China-India Conflict Is Far More Dangerous Than US-North Korea One

While the international media remains concerned to the point of being fixated on the US-DPRK (North Korea) stand-off, in terms of sheer firepower, the much more pressing stand-off between China and India holds the potential to be far more destructive.

Indian Nuclear Weapons

While the best intelligence about North Korea’s weapons delivery capabilities indicates that North Korea is in possession of intermediate range ballistic missile systems which are incapable of hitting the US mainland, India’s intermediate range systems are not only more advanced but due to India’s proximity with China, these missiles could easily strike targets within China.

Of course, China has a vastly more equipped army and nuclear capacity, but any war between China and India that would involve the use of intercontinental ballistic missiles would be a world-changing event.

While many have focused on the possibility of a short land-based border war, similar to that which the two countries fought in 1962, due to the rapid advance of both the Chinese and Indian militaries in the decades since 1962, there is every possibility that such a war could escalate quickly.

The Modi Factor

Much is said in the western mainstream media about North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un being unpredictable and flippant. This information is largely based on self-fulfilling propaganda rather than actual knowledge of Kim Jong-Un’s thought process and leadership.

While little is actually known about Kim Jong-Un’s long term strategic thinking, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s modus operandi is all too clear.

Modi’s political programme has resulted in economic stagnation, worsening relations with its two most important neighbours, China and Pakistan and increasing incidents of violence, discrimination and intimidation against India’s large Muslim minority.

Indian PM Mahendra ModiWith these major failures looming large (however much they are dismissed or rationalised by the ruling BJP), Modi has resorted to an entrenched militant nationalism which has resulted in galvanising the most extreme elements of Modi’s Hindutva base domestically while provoking China by placing Indian troops in territory China claims as its sovereign soil.

Against this background it could be fair to surmise that India’s leadership is less stable than that of North Korea, even when accounting for the differences in India’s size, wealth and global reach vis-à-vis North Korea.

If US leaders have been well known to provoke wars to get a poor domestic political performance or a scandal out of the headlines, one should not surmise that Modi will behave any differently. The fact that a conflict with China whether a military conflict, the ensuring trade conflict for which India is virtually entirely responsible or a combination of both, is manifestly to India’s detriment, seems to be lost on a leadership which is obsessed with short term propaganda victories rather than genuine economic and diplomatic progress.

Actual versus Perceived Chinese Interests

China’s concerns about Indian violations of its sovereignty and moreover with the anti-cooperative attitude that Modi’s government has taken, is a very serious matter for China. China has repeatedly warned that its patience is being tested and that China will not ultimately hesitate to militarily defend itself, even while stating that war is not China’s preferred option.

By contrast, China’s interest in both North and South Korea is one of stability and more importantly, one of peace. China, like Russia, does not want to see the Korean war reignite on its borders. This is why China has taken an even hand on the North Korean issue, one that has surprised those who overestimate China’s relationship with the DPRK, one which throughout most of the second half of the 20th century, was less important than Pyongyang’s relationship with the Soviet Union.

North Korea is on occasion a source of a Chinese headache, but it is the United States which has a lingering geo-strategic ambition to unite Korea under the auspices of a pro-American government. China by contrast would be happy with the status-quo minus weapons tests and military drills on both sides of the 38th parallel.

In respect of India however, China has a deeply specific set of interests which are summarised as follows:

  1. No threats made to China’s territorial integrity
  2. A resentment towards dealing with an Indian government that from the Chinese perspective is needlessly hostile
  3. A long term goal of cooperation with India in respect of One Belt—One Road
  4. A more intrinsic desire not to see India fall too deeply into the US rather than what Chinese media calls the ‘Asian’ sphere of influence.

Modi would appear to understand China’s perspective which is perversely why his government is doing precisely the opposite of what China wants. India currently has soldiers on Chinese territory in the disputed Doklam/Donglang region. India is attempting to shut China out of Indian markets in such a manner that seeks to paint India as a competitor to China rather than a country whose economic potential is complimentary to that of China. In an all-out trade war with China, India will lose, the only question remains how badly. Thus far Modi’s attitude does not bode well for an honourable second place.

