Monday, June 7, 2021

A Balkanized India? China testing waters

The British came, ruled India for about two centuries, divided it into two independent countries and left. The crafty British never ever conceived the idea of thirty or so independent nation-states in the sub-continent.

It is interesting but also noteworthy that a Chinese scholar from the Chinese International Institute of Studies has come up with a devious suggestion to engineer Balkanization of India with the help of smaller South Asian neighbours.  

Posted on the web page of the CIIS, the write-up provides a roadmap to the Chinese Government to rope in countries, such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan and organizations, such as the United Liberation Front of Assam and secessionist-minded Tamil and Naga nationalist groups to break up India into pieces and establish a host of independent entities.  

Is it a wild conjecture of a lackadaisical think-tank specialist? Is it representative of Chinese thinking on India? Does it reflect the views of the Chinese think-tank? Does it have tacit backing of the Chinese PLA? Has the Chinese Government allowed uploading of such an article as a trial balloon to figure out Indian reaction? 

One thing is certain that the author of such an article is neither a wacky specialist nor an innocent analyst. This is a highly-motivated article, apparently with the tacit approval of a section of the Chinese Government.  In an authoritarian country ruled by the Communist Party, a PLA backed think-tank cannot just allow any rubbish to be written and disseminated. 

The quick response of the Union Government and the reaction of the Communist Party of India, among others, also clearly indicate that a responsible section of the Indian political leadership has taken serious note of this article. 

Clearly, the timing of the uploading of the article in the web page of the Chinese think-tank is critical. Pakistan, China’s one of the most-trusted strategic ally, is a rapidly failing State. Discussion over the possible implosion of the Pakistani State was recently held in various parts of the globe, including in the United States. It is quite likely that a pro-Pakistan strategic analyst thought it appropriate to float the idea of a divided India to ring a bell that it is also equally vulnerable to fissiparous tendencies. Was it an indirect way of telling Pakistan that China was on its side and that if Pakistan at all implodes, Indian hands could be suspected. China then would work towards turning India into a big bunch of independent republics. 

Interestingly, this article is also the product of a time when China itself has been facing revolts in the periphery against heavy-handed approach of the central government to suppress cultural freedom and expression in places, such as Tibet and Urunqi.  

Another coincidence of timing is the growing Chinese apprehension about rising defence, security and technological collaboration between India and the United States. While New Delhi continues to buy Russian-made weapons and so does China, the US appears to be more open to the Indian requests for arms and weapons rather than the Chinese.  In fact, US-China relations are robust mostly in areas of trade, investment and some political matters and Washington does not yet have a strong weapons and arms cooperation relationship with Beijing. Some in Beijing fears that India may be co-opted by the US in a scheme of encircling or containing China. 

Whatever may be the real motivation behind penning such a web page article, the author’s knowledge about India, its history and current state of socio-economic realities appears to be half-baked and superficial. The article claims that India, as a nation, never really existed in history. Did China in its current form ever exist in history? Did Germany, Italy, Britain, Pakistan exist in their current forms in history? How did China look like during the 19th Century when several European powers had established their spheres of influence in the country? In fact, there was no country called Pakistan—China’s current strategic ally—before 1947. 

The author discusses issues of social justice in India. Does the Chinese Government allow people to have free access to internet and information about the outside world? Are the fifty-plus ethnic minorities groups in China treated with equal dignity? Are they allowed to practice their culture, tradition and customs freely? Do the Muslim and Christian religious minorities in China exercise their religious freedom? 

What explains the revolt in Tibet in 2008 and Xinjiang in 2009 and the heavy handed suppression of Tibetans and Uighurs? Why have more than 1,00,000 Tibetan exiles in India been reluctant to return to a China that is more prosperous and more powerful than about three decades ago? 

The Chinese scholar first needs to address problems at home before advocating engineered disintegration of India. He should realize that Assamese and others in India are well aware of Chinese approach to people in Xinjiang, Tibet and elsewhere. And that none of the Indian groups have migrated to China, unlike Tibetans in India, asking for political asylum and support. 

The Chinese scholar should also remind himself that given an opportunity, Tibet, Xinjiang, Macao, Hong Kong, Inner Mongolia and Taiwan would love to have their independent existence.

It is surprising that the Chinese Government which used tanks and killed several pro-democracy demonstrators is yet to take action against a scholar who advocates breaking up another nation. Is Beijing now promoting freedom of expression? In any case, this is not freedom, it is license. 

If the Chinese Government does not appropriately respond to it, an attentive public in India would begin to remember the anti-India propaganda and activities promoted by Beijing in South Asia not so long ago.  Clearly, such writings in China would undoubtedly adversely affect a relationship between two Asian giants, which is critical to maintain a peaceful environment in Asia. Is it not the Chinese Government’s stated objective to work towards a peaceful environment which alone can promote domestic growth and development?