Hours before defence minister A K Antony’s arrival on a visit aimed at mending border fences, Major General Luo Yuan, executive vice-president and secretary general of China Strategy Culture Promotion Association, on Thursday warned that “the Indian side should not provoke new problems and increase the military deployment at the border areas and start new trouble”. The remark comes at a time when India and China have been discussing a new border co-operation agreement and reflects Beijing’s efforts to pressure India. General Luo is known for his hawkish views on China’s strategic and military relations with its neighbours and enjoys considerable support in the Chinese military establishment.
India should rebut the suggestion and make it clear that it is China that should restrain its expansionist ambitions. Unfortunately, the UPA government’s policy towards China and Pakistan has been utopian. The mandarins of India’s foreign policy will do well to take a cue from Theodore Roosevelt who stressed the importance of a nation “carrying a big stick while speaking softly” while dealing with hostile adversaries. In the current world, the best stick is economic and military power and it is more effective when backed by soft power. Though Beijing may be ahead of India in asserting its economic power, it lacks trust and soft power in dealing with others. In Africa, where China made early forays in local economies, countries like Nigeria have already expressed fears about Chinese hegemony.
While using its soft power to expand its economic role in other regions, India cannot neglect boosting its hard power. New Delhi should firmly tell Beijing that it has no intention of provoking China but it has every right to defend its sovereignty and territory and equip itself to deal with any perceived threat. At the same time it should cement its ties with Japan and other countries in ASEAN that are wary of Chinese designs. There can be no compromise on national interest.