Finally, India’s recent purchase of American weapons that are vastly overpriced via-a-vis their Russia or Chinese equitant is an example of Modi being penny wise and pound foolish. Modi’s relationship with the United States is one where Modi is squandering Indian treasure in order to make an expensive point. Donald Trump himself joked at a press conference with Modi that the American side will try and get the final price higher before India commits to a final sale of weapons.

India to purchase 22 US-made MQ-9 Reaper drones
India to purchase 22 US-made MQ-9 Reaper drones


India would stand to benefit greatly from doing what Pakistan has been going for years, namely understanding that the old alignments of the Cold War, including the idea of being non-aligned means something very different in 2017 than it did in 1970. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Pakistan’s historically good relations with Russia and its refusal to follow US ally Saudi Arabia into an unnecessary conflict with Qatar and by extrapolation with Iran, demonstrates a far-sighted geo-strategic maturity that will ultimately benefit Pakistan greatly.

India has every ability to do with China what Pakistan has done with Russia while not losing its old Cold War friend. Until India realises this, it is fair to say that the flash-points of conflict between Beijing and New Deli are far more worrying and could be far more damaging in the long term than the war of words between Washington and Pyongyang, frightening though it may at times sound.

Reposts are welcomed with the reference to ORIENTAL REVIEW.
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  5. Prasad Kosuru

    Adam Garrie wrote a nice article but left out key details. The disputed land is claimed by Bhutan and that is not mentioned. China have agreement with Bhutan to not to change status quo until the border is defined which is not mentioned. It seems like he did not care to even check what Bhutan says about this. He did not mention China all of sudden started to construct road in no man’s land near the border. India has agreement to provide security to Bhutan which was not mentioned. He did not even mentioned Bhutan. He also said such non sense about Modi a strong leader India did not have for decades. India can stand up to the bully and it will.

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  10. He has a biased and false opinion on Modi and his governance. There is genuine economic progress and tranparency in governance. Don’t judge probably the best leader in the world from your armchair. Live in India and see the incredible job he is doing to clear 60 years of mess created by the Congress party.

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  13. Dear Adam, did China pay you to write this smear piece on India? Also, what is the economic issue you speak of hindering India’s economic ties with China? Is it the fact that India refuses to allow “free trade” that benefits Peking alone? That seems to be the Chicom way with every country, free trade for China, tariffs and other hindrances for everyone else. Meanwhile Chicoms buy up African as well as South American regimes aka natural resources.

  14. A totally biased and fact distorting article based on assumptions and at time hallucinations. Dokhlam is referred to without any reference to Bhutan is akin to putting the carriage before the horse and is unfounded and misleading. Once you remove Bhutan from the controversy you get enough instruments to prove or rather assert the benevolent , just and democratic stance of blotless China suggesting in vacuum that about 18 neighbours of China are deliberately accusing peaceful China of unnecessarily bullying these neighbours. It also suggests that the author is paying for the economic favour done to him by China.
    Postulates on Modi are again a result of day dreaming and looking the events from jaundiced eyes. Any knowledgeable person will laugh on the Modi surmises of the author. In a nutshell it is the low intellect of the author who assumes himself to be the Einstein of international relations but proves (himself) a small town correspondent.

  15. When you refer to ‘China’s territorial integrity’, in the context of this article you are actually referring to Tibet, a de facto independent nation with its own language, culture, legal system, financial and taxation system, invaded and occupied by China from 1949 onwards. Tibet and India coexisted satisfactorily for centuries, yet after China’s annexation of Tibet, the whole Himalayan region has become a highly militarised source of tension. Outside Tibet, China interferes in the politics and religion of Nepal, of Bhutan and a number of well publicised murders in India have been laid at the door of China which fearing insurrection in Tibet, sows discord between different Tibetan exile groups living in India.

