Why India Must Take Heed And Counter The ‘Silent Invasion’ Of China

by Bhaskar Dutta Baruah - Sep 24, 2016 02:41 PM +05:30 IST
Why India Must Take Heed And Counter The ‘Silent Invasion’ Of ChinaSource
  • Since the 1960s, China’s unprecedented progress in all tangible spheres like industry, trade, power generation, cultural propaganda, etc., have not been in the interest or safeguards of the world.

    India should be taking strong pre-emptive measures to stop this dangerous “silent invasion” of China.

In the 1950s, the People’s Republic of China upped its ante for occupying Tibet. In the year 1959, His Holiness the Dalai Lama escaped from his land and the Chinese occupation of Tibet was “complete”.

Besides getting a big boost in its territorial expanse, access to South East Asia and mastery over the huge natural resources of Tibet, China gained control over 46 percent of the world’s population (as per current figures) who depend upon rivers originating in Tibet— these rivers include the Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra, Irrawaddy, Salween and Mekong.

China’s ambitious plans of becoming a major world power started with this occupation. The world ignored this as an “internal matter”, without realising that it was soon going to be changed in many ways by this development and that these changes started with India’s sensitive frontier regions.

Since the 1960s, China’s unprecedented progress in all tangible spheres like industry, trade, power generation, cultural propaganda, etc., have not been in the interest or safeguards of the world. It has adopted a multi-pronged approach towards world domination, something like what the USA had adopted much earlier. India, especially the northeast and Jammu and Kashmir, has much to fear from the policies and demands of this stealthy and overpopulated neighbour controlling our water sources.

Water As A Weapon

Much has been debated about the impact of the dams China has built on the rivers that flow through Indian land, but little is known about their details. Before deliberating much on this, other lesser-known, scorching issues that could affect us in the future should be highlighted.

55 percent of China’s 1.36 billion people reside in urban centres and the urban population has an annual growth rate of three percent (higher than the Chinese average of 0.5 percent). This population pressure will increase China’s demand for water. China has started to bottle Tibetan water and, in 2014, the government of the Tibetan Autonomous Region established a $54 million development fund to promote the bottled water industry.

Madeleine Lovelle of Future Directions International warns that development of the bottled water industry threatens available water sources for China’s downstream neighbours, and could have dire implications for water security across the entire region. The World Bank estimates that, by 2030, China’s population will reach 1.4 billion. Irrigated agriculture, on the other hand, takes up almost 40 percent of land on the Tibetan Plateau. Chinese irrigation practices are leading to overexploitation of water resources and continuation of this will add further tension between China and neighbouring downstream states.

Unless China displays empathy for the lower altitude neighbours of their occupied land, water shortage will scorch future generations of many states in the near future. Construction of dams on international rivers such as the Mekong, Brahmaputra or Amur shows that China is adamant on unilateral actions and least bothered about the happenings below. The key concern about China’s dam building activities (which one shall not detail here) for downriver countries is its opacity on such projects. The construction behemoth begins a project secretly and then presents it as necessary and beneficial (for flood control).

Add the fact that China rejects all water sharing treaties because it does not believe in such arrangements (not that India is any better on this front because we, along with China and Bangladesh, voted against the 1997 UN Convention on International Watercourse). “Many worry that the dams along the upper portion of the river will give China the ability to either withhold water during the dry seasons or release the water in a harmful manner in case of future disputes between the two countries. Indeed, many see China’s push to build dams as a deliberate strategy to gain leverage over downstream countries”. (N.R. Harpainter, Stanford Journal of East Asian Affairs, Vol. 15). The next point highlights China’s “power” ambitions in both known definitions of the word.

