China Will Try To Undermine India From Within: Obvious Targets Are Media And Universities
China knows how to buy influence with the Indian media, Indian businesses and Indian academics.
Put simply, the Indian intelligence establishment needs to closely monitor these vulnerable targets.
After the initial setback in Ladakh last May, where Chinese troops encroached on areas claimed by India in eastern Ladakh, India has steadily upped the ante, both on the military and economic fronts.
Last week, India pre-emptively took the commanding heights on the southern side of Pangong Lake, thus preventing the Chinese from surprising us once again.
India has also expanded the list of Chinese apps banned in this country, including the hugely popular PUBG video game. In the National Capital Region, the Indian tax authorities have raided Chinese firms that were allegedly laundering money – obviously for nefarious purposes.
However, if we think we now hold enough high cards to make the Dragon blink, we are sure to be mistaken. China’s Xi Jinping and his military brass did not militarise previously less militarised areas of the India-China border merely to pull back when offered an olive branch.
They are now going to up the ante elsewhere, and the most obvious areas will be the use of Indian media and corporate interests to weaken our national resolve to stand up to them. Unlike India, China knows how to buy influence with the Indian media, Indian businesses and Indian academics.
US intelligence agencies have already red-flagged China’s ability to entice academics in America’s universities by offering them lucrative deals in order to spy on their own country.
There is absolutely no reason why they can’t do the same in far poorer India, especially with the communist parties and the tukde-tukde gang refusing to call out China for its aggression. Even the Congress party has close links to the Chinese Communist Party, and one cannot rule out backdoor deals to pressure the Narendra Modi government politically.
Indian businesses with large commercial interests in China, and Chinese companies with large business interests in India are also obvious targets for recruitment of spies.
But it is the media that needs careful watching, given that most media houses are struggling to survive.
Last week, one was surprised to see the Chinese ambassador, Sun Weidong, being given easy air-time on CNBC TV-18, especially in an interview that seemed choreographed, with the ambassador being allowed to give motherhood statements that seemed to have been read straight off a teleprompter.
The first question itself suggested that the ambassador was prepared to answer only softball questions, with the questioner asking: “India-China relations are at a turning point. What do you feel about the reset that is underway and what will be the impact on the future of the partnership?”
The use of neutral words like “turning point”, “reset” and “partnership” are hardly the best ways to describe the sharp deterioration in ties based on Chinese aggression on our borders, which has already resulted in several soldiers dying on both sides.
This was exactly the cue the ambassador was waiting for, and he said:
“You are correct that you mentioned the partnership between China and India. That is exactly the basic orientation of our bilateral relations. China’s basic judgment on China-India relations remains unchanged. China and India are partners rather than rivals to each other, and opportunities rather than threats. This is an important consensus reached by the leaders of our two countries and should be earnestly implemented. It would be a miscalculation to treat a close neighbour for thousands of years as “enemy” or “threat” only by one issue or one incident. We should respect and support each other, avoid suspicion and misunderstanding, and enhance political mutual trust.”(This transcript is from the Chinese embassy website, and hence an authorised version with minor edits compared to the YouTube video version put out by CNBC-TV18.)
One wonders how the interviewer failed to point out that grabbing chunks of contested territory – something that has been occurring off and on – was not just “one incident” or “one issue.” More so, when the Chinese mouthpiece, Global Times, has been threatening “worse losses than 1962” if India does not kowtow to China’s bullying tactics.
The problem is not that the Chinese ambassador (repeatedly) gets to say his piece in Indian media, but that the reverse never happens in China’s controlled media atmosphere.
However, while the pious hypocrisies of Chinese official statements can be countered with our own pious hypocrisies (consider External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s statement that diplomacy was the way forward even as our troops were taking the heights around Pangong Tso), China will surely strike back in other areas. Media is one of the fronts it will open.
What India should expect is the funneling of Chinese funds through various indirect sources into new and old Indian media companies, especially those that tend to be anti-Modi or speak the language of the tukde-tukde gang. These funds could come either through clandestine hawala sources, or through Indian businesses that are dependent on China for survival or sustenance.
It is very easy to over-invoice Indian exports to China (or under-invoice imports) with the explicit understanding that the surpluses over the actual price will be ploughed back into Indian media or academic institutions in order to undermine the national effort to present a unified front to China.
Put simply, the Indian intelligence establishment needs to closely monitor the following:
One, Indian journalists who frequently travel to China or have spent a lot of time there.
Two, Indian businesses that are dependent on Chinese trade and which suddenly become interested in media investments or make large donations to academic institutions.
Three, vulnerable staff of Indian companies in China, which can be entrapped to spy for China.
Four, Chinese Confucius institutes and Indian universities receiving Chinese funding. The intelligence agencies already seem to be suspicious of these activities.
India cannot let its guard down.
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