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Luring neighbours to 'encircle' India, China may be biting more than it can chew

By NS Venkataraman*
It is clear by now that China has not concealed its aim and determination to dominate the world as a superpower and expand its territories. In fact, China has begun to give the impression that it would combine different types of strategies on the trade front, propaganda campaign and military strategy to achieve its objectives, depending upon circumstances.
Indeed, many countries in the world appear to be concerned about China’s methodologies, practices and goals. After all, any attempt to dominate the world or expand its territory is bound to negatively impact the interests of the affected countries. Yet, China seems confident that it can afford to ignore the concern of other countries, as it moves on with its plans to achieve its objectives.
These strategies of China are largely similar to past regimes that have adopted such methods in different measures, though history has shown that such ill-conceived and unethical plans do not always provide the intended end results in the long run, and the initiator of the schemes suffers and falls out in the process.
China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) scheme is part of its grand plan to make the economically weak and developing countries to firmly fall under its control. As India has refused to enter the OBOR trap, China considers India as a stumbling block and thinks that India should be weakened in all possible ways.
As part of its scheme to weaken India, and also as part of its global domination plans, China is trying to encircle India by bringing all of India’s neighbours – Pakistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, even Maldives – under its thumb. It is adopting a combination of methods for this purpose.
There are reports that China is bribing political leaders in these countries in a variety of ways while participating in infrastructure projects. It is enabling such projects to be implemented by extending financial assistance, equipment and technicians to these countries, and in the process making these countries debt-ridden and dependent on China.
India’s neighbours are burdened with debt that they owe to China, which they may not be able to repay in the foreseeable future
However, China appears to have ignored the ground realities, that while it can buy the politicians and sectarian groups in its neighbours, including India, making the economy and territory of these countries vulnerable to influence and coercion, it is not easy to overpower their people. Overpowering the territories is different from overpowering the people living in these territories.
Protests have already begun, though not loud enough, in Pakistan and Sri Lanka against handing over of such projects to China. Reports point to how in Pakistan the military is now protecting Chinese technicians working following apprehensions that government has virtually handed over Gwadar port and several important mines to China. Protests have also begun in Sri Lanka, where the government has virtually handed over the Hambantota port to China. There is expectation that these protest would intensify as people realize the extent of dependence on China.
Meanwhile, India’s neighbours are burdened with debt that they owe to China, which they may not be able to repay in the foreseeable future. Several other Asian and African countries are also facing a similar predicament. In the course of time, these countries may fail to repay debt, or may even refuse to honour debt, terming the terms of debt unreasonable or exploitative.
One wonders if China will be able to handle such a situation. Public anger may become more and more visible. If China tries to enforce the terms of debt agreement, it would tense relations with these countries. Beijing can ruthlessly suppress protests by people within China, it cannot do the same in other countries.
Is China biting more than what it can chew?
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*Trustee, Nandini Voice for the Deprived, Chennai

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