Power And The New Silk Road

China has become the world’s largest producer of Hydro and Photovoltaic (solar) electricity and it’s obvious that it plans to be the main seller as well. China’s State Grid Corporation has announced plans for a $50 trillion global power network that harnesses Arctic winds and equatorial sunlight (Wall Street Journal, 30 March 2016). Although France currently produces the highest amount of electricity from nuclear power, China has the fastest growing nuclear power program with 28 new reactors under construction. China has invested £ six billion in the £18 billion Hinkley Point Nuclear Station, UK. They agreed to take a stake in Hinkley and to develop a new nuclear power station at Sizewell in Suffolk, on the understanding that the UK approves a Chinese-led and designed project at Bradwell in Essex, which has raised questions over national security (BBC News, 15 September 2016).

And they haven’t refrained from garnering allies (or rather, vassals) in their power axis, using emotions and money power to create pressure on weaker states. In the 1950s, China constructed a strategic road connecting Tibet to its Xinjiang province through Aksai Chin. By the time India realised this, the road was completed and became a trigger for the 1962 India-China war.

In 1963, China signed a border agreement with Pakistan in which the latter ceded Shaksgam valley (a part of Jammu and Kashmir now called Gilgit-Baltistan) to it and, in April 2015, the two countries signed accords worth $46 billion to build the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) through Gilgit-Baltistan. The Karakoram highway, linking Kashgar in Xinjiang to Abbottabad (the place made famous by the Osama Bin Laden capture) of Pakistan will give China access to the Indian Ocean and advance China’s ambitions in the power sector. Adding to the “snub India” strategy, this corridor includes a project to develop a mega dam in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. China has also confirmed that it is involved in at least six nuclear power projects in Pakistan. This is in direct defiance of policies under the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), of which China is a member.

The CPEC is part of China’s vision of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road which could crown China as the emperor state of Asia and place India in the eye of the Chinese cyclone. Sri Lanka is failing in repaying its debts to China, its largest donor country. The island nation offered many assets in exchange for a debt relief and the Chinese ultimately demanded 1500 acres of land for a Chinese Industrial Zone in Hambantota Sea Port. “Through joint construction of the Maritime Silk Road, China is willing to help Sri Lanka realise its development vision and help it become the future shipping, logistics and even financial center in the Indian Ocean”, said China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, to which his Sri Lankan counterpart expressed support.

It may be noted that the Chinese have often lent their “helping hand” to others, just like Chairman Mao said to His Holiness the Dalai Lama that the whole purpose of China’s presence in Tibet was to help the Tibetans (Freedom in Exile, Autobiography of the Dalai Lama of Tibet).

Chinese Arms And The Indian Man

Whereas India was the first largest importer of arms in 2016, her “chini brothers” were the third largest exporters of the same in 2014, as per Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) figures. Astonishingly, SIPRI publishes no data whatsoever on the individual Chinese companies involved in such manufacture and export, citing “methodological difficulties posed by the lack of transparency about China’s arms sales”. The story of big arms and big machines is not deliberated in this article, which details a few anecdotes related to small arms that appear to be pieces of one explosive jigsaw puzzle.

In March 2011, the NIA charge-sheeted one Wuthikorn Naruenartwanich (alias Willy Naru), a Thai gun runner; Naru was the medium of an arms transaction between NSCN (IM) and NORINCO (North China Industries Company) through TCL (otherwise an electronics giant based out of Huizhou, China). Details of this charge sheet reveals that NORINCO has been involved in continuous trading with northeast Indian rebels. However, after the 9/11 attacks, when all nations (including China) became wary of dodgy arms dealings, NORINCO started using companies like TCL as a frontend for their deals. NIA, in Clause 17 of their charge sheet, reveals an NSCN (IM)-NDFB (a Bodo militant group) nexus in purchasing a $500,000 consignment from NORINCO prior to 9/11.

Norinco And TCL: Things To Watch Out For

Besides sophisticated (large and small) guns, surveillance systems, tanks etc, NORINCO does what the Chinese do best— they manufacture the well-known Type 56 Assault Rifle, an AK-47 clone.

