The spread of two authoritarian streams, Chinese communism and Islamic fundamentalism, in combination or otherwise, threaten the survival of democracies in Asia.
First, Beijing deftly sucked in most of the democracies in its economic orbit by making China a very cheap manufacturing destination of the world. This simultaneously created gigantic hard currency reserves and vast political influence.
Second, from the inflow of foreign direct investments, a modern lethal military machine was forged.
Third, Beijing skillfully invested in dictatorial or Islamic fundamentalist regimes in Asia like North Korea, Pakistan, and Myanmar.
On one hand, this boosts Pakistan and North Korea's capability to tie down democracies like India, South Korea and Japan without the necessity of China being involved overtly. On the other, by transferring sensitive technologies to these countries, China deflects the attention of major powers from itself and conveniently shifts the debate to the rogue nations clandestinely supported by it.
Accretion of extraordinary power allows China to escape unscathed, bringing to an end the phase of 'Peaceful rise of China'! The ongoing coercive diplomacy against Japan marks the beginning of 'Rise of the expansionist China.'
The Islamic fundamentalists and other dictatorial regimes like the military junta of Myanmar by themselves do not constitute a dire threat to democracies in Asia as they individually lack capabilities.
However, to gain supremacy in Asia, extreme ideologies supported by Chinese machinations constitute a dangerous tool that can cause mayhem.
To dominate Asia, China will ensure that Islamic regimes come under the Chinese tutelage. Their rigid philosophies have more in common with each other than with the democracies. This helps Beijing in two ways. First, it keeps the Islamic fundamentalists in check and prevents insurrection in Sinkiang inhabited by a large Muslim population.
Second, by way of investment, aid and transfer of sensitive technology, Beijing uses the 'barbarians', i.e., Islamic fundamentalists in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Maoists in Nepal or authoritarian regime in North Korea, to tie up democracies like India, Japan, South Korea or America and its allies within Asia in knots.
These dark forces are an extension of the Chinese war machine to ensure that democracies become dysfunctional and ultimately redundant.
If the multi-cultural democratic Indian model succeeds in Asia, the single party Chinese model is bound to fail.
Pakistan, which China treats as its colony, is a classic example. Beijing worries that its dreams to reach Gawdar port by land will come to a naught if Pakistan splinters. This is the singular reason for the Chinese military to be inducted into Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, lest this area, which includes Gilgit and Baltistan, rejoin the Indian state of J&K.
Similarly, if North Korea unites with South Korea, China will feel threatened by the formidable new power equation in its vicinity. Washington's attempts to woo Islamabad away from Beijing will not succeed as both nurture an anti-America and anti-India orientation.
The falling apart of Pakistan or uniting of the Koreas, therefore, will certainly curtail Chinese ambitions and enhance footprints of the democracies in Asia. A win-win for democracies of all hues!
The battle in Asia in many ways, therefore, is poised between the forces of darkness led by China, and the light of freedom and hope being nurtured by the democracies.
If the groups or nations with extreme philosophies led by China succeed, the economic powerhouse of the world in the 21st century, i.e., Asia will be under the control of authoritarian regimes, and the Western influences led by America's global interests will be obliterated. The Islamization of Europe will become a certainty. North America will feel the heat. India, the softest target, of course, will get the first jolt.
To contend with the American power, Beijing desires a multi-polar world, but in Asia it is determined to achieve China-centric unipolarity.
What should be India's game plan?
India can be to Asia what America is to the world- a symbol of hope, freedom, justice and liberty.
First, India must attract massive inflow of foreign direct investment by creating the requisite business environment. The red tape that is retarding India's economic growth should be immediately dispensed with. It is essential we emerge as the leading alternate manufacturing and technology research hub in Asia. Those who bring in the sunrise technologies in joint ventures must be rewarded and encouraged.
The cutting edge technological research requires huge investments, young skilled demographic profile and friendly business environment, where all partners profit in a variety of ways. India boasts of potential to lead Asia in all these parameters.
Keeping Indian societal characteristics in view, American economic model with minor modifications incorporating some of the social welfare features of Europe will be a huge success that can propel India to the top.
Less government and more governance will lead to creation of unprecedented wealth.
Second, New Delhi so far has grossly underutilized the potent geo-economic card held in the Indian arsenal. For example there is ban by the West in transfer of sensitive technologies to China. Many such technologies can be transferred to India, if the FDI in defense sector is increased to 49 percent from the present unviable 26 percent. Further, to realize the full potential, if defense sector is opened to the private sector, India can be fairly self-sufficient in defense equipment in the next 10 years.
Importantly, when other democracies are allowed substantial stakes in the Indian economy, which is mutually beneficial, there will be an automatic increase in New Delhi's international clout. Therefore, New Delhi must heal these self-inflicted wounds borne out of myopic policies.
Today India's appetite and the resources to modernize are gigantic. It has enough eggs to put in different baskets that can leverage influence to its benefit.
Third, we have to understand that a 'Guest is not God!' as proudly touted by our tourism brochures. The Chinese and Pakistani guests want a fair chunk of this country's territory. They have used every dirty trick in the trade to de-stabilize India. Guests must strictly be made to adhere to the passport control regime. More vital is the fact that New Delhi to survive the hostile two-fronts must create extraordinary military capabilities with the help of democracies of the West led by America.
Modern military power capable of dominance in space, air, land and sea in Asia is key to India's future. It should be able to defend the wealth we create as well as the democratic space.
Fourth, India must shape strong economic and military relationships with democracies like Japan, South Korea and others within Asia. This relationship can further acquire muscle by forming similar networked partnerships with the Western democracies led by America.
The 21st Century will witness a robust partnership between India and the United States due to the extraordinary synergy of purpose. The former to protect its democratic fabric and the territorial integrity, and the latter to defend its global stakes in Asia, which includes access to this huge market.
This relationship between the two democracies can effectively compel Beijing to abandon its the New Cold War started by it in Asia and revert to 'Peaceful rise of China!'Bharat Verma, a former Cavalry Officer is Editor, Indian Defence Review. He frequently appears on television as a commentator, and is the author of
Fault Lines and
The Indian Armed ForcesMore articles by the same author