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India’s task cut out after China renames locations in Arunachal 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah at a public function in Shillong, (Image courtesy: PIB)

China’s decision to rename locations in Arunachal—a symbolic and brazen attempt to exercise “sovereignty” over Indian territory– is born out of monumental arrogance, in a futile bid to enforce its will on New Delhi.

But as in the case of its intrusion in eastern Ladakh in 2020, Xi Jinping’s China has underestimated the resolve of PM Modi-led New India.

China’s move is shrewdly timed. Beijing has poked India in the eye ahead of the New Delhi hosted summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) where Xi is likely to be one of the guests.

The Chinese move in Arunachal has therefore sealed the possibility of any India-China thaw in July when the summit takes place in the Indian capital.

There is a bigger context to the Chinese move. Beijing is testing India in the backdrop of the 20th Party Congress of Communist Party of China (CPC), where Xi removed all hurdles to his limitless power. With Covid-19 behind it and the world economy tanking, evident from the collapse of big international banks such as Credit Suisse, Xi’s China has stepped on the gas in its bid for global hegemony. India, arguably China’s biggest challenge for regional ascendency, is being specifically targeted. But it will not be surprising if the needle of hostility also moves towards other players including Taiwan and others in the ASEAN with whom Beijing has maritime disputes in the South China Sea.

China’s big idea of course would be to break out of the three island chains in the Indo-Pacific which keep Beijing boxed inside regional waters through a string of militarised islands. But that is a long-term strategic objective which needs to be defeated.

Ideologically, by adding pressure on India by reinforcing their claims on Arunachal, the Chinese are revealing their default position–of breaking out as a new age Middle Kingdom surrounded by tributary states to whom the imperial court in Beijing will provide protection.

It is obvious that China has underestimated the Modi government’s inner resolve.

Rooted in the powerful idea of a civilizational State, India under Modi is far from being overawed by China. On the contrary, New India is aware that it has over centuries exercised moral and spiritual ascendancy over China. In fact, there is self-awareness in the Indian ruling elite that Buddhism which radiated from India played a big role in civilizing China, and that geo-cultural legacy needs to be persisted with, especially when China, blinded by its newly acquired material wealth has begun to flex its muscles on the global stage.

Strong from the inside and clear in the head, the Modi government, it is evident, would do all that it takes to keep India’s land and maritime borders safe, based on a robust nuclear and conventional deterrent.  New Delhi, in the wake of Chinese prolonged hostility will have no option but to expand its ballistic missile arsenal, hypersonic missiles, nuclear powered submarines, long range bombers, anti-satellite weapons to win the cyber war, as well as drones, all to be manufactured under the Atmanirbhar Bharat route. India is also aware that ours is an era of hybrid-war, which includes information war, and will robustly prepare itself for it.

Realists in New Delhi know that many countries will wholly or partially fall in line when pressured by a bullying China. With western financial icons such as Credit Suisse demonstrating their fragility, western capital has once again started to flow into a “stable” China in a big way.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that despite cold feet from some, money is flowing into Chinese equity funds. According to the news organisation that quoted data provider EPFR, investors have put $8.2 billion into dedicated China equity funds this year through March 8.

FDI into the services sector increased 10.1 per cent while investments into high-tech industries soared 32 per cent of which 68.9 percent went into high-tech manufacturing and 23.3 per cent to high-tech services.

Late last month Ursulla von der Leyen, President of the EU commission spoke about engaging and “managing” the bloc’s relationship with China. “Our relationship with China is one of the most intricate and important. How we manage it will be a determining factor for our future economic prosperity and national security.”

In the end China’s latest move in Arunachal shows that relying on its strategic autonomy, a whole of government approach and mobilising the people at the mass level, India has no option but to prepare with confidence and no illusions, for a lengthy hostility with China essentially on its own steam.

Also Read: India slams China, says inventing names for places in Arunachal Pradesh won’t change reality