One of the top security challenges faced by India, a country of a billion plus people with pluralistic traditions, is dealing with China along with Pakistan to prevent a two-front encirclement.
This is was the consensus between the three panellists took part in debate leading up to News18’s Rising India curtain raiser debate.
A panel of defence expert Brig (retd) V Mahalingam , ORF fellow Manoj Joshi and Vice-Admiral (retd) Soni all agreed India need to positively engage China to prevent an encirclement.
Accepting that there is no space available to have a positive dialogue to Pakistan, Brig (retd) V Mahalingam said that India’s priority should be control the trouble in the Kashmir Valley.
“As of today. There is no space left for talks with the Pakistan government. There, it is the military that is ruling and it is not willing to give even an inch in either Kashmir or Afghanistan,” he said.
While saying that the Army mush prepare for a two-front war, Mahalingam said that he detects a thaw between India and China with both sides making efforts to resolve differences and adjust. He gave the example of how the recent Doklam standoff was resolved, saying that both sides went on record to state that the troop build-up had been de-escalated which was a positive sign.
He even saw hope in both sides again trying to talk to each other to resolve border demarcation issues again, despite that fact that so solution was found in the previous 20 rounds of talks.
ORF fellow Manoj Joshi scoffed that fears that another Doklam type of standoff could develop this summer, saying that India did not have a stake there as it was an issue primarily between Bhutan and China and that India was there only because of its ties with Bhutan.
As far as the disputed border with China is concerned, he said, “The border has been a remarkably peaceful one since the 1970s. We have managed this border well apart from a few incidents.”
As for talk of talk about a two-front war, he called the notion a dangerous thought, saying, “When was the last time a country won a two-front war? Unfortunately, for us we have not been able to use our diplomacy to break the China-Pakistan nexus and that is our challenge.”
Another area where China has been causing India concern has been in the India concern has been in the Indian Ocean. However, Vice-Admiral (retd) Soni believes and while China may be ahead of India in many respects, the one area it was behind behind was the Indian Ocean. Most of China commerce passes through the Malacca Straits and that makes them acutely vulnerable.
While China is quite aware of this and is fast catching up and raising it’s profile among the countries in the Indian Ocean region, Soni said, “In the Indian Ocean, the game is very long and it is being played very slowly. India has a geographical advantage and it should exploit it.”