Ten ways India can make China respect it

Last Updated: Sat, Apr 27, 2013 13:54 hrs

1. Have more media there

There is barely any reportage from China in the Indian media. This keeps China out of Indian minds. Therefore, when China intrudes into Indian territory or air space, there is a sense of surprise. It always seems distant when it isn’t. An effective way to keep track of what China thinks and does is to have at least 50 more Indian correspondents in China.

At the moment only the principal news agencies and perhaps two or three newspapers have a correspondent based in Beijing. India needs 50 more. Leading TV channels and leading newspapers must immediately have bureaus in China. And allot space for at least one big story a day. This would translate to 50 stories a day. It’s a start we can build on.

When the Chinese see Indian reporters asking them questions every day, everywhere, in China – there will be admiration.

2. Have 10 more consulates

India has an embassy in Beijing and two consulates – in Shanghai [in the east] and Guangzhou [in the south]. The Shanghai consulate covers Shanghai and the provinces of Zhejiang [land of fish, rice and tea; officially has no poverty] and Jiangsu [has among the highest GDP in China, nearly half that of India]. The Guangzhou consulate covers Guangdong, Fujian, Hunan, Hainan, Yunnan, Sichuan and Guangxi.

China has an embassy in New Delhi and consulates in Mumbai and Kolkata. It is looking to open a third consulate in Chennai. India has responded by seeking to open one in Lhasa, Tibet.

India needs about 10 more consulates across the rest of China, which would mean eyes, ears and feet on the ground. The flip side is that China would seek an equal presence in India but that should be par for the course. India benefits from a larger presence in China. It needs it; China does not.

When there is visible and strong Indian diplomatic presence in China, there will be caution.

3. Build in, and populate, the border areas

Former Indian Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan P Stobdan [who studies Central Asia] suggests that for Ladakh, India must follow ‘the authentic J&K revenue map [Sambhat 1958] available in Leh’. Arunachal Pradesh, however, is another part of India that China claims ownership of.

In both places, simple steps might help. Like distributing land among the locals, building infrastructure, populating remote areas, and encouraging local tribes and herds to roam the area.

The state governments in Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir will need to step up activity as well and have their own systems of land, people and administration in place near the border areas.

When the Chinese see India respecting every inch of its territory, there will be new recognition.

4. Learn the Chinese languages

Mandarin mostly and Cantonese too, to start with. There are very few takers for these languages in Indian universities and colleges. Japanese, Russian and French seem to be more popular although their relevance is fast diminishing.

China has been encouraging its people to learn Hindi for years and it has a head start here too. But, with intelligence and industry, India can catch up fast. The more Indians we have speaking Mandarin, the more they will be curious about China. They will keep watch, because it will be in their interest to do so.

When the Chinese hear Indians speaking their tongue, there will be awe.

5. Beef up defence presence in border areas

Until 2008, India made little or no effort to build infrastructure for its defence near the disputed border areas. The logic: it didn’t want China to benefit if it invaded India. Therefore, we left it raw and hostile, hoping that nature might deter the Chinese better than men.

All this while, the Chinese laid asphalt roads and built airports. Now, India is trying to catch up. The methods are distressingly primitive: there are largely local women chipping boulders into stones for the roads. Mules are still the preferred mode of transporting food and other needs to the forces.

In short, it’s a terrible struggle for India. We need big, modern machines laying roads and beefing up infrastructure. In Arunachal, India says it has 1.2 lakh troops. But, India needs strike corps. It needs air force at the disputed areas.

When the Chinese see modern and motivated Indian forces right up their nose, there will be fear.

6. Use the Communist parties

The CPI[M] and the CPI should be of more use than they have been. Although they were more comfortable with the Russian model of communism, the fact is that both China and Russia have moved on. Still, the Left parties are the best placed to connect with the Chinese communist party.

Interestingly, the BJP too has made overtures to the Chinese. Former BJP president Nitin Gadkari went on a high profile to China in 2011 when he said BJP-governed states would work more with the Chinese. It was a trade initiative but there’s clear political benefit too.

The Left and the Right could begin working the phone lines again.

When the Chinese see Indian politicians engaging seriously, there will be fraternity.

7. Replace Made in China with Made in India

Too many Chinese products are sold and consumed in India with far too much ease for Chinese manufacturers. Cell phones, tyres, electrical stuff, furniture, building material, electronics, apparel, idols, fire crackers, footwear, handbags, jewellery, handicrafts – almost everything – comes from China.

Indian manufacturing, especially the small scale sector, has virtually given up. Now, the government needs to put life back into Indian products. It has to be war in the market first.

When Indian goods nudge Chinese stuff off the shelves, there will be panic.

8. Mobilise people

Going by the instincts of Indian political parties, it would seem that Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh are not part of India. Indian parties have no sense of these areas or the conflict. There’s been no mass campaign on the China issue for decades now.

For instance, considering that the Chinese are 19km into Indian territory in J&K, there ought to have been many political protests. Even the miniscule Tibetan community puts together more anger and agitations than Indians do.

Political parties have a big role in shaping public opinion. When they do nothing on China, the message is that there’s no problem. When there is one, like in 1962, India folds up. This 2013 but Indian parties are still snoring.

When people take to the streets, there will be second thoughts.

9. Beat them in sport

The Chinese take pride in sports excellence. India does not. They are superb with anything that requires physical industry and integrity – like the Olympics. We are good with things that need deceit – like cricket. And even here, the Chinese are catching up.

India needs a 10-year-plan purely focusing on the Chinese. Beat them where they’re good. Keep beating them. It won’t be easy but it’s about time we tried.

When the Chinese see Indians taking the gold, there will be low self-esteem.

10. Have 100 restaurants there

Apart from goods, the biggest Chinese export to India is food. Indians have happily concocted their own versions of Chinese cuisine. Such is the Chinese impact that even in the smallest towns of, say, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh or Chhattisgarh, you’ll find people selling chow mien.

It would be a start if Indian restaurateurs could set up shop in China. Maybe a hundred food outlets to begin with. It would be nice to feed the Chinese samosa, dosa, idli and paratha in China.

When the Chinese gorge on Indian food, there will be no funny business.

Image: In this photograph taken on November 7, 2012, Indian soldiers guard a pass on the border with China in Arunachal Pradesh. (Picture courtesy: AFP)

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Vijay Simha is an independent journalist and sobriety campaigner based out of New Delhi. His most recent journalism assignment was as executive editor with The Financial World, New Delhi, and tehelka.com.

He was a guest on Season 1 of the popular Indian TV show Satyamev Jayate, hosted by Aamir Khan.

Vijay blogs here and may be contacted at vijsimha@gmail.com.