China's growing strategic influence in Asia is a threat to India

China's President Xi Jinping sends rare message to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un Photograph:( AFP )

Shanghai, China Nov 01, 2017, 11.54 AM (IST) Sudeep Kumar

Recently, concluded first plenum of 19th Congress of Communist Party of China (CPC) helped in consolidating Chinese President Xi Jinping position as a core leader, included his thought in the constitution of the party as Xi Jinping thought of Socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era along with his ambitious Belt and Road Initiative(BRI); and finally his emphasis on Chinese military modernisation, where army must be controlled by the communist party of China.

Now, one needs to carefully analyse the implications of these developments for Indian strategic and security interests in particular and foreign policy in general. Indeed, Chinese President Xi Jinping is the third most influential political leader after Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping in Chinese political history. China has world’s second largest GDP in nominal terms $11,199,145 and hence, no short of money for Chinese military modernisation.

As a chairman of Central Military Commission, Xi Jinping has reiterated ‘basic mechanisation’ by 2020, ‘complete modernisation’ by 2035; and finally having ‘world-class military’ by 2050.
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China has increased their military spending 118 per cent between 2007 and 2016 along with biggest military spender in Asia and Oceania. As the chairman of Central Military Commission (CMC), Chinese President Xi Jinping has reiterated ‘basic mechanisation’ by 2020, ‘complete modernisation’ by 2035 and finally having ‘world-class military’ by 2050. He also asked the people’s liberation army (PLA) to be prepared for not just fight but win a war at any time.

In this background, it would be important to observe profiles of some important diplomats and military leaders. To begin with, one of the top diplomats, Yang Jiechi who is a state councillor; and special representative of India-China Border Dispute Talk Mechanism has been retained as a politburo and central committee (CC) member of the CPC.

The Central Committee (204 members) is the third largest decision-making body after Politburo Standing Committee (7-members PBSC) and Politburo (25 members including PBSC) of the CPC. It is also presumed that current foreign minister; Wang Yi will replace Yang Jiechi as a new state councillor and special representative in upcoming next plenum of 19th Congress of CPC in March-2018.

The head of Western Command of PLA in Sichuan, General Zhao Zongqi has been promoted as a central committee member. He is in-charge of India-China boundary disputes on the ground and played a very crucial role during 73-days long Doklam faceoff recently. General Xu Qiliang has been retained as a vice-chairman CMC of the CPC. The names of newly elected vice-chairman Zhang Youxia, and members of CMC are Wei Fenghe, Li Zuocheng, Miao Hua, Zhang Shengmini. It is to be noted that Chinese infrastructure development and logistics are in much better condition than Indian side of the border. China is also working on hi-speed train projects to these border areas with central parts of China.

Xi Jinping tries to build his legacy in next 30 years with the help of his ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as a grand strategy of China.
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One can say that Chinese President Xi Jinping tries to build his legacy in next 30 years with the help of his ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as a grand strategy of China. The Chinese official argument behind BRI is that to build a world community of shared destiny based on the sovereignty and national interests of every country in the world.

But what we notice in the case of their sensitivities towards ‘Indian sovereignty and national interests’ that despite Indian government repetitive protests, China is already involved in infrastructure development projects like construction of motorways, railways, bridges, tunnel and dams in the disputed Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), Pakistan. In fact, China started building Karakoram highways in 1957 to increase their strategic influence in this disputed PoK region. No doubt, China-Pakistan Military Nexus is a strategic reality, which has been done against India. Today, both Chinese and Pakistani armies do joint patrolling in the disputed PoK region.

With the help of BRI, China wants to increase their strategic influence in South Asia and Indian Ocean region.
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With the help of BRI, China wants to increase their strategic influence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region. China is giving loans to India’s neighbouring countries, such as Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Pakistan. China’s new assertiveness towards South Asia and the Indian Ocean region is a manifestation of asymmetric military and economic capabilities between China and India.

One can witness this assertiveness and strategic signalling in the tone and tenor of psychological warfare and threatening and immature words used against India during the recent 73-days long Doklam faceoff. In fact, Doklam faceoff was an ad-hoc diplomatic victory because even Chinese PLA Major General Qiao Liang justified withdrawal of troops in order to secure strategic position and to host BRICS Xiament Summit 2017 between 3rd and 5th Sep-2017; and 19th congress of Chinese communist party between 18th and 25th Oct-2017.

These South Asian countries like Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Pakistan are already raising the concerns about repayment of Chinese loans and debts. There are some questions which need to be answered in this context. What if these south small Asian countries default on their repayment of Chinese loan and its high-interest rates?

If China is serious about building a world community of shared destiny based on the sovereignty and national interests then, why it did not consult all the participating countries before unilaterally setting the agendas for BRI forum at Beijing on 14-15 May 2017?

BRI is a Chinese initiative launched for safeguarding the Chinese strategic and national interests.
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No doubt, BRI is a Chinese initiative launched for safeguarding the Chinese strategic and national interests. In the foreseeable future, one cannot discount the possibilities of another India-China boundary disputes because, in Chinese power calculus, India is considered as a junior power merely due to asymmetry in economic and military capabilities of both countries.

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