New Delhi: While the United States is justified to seek trade balance with China and protection for intellectual property, China has been clever in retaliating. It has focussed on raising tariffs on imports like soya beans and Boeing airliners that could hurt the constituencies of the US president, Donald Trump. India can learn from China in repairing its own growing trade imbalance with that country.

Just as geopolitical solutions cannot indiscriminately be transmitted from one set of sovereign states to another, so geo-economics demands bespoke responses for specific problems. India’s inequitable trade with China is qualitatively different from the problems bedevilling US-China commerce. US-China trade relations have a definite Cold War provenance which is well-known and not entirely relevant to the understanding of India’s commercial dissonance with China.

What is immensely relevant, however, is the value of geo-economic power for China’s geopolitical ambitions which converge to a single aim of becoming the world’s number one power. The fulfilment of such ambition would be disastrous for the world and may indeed never happen. But that is not good reason to relax vigil and to desist from taking steps to contain China’s growing geo-economic power. Once China is checked geo-economically, it would struggle to maintain the present pace of geopolitical expansion, and that would answer India’s prayers without the need to fire a single shot.

Being reactionary works as little in geo-economics as in geopolitics, though. In certain situations, force needs to be countered with force. But that does not exclude the intelligent application of force. And one of the means to do that is to open new fronts. India needs to wage a trade war with China -- and make no mistake, it is inescapable -- on multiple fronts.

India must use every available means to prevent China from taking advantage of its market. Taking a rude view of the situation, Chinese imports which aid India’s economic growth and development ought to attract differential tariffs from those that only satisfy consumer vanity. Since China has moved investments to India to counter precisely such a future threat, India must act with policy measures to squeeze profits on investments returning to China.

Free enterprise ideologues would protest that such measures counter market economics and militate against contract law. They would not be wrong. Courts would also frown on such steps and indeed declare them illegal. Perhaps they are. And yet consider China’s essential lawlessness. China is using geo-economics to strangulate India. This is intolerable.

A special situation demands a special response. China can complain all it wants to the WTO as it will. But India has to be resolute in fixing the trade deficit with China. There needs to be a political consensus because China is quite capable of exploiting India’s domestic political differences. After all China has targeted soya beans and Boeing to hurt Trump personally. Why shouldn’t it do the same here?

Except that in confronting China geo-economically, there should be minimum display of nationalism and no resort to chest-thumping. For example, China is subverting India’s neighbours like Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives geo-economically and causing them to pile geopolitical pressure on India. Bluntly retaliating against these neighbours would play into China’s hands. A case in point is a Nepal dam whose hydroelectric power, according to a press leak today, India will not purchase if the dam is built by China. The condition could have been gently but firmly introduced in a closed-door meeting with the Nepalese without having publicly to rub their noses into the dirt.

Those states are esteemed geopolitically that let their deeds speak. Indeed those states are priceless that do not even permit their deeds to whisper. India has a lot of learning to do. To be sure, it has the talent to go after the Chinese geo-economically. Armed with a political consensus, that should be the most immediate task of the government.

Every manner of stealth and surprise should be employed on a consistent basis to beat the Chinese at their game. Donald Trump can rage against China. India does not have a comparable economic stature. But it can do worse to China quietly, deniably and determinedly.

Editor’s Note: It is extraordinary that the courts have not focussed on the crookedness of DDA and MCD officials, retired and serving, in the illegal and reckless commercialization of Delhi. Similarly, public sector banking chiefs have escaped punishment in the mega bank scams coming to light.

Private sector banks are no better. Chanda Kochhar, for example, continues in ICICI Bank when she should have been asked to step down in view of the Videocon loan scam. Also, after the Reserve Bank’s adverse observations on the reappointment of the Axis Bank CEO, Shikha Sharma, her continuation in the post is not in the interest of the bank, its depositors, and shareholders.