New Delhi: As long as there is peace without war, a status quo in relations suits India and China. Neither side in the circumstances should expect concessions from the other. If there is a fair likelihood that peace will not hold for long, India should prepare for war and steel itself to use the nuclear option in necessity. On the assumption, however, that the circumstances would not get dire, the Indian leadership should leave a full and final settlement of outstanding disputes to the future. In the interim, India should safeguard its national interests as China surely would its own.

China faces pressure on trade from the United States and cannot be sure how the North Korea crisis will play out as a Donald Trump-Kim Jong-un summit draws closer to realization. Under pressure, China wishes to ease relations with India without making concessions on the border dispute, Doklam, India’s Nuclear Suppliers Club membership, Masood Azhar, and so forth. On the other hand, it is keen, even somewhat desperate, to get India on board the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) but again without meeting India’s minimum condition of a realignment of the constituent China-Pakistan Economic Corridor so as to skirt Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. BRI is China’s insurance if the Western world lead by the United States decides to punish China for mercantilism. India’s huge market could, to a degree, offset the erosion of Western markets for China. India can also provide sovereign assistance to China in its battles against rising US protectionism. China needs India’s support especially in the World Trade Organization to counter the United States. As always, China would expect India to ally with it against the West while conceding to none of India’s core demands. Expecting in any case nothing from China, India should politely but firmly advise China to fight its own battles as India no doubt would fight its own with China. The Indian terms of peace and friendship with China ought to be preservation of the status quo and all outstanding issues left to the future. Nothing more will come from negotiations with China.

Dilatoriness should colour India’s relations with China, and there could be no better teacher of this than the Dalai Lama. Speaking at a ceremony to commemorate the sixtieth year of his flight to India and the subsequent grant of asylum, the Tibetan spiritual leader loaded his comments on Tibet under Chinese rule. While extending an olive branch to China that Tibet could stay with it, he added conditions that may appear innocuous on the surface but are anything but. He was insistent on the preservation of Tibetan culture, traditions and religion. Then, almost for the first time in public, he called on China to recognize the national geography of the Tibet Autonomous Region. Once such recognition is accorded, a sound launch vehicle is prepositioned for a future Tibetan resistance and independence movement. The Chinese would never agree to the Dalai Lama but that only delays a Tibet solution. Both sides are playing a waiting game.

India can do it no differently with China. It must approach China on the basis of its own national interests. India needs peace on the frontiers for sustained economic growth. It has to become a manufacturing power not only for the world but to cater to its own huge, growing and insatiable market. China is getting obsessed with the Indian market on account of its size. It intends to capture and dominate it. Obviously, that cannot be allowed. All countries are protecting their markets. India cannot be selflessly generous. At a minimum, India cannot permit Chinese market dominance either directly or through third nations like the Maldives or Nepal. A military status quo on the frontiers and a steady rolling back of Chinese penetration of the Indian market should be the key features of India’s policies towards China. And Chinese pressure on the frontier, if and when it happens, must be countered in full. India can live without Chinese concessions. An NSG membership will not make or break India. The future of Sino-Indian relations should be left to posterity. In the present, India should give nothing away.

Editor’s Note: Film star Amitabh Bachchan is the ambassador of the Centre’s Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao programme. If he is unable to take a stand on the Kathua, Unnao and other rapes for whatever reason, he should have the courage, self-respect and integrity to resign from the programme.