New Delhi: In the years to come, the rivalry between India and China will acquire the complexion of US-Russia differences that triggered the Cold War and ended in Russia’s defeat. China is fated to go down because of its immoderation and hubris and growing enmity with all its neighbours.

The United States began on a friendly note with Russia, aiding it during World War 2, making Eastern Europe eligible for Marshall Plan assistance, and so forth. But Joseph Stalin’s paranoia, the arms race, the circumstances necessitating the Berlin Airlift, the drawing of the Iron Curtain, and finally the clash of two universalistic principles locked the United States and USSR in a long war.

With India and China, the flight of the Dalai Lama in 1959, and the Chinese aggression of 1962, set the course of troubled relations between the two neighbours. As a democracy, India was open to friendship. China rejected it. It was specifically angry at the asylum granted to the Dalai Lama. The Indian government had no choice; it couldn’t turn down the tallest leader of Tibetan Buddhism.

Generally, on the other hand, China has been terrified of Indian democracy, which it believes will unravel the totalitarian state. This animates its regular diatribes against republican democracy being unsuitable for economic growth and prosperity. There resides, all in all, a profound ideological disharmony and disconnect between the two countries which friendly visits by leaderships and attempts at economic cooperation will not resolve.

China perfectly understands this and has acted with audacious cynicism to keep India down for more than sixty years. The propping up of terroristic Pakistan and making it nuclear capable is of a piece with this cynicism. India must quit being defensive, stop appeasing China, and make retributions in equal measure. China’s latest instance of provocation using third parties is the killing of 18 Indian soldiers in Manipur. It is China’s way of warning India not to stray the line.

In counter, India must prosecute its own version of a cold war against China. This should be recognized as a long war in which all state assets are deployed, including sections of the opposition. Lohia socialists like Mulayam Singh Yadav, for example, would need little coaxing to speak against China. As a former defence minister, he is fully apprised of the tense military situation with China. The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh could weigh in. Political managers of the Narendra Modi government may reach to others to speak at timely intervals cautioning China against abusing India’s friendliness.

This piece does not address the necessary actions to be taken in the military sphere which the armed forces adequately are equipped to do. Care must be exercised though that a hot war does not erupt because that could spiral beyond control. China is more at risk with a hot war than India because it has more to lose.

An external war may open the stop-valves of internal tensions and set in motion events that may even subvert single party totalitarian rule. Embattled China would further attract the wrath of exasperated neighbours of the East and South China Seas, one of whose dignitaries recently called China a Nazi state. The last thing China wants is formal hostilities with India. This is not 1962; the Indian Army is waiting to avenge that tragedy.

Cold war is what it should be, with a minimum timeline of 10 years, and extendable as the situation warrants. A cold war strategy apart from its military dimensions targets a country’s political and ethnic cohesiveness and principally its economy. This is what brought the Soviet Union down.

Concerning the first, India should prise open China’s structural integrity. It should give support to Tibetan independence and recognize Taiwan. Recognizing Taiwan also means privileging democracy over China’s totalitarianism. It would complete the historical cycle begun in 1949 with the victorious Chinese revolution. Democracy has many takers even in these perilously unthinking times.

The second concomitant target area ought to be the Chinese economy. It is in precipitate decline. For once, the Chinese are unable to fudge the balance sheets. They stink like a stressed large cap company without a future. India should assist China’s fall by taking over its role of manufacturing for the world.

This is not as easy as it seems. It took decades of preparation for China to reach where it did. Deng Xiaoping, for instance, travelled the length and breadth of the country to get his reforms’ programme right. All the same, China’s export model has run out of steam. But no model is ever entirely drained of vitality just as it cannot be disinvented. There is scope for adoption here. India also needs to propel domestic manufacturing to meet its burgeoning internal demand. The world would be happy to set up shop here provided the environment is conducive.

Chinese investments, however, must be discouraged. Across Asia and Africa, horror stories abound concerning Chinese investments. The Chinese follow sharp practices. They have ruined Indonesia’s business economics, burdened Sri Lanka with debt, and have left a trail of anger and despair in Vietnam, South Africa and elsewhere. India should not accept Chinese investments because they will increase China’s leverage with this country. The Japanese, on the other hand, are natural partners and allies in the region.

China will not take kindly to any of this. It will hit back with force. Should India be daunted? It has no option but to move ahead. It is now or never. The killing of soldiers in Manipur is the beginning of a larger pattern of planned low-intensity warfare; it is the 1950s and 1960s all over again. It should incite India to calculated cold-blooded long-term action. Only when China is politically, ethnically, territorially and economically undermined will it cease to be a strategic threat to India.

Editor’s Note: Writing this piece brings to mind Alec Guinness’s George Smiley saying in the exquisite BBC miniseries (as John Le Carre penned it in Smiley’s People, it is profounder), ‘In my time, Peter (Guillam), I've seen Whitehall skirts go up and come down again. I’ve listened to all the excellent arguments for doing nothing, and reaped the consequent frightful harvest. I’ve watched people hop up and down and call it progress. I’ve seen good men go to the wall and the idiots get promoted with a dazzling regularity. All I’m left with is me and thirty-odd years of cold war without the option.’

Sans the Whitehall skirts, this could be an excellent summation of India as well.