New Delhi: A show of aggression can sometimes be a sign of weakness. China’s decision to rename some places in Arunachal Pradesh on the heels of the Dalai Lama’s visit to that province indicates that it is thoroughly rattled by even the most benign spiritual activities of the Tibetan pontiff. It is India’s decision to grant asylum to the Dalai Lama after he fled Tibet in 1959 that triggered the war of 1962. Now, another factor has been joined to China’s strategic insecurity, and this is the Indian democracy. As much as China may sneer about democracy, its international legitimacy is something China’s authoritarian regime lacks. For that reason, it fears Taiwan too, gripped by the foreboding that historical forces will displace totalitarianism and spread democracy in mainland China. The combination of internal doubt and economic and military might makes China dangerous and unpredictable. Without abandoning its hard and forthright course of foreign policy and geopolitics, India must simultaneously prepare for all contingencies, including a flash war initiated by China.

China feels snubbed and belittled that no major democratic power has shown any keenness or enthusiasm to attend the “belt and road summit” to be hosted by the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, next month in Beijing. In the absence of other political notables, the guests of honour are to be President Vladimir Putin of Russia and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief of Pakistan. Putin is a pariah in the West and rapidly propelling overextended Russia towards the abyss. Nawaz Sharief, on the other hand, feels the corruption noose tightening around his neck. Whether he will survive another month to attend the summit is moot. India has so far refused to grace the summit because the western leg of the “belt and road initiative” traverses Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. India’s absence at the summit is a blow to China’s pride and Great Power status. India’s size and trail-blazing democracy would have gone a long way in legitimizing Chinese authoritarianism and expansionism. If Prime Minister Narendra Modi takes a principled and just stand not to send any official representative to the Beijing “belt and road summit”, it will lower China’s international standing. The significance of this outcome for India can scarcely be overstated.

Since Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger’s opening to China in the early 1970s, the totalitarian giant has faced no foreign policy or geopolitical setbacks. The more economically powerful China has grown, the greater has been the reluctance of the rest of the world to challenge its expansionism. It has reached a point where it can lay claim to an entire body of international waters and impose its own borders on frightened neighbours. India has been a thorn in its side, harbouring the Dalai Lama and therefore, ipso facto, undermining the morality and legality of the Chinese annexation of Tibet. And by resisting the “belt and road initiative”, which will come to encircle India, and destroy its claim on PoK, this country has both enraged China and exposed its totalitarian immorality and hollowness. India must press ahead with its strategy to make the most of China’s insecurities.

Historically, democracies have been always slack in the face of totalitarian threats. You need to go no further than the two world wars to vindicate this argument. But once the democracies are mobilized, victory is no longer a question of if but when. Democracies score over totalitarian states because the leadership in one is elected and accountable whereas a cabal rules the other. What is Xi Jinping’s legitimacy to rule China? None at all. He stays in power as long as the Chinese communist party is supreme and he has hold over it and the PLA. That this arrangement has endured since 1949 and kept a succession of murderous men in power does not mean it is shockproof and indestructible. Anything that lacks legitimacy has an uneasy life. China’s takeover of Tibet is illegal and immoral. Therefore, China is terrified of an eighty-one-year-old monk who is the epitome of decency and peaceableness. China believes it will have reprieve after the Dalai Lama passes on. It would be brutally surprised by what is in store.

India should swat away China’s pinpricks and stay true to the plan to contain the northern adversary. On no condition must any Indian representative attend the “belt and road summit”. If India does not recognize the “belt and road initiative”, it will remain illegitimate, a doomed Chinese project for world domination. For the first time since the 1962 debacle, India is pursuing a coherent strategy to downsize China. Once the Chinese noise on Arunachal Pradesh reaches clamorous proportions, India must proclaim derecognition of the One China Policy. The Indo-Pacific region needs just such a bold thrust to range against China. It would ruin China’s Great Power ambitions.