Role of the ‘China Test’ in India’s strategy

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    In News 

    Recently, It has been observed that India’s strategic decision matrix should pass the China test

    About China Test

    •  A perspicacious ‘China test’ can help prioritise strategic decision-making in the longer run, at least as an analytical tool with potential policy utility.
    • From an operational point of view, the ‘China test’ consists of three distinct elements and these are :
      • An assessment of how a certain Indian decision or a specific regional development squares with Chinese regional strategy or interests. 
      • An assessment of whether India’s decision or a certain regional development would require India to make modifications at the level of secondary contradictions. 
      • An assessment of whether this would require any major policy changes internally. Let me highlight the utility of the ‘China test’ using a few examples.

    What would a ‘China test’ of India-U.S. relations suggest?

    • India has had a complicated relationship with the US which is increasingly getting normalised and interests-driven. 
    •  The US is seeking to re-engage in southern Asia (Pakistan, South Asia in general, the Indo-Pacific, and perhaps even the Taliban). 
    • It appears that one of the lessons India learnt from the standoff with China along the Line of Actual Control in 2020 was that it was perhaps a consequence of India’s growing proximity to the U.S. 
      • China seeks to dominate the region, it is clearly not in its interest to see an American re-engagement of the region or growing India-U.S. proximity.
      • The lukewarm India-U.S. strategic engagement in the region is precisely what would help Beijing’s long-term objectives. 

    Application of China Test in the Context of Russia 

    • India-Russia relations in the wake of the Ukraine war are among the most debated bilateral relationships in the world today. 
    • Application of China Test to examine the logic behind India-Russia relations in the face of western pressure on India to decouple from Moscow. 
      • The U.S. and its allies would like India to stop engaging with Moscow and condemn its aggression against Ukraine — which India has refused to do so far.
      • In return, there is on offer greater accommodation of Indian interests including perhaps diplomatic and political support against Chinese aggression. 
      • There is also the growing proximity between Moscow and Beijing which reduces the robustness of India-Russia relations. 

    Impacts of reducing relations with Russia

    • If India completely breaks away from Russia , it will most likely play into China’s hands.
    • In the absence of an India-Russia relationship, the extent of Sino-Russian cooperation is likely to strengthen, and India will be cut out of the continental space to its north and west. 
      • India continues to get discounted energy, cheaper defence equipment, and support at the United Nations Security Council, and Moscow has been understanding of New Delhi’s ‘political sensitivities’ more than its western partners.
      • Many of these could come to a grinding halt, and the natural beneficiary of such an eventuality will, undoubtedly, be China.
      •  This could also push Moscow towards Pakistan with or without some nudging from Beijing.
      • India’s turn away from Russia will ensure that China gets a free hand in Central Asia too.

    Suggestions and Way Forward 

    • Smart balancing China in Southern Asia and beyond must form a key element in India’s grand strategic planning and decision-making.
    • India-Russia relations are on the wane, there is a strong rationale for New Delhi to continue its relationship with Moscow 
    • Dealing with China would be a “challenge” for India during its G20 presidency and New Delhi should adopt a “cautious approach” towards Beijing, judging it by its deeds and not words
    • India’s objective in South Asia should be to seek a pacification of conflicts with Pakistan so that it can focus on China. 

    Mains Practice Question 

    [Q]Does continuing the relationship with Russia and US help India to better deal with the China challenge?