India is currently in crisis. Both the internal and external state of affairs is in bad shape. Internally, the state is grappling with the economic slowdown, divisive politics, high levels of unemployment, and the rotting down of secular institutions. Externally, the country is facing the dragon on the border. China is locking horns with India along the LAC in Ladakh. The issue has serious repercussions across South Asia and beyond. If this border clash is not resolved soon, it might cause more trouble to the policymakers. The political atmosphere in both the states of India and China is pushing them to fall into what American political scientist, Graham Allison calls a “Thucydides trap”. Besides this, India has to stay prepared to confront the Chinese geopolitical strategy of the “String of Pearls”. Through this strategy China has been, since long, encircling the rival states, choking their economies and imparting ‘security dilemma’ among the adversary’s armed forces. This is done to weaken the morale of the enemy state and India presently is facing this brunt.
Internally, Indian politics has lost its way. Every organ of it is in shambles. Modi’s rise to power has been the story of India’s fall. His politics is bereft of vision. The idealism at home and realism abroad has not worked at all for him. In fact, he is stuck between the messes in domestic politics and the utter failures in foreign policy issues. For India, the former has become more serious than the latter. Projecting power abroad and decaying the states inside is a sign of the “weapons of the weak”. And this is what Modi has reduced the “aspiring great power” India into. Every indicator of development has been steeping downwards. The boat of the very “idea of India” is sinking and if the issues, both domestic and international, are not tackled well before, it will fall into the quagmire of turbulence.
Externally, China is posing a threat to India’s territoriality. The current border clash between the two most powerful Asian states, India and China, along the Ladakh region is the latest addition to this episode. This border confrontation should not be seen as an isolated event but as a consistent policy of China to contain India. China has been containing India through myriad strategies; first and foremost is the Chinese economic dominance which is not letting India to spread its tentacles freely in the new world order. Second, China has been successful in nurturing friends in India’s backyard. The majority of the South Asian countries are fed up with India’s “big brother” attitude and they see China as a balancer in South Asia. India has issues with almost all the neighboring states and China is exploiting this to its own advantage by forging friendly relations with all of them. Nepal, a friendly Hindu country that has claimed areas in the map that supposedly belong to India is also falling slowly in China’s basket.
Moreover, there are many analysts in International Relations who see a close link between the abrogation of Article 370 and China’s intrusions across the LAC in Ladakh. Wang Shida, Deputy Director at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, who specializes in South Asian studies, and Wang Xianfeng, a Chinese diplomat who is a press officer at the Chinese embassy in Pakistan, believe that, “India’s actions of unilaterally changing the status quo of Kashmir…..have posed a challenge to the sovereignty of China and Pakistan, and made India’s relations with its two neighbors more complex.” Wang Shida further says that “in the wake of the abrogation of Article 370, India opened up new territory on the map, incorporating areas formerly under Xinjiang and Tibet into Ladakh, which was now a separate union territory.” This angered China and its intrusions across the LAC in Ladakh are thus seen as an act of vendetta. The abrogation of Article 370 and the bifurcation of the state of Jammu & Kashmir into two union territories have basically altered the status quo. The change in the status quo has opened up a Pandora’s Box with snowballing effects. The recent border dispute that India has currently with China is an illustration in this direction.
Unless India redresses the growing power equation with China, it can’t alter the reality on the ground. Remember what Thucydides teaches us in the Melian Dialogue. The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must. This is an important canon of International politics which still rules the roost.
Eesar Mehdi is a Ph.D. scholar at South Asian University New Delhi