New Delhi: It is not enough for a Great Power to become a Great Power. It must also manage its rise in a manner that does not alarm its strategic competitors and the weaker nations of the neighbourhood.

The Modern history of Great Powers reveals that whenever a new Great Power has risen and threatens the existing world order with bellicose words and actions, a counter coalition of states almost inevitably comes to be born to oppose it. When the status quo is disturbed in a crowded neighbourhood like Asia or Western Europe, the reaction is typically swift and sharp.

When Otto von Bismarck united Germany and made it a Great Power, his concern to preserve that status was never diminished even at the height of Germany’s power. His longstanding fear was coalitions of inimical states on at least two fronts and he persevered through outstanding diplomacy to keep the opposition divided and bamboozled. His diplomacy was too brilliant for his successors to understand, imbibe and carry forward, and this plunged Germany into two world wars. Extraordinary military strength and hyper-nationalism form a recipe for disaster.

For its time, Imperial Germany was the foremost military power in the Continent. Relative to that era, present-day China would be militarily inferior to Imperial Germany. China has not been put to a comprehensive military test since the Korean War. The first Great Power of the Asia-Pacific region, Japan, was exhausted by World War II and the atomic attack. Owing to its absence from the table of Great Powers, China has risen. China has risen to be a Great Power after being literally gifted the role of balancer in the Cold War. Having risen, China is leaning on its neighbours in the region, having forgotten the tragedy that hubris brought to post-Bismarckian Germany.

Deng Xiaoping was acutely aware of the importance of peaceful rise or peaceful development, whichever sounds more pacific. Hence his maxim for China: “Hide your strength; bide your time.” The current leaders of China believe the defining quality of a Great Power is to threaten foreign states. Either they are unaware of Great Power history with its savage upheavals; or they believe China is somehow immune to its shocking caprices. Well, China is not immune. If it keeps being the bully in the neighbourhood, it will have to contend with India for one, whose Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, is most resourceful when it comes to countering implacable enemies.

China has put out veiled warnings as Modi’s state visit to Japan gets seriously underway. The nuclear deal has been signed. China is tenser, however, that India and Japan will put out a statement on the South China Sea dispute, the importance of freedom of navigation and overflight of international waters, and the imperative to respect awards of international arbitration. The Indo-Japanese understanding about China goes beyond statements. There is recognition in both countries that Chinese expansionism has to be contained and that the deus ex machina of US intervention on the side of China’s embattled neighbours may not happen anytime soon.

On the other hand, it might, as early as early next year, when Donald Trump assumes the United States presidency. Trump also favours a nuclear Japan and South Korea. On the whole, however, it would be more sensible to consider how the Indo-Pacific region can come together to contain Chinese expansionism. And here is where there are great expectations from an Indo-Japanese partnership. Japan has to show political will to stand up to China. It oughtn’t to be pressured to go nuclear. That needs domestic consensus. The more China leans on its neighbours, the faster Japan will reach a consensus about having its own deterrent. But till such time as that decision is taken, Japan should signal its rise as a conventional military power. Presumably, Prime Minister Modi will find the opportunity on this tour to expound on this sensitive and all-important subject with his Japanese counterpart.

China cannot expect to be in a post-historical world of Great Powers. The rules of decline and fall will apply to it as well. The quickest path to decline and fall is egregious display of Great Power status. The two of the longest reigning Great Powers, the United States and Russia, expanded into vast territories of their own, far away from the glaring eyes of the rest of the world. That age and time has gone and cannot be compared to the present. With its colonizing impulses, China cannot escape decline, and is indeed speeding its doom by its reckless foreign policy.

Editor’s Note: 1. The new Rs 2000 note would deter hoarders and tax evaders only if they are embedded with tracking devices. Failing that, they will become the unintended new black money currency. Prime Minister Modi would be well-advised to order only trackable high denomination notes hereon.

Demonetization, although much needed, and brilliant for its shock effect, cannot be resorted to in every other generation. The United States has phased out high denomination currencies. If you whip out a 100 pound note in the UK, you will invite strange and unwelcome looks. Why should a poor country like India persist with high value notes, especially as they facilitate the black economy?

2. On matters of nuclear deterrence, the Union Defence Minister is entitled to have a personal view, but he cannot voice them as long as he holds office. Manohar Parrikar should speak less.