Dealing with China’s power projection

Issue 13 - Apr 2008

Harsh V Pant

Indian policy towards China continues to be premised on the “liberal fallacy” that strategic problems will inevitably produce satisfactory solutions merely because they are desirable and in the interest of all. India views stable Sino-Indian ties to be in the interests of both China and India. It is indeed in the interest of China to have good relations with India at least in the short-term when it wants to devote its energies to economic development. But its policy for medium to long term is clear: establish its pre-eminence in Asia and contain India. Therefore there is no reason why India should allow China a free hand in shaping the strategic environment of the region.

A rising China will not tolerate a rising India as its peer competitor. Even if a rising India does not have an intention of becoming a regional hegemon, China will try its best to contain India as it has already done to a large extent. And it is this containment that India must guard against. China’s intentions vis-à-vis India may seem entirely peaceful at the moment but that is largely irrelevant in the strategic scheme of things. India cannot have a foreign policy shaped by the assumed kindness of its neighbours. India cannot and should not wear rose-tinted glasses on Sino-Indian relations just because things seem to be going smoothly at present.