India’s biggest geopolitical focus, or obsession, now is China. After the military skirmish in Galwan two years ago, Indian sentiments have turned sharply anti-China. Many Chinese tech companies and investments have been banned in India since then; and India has tightly embraced the “China containment” coalitions like the QUAD. While the geopolitical contest is understandable, India must clearly define its own China strategy or else will end up going down a path that is destructive for its own progress and peace.
From the perspective of realpolitik, China poses some threats to India. Being five to six times larger than India’s economy, China will naturally encroach upon India’s economic and security interests.
Both countries share many neighbors, who will naturally move into China’s sphere of influence. That’s inevitable. Thus, countries such as Nepal, Myanmar, and Bangladesh will make more trade and infrastructure deals with China than with India. Even Sri Lanka and Maldives, who are traditionally closer to India, are leaning towards China. These countries might even form military alliance with China in the future.
Even if China doesn’t have malicious plans against India, the sheer success of China poses dilemmas for India. This is the geopolitical truth.
Then there are situations where China strengthens Pakistan — India’s “enemy.” China needs Pakistan as an alternative route to resources from Africa and the Middle East, in case of a conflict with the US that might temporarily shut down the Malacca Strait.
Analyzing this situation, India has a couple of obvious choices and one not-so-apparent choice.
Choice #1: Containing China
In geopolitics, the law of the jungle often prevails. So, one natural solution would be to eliminate or reduce the threat. In this case, it would be to “contain” China’s power and growth.
Of course, India cannot do it alone, so it can join forces with others like the US, Japan, UK, and Australia. Perhaps the EU and NATO will join this alliance in the future.
How will it work?
- India will try to reduce its imports from China;
- Help Western companies offshore manufacturing from China to India;
- Try to change the alliance of some of its neighbors with help from the West (like the color revolution we just saw in Sri Lanka);
- Create trouble in the western borders of China, which would weaken China’s military power projection in South China Sea; and
- Be ready to go with war with China at some point (as part of a broad alliance).
Choice #2: Strategic Ambiguity or Being a Frenemy
This needs a more sophisticated mindset. Here, India would continue to cooperate with China in BRICS, SCO, and other settings. Trade and economic activities will continue, albeit with restraint and caution. At the same time, India will leverage US and Western help to shore up its defense and economy. Here, India can learn from ASEAN countries like Vietnam, Philippines, and Indonesia — they all delicately balance their relations with China and the US.
No war, no major conflicts.
Choice #3: Strong Alliance with China
This may sound shocking to many Indians right now but it’s not impossible in the emerging multipolar world.
China will be the #1 economy in the world within 5-10 years. And the US might face tremendous problems with its economy, dollar, and military prowess.
If the American Century comes to an end, India will be better off aligning with Asia’s superpower. India might be able to negotiate a deal with China and carve out its own sphere of influence. And perhaps with China’s help, India can settle border disputes, resolve Kashmir issues, and even achieve peace with Pakistan.
Look at India’s enmity with Pakistan. What has been accomplished in the last 75 years? Nothing but trouble. And India cannot get parts of Kashmir back. If India cannot even defeat Pakistan, there’s no chance against China. Perhaps the US is giving false promises to India like snatching Tibet from China, but these are delusional ideas.
The US is just desperate to contain China to prolong the American hegemony. And India is just one of the pawns in this geopolitical machination. Just like how the US is using Ukraine to fight Russia. And Ukraine is getting destroyed. Most likely, Russia will annex large parts of Ukraine, which faces a dismal future like Libya, another victim of America’s desire for full-spectrum dominance.
America is not India’s “friend,” regardless of all the cliches about democracy and shared values. The US loves India because of three main reasons:
- Smart Indian immigrants who make America great.
- Dumb Indian government which has let America colonize industrial, media, and financial sectors in India. This is why there are only 7 Indian companies in the Fortune Global 500, while there are 136 Chinese companies. Indians can become the CEO of Google but are not allowed to create an Indian version of Google.
- India is potentially a pawn to fight China.
Indians must remember that America is an Empire. America doesn’t have allies, only vassals. The US literally occupies countries like Japan and South Korea, who have no independent foreign policy. They just meekly go along with whatever the US does.
In the 1980s, Japan signed the Plaza Accord and committed suicide. Europe, which is occupied by NATO, is doing the same now by warring with Russia.
The moment India steps out of line, the US will start the vicious attacks. India will be called a Hindu fascist country and will be accused of genocide in Kashmir. US media will be crying for the Dalits. The American propaganda needs just a couple of months to turn India into a villain.
In extreme cases, there might even be sanctions. Imagine if companies like Google and Amazon abruptly pull out of India. The Indian economy will collapse. And suddenly all the US weapons purchased by Indian military will stop working. This is an unlikely event but important to keep in mind.
Finally, don’t forget that the US oligarchs are heavily invested in China. All the giant American financial corporations like BlackRock, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs … and all the American corporations like Tesla, Apple, Starbucks, Walmart … all view China as the cash cow. In spite of all the geopolitical hostilities, they will choose China and throw India under the bus, if the CCP offers a compromise.
The only true security comes from economic prosperity and self-reliance in crucial areas. India needs to choose Choice #2 — strategic ambiguity — for now and dedicate itself to economic growth for the next decade. This involves learning from the Asian Tigers — Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan — as well as from China and Vietnam, who all followed a similar blueprint that emphasized investments, manufacturing, exports, and savings. Of course, India should fine-tune and customize the lessons for its own unique environment.
In terms of geopolitics, India should maintain good relations with the US and the West in general.
At the same time, India must candidly — and perhaps secretly — discuss a new great power relationship with China. India can get better deals with China now than in a decade when China will be far more powerful.
All that America can offer is a future of conflicts and wars, driven by the divide-and-rule policies of the imperialist playbook.
In spite of the geopolitical contest and political differences — communism versus democracy — India and China share many ancient Asian traditions and values. Confucianism and Hinduism have more in common than anything that India shares with America’s fake slogans of freedom and democracy.
The shared cultural wisdom in the historic civilizations of India and China can create a prosperous and peaceful Asia.