Jul 19, 2012

Nepal Perspective: Looming Sino-India conflict

By Deepak Gajurel, Political Scientist, TU, Nepal
(Telegraph Nepal)

Deepak Gajurel
While Nepal is engulfed in an intricate political uncertainty with no sign of an easy escape from this perplexed state of affairs, the world stage of power-struggle around us, read Nepal, is becoming more and more complex. Our two giant neighbors, China and India, are more engaged in competitions than cooperation, in terms of strategic leverage and military muscle flexing. More disturbing trends that are visible were the activities both of our neighbors showing their actions both diplomatically and strategically. Nepal is experiencing more overtly clash of interests among our neighbors, indeed fueled by others, covertly than a few overtly.

A little away, South China Sea region is plunged into a serious stage of confrontation which involves not only the peripheral states of the Pacific, but also 'outsiders'. Friction of interests in this disputed Sea has pulled in several far-flung powers, including the sole Super Power, The United States, and our immediate neighbor India. The United States is building pressures onto China to bring this emerging world power into Washington's terms. At the same time, India, along with others in the Pacific and Indian Ocean littorals, are trying to fish in the troubled waters for adding value to their own.

Military preparedness too has not been stalled by any of the sides: The United State is shifting it major power towards 'pivotal' Asia, irritating the toughened dragon (read China). China is consolidating its muscle in Tibet as well as in its Pacific shore. Military buildup by India, though formally said to be not targeted towards anyone, is going on in a scale unmatched in this country's past.

The current situation in the Himalayan Asia, including Nepal's domestic affairs and strategic interests of big powers in this Himalayan nation, in South China Sea region and in the Indian Ocean littorals, a devastating conflict can be predicted sooner or later.

Major conflict building up
The following scenarios are quite pertinent and nearer to objective conditions that now exist in the global context.

As the US is indebted in trillions of dollars, this Super power needs huge money, that too very urgent in short period of time. And regular trade, industry or other activities are not suitable for 'fast money' in amazingly huge amount into the national coffer. Huge scale military conflicts are the only means for earning 'quick money' through the sale of expensive and sophisticated lethal weapons. Here, a necessity of various Indo-US deals on sales of US weapons to India comes in. India is buying weapons from the US in an unprecedented scale.

Last decade, beginning in the aftermath of 9/11, Washington went into wars across the globe, spending its own made weapons, money and other resources. This further drained Pentagon's hefty wallet.
With the beginning of withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq, and using Europeans in Libya etc., Washington is planning not to go head-on in any war on its own. This means, the US is provoking large scale wars, either here or there. And no region, except Himalayan Asia (meaning South Asia plus China), in the world is ready for that (buying huge quantity of military hardware and software, especially from the US).

The conclusions, the US, in any guise, would work for staging a bilateral armed conflict, and that most potential is the Sino-Indian one. If such a conflict of huge scale occurs, the single beneficiary will be the US, both in terms of money and weakened 'potential' rivals (read China and India). This is the main objective of the US.

Such potential conflict, if staged, will certainly transform the present power equation in Asia. This will strengthen the US power in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific regions. Another consequence, the potential hard power challenges emanating from Beijing, in this case, will be pushed back, at least for a few decades. In a worst case scenario, in case of such armed conflicts, could be the beginning of the collapse of communist rule in Beijing, or even disintegrated China, in the long run.

The current clash of interests in the South China Sea, especially Beijing's stance against India's move in the name of 'engage East' and 'Look East' policy, suggest that China desperately needs self-protection from in-building 'Anti-China Alliance' with the US leadership, India too has been towing towards.

It is India's obsession to align with the US against possible Chinese threats, as calculated by New Delhi mandarins. Again, India has no option to buy huge quantity of military hardware from the US because it must prepare for any possible conflict with Beijing. We should keep in mind the recent provocative words from Beijing 'intelligentsia' against India, mostly focused on Sino-India border disputes, otherwise that had been sidelined for decades from the existing bilateral relations.

Though India is spending many times less resources in military ($ 46 billion in 2011) compared to China's ($ 143 billion in 2011) New Delhi knows that sooner or later, it has to face the consequences of Beijing's 'String of Pearls' strategy, which is advancing unhindered to New Delhi's dismay with the high velocity in recent times.

No option situation for Beijing
China knows all these strategies and upcoming political scenarios. But it has no option to go ahead in self-defense against any threat from toughening alliances that range from the US to India, to Australia and to almost all ASEAN nations.

If China does not act preemptively in breaking this possible alliance or 'teaching lessons' to alliance's Asian partners, Beijing rulers know that they will be cornered into a situation of 'nowhere in the international power scene’. It is here Chinese political acumen will be tested.

One perspective can be taken into account here. Both China and India know this US strategy intelligibly. So, Beijing and New Delhi will come together and join hands against any 'outsiders.'  This projection seems closer to take a shape. But, one can not consider that these Asian giants will be given a chance to get united for their own causes. 

It will be a blunder to calculate that the US is the only factor that promotes conflicts for its interests. China too may be in desperate need of 'huge' conflicts, involving tens of millions of its citizens.
With the swollen economic status, Chinese populace is demanding more 'freedom.' This is seen in various news items being published from mainland China. 'Political dissidents' are becoming more and more headache for the communist rulers in the Great Hall of the People.

Pressures from soft underbelly Tibet and from Xinjiang province is mounting. Dalai Lama factor is turning into a more complicated form.

Here the communist rules in Beijing have the best option of diverting more than 1.3 billion citizens' sensitivity towards 'national security' and 'nationalism'. And conflicts beyond the borders are the best way to deal these 'dissatisfied' mass at home.

Such conflict will help buy some time (say a decade or so) for the communists leaders to consolidate domestically. We should remember the aftermath of 'Tiananmen Square' of 1989 that paved the way for 'peaceful development' for more than two decades.

If China shows complacency, even Vietnam or the Philippines or India will not give any ear to Beijing rulers in the days to come. In the worst scenario, China will, under any guise, face devastating jolt from multiple sides, including but not limited to, Tibet, Uighur, South China Sea, India and so on. And in every such case, the US will be behind the curtain, reaping the harvest in terms of money as well as power.

In any case, if deeply analyzed, India will be the ultimate loser. Though New Delhi knows all these possible scenarios, it does not have any option to avoid looming danger, but to prepare and face, no matter the outcome thereafter.

Courtesy: Telegraphnepal.com, July 18, 2012

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