From the Indian geo-strategic viewpoint, China is the dominant flavour of the season. It is the proverbial elephant in the room when stepping into the realm of Indian foreign policy and strategy. Four books, all dealing with the issue at hand, could almost be a continuous and naturally flowing narrative.
Vijay Gokhale’s After Tiananmen: The Rise of China, Manoj Joshi’s Understanding the India-China Border, Anil Bhat’s China Bloodies Bulletless Borders and Pravin Sawhney’s The Last War can easily fit into a temporal continuum―and in that order.
These books, written in the typically unique prose of the accomplished authors, hold out before the reader the past, present and possible future of a trajectory that describes the relationship between the two Asian giants.
Gokhale’s book traces the two decades of China just after the landmark event at Tiananmen Square in 1989. It chronicles the dizzying rise of China as an economic and military power and focuses chiefly on the interregnum of the period that had Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao at the helm before the arrival of Xi Jinping at the centre-stage of Chinese politics in 2013.
Joshi’s book draws us into the specifics of the India-China boundary question. Prefaced with nine maps, it delves into the intricacies that characterise the blurry India-China border or the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which stands undemarcated at many swathes. Joshi says the enduring threat of war remains high in the Himalayas.
If Joshi’s book has an academic mould, Bhat’s book is a military man’s take on the boundary dispute. Keeping true to his mould, Bhat advocates buttressing of the nation’s defensive and offensive capabilities “to pay back the Chinese on all issues”.
Sawhney’s book uses an interesting setting to convey a disquieting prospect. Underlining the military asymmetry, he declares that in the event of a war, China can defeat India in about 10 days after taking over Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh with Chinese disruptive technology overwhelming Indian infrastructure and networks in the first 72 hours itself.
Sawhney says India has to pursue and develop its niche military capabilities, primarily Artificial Intelligence (AI), while talking peace with Pakistan and China.
The four books would provide a 360-degree outlook to understand what ails the India-China bilateral relationship in its entirety, and is possibly a panacea to Indian military planners on what could be done.