    It is a source of deep concern that numerous commentators nowadays ignore the frequent transgressions of China.

  16. Allama Riaz Ali Carmali

    Well, Kevin Morris seems to have forgoten that, besides Tibet, China is also occupying Xinjiang, a region with a Muslim majority which has it’s own identity, Religion and language.
    But, as far as my Knowledge of China is concerned, China, though an Occupying Power, allows the Xinjiang’s Muslim population to pratice their religion and Xinjiang’s Muslims have the same rights of other chinese people.

    Modi’s India is quite different. He and his Hindu Fundamentalist BJP Party, were ideologicaly trained by the RSS, a ultra-fundamentalist hindu organisation whose final aim is to make India an exclusively hindu country.
    India has half a million soldiers in Kashmir and it oppresses a lot the kashmiri population, by denying them the basic human rights, by executing extra-juducial killings, and by murdering people randomly.
    The United Nations has urged India many times to make a referendum in Kashmir in order to let the kashmiri population decide their own fate.
    Now, under Modi, Muslims and Christians throughout India, see their fundamental rights being negated to them, and there are reports that some members of these two religious communities are being forced to convert to Hinduism.
    And the is also the Hindu caste system which is far from being egalitarian. Hindus from lower caste are highly discriminated by hindus from higher caste.
    Anyone who opposes what I am saying, let him say if there is any low caste hindu in the higher spheres of government, or occupying any top Job in a Corporation!! There is not!!
    The same applies to Muslims and Christians. You will not see them, either in the higher spheres of government, or on highest jobs in a Corporation.
    To summarise, India is a hindu fundamentalist backwards country under the guise of Democracy.
    It really moves my heart to say this because my grandparents are from the State of Gujrat in India.

    Now, regarding the topic under discussion here, I do not have much information on the possibility of an all out war between India and China, but in my modest view, such a scenario is quite possible.
    And it is possible not only because of small territorial disputes.
    China is provoking India by financing an armed Comunist rebbelion indise India, and these rebels control an area the size of the Belgium!!
    India also provokes China by giving full support to the Dalai Lama, who under the guise of a religious leader, is a terrorist who wants to destabilise China!!!

    In case of a non-nuclear war between these two countries, it is easy to predict who would win!! Yeah, the answer is China!!
    China is a 2500 year old country, while India as we know it is a 72 year old country. This matters a lot because, while in China there is a true chinese identity, in India you will not find such a thing.
    The chinese are highly patriot. The indians are not!!
    India is federation and a country with many “countries” inside it. Each state has it’s own languange and culture. Gujrat is totally different from Punjab, Maharastra and Uttar Pradesh!! Each has it’s own identity. And there is also the North/South divide. Many southern Indians do not feel indian at all. For exemple, the people of the State of Tamil Nadu (like everybody in the south) have nothing in common with the north. They are ethnicaly and linguistically different from the people of the north.
    While in the north, Gujarati, Punjabi and Marathi languages come from Sanskrit, the same does not happen with the languages that are spoken in the south of India like tamil.
    Tamil people are so proud of their identity that they will not speak Hindi with anybody from the north or with a foreigner. They speak english both with their fellow citizens from the north and with foreigners!!
    And there is the Indian Punjab, a State with a Sikh majority who wants to split from India, and this is not the only case. Tamil Nadu, Assam and Kashmir, all want to separate from India.

    So, there isn’t such thing as an “Indian Identity”.

    So in the case of a conventional war between China and India, China would use the above mentioned indian vulnerabilities and this would contribute to China’s Victory.
    Let me give a small exemple. In a war between these two countries, China could provoke an internal rebellion in India, by arming the Punjabis, the people of Tamil Nadu and the people of Kashmir, leaving India to fight on two fronts:
    —an external one against China;
    — an internal one against the above mentioned.
    And during the war, if China gets the upper hand, which it would have, Pakistan will be tempted to invade indian border states, which would be another problem for India…..

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