unconditional transit to all our neighbors and let them relieve their hatred, racism and bigotry on each other. India needs to get out of this hate contagion quickly.

  3. I don’t know why MK Bhadrakumar is taken so seriously. The man is obviously a pro-China tool. That he publishes his bile in the editorial pages of the The Hindu, whose editor-in-chief, the leftist N Ram, whitewashes Tibet on China’s behalf.

    1. Niraj,

      It’s not about the author or the newspaper – they are entitled to their opinions, as much as I am to mine.

      The arguments they make must be refuted when they are are wrong…lest they take a life of their own.

      1. I do not deny Mr. Bhadrakumar the right to make a fool of himself, I just strongly disagree with almost everything he has written.

        He is an old-school leftists, who stills sees the US as enemy number one. He looks to both India and China, in cooperation, to be a counterweight to the United States, when in reality China wants to go it alone.

        This view is egregious enough. But that he gives Chinaa a pass on everything: economic, human rights, democracy, etc. that irritates me.

  4. Niraj,

    That is correct and MKB does look ridiculous any way! N Ram has been the bureau chief of Chennai edition of China Daily. Still, I for one cannot take it easy when MKB so blatantly espouses the cause of China that he should be made resident-ambassador of China in India:)

  5. Whether MK Bhadrakumar like it or not china did not do anything towards India by which we can give them any reason of doubt. It is absolutely in India’s purpose that we should remain cautious if not on the heels of china. Acorn is right in saying that we cannot prevent China from increasing its influence in the subcontinent or world but we can extend our relations with more countries. In my view there is nothing wrong to be more alert if you have two hostile neighbors like Pakistan and china.

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