My latest book, ‘A New Silk Road: India, China and The Geopolitics of Asia‘, has a close connection with Siasat.com. In 2020 even as a Covid outbreak began to plague the world, I got into discussions with Zaheeruddin Ali Khan, Managing Editor of Siasat.com where I explained to him how China was a major threat to India. I also told him that this was a view that I held for a long time. On his invitation, I wrote a few pieces in Siasat.com. One of the pieces landed on the desk of Kapish Mehra, the managing director of Rupa and he thought that it was a good time to do a book on the subject. That’s how the book came along.
Having been a student of Economics in college and largely been a business and economic journalist after that I knew little about India- China defence relations except the face off they had on the Himalayas in 1962. But India- China relations have many other dimensions. This came home very clearly when I began researching on the book. I realized that:
- China was not alone in opposing India. Pakistan which has lost US which was its main patron earlier has now combined with China. The China Pakistan economic corridor (CPEC) connects the two countries through a highway that starts from Gwadar, a newly built port in Balochistan opening on the Arabian Sea and goes up through Pakistan and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) and high mountains to open up in Xinjiang province in China. On the western side of China it is located thousands of miles from the seas (in the eastern part of China). So the CPEC allows China a new access to the sea and a way into water. Pakistan gains out of this because a special economic zone (SEZ) and other infrastructural facilities are being created as a spin-off. More importantly, Pakistan gets a morale booster which it will try to use against India. As an example, Pakistan has recently revised its map to include the Gujarat district of Junagadh! Junagadh, before independence, was ruled by a nawab who wanted to accede to Pakistan. But with most of the population being opposed to the idea, this was not possible. Now a department of Junagadh has been created in the Pakistani government!
- After India became independent in 1947 and China became a Communist country in 1949, Nehru proposed close relations with China saying the historically both were exploited by the Europeans. But Mao who ruled over China was not interested. Why? Because Mao was of the opinion that India had collaborated with the British in this exploitation. The British used to export opium into China to earn big bucks: the opium was sourced from India by the East India Company and was grown locally. The Chinese objected to the imports and between 1840 and 1860 to opium wars were launched by the Chinese. But they lost the wars and the British took Hong Kong and Shanghai port as reparation. The British hired fierce-looking Sikh policemen- tall and strapping- to look after the security of the two places. Ever since then Chinese opinion had turned against Indians.
- In the medieval age when China was isolated from Europe, the Chinese created the Silk Road to carry its exports like silk, gunpowder and paper. The New Silk Road is the modern terminology used by the Chinese to facilitate trade with foreign countries. The new road now connects China to dozens of countries; in fact, sometimes there is no road but the connection is through the sea. The new silk- road now connects China with more than 50 countries. China helps the connected countries to build infrastructure in their country by giving them loans. Not only the companies which will carry out the work are specified – invariably these companies are Chinese who employ Chinese. Thus through this plan work is generated for Chinese companies. Additionally, the countries which gain from Chinese investment naturally become indebted to that country. This has got other implications. Countries in India’s neighborhoods like Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand and Maldives are benefitting from Chinese investment.
- During the time of Mao, the first ruler of Communist China, the policies pursued were tantamount to appropriation and transfer of farm surplus to the non-farm sector. This surplus was used (and even now is) to create exportable products. China has huge markets for selling exportable products of a wide range. Foreign buyers – including those from India- are invited and given free access to these markets from where a huge range of products can be bought. This includes cutlery products, household appliances and a whole bevy of stuff that come cheaply. The products may not be high quality but are readily available. At the same time China also has a huge supply of hi-quality products like automobiles which have been copied from foreign cars. In fact the copied products look no different from the originals. At the same time, the Chinese are nowadays are seeking to set up a Silicon Valley in China with all hi-tech products.
- Cognizant of the greater threat from the Chinese, especially on the Indian Ocean, four countries USA, Japan, Australia, and India have collaborated to form a quadrilateral (QUAD) to check the Chinese. The US has also proposed an initiative to counter China on the Indian Ocean and water bodies like the South China Sea over which the Chinese want to virtually establish their supremacy.
The book, “A New Silk Road: India, China and The Geopolitics of Asia” is available on Amazon (click here to buy).