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Beijing’s Name Game: NEW DELHI’S REACTIONS, By Dr. D.K. Giri, 21 April 2023 Print E-mail

Round The World

New Delhi, 21 April 2023

Beijing’s Name Game

New Delhi’s Reactions

By Dr. D.K. Giri

Secretary General, SSD 

China is at it again. It has renamed eleven places in Arunachal Pradesh. It is not the first time. Beijing has done so before in 2017, it had changed the names of six places with the territory of Arunachal Pradesh. In 2021, it had renamed 15 places in the name of standardisation. 

Recall that China had enacted a Geographical Name Regulation in 1986 designed to name, rename in a standardisation exercise. May be somewhat similar to what New Delhi is doing, in changing some names imposed on India by invaders. But what is shockingly different in Beijing’s renaming exercise is that it is giving new names to places under the sovereign possession of other countries. In 2020, China named 80 geographical features in South China Sea which is under heavy territorial dispute with other countries. Since 1950s, it uses the name ‘Diaoyutai’ for the Senkaku Islands, a part of Japanese territory in East China Sea. Beijing has named several under- sea features in the Indian Ocean too, funnily corresponding to the names of Chinese musical instruments. 

Sujan R. Chinoy, a former Ambassador and the current Director of Manohar Parrikar Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses has, in a recent article in the Hindu, elaborated on Chinese irredentism manifesting a well-planned strategy consisting of many layers. First, Beijing lays out the ground work by renaming places in foreign lands and then claiming them by a three-pronged warfare – propaganda, psychological and legal. Chinoy also argued in some detail how Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India backing it with mythological, historical and contemporary facts and practices. That is however not the point for discussion with Beijing. China is claiming Arunachal Pradesh as a part of Tibet as the birth place of sixth Dalai Lama. In fact, China’s continued occupation of Tibet itself is questioned by world powers. Let us discuss that on another occasion. 

Some of us have been constantly arguing that Beijing is ‘dreaming of’ reviving the Chinese empire which, according to them, includes territories of several other countries.  The Chinese empire, for that matter, British and French empires, Bharata Varsha (Indian empire) are issues of the past. Nearer home, Bharata Varsha included countries beyond India. Or in 1947, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan were one country. Is it justified to forcibly reclaim other countries or their territories as irredentists? Like Vladimir Putin wishes to reunite Soviet Union which broke up in 1990s, the Chinese President Xi Jinping seems obsessed with ‘Greater China’ or the Chinese empire. How realistic and rational it is?   

Be that as it may. It is important to decipher the Beijing’s strategy concerning Greater China and to evolve a counter strategy to contain this malafide and malevolent claim. Amit Shah, the Minister of Home Affairs, has strongly denied any claim on Arunachal Pradesh and warned that not even a needle-sized land will be given away by India. On the latest move by Beijing, the Ministry of External Affairs has stated that, “This is not the first time that China has made such an attempt. We reject it outright. Arunachal is an integral and inalienable part of India. By assigning invented names will not alter the reality.” 

To be sure, Indian forces, politicians and the country will all rally behind the leadership to defend India’s territory. Yet, shall we wait for Beijing to spring that surprise on us? Are the Chinese ambitions and attitude not visible on India, Taiwan and other countries they are in territorial dispute with? To ignore the Chinese sinister and surreptitious designs will be naïve. Our suspicion is that New Delhi is waiting for China to strike, or expecting it not to happen, but does not want to precipitate matters. It may be a sound one. But preparations to strike back and pre-emptive diplomatic offensives are in order. 

The Chinese strategy on territory - grabbing has multiple layers. Most of them are known and discussed by Indians, Sinologists and political commentators. Taking some of them, Chinese are masters in duplicity. They talk nice but do the nasty. For a sample, the Chinese Foreign Minister says, “As neighbouring countries and major emerging economies, China and India have far more common interests than differences”. Beijing has said in the past that future belongs to India and China. They join India in SCO and BRICS etc. They wish to continue brisk business with India to exploit Indian market. Then the Chinese do the naming farce, border skirmishes by engaging our soldiers violently on the borders and so on. 

The second layer is that they incur into foreign lands and come to the negotiating table after withdrawing a bit and say they have conceded. That is how they nibble away the foreign territories, called salami tactic. Third, they like to negotiate without believing in it. They say we take your territory but you can negotiate. Remember, there have been border talks with China at Eastern Ladakh for seventeenth time till 20 December 2020. Is there any tangible outcome? US Secretary George Schulz said in a lecture in 1986 that, “negotiations are euphemism for capitulations if shadow of power is not cast across the table. Alternatively, as the popular saying goes, “You cannot negotiate, if your head is in the mouth of the tiger”. It is not hard to deduce that negotiations could be only illusions in absence of some kind of power parity. There are of course exceptions to this maxim, but not many. 

The other two popularly known strategies attributed to Chinese diplomacy are Sun Tzu’s ‘Art of War’ and Mao’s dictum. Sun Tzu suggested the “art of winning without fighting”. That means frustrating and exasperating enemies till they give up. There are quite a few manifestations of such strategy. But are we reading them right? Are we under the illusion of perpetual competition, sort of a hard military confrontation? Some commentators will believe that Xi Jinping is into the Maoists mould – which is, ‘power flows through the barrel of the gun’. His flexing of military muscle is so evident across the Chinese flashpoints. 

Irrespective of Chinese strategies, what could be possible Indian reactions! It has to be obviously multi-pronged. Chinoy has suggested India should start renaming places under Chinese illegal occupation. For example, Aksai Chin could be called Akshaya Chinha (everlasting symbol). Military experts suggest defence preparedness for deterrence or an actual combat. They say three per cent of GDP should be earmarked for India’s defence. While these are national approaches, some of us have been advocating for an international approach, given the power disparity between China and India. The approach is to surround China by stitching solid partnerships and alliances with like-minded countries. China as an authoritarian and an expansionist power is a systemic threat to the world. New Delhi somewhat seems to be shy in pursing this strategy; perhaps for various valid reasons which have been discussed. But the international solidarity approach seems to be the most effective involving less costs exposure to India. Surely, this approach merits more discussion as well as immediate attention. ---INFA 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

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