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Squashing the Dragon’s Tail – Recalibrating the Chinese Relationship

India needs to take a call in recalibrating its relationship with the sole focus on safeguarding national interest.

Once again, China has lived up to its reputation of appeasing perpetrators of terror. While having the temerity of accusing Dalai Lama of terrorism in the past, China refused to budge to the collective call of the international community on declaring Masood Azhar as a Global Terrorist. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution 1267 sanctions committee fell flat for the fourth time as China put a technical hold on the said proposal an hour before the deadline in spite of 13 co-sponsors along with India; including permanent members US, UK France and non-permanent members Germany, Poland, Belgium and Equatorial Guinea.

Chinese have always given priority to its geo-political interest and dominance in South Asia over international cooperation and regional peace. In 2016, the International Hague Tribunal had directed China not to violate International Maritime treaty in the South China Sea based on the complaint filed by the Philippines. It was rejected by China as “a piece of paper” blaming the International Arbitration Tribunal acting as a political instrument. Pakistan has been designated as China’s ‘All Weather Ally’, considering the investments worth 20 billion US dollars already made out of the of 46-billion-dollar deal in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the prospective Chinese control over the strategic Gwadar Port located in Baluchistan province. Chinese also have a tacit understanding with the Taliban in Afghanistan, not to interfere in each other’s domestic issues. None of the Islamic terror groups has either raised objections or retaliated to the state-sponsored human right violations of the Uyghur Muslims in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang.

With the international community standing in solidarity with India, other actions can be initiated where countries can embark sanctions. Germany and France have already initiated listing Azhar as designated terrorist under a European- India list which in itself will send a strong message to those who harbour and fund terror activities. France has already decided to sanction Masood Azhar at the national level by freezing his assets in application of the Monetary and Financial Code.

With imports worth 63 billion US dollars from China, equating to 16.4 percent of total imports in 2017-18 which was just accounted for around 3 percent of total imports in 2000-01, gives India a leverage which needs to be exploited vis a vis Chinese protection to a non-state actor who has been an internal security threat to India for a long time. In January this year, anti-dumping duty has been in force on 99 products imported from China including pharmaceuticals, agricultural products, animal feeds, oilseeds, milk and milk products, certain varieties of Chinese steel to guard domestic players from cheap imports from the neighbouring country. These duties have been imposed based on recommendations of the Directorate General of Trade Remedies (DGTR) for five years. This has also introduced a level-playing field for domestic producers. The trade deficit with China has thus reduced in the last 6 months.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in India is expected to be a market of worth 225 billion US dollars by the end of 2020. The internet users in India are expected to reach 59% by 2021 in comparison to only 28% in 2016. We are already the second largest mobile handset market in the world. Many other government initiatives like ‘Smart Cities’ which demand robust IT connectivity and digitization, will further require electronic equipment. China provides nearly 80% of the semiconductor devices used in India though it has only 16% share in the worldwide semiconductor market. Telecommunication infrastructure has largely been procured in India from Chinese companies. Huawei and ZTE are playing significant roles in network management and operations for the big data and telecom operators in India.

The recent arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou in Canada highlighted the allegations on Chinese companies lacking on security and suspicion of data theft. Many countries like Australia, New Zealand and Japan have already prohibited their Telecom providers from using Chinese telecom equipment for the fifth generation (5G) cellular mobile network. France which has been vocal among EU nations in protecting it national infrastructure has initiated a bill that would allow retroactive security inspections in the communications networks in France. This is already receiving sharp reactions in the Chinese press considering it to be targeted on Huawei. On more Chinese employee of the company has been arrested in Poland under charges of alleged espionage activities. African Union office located in Adis Ababa discovered data theft between 2010 and 2017 to unknown servers located in Shanghai. It was also reported that microphones hidden in desks and walls were detected from African Union office. They were using Huawei telecommunications infrastructure. British Telecom, Britain’s largest telecom company has announced removing Chinese telecommunications equipment from its 4G cellular network citing MI6 foreign intelligence reports.

In India, Telecom Equipment and Services Export Promotion Council (TEPC) has already voiced its concern to the National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval, and asked for restrictions on the use of equipment manufactured by Huawei and by all other Chinese telecommunication companies. In the past, the Indian government had blocked mobile operators from importing Chinese telecommunication equipment but later lifted the ban in June 2010. Department of Telecommunication had recently invited Huawei for 5G field trials in India.

A huge digital market to tap in India, restrictions on such a company which was founded in 1987 by a former military officer of People Liberation Army of China, could be used to commence India’s response to Chinese advocacy in favour of a terror harbouring country. In the changing world paradigm, India’ re-emergence as an economic power, mammoth purchasing potential, civilizational ethos of mutual respect; pose a threat to China especially in the Asian subcontinent. India needs to take a call in recalibrating its relationship with the sole focus on safeguarding national interest.


Dr. Geeta Bhatt

The author is Associate Professor and former member of Academic Council, at University of Delhi

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