The most vibrant and discussed topic when it comes to India’s foreign policy is who poses a bigger threat to us – Pakistan or China? Opinions are somewhat divided. But in the last few years as China has shown unparalleled growth both economically and militarily, and as Pakistan has disintegrated as a state, some have changed their views to say that China is undoubtedly India’s biggest threat. I disagree. China has become powerful but it’s stable. Pakistan on the other hand, is the perfect depiction of a democracy in utter pandemonium that’s deteriorating day-by-day. And this instability is exactly what makes it more dangerous.
People who advocate that China is our biggest threat say so as they probably are intimidated by its rise on the global stage. In the coming decade it will be the largest economy in the world leaving behind the US, and it is also the third most powerful military force. The recent economic downturn that the world is experiencing is primarily due to China’s slowing growth. As that continues, the demand for goods and services of people of the world’s most populous country shrinks causing massive drops in exports of other nations, thereby resulting in shutting down of factories and rising unemployment in the exporting nations. Such is the economic clout and impact of present-day China that more than half the number of articles published in US magazines and newspapers relating to ‘Economy and Stock Markets’ are about China. And such is its military might that the US is in need of Japan and India more than ever to counter China’s ‘expansion’ in the South-China Sea. Considering all of this, an inherent fear of China is legitimate. But is this threat bigger than that of Pakistan? Let’s see.
India & China
The first time India and China fought a war was in 1962. India lost the war and the cause of the loss was attributed primarily to the weak leadership & unnecessary intervention of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. The next when soldiers from both sides faced each other (not resulting in a war) was during the 1965 Indo-Pak War. The Chinese placed troops on the border to caution India to stop its march into Pakistani territory. India obviously couldn’t afford a two-front war, and so it pulled back. But the extent of the face-off was limited to positioning of troops on the border. Then took place the Cho La incident in 1967 when the Chinese Army infiltrated Sikkim but were repulsed by our army in just 10 days. The Chinese casualties were 340 soldiers killed in action; almost 4 times that of India’s! The battle ended as the Chinese troops retreated defeated by the Indian Army (this proves the point of certain high-ranked Indian military officers who have stated that had Jawaharlal Nehru supported them in the 1962 war the army stood a great chance at defeating the Chinese).
Not much time had gone by, and India again fought Pakistan in the 1971 War. This time India dealt Pakistan some severe, long-lasting blows – 1/4th of its army, 1/3rd of its air force & half of its navy was destroyed. As India, once again, began pushing its way into the Pakistani territory, the US intervened and asked China to place its troops on the border, but this time China DENIED. It said that unlike the 1965 war, this time the Indians were prepared for such a move and had readied their troops on the border beforehand. Also, Russia had warned China not to go on the aggressive against India or it would have to intervene. This was definitely a factor in the defensive attitude of the Chinese. But nevertheless, one cannot deny that the Chinese reluctance could also have been due to its loss against our army in 1967. Even with the US & Pakistan on its side, China understood that India was no pushover.
There have been some incidents when the Chinese troops have entered our territory or have been involved in heated verbal spats with our soldiers, but that is pretty much the extent of their aggression on the border for decades. For almost 50 years now, not a single bullet has been fired on the Indo-China border. We have never initiated aggression on the border, not even against Pakistan let alone China, but this stat proves that even the Chinese don’t underestimate our strength and want to avoid unnecessary skirmishes with us, irrespective of how powerful they are. Helping Pakistan with weapons and funds, voting against India for a place in the NSG or placing conditions on our entry into the Security Council are simply ways that they have adopted in its foreign policy vis-à-vis India, but this also goes to show that they are well aware of our growing might and are in no mood to create any tensions that might escalate into a warlike situation.
As China grows stronger, there also falls upon its shoulders a sense of responsibility. Being a member of the Security Council, one hardly expects any foolish moves on its end with regards to India. Also, India is China’s major trading partner and China would not do anything that would affect its economic health.
India & Pakistan
Talking of Pakistan, and as I said before that the most important reason why Pakistan is a major threat to India is because of the growing instability within its borders. Add to this an inherent hatred in the hearts of its military establishment towards India (after losing 3 wars it’s only natural that they’d hate us) and the same venom is also found in a lot of their intellectuals and politicians – this is a combination that India must be wary of.
Pakistan deeply believes in the policy of ‘good terrorism’ and ‘bad terrorism’. It has supported terrorist groups that hate India and taken action against those that want the destruction of Pakistan itself. But as we have seen in the last few years, the element of anti-Pakistan terrorism has grown vastly – examples being the horrific slaughter of 148 children in the Peshawar school attack and the assault at Bacha Khan University. These groups are gaining power, and so are the government supported groups like JuD. In short, the overall relevance of terrorism on Pakistani soil is growing stronger.
Elaborating on the point just made, Pakistan blabbers incoherently about how Kashmir is a part of its soil and India has no right on it. It says that it’s only ‘appropriate’ that a Muslim majority state be a part of Pakistan. Its motive behind this demand is not because they care about the Muslims of the state (the condition of people in Pak-occupied Kashmir is pathetic!) but because it wants a gateway into the Indian mainland from where they can more comfortably push terrorists to create havoc in our country. The most glaring example of such an operation was the one that led to the Kargil War when Pakistani soldiers disguised as militants had entered India.
Pakistan’s nuclear program is the fastest growing program in the world. For the government and the military, the welfare of its people is of least importance and that’s the reason why the common public suffers rampant poverty, lack of electricity and other basic infrastructure, and yet exorbitant sums of money is spent on developing nuclear weapons so that they can act not only as a deterrent to an Indian offensive but can also be used first, if needed. Now as long as the government or the military has full control over the operation and technology of these weapons it’s fine, but there exists a problem. As Pakistan is seen more and more a decrepit, terrorist-sponsoring state, world powers are becoming wary of its nuclear arsenal which could very well fall into the wrong hands. This fallen image of the nation has drastically reduced funding from the West. The US through its satellites keeps an eye on the nuclear missiles that Pakistan possesses. To fool the Americans, Pakistan keeps moving and hiding its missiles so as to prevent the US from obtaining a proper count of the number. This process is potentially dangerous. There are actual risks of these missiles falling into wrong hands during their regular transportation. And if that happens, who knows what lies in the future.
The first two wars – the 1965 Indo-Pak war and the 1971 war – made the Pakistanis realize that there was no way that it could defeat India in a conventional battle. That no matter how much support it gets even from the most advanced of nations like the US, the Indians protect their land like no other people. Then began Pakistan’s tryst with terrorism. They began believing that India could be defeated if they conducted proxy-wars. This ‘experiment’ has backfired to say the least. India still stands united and stronger than ever. But this doesn’t mean that the Pakistanis will stop promoting terrorism or building more and more nuclear weapons. The fact that Pakistan desperately wants to hurt India (it always has) and with devastating weapons like nuclear missiles at its disposal in a deteriorating political and social situation add to which a refusal to accede to the ‘No First Use’ policy of nuclear weapons, makes Pakistan by far the biggest threat to India’s security.
On a lighter note
Here’s a simple analogy in relation to the three nations discussed above – If a person tells you that you can safely touch a bear because that person has trained it & that it obeys his every command, then you might well consider touching it irrespective of what a powerful animal the bear is. But if you see a dog and the person tells you that it’s a street dog and is unpredictable and that he holds no guarantee as to how it will react if you go close to it, you wouldn’t dare move near the dog.
- by Vinayak J
Posted On : 16-Jun-2017