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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : The role of the ‘China Test’ in India’s grand strategy


Source: The Hindu

  • Prelims: Current events of international importance(India-US relations, Indo-China disputes etc )
  • Mains GS Paper II: Bilateral, regional and global grouping involving India, Significance of Indo-Pacific for India etc



  • The India-China relationship is once again at a new low, avoiding war but regrettably inventing new ways of confrontation like the 1962 war




Principal contradiction:

  • One that poses the most intense challenge to an individual/organization and has the power to shape its future choices and consequent outcomes.
  • Strategic decision making: It is a useful method of optimizing and prioritizing strategic decision-making.
  • Principal contradiction: China is contemporary India’s principal strategic contradiction.
  • Secondary contradiction: Other challenges like Pakistan, internal insurgencies, and difficulties in relations with its neighbors.


Elements of China test:

  • Regional development: Assessment of how a certain Indian decision or a specific regional development squares with Chinese regional strategy or interests.
  • Modification at secondary level: assessment of whether India’s decision or a certain regional development would require India to make modifications at the level of secondary contradictions.
  • Major policy change: assessment of whether this would require any major policy changes internally.


Role of USA:

  • It is seeking to re-engage southern Asia: Pakistan, South Asia in general, the Indo-Pacific, and perhaps even the Taliban.
  • The standoff with China along the Line of Actual Control in 2020 was a consequence of India’s growing proximity to the U.S.


China test of India-U.S. relations:

  • It is not in China’s interest to see an American re-engagement of the region or growing India-U.S. proximity.
  • India-U.S. strategic engagement in the region would help China’s long-term objectives.
  • India: It should not give into the short-term temptation of not being on the wrong side of China given its long-term implications.


China test for Indo-Pak relations:

  • For China: Best-case scenario is an India preoccupied with Pakistan
    • It will ensure that India is not focused on the growing threat from China.
  • Balancing Chinese power: India should actively seek not a balance of power in South Asia with Pakistan but balancing Chinese power in Southern Asia.
  • India’s objective in South Asia: It should be to seek a pacification of conflicts with Pakistan, so that it can focus on China


Why should India not oppose the American engagement of Pakistan?

  • It helps prevent Pakistan from going into the China camp completely.
  • A Pakistan engaged with the U.S. and the West is better for India than a Pakistan shunned by the U.S. and the West.


China test of India-Russia relations:

  • Continuous engagement: There is a strong rationale for India to continue its relationship with Russia.
  • In the absence of an India-Russia relationship: The extent of Sino-Russian cooperation is likely to strengthen
    • India will be cut out of the continental space to its north and west.
  • India continues to get:
    • Discounted energy
    • Cheaper defense equipment
    • Support at the United Nations Security Council
  • Political sensitivities: Russia has understood India’s ‘political sensitivities’ more than its western partners.


Implications of India’s break away from Russia:

  • The natural beneficiary of such an eventuality will, undoubtedly, be China.
  • This could push Russia towards Pakistan with or without some nudging from Beijing.

Way Forward

  • China test: A ready China test can help prioritize strategic decision making in the longer run, at least as an analytical tool with potential policy utility.
  • The turn away from Russia: It will ensure that China gets a free hand in Central Asia.
    • Therefore There is a strong rationale for India to continue its relationship with Russia.
  • Smart balancing China in Southern Asia and beyond must form a key element in India’s grand strategic planning and decision making.



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