We are so dazzled by reports of the strides China
has made in enlarging its economy that we do not notice that one of
the principal uses to which it is putting its new wealth is to
multiply its military strength. Pick up any book or analysis about
security developments in the Pacific region or in Asia, and the
facts it sets out about China are bound to startle.
Here are some from one that you will rind in your
nearest book shop: Asia's Deadly Triangle by Kent Calder,
for long the Director of the programme on US-Japan Relations at the
Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, and later Senior
Advisor for East Asian and Pacific Affairs to the U S State
1974: While the two Vietnams are
battling over Saigon, China in a swift operation grabs the
Paracels. By now China has constructed a major air base at Woody
1974, 1978 and yet again in
1988: Not once, but thrice Vietnam has been invaded by
China, and has to fight to stave it off.
1992: China's National People's
Congress unilaterally decrees a "Law on the Territorial Waters and
their Contiguous Areas." By the generosity of this new
self-proclaimed "Law" China lays claim to 80 per cent of the South
China Sea. The areas, it claims, ranges as far down as Malaysia
1995: "The shadow of China looms
large in these strategic southern waters... A major oil strike has
already been made off the nearby Filipino island of Palawan, which
prompted a Chinese land grab only 170 kilometers away in early
1995. A massive natural gas find -- the Natuna field off Indonesia
-- has also recently been made and has likewise rapidly found
itself within Chinese waters on Chinese maps..."
December 1995: Chinese drilling
ships entered Japanese-claimed waters to prospect for offshore
In the past decade border trade between Burma and
Yunan has increased thirty-fold -- to nearly $1 billion a year.
Chinese are now the main prop of the Myanmar regime, they are the
ones who are building and controlling the road and transportation
network in the northern and north-eastern parts of that hapless
And not for nothing. Calder reports:
"China has used its leverage strategically. In
late 1992, Western spy satellites, for example, detected a new
150-foot antenna used for signals intelligence at a naval base on
Coco Island, a Burmese possession on Indian Ocean sea routes...
Western analysts believe Myanmar is allowing Chinese technicians
to operate this as a listening post. More recently, China has been
pressing Myanmar to allow access to Victoria Point, a long, rugged
Burmese island within three hundred Kilometers of the Strait of
Malacca, the vital seaway through which much of Northeast Asia's
trade must pass. China is also upgrading the Burmese Navy,
together with the roads and railroads that lead from its Yunan
province southward towards this Indian Ocean..."
Calder details the extensive way in which China is
developing a blue-water navy. And even more so, its Air Force. And,
from a source which will surprise Indians! Calder recalls the
yard-sale of Soviet equipment and how China was flush with hard
currency, and writes,
"They (the Chinese) began by buying dozens of
Su-27 fighters and made plans to produce their own version of
Russia's top-of-the-line MiG-31 strategic interceptor, using a
small Army of fifteen hundred Russian engineers and
Hundreds more were put on retainer, creating an
elaborate E-mail network between Russian and Chinese defence
research institutes that has since accelerated the development of
Chinese aerospace and nuclear programs... China's air force
modernization program is by no means defensive. Apart from the
MiG-3 that is to be coproduced, China also reportedly acquired
air-to-air refueling technology from Iran, which had gotten it ,
in turn, from the United States during the reign of the Shah. It
also purchased Tu-22 long range bombers, IL-76 military
transports, S-300 ground-based antiballistic missiles, and A-50
airborne warning and control planes from the
True, matching China militarily does not ward off
the threat it may pose if in the meanwhile our economy flounders.
But to conclude from this that doing well economically will be
enough, would be sheer idiocy. Similarly, acquiring a modest nuclear
arsenal does not mean one is fully prepared to meet such threat as
China may pose. But to conclude from that truism that one can do
without the arsenal is just foolish.
Today our commentators are all denunciation. Land
of Buddha and Gandhi, they say: but surely this is also the land of
Krishna and Arjuna, of the "Dhanushdhari" Ram, of Shivaji and
Maharana Pratap, and Lokmanya Tilak!
Not just that, the moment persons like me have in
the past talked of the pivotal role of Gandhiji, these were the very
persons who have shouted, "But you are ignoring the difference that
Bhagat Singh and Chandrashekhar Azad made." Overnight the BJP has
made a peace-loving India into a warmongering country, they declaim,
having expended reams denigrating us for being cunning, conspiring,
Contrast what these pundits are suddenly writing
with what the "Strategic Affairs Editor" of the very peace-loving,
secular paper. "The Hindu", wrote in August last year.
The news which we noticed earlier had just broken
out -- that the Clinton administration was about to certify that
China was no longer exporting nuclear and missile technologies.
Under the paper's headline, "India in a nuclear
limbo," the website carries the following from this very paper:
"As the Clinton administration gets ready to sell
nuclear power reactors to China, India is confronted with a
crucial paradox. About Five decades after China and India embarked
on modernization, the great powers of the international system are
falling over each other to offer strategic technologies to China.
India, on the other hand, has "become a near-untouchable in the
international trade in sensitive technologies... The Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) does not explicitly ban cooperation
in the nuclear weapons field among the nuclear weapon powers. In
short, China has the best of both worlds; and India, the worst. As
a declared nuclear weapon power, China has access to both civilian
aid military nuclear technologies. in contrast, India, after
serenading itself as a player on the global nuclear stage for five
decades, has neither a credible nuclear weapons programme nor a
robust civilian atomic power industry. India has no one to blame
but itself for the unenviable situation...
