Monday, May 11, 2015

Indian Strategists in Oz

"Pay no attention to the little man behind the curtain” says the voice of the powerful and awesome Wizard of Oz when he is discovered to be a mere trickster.

If India’s strategic pundits had been there with Dorothy and Toto they would undoubtedly have saluted and returned to analysing the grand illusion projected for their benefit.

The latest indication of their credulity is in Brahma Chellany’s Hindustan Times piece headlined (in my local Goa newspaper), “In a Heating Pot of Water.

The burden of Chellany’s analysis is that India needs to be worried because of the promised $46 billion in Chinese aid to Pakistan. It will promote Beijing’s “Silk Road” project, which he considers nothing more than the old “string of pearls” strategy to “encircle” India.

Although Chellany notes a number of potholes in the Silk Road/String theory, not least the success of Myanmar and Sri Lanka in “escaping Beijing’s clutches,” nowhere does he even hint at the overall absurdity of Chinese ambitions.

Beijing is touting the Silk Road project at a time when it has alarmed every one of its neighbours with its power drunk swagger (not exempting Russia grateful for oil contracts in a season of cold weather).

How Beijing expects to gain the cooperation of South-East Asian nations outraged by its grab of marine resources is a question that can be answered only by a student of mental pathology, not geopolitics.

Its grandiloquent talk of multi-billion investments in a variety of international schemes including the BRICS and Asian Infrastructural banks ignores another inescapable reality: Chinese economic growth is stalling and could turn into a precipitous and debilitating fall.

What makes the Wizard of Oz comparison apt is the blind eye Chellany turns on another aspect of the China-Pakistan picture, the critical British role in shaping their anti-Indian policies.

Pakistan became an anti-Indian British proxy with Partition in 1947.

China's deeply ambiguous India policy today is not so much a legacy of Mao-era paranoia as it is of Margaret Thatcher's deal on Hong Kong that left its huge money laundering industry untouched, to be the conduit of the enormous flow of investments that powered the Chinese economy for three decades. 

Much as President Xi might want to open a new chapter in India-China relations, he dare not for fear Britain will pull the plug on the Chinese economy.

The alliance between Islamabad and Beijing, especially in its anti-Indian dimension, makes sense only if we take the British role into account.

Chellany notes that Pakistan and China have little in common except for their anti-Indian policy but he does not then ask why either continues to maintain that stance when the overwhelming logic of the Asian situation is for much greater regional cooperation.

The answer is in that little man behind the curtain, Britain, with its multi-billion dollar interests in the Afghan heroin trade and its even more massive stake in Hong Kong's flows of black money.

Only those connections make any sense of Pakistan’s suicidal hostility towards India and China’s bizarre Jekyll and Hyde performance.

If India is to deal effectively with this situation, our strategic analysts will have to face the rigours of life without the goodies Britain provides to its "friends" in the mass media. 

They will have to write as if the country's fate depends on their honesty -- as indeed, it does.

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