New Delhi: India is on a fool’s errand trying to cajole China to drop its opposition to India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group. China will never agree till such time the NSG no longer matters to India having established technological superiority in all spheres, at which point India could not be bothered for Chinese favours granted to India. Technological self-sufficiency and leadership should be India’s primary goals, not chasing a chimera of NSG membership. Narendra Modi is a parvenu who will never understand the dignity of isolationism of choice and purpose. He resembles an IAS or IPS officer newly posted to Delhi who spends all his office time networking to get into the exclusive clubs of Lutyens Delhi.

India’s relations with China oscillate between appeasement and belligerence and both extremes have been witnessed in the four confused years of Narendra Modi’s rule. Though Xi Jinping would loathe to be hugged by Modi as this form of greeting militates against Chinese protocol, he condescended to share a swing seat with the other on his earliest India tour. It did not melt the Chinese strongman in any way that showed. Then India tried belligerence intruding into Doklam which is a disputed territory claimed by both China and Bhutan. China tactically kept the peace since a major summit on the Belt and Road Initiative was due. Since then China has strengthened its defences in the Doklam region which India is at pains to deny. Failing with belligerence, the Narendra Modi government adopted a policy of appeasement by shunning official associations with the Dalai Lama. Not one to complain, the Dalai Lama took the snub in his stride. But appeasement has not removed the deep-rooted suspicion and hostilities in Sino-Indian relations. Till China is a totalitarian state ruled by one party, ties with India will never become stable and friendly. India’s salvation lies in Tibet becoming once again a buffer state between India and China but that will not happen in the foreseeable future. If the Tibetans ever return to rule Tibet, they could be calculated to be aggressive towards the Chinese like their forebears.

States, however, cannot found their geopolitics entirely on even highly plausible future scenarios. States have to survive and operate in the present, and for that reason, India has to bring a balance in its relations with China. The fact of the matter is that China considers India a geopolitical rival despite the vast gap in politico-economic and military strength. While there may be no war between them (although another Doklam-like faceoff could ignite one), China will never be India’s friend. It will continue to empower Pakistan against India and would never actively discourage Pakistan’s asymmetric terror war against this country. It will neither permit India’s entry into NSG nor ever settle the border dispute. While the asylum given to the Dalai Lama in 1959 served as a starting point for China’s hostility towards India, other factors have since joined it. India’s extraordinary multiparty democracy (despite the likes of Narendra Modi) poses an ideological threat to China’s closed system with no individual freedoms and rights. Although economic growth has dried up, again, under Modi, India in the long term presents an even greater politico-economic threat to China. Chinese totalitarians dread the situation where the Chinese will clamour for personal and political freedoms seeing the success of the Indian democratic model.

But all that is in the distant future. The present demands that India ensure stable though not necessarily friendly relations with China so that India can concentrate on economic growth. Geo-economics drives geopolitics today. It is in India’s national interest that the gross trade imbalance with China is corrected diligently, unswervingly and consensually over the term of several governments at the Centre. India has to become a manufacturing power: Whether for itself or the world is a circumstantial detail. It has to be able to generate millions of jobs for its youth. For that to be possible, the Indian market cannot be permitted to be swallowed up by China. China is a predator. It does not follow rules of the market. India’s energies must be directed towards gaining a level-playing field with China. This is not to suggest that India should back down in the face of Chinese military provocations: Force has to be countered with force. But the energies wasted in ultra-nationalism and jingoism are better directed towards economic growth.

India can live without NSG membership. The Indo-US nuclear deal answers to its most critical needs. There are official hints that India might assist China’s entry into the Missile Technology Control Regime in the hope of a quid pro quo on NSG. The quid pro quo won’t happen. So there is no need to bend over backwards for China. China has violated MTCR with impunity with clandestine exports to North Korea, Pakistan and god knows who else. If anything, India must oppose China’s entry into MTCR. The only thing to fear is fear itself. There is no need to be extra nice to China. China scorns gratitude. See how they have done in the United States. That does not mean there is no value in being correct in relations with China. There should be no geopolitical provocations from India’s side and especially outside its sphere of interest. At the same time, India should ruthlessly safeguard its national interests, and this needs special emphasis in the region of geo-economics.

NSG can wait.

Editor’s Note: 1. A view is taking hold that the Narendra Modi government favours Northern over Southern India. This is self-evidently dangerous. The Centre must step forward at the highest level with the most urgent and sincere assuagement and provide a further undertaking not to meddle with the constitutional mandate of the Finance Commission. In this respect, Arun Jaitley is not a worthy spokesman of the Centre.

2. India’s “Me too” movement has uncertainly rolled forward and the starring role belongs to the Andhra film actress, Sri Reddy. Why are so few Indians in public life and in cinema supporting her cause? Why is the media backward in taking up cudgels on her behalf? The latest is that she is being thrown out of her rented premises. Sri Reddy has been admirably courageous. She deserves better. There may also be a danger to her life.