Its not very serious really but one does get some ideas, stray thoughts here and there, some notions, some vague presumptions, some kind of a gut feeling that India is war mongering with China. There are movements of military tanks in Ladakh, three Chinese journalists have been asked to leave, the Parliament in the forthcoming monsoon session is full of detailed questions on China, the ministries and think tanks wants some write ups on China’s investments and a few months before now, country representatives of China’s largest state owned trading company simply upped and left India without bidding their customary adieus. In 1962, China was the aggressor; in 2016 it is India which is the aggressor. India is now under a right wing government and like all right wing regimes, it is not surprising that India too will design at least to posture for war especially at a point of time when China is really not interested in war.
China has not been too peaceful a civilization for war has been both an instrument of territorial expansion and colonization as well as a way to rev up its economy. Chinese emperors have often believed in waging wars to enlarge its economy, deepen its production base and to bloat the imperial coffers; what war has never done for China is give it a kind of nationalism or the feeling of being united under an Empire. The Chinese people are fiercely federated, proud of territorial and local ties, embedded into communities and clans, jealous of cultures and vernaculars, of beliefs and customs; it is difficult for the Chinese to let go of such ties in favour of getting universalized under a central authority. War has been a sore point in that civilization for it has put the Emperor and his people in a situation of conflict, leading sometimes to major stand-offs as peasants and armies have rebelled against kings, generals and bureaucrats. No wonder then Buddhism was such a great hit in that land for it gave an instrument for territorial expansion and colonization through peaceful means of religious teachings and it absolved the communities from having to wage wars for the Emperors.
China was keen on warfare as late as 2010, a time just before the commodity price collapsed across the world. Before 2010, China was one of the major buyers of metals and minerals, of oilseeds and grains because of the massive industrialization that was taking place within the country. But as China’s factories produced far more that what China could consume and what the world markets could absorb, the Chinese traders lost all markets into which to sell the raw materials and products. Commodity prices softened and melted leaving the Chinese traders distraught and disheveled. Then China designed the Regional Cooperation for Economic Partnership, or the RCEP in which China would emerge as the trading Godfather of an entire region spanning the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean and even the Mediterranean. With the region, the Chinese traders would trade by sourcing products from various countries and exporting these to the other countries; margins would be purely from trade.
Before 2010, the strategy of China was to buy raw materials from the countries at high prices; so high that it made more economic sense for the countries to become raw material producers rather than continue to be in the business of manufacturing. Examples from the world steel industry are cases in the point. Canada, Australia, Brazil, South Africa, Ukraine and even Russia became active exporters of iron ore and thus deprived their own steel industries of raw materials. China, on the other hand was a cheap producer of everything and its traders knew very well that with the moneys the exporters earned from raw materials they would be eager importers of cheap Chinese manufactured goods. This was how, almost through a reversal of the European colonialism, China became the largest manufacturer of goods displacing the local manufacturing bases in almost every country in the world. India, too has been a victim of Chinese manufacturing for even if it does not buy much from China, yet the natural growth of its industries are capped by the global competitiveness of Chinese factories.
When China was in the process of buying up raw materials and selling manufactured goods, war made great sense to China. War efforts were a way of absorbing minerals and steel, of coal and oil, of investing in logistics and infrastructure and keep the machine going on. But after 2010, there has been an important change within China and which is the global recession that has weakened the global demand for its goods and services reflecting in large trade surpluses held in its exchequer. While such a large trade surplus would have been a blessing to finance wars, yet wars would mean the destruction of the surplus and not its investments and circulation. China has altered its strategy; it is now looking for ways and means to invest the surplus in countries of Africa, the Middle East, in south Asia like Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Afghanistan and then track, monitor and integrate returns from these investments through the trade network it proposes through the RCEP. War would mean an end to this plan. China cannot afford to go for war and neither will it indulge in any kind of battles and skirmished.
For India under the right wing, there appears much to gain from war. Firstly, war will help India cut off its ties with rest of the world and plunge into isolation. Thus isolated, its indigenous industries will grow once again and the GST Bill, if passed and made into an act will help integrate the economy at the national level. War will have the effect of isolating India, and isolation is just the thing that India is looking to given the slew of trade protection measures it is undertaking. Then war might help distract the mind of the people from the great scam of a Government actually not working at all. The food inflation, the collapse of industry, the belying of the promise of employment are emerging as major embarrassments for the Government; war may be a good idea at distraction. Besides, war may mean scope of speculation, yet another relief for the social class of speculators who have backed up the right wing government to the hilt. War is also a wonderful opportunity at the refining and activating its ultra nationalist discourses. Modi for who the greater Nemesis is neither Pakistan, nor China but Nehru, a war with China could mean an opportunity to overwrite Nehru’s defeat at the hands of China in 1962. Besides, a war with China will help India get into the same league as China, emerge in the eyes of the world as a genuine “contender” and force the world to be divided into India or China camp, thus slicing off some importance from what now is solely China’s monopoly.
But what are the odds that India will win this war? There are very few actually. China is manufacturing giant; it not only makes cheap stuff but makes very high quality stuff as well. Its designs are leading the world; technologically China can produce almost everything at a fraction of the costs of what any country can produce; it has strong communities and local bodies which makes governance both decentralized and effective unlike India where public deliveries are at best pathetic. The Chinese students have scored second in a global learning outcomes, India has ranked the second last among tests conducted across 176 countries. China has a global outlook in terms of its economic programmers, India is defensive and hides behind a pile of trade protection. Chinese investments are spread across the world, India’s investments are green horned and tentative. Besides, the Chinese are great fighters with homegrown military equipment and arsenal; Indian defense technology like its industrial production are imported and grafted externally.
India’s invitation to combat may emerge as just the opportunity that the Chinese were waiting for. For once provoked to war may help them overrun both North East, Kashmir and the Indian Ocean on the route to south east Asia. Incidentally the above are all part of the land and the sea trade routes of the Silk Road, just the routes which China wants to secure through the modern day RCEP. Pakistan will be its natural ally and so will be Russia; Pakistan because of Kashmir, and because China and Russia both have investments in Pakistan, for both are cultivating Pakistan as a destiny for their surplus funds, Russia will join the axis too. China has massive investments in Central Asia and Middle East especially in energy projects and mining and mineral beneficiation of which substantial number of Indian companies are beneficiaries. War with China will obviously see Indian companies lose their support in Central Asia and Middle East.
In Africa and Latin America Indian companies are in direct competition with the Chinese but because China has a wider and a more diverse basket of investments as compared to India, when it comes to choosing between India and China, it is possible that the African and the South American countries will choose China. Since China has purchased government debt bonds of the countries of EU and North America, it is likely that these countries will be obliged to China as well. Mr Modi is travelling across the world in a manner of Mrs Indira Gandhi did before India waged its war on East Pakistan that led to the formation of Bangladesh in 1971. His wide travels and especially repeated visits to Africa, promise of investing in agriculture and food production, plans of cultivating pulses on African soil are hints that Mr Modi is preparing for war on a large scale. Steel giants like Essar Steel is already on the job of preparing for defense equipment and supplies.