"Many in the United States have raised questions
about the continuing Chinese support to Pakistan's nuclear weapons
programme and the wisdom of beefing up the nuclear industrial base
of a nation that is seen by many Americans as a potential
adversary. But the logic of the current policy of engaging China
could well push Washington into civilian nuclear cooperation with
Beijing. Where does that leave India? In a nuclear
"Any serious review of the Indian nuclear policy
would result in two basic propositions. One is the need to end the
nuclear ambiguity and exercise the weapons option in a manner that
is credible but non-provocative. And, the other: Having come out
of the nuclear closet, Indian readiness to engage the global
nuclear order for a modus vivendi. If India is ready to play the
game, it indeed has beverages -- a large nuclear power market, an
ability to disrupt the global non-proliferation regime through
diplomacy and future nuclear exports and its potential role in the
Asian balance of power."
The condescension: "after serenading itself as a
player..." The fundamental and unvarying theme: "India has no one to
blame but itself for the unenviable situation..." The snootiness
which makes them look upon all this as a "game". The generalized
pentification: when the attitude of countries -- from China to the
US -- is what we have seen it to be, pray, how is one to "end the
nuclear-ambiguity and exercise the weapons option in a manner that
is credible but non-provocative"? The rule Orwell had lanced -- when
you don't know what to say, use a foreign expression! Hence, "modus
vivendi", what this "arrangement or compromise" is to be, to use the
dictionary meaning, "by which we may get along with those who do not
agree with us," is left as an exercise for the reader!
Each of these write-ups deserve attention as it
manifests a mindset. But I am on the other point: the operational
advice. The Editor's advice in that analysis, as we see, is to "come
out of the nuclear closet," it is to "exercise the weapons option."
That advice has but to be acted upon, and the analysts break out in
a pink rash! "Arms race initiated by India under the stewardship of
the Vajpayee administration," the same paper fumes.
"Jingoistic chauvinism," it declares. "Public
opinion within Pakistan inflamed by provocative and chauvinist
attitudes displayed here," it pronounces.
Hence, the four principles of
secularist-liberal-nostalgically, Maoist-nostalgically Lahorite
1. India is, it has always been, it will always
be One hundred per cent wrong, with no one to blame but
2. India led by BJP is, it has always been, it
will always be Two hundred per cent wrong, with no one to blame
but the BJP;
3. Pakistan is, it has always been, it will
always be One hundred per cent right, with no one to blame but
4. Pakistan backed by China is, it has always
been, it will always be Two hundred per cent right, with, not one,
but two to blame - India and BJP!
But they are a dwindling race, and the more they
adhere to these principles, the shorter we will have to wait.
The point is about Pakistan. There is no doubt that
while the Government's decision to go in for the explosions was
necessary, that while many aspects of the matter were handled with
skill, the spate of statements which followed the blasts harmed the
case enormously. Fortunately they have ceased. But the same
temptations can arise tomorrow, and so the Prime Minister must
enforce firm rules on his colleagues and party.
This is particularly so because of what is certain
to be Pakistan's strategy in the coming months. Anyone who has been
reading Pakistani papers must know that for eight months there have
been two running themes in them.
One, that the country is close to bankruptcy --
that by July or August it will be close to defaulting on its
repayment obligations. To get bailouts from the IMF and the World
Bank, Nawaz Sharief had decreed privatisation and down-sizing of an
array of governmental enterprises. But strikes in banks, troubles in
WAPDA, stay orders by courts arrested the measures.
Second, every commentator, paper after paper has
been warning that, in spite of his overwhelming majority in the
Pakistan Assembly, Nawaz Sharief will never rest till he has
acquired absolute, dictatorial power. They forecast this from what
they know of his nature, and from the moves he has been making.
First, he curtailed the freedom of the members of the Assembly. Then
he struck at the judiciary. Then the President was forced out.
The emergency he has imposed is the result and
culmination of these two factors. It is the exact thing which
commentators have been forecasting all these months. But now that he
has complete power, he has no excuses left -- except India. And no
way left except to heighten tensions with India. For anyone in India
to respond in kind will only be to help him out of a deep ditch.
There is the other aspect too. Pakistan has failed
in regard to Kashmir. Its strategy now will be to throw a tantrum a
day: "Unless the issue of Kashmir is solved, there will be nuclear
war" -- the equivalent of Khrushchev banging his shoe on the table
at the UN. And, so as to lend urgency and verisimilitude to the
tantrum, to stage major incidents in Kashmir. Persons like the UK
Foreign Secretary will be only too eager to pounce on these
worked-up tantrums to initiate what they have in any case been
panting to do -- that is, get a foothold for a third-party
To be provoked into angry, retaliatory words would
be to help Pakistan along. For once let us be truly Buddha-like! To
a taunt, to a tantrum he would respond with silence, with a
That plus, to continue the work: defeat every
attempt to send terrorists across, crush every attempt to stoke
violence again in the Valley; and buck up the local administration
In a word, it is done. it was done well, now get
down to the next