- While supplying arms to Indian rebels, NORINCO is building a railway track on a “non-profit basis” (at least in their words) in Lahore, Pakistan under the CPEC project. In the words of Pakistan-Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, “Pak-China friendship is higher than Himalayas, deeper than oceans and sweeter than honey. Also, China has stood by Pakistan in every hour of need and helped Pakistan wholeheartedly…friendship between the two countries is also reflected in the agreement signed with Chinese company NORINCO regarding Lahore mass transit project” (Dawn, 16 July 16 2011). According to the charge-sheet, all the arms and ammunition were manufactured by NORINCO. The funds had been procured from Pakistan.

- NORINCO has teamed up with alibaba.com (Chinese e-commerce company with a visible Indian presence) to develop location and data analysis services using the Chinese BeiDou Satellite Navigation System, an alternative to the American GPS

- TCL is known in India as mobile phone brand Alcatel, born out of a joint venture between the erstwhile Alcatel-Lucent of France and TCL. Alcatel-Lucent, France died as a corporate entity in 2016, after complicated mergers & acquisitions by various multinationals including Nokia.

- Alcatel phones contain BeiDou products like versions of other brands like Samsung.

Willy Naru was arrested in Bangkok in August 2013 for involvement in a $1.2 million arms deal that included a “shimmering” haul of weapons containing, among many other items, 600 AK-Series Rifles and 1000 hand grenades. The consignment was to have been loaded at Beihei, a South Chinese port and the destination was Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Naru was extradited to India in December 2015, thanks to the friendly relations between India and Thailand.

Another cog in the murderous machine is seen in the death sentence pronounced by a Chittagong court on Paresh Barua in 2014, the ULFA C-in-C, on which the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis comments, “The verdict thoroughly exposed the international conspiracy that was hatched by various organisations and personnel to destabilise India’s restive North Eastern region. According to the charge-sheet, all the arms and ammunition were manufactured by Chinese firm NORINCO. The funds had been procured from Pakistan. The weapons were purchased with the help of a UAE-based firm belonging to a Pakistani businessman and brought to the Chittagong port in a ship that had come from Hong Kong via Singapore”. (Rupak Bhattacharjee, IDSA Comment, 3 April 2014).

Of late, the ULFA has been issuing statements patronising China in the media. In November 2015, the outfit’s chairman— Abhijeet Asom— publicly sought China’s “hand of friendship” in gaining Assam’s sovereignty and went as far as denouncing Indians who supported the Tibetan cause.

By now, the take away from the above commentary should be clear to the readers. Although, like many other countries, China wants to be the biggest economic and military power of the world, their intentions are not quite clean. World history demonstrates how superpowers have sacrificed nations in their altar of power—Afghanistan being the clearest example of this. Although they may not succeed easily, China could be viewing the emotionally sensitive frontier zones of India as their Afghanistan. The Tibetan community in exile is China’s Achilles’ heel for, unless they had fled and taken refuge in India, the human rights violations within China (another weakness of China) would remain virtually unknown to the outside world and Tibet would have been reduced into a non-entity like Cantonia or Uyghur. But India needs to put more diplomatic and intelligence pressures on China before she gets swept away. Imbalances to note while analysing the policies of India and China are things like the following:

- When India and other countries hardly know about a Chinese dam under construction, Chinese companies like Dongfang Electric are equipment suppliers to major Indian power projects

- The activities of NORINCO and TCL in India, as stated before.

- China blocking of India’s bid to term Masood Azhar as an international terrorist and, in return, India’s patronisation of China by denying some Uyghur activists from attending a gathering of pro-democratic activists in Dharamsala

- China’s audacity to warn India of dire consequences (when India refused to extend visas of three Chinese journalists), while they blocked India’s bid at the NSG

It was already yesterday that India should have taken pre-emptive measures to stop this dangerous “silent invasion” of China. But it is not yet late to act now using stronger intelligence, diplomatic and financial negotiations with their “allies”, to create disruptions within China and the CPEC.

This article was originally published on the Indian Defence Review and has been republished with permission.

The author is currently a publisher by profession and is a former Market Researcher in London.

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