The Deng way
India has something to learn from the founder of modern China.
New Delhi: China has decided to abandon Deng Xiaoping’s dictum about foreign policy which India would do well to embrace. Deng spoke of “tao guang yang hui” which roughly translates as “hide your ambitions and disguise your claws”. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the picture of moderation at a recent national security conference in Delhi where he spoke of the several common grounds of India and China even as some differences persisted. China reacted sharply by insisting on a continuation of a policy of opposing India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers’ Club and of taking a dissonant line on Pakistani terrorists attacking India. The higher the decibel range of Chinese immoral responses which advertise insecurity, the more cool and contained India must be in its ripostes. This is a long war with China. Endurance counts for everything.
India is steadily upgrading its strategic deterrent against China. Missing is a long-range sea-based deterrent to give this country a credible second-strike capability. China is already worried about India’s long-term strategic deterrent plans. Knowing it cannot protest this by itself, it has obliged Pakistan to do so, which demanded a strategic stability agreement with India to a visiting MTCR team some days ago. Pakistan is a proxy of China. While it is dangerous itself and a menace, the real strategic threat to India comes from China. A strategic stability agreement with Pakistan makes no sense. On the other hand, China must be compelled to strategic arms’ control talks with this country, which would become a means to control Pakistani behaviour. India’s progress in that direction, and China’s panic reaction via Pakistan with its appeal to the MTCR delegation, shows that India’s strategic deterrent plans are on course. Nothing should hamper them, and they should be speeded. At the same time, there should be quiet and discretion about this on the part of the government. This is what Deng meant speaking of “hide your ambitions and disguise your claws”.
The other sphere where India must work diligently but quietly is alliances. For its time, Non-Alignment was perhaps the most workable option. Even if it wasn’t, this is not the time to dispute it. India’s adversaries are looking for internal divisions to exploit. Besides, Non-Alignment has a certain cachet. Such advantages as it brings must be utilized by the government. But it is also time to look beyond Non-Alignment to make alliances. India simply cannot take on alone a disputatious and hegemonic Great Power like China. While India is perfectly content to coexist with China, China is not, being genetically an expansionistic power like Russia. This being so, India has no option but to cast its security net wide. Donald Trump’s America has to settle down for India to understand it and make moves. In the meantime, Japan shares all of India’s anxieties about China. India and Japan have every scope to be “natural allies”. The political leaderships of India and Japan see eye to eye on most issues, including India’s compulsion to possess nuclear weapons. The political leaderships of the two countries must engage to take relations to the level of an alliance. Sensitive as alliance formation is, India cannot baulk from it any longer. While India cannot advise Japan on its relations with South Korea, a mature and constructive engagement between the two sides that overcomes the dark past would greatly assist in building a united front against China. A way must also be found where Japan is able to connect to its past as Asia’s first Great Power without provoking fears of Japanese imperialism. This is possible.
Simultaneously, in line with Deng Xiaoping’s dictum, India must prepare and deploy overwhelming force structures to deter China and Pakistan on the two land frontiers and in the Indian Ocean. Force preparations and deployment must have offensive capability, intent and objectives of such strategic quality as to daunt the adversary from risking attack. This calls for the highest quality of planning and execution. Those offensive war objectives should be mated with political campaigns that India as a democracy is uniquely empowered and legitimized to conduct. The wise would discern what is being hinted. All in all, China should know on the basis of Indian actions that it is not facing the same country of 1962. That was a different time when a pacific and well-meaning Prime Minister was humiliated. It will not happen again. That message should unequivocally go abroad.