Origin and Growth of Sino Pak Nexus against India: Suggested Tenets of Indian Response
Brig (Dr) Ashok Pathak
An Assertive and Proactive India

The Surgical Strike in Uri Sector (20161, Doklam standoff (2017)2 and air strike in Balakot3 have portrayed an assertive and proactive Indian response to the Chinese and Pakistani belligerence. A very definite strategic shift is visible to even a casual observer in the India-China-Pakistan relations. Pakistan and China were always inimical and hostile towards India. Nothing has changed in their approach. It is India that has declared that rules of the game have changed and costs of ‘all actions against India’ by China Pakistan combine will be in quick time and much higher hither-to-fore. The Indian approach has been action oriented. The days of rhetoric and ‘dossier warfare’ are gone.

If this is our current strategic approach we need to prepare for a long haul. The first thing in this strategic vision is to understand the origin, growth and desired equilibrium of the nexus. At the same time we need to decide the major pillars of our response and what do we wish to achieve in the new equilibrium.

Origin and Contours of Sino-Pakistan Nexus

In August 1947 India emerged as a free nation in a highly volatile geopolitical environment with China and Pakistan to its East and West respectively. The first statement Mao Zedong made on 01 October 1949 at Tiananmen square was about annexation of Tibet as also firm resolve to undo the historical wrongs done by the Western Imperialists4. The signal was unmistakable to an objective mind.

Pakistan was born on the premise of a separate nation for the Muslims and adopted ‘hate India’ vision. The seeds of this relentless hatred germinated from the notion of ‘legitimate rulers of India’- hangover of the Mogul period, affiliation with the Khalifate Movement for an Islamic world order and the fear of majoritarian Hindu Rule in India5. Partition of India, the Kashmir conflict, wars that India and Pakistan have fought and the sustained support to Islamic terrorism are manifestations of this vision. Again the origin and contours of Pakistani threat are crystal clear in a rational analysis.

When did the Sino-Pakistan nexus start? In 1950. Pakistan was the first Muslim country to recognise People’s Republic of China (PRC). 6 On 02 March 1963 Pakistan ceded 5180 square kilometres of territory in Shaksgam Valley of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. 7 The 1963 treaty was a precursor to Pakistani ambition to annex Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) in 1965. While launching operation Gibraltar and Operation Grand Slam Pakistan expected Chinese offensive across the Eastern Borders of India. However, China played a limited role by threatening India to withdraw from Jelep La and Nathu La- or face military action by the People Liberation Army (PLA). India blinked and withdrew from Jelep La but did not withdraw from Nathu La- thanks to Major General (later Lt General) Sagat Singh8. Nevertheless China did not attack India in 1965 – contrary to the wishes and expectations of Pakistan. It was only in 1967 that border altercations between Indian and Chinese troops precipitated into battles of Nathu La (September 67) and Cho La up North (November 67). China lost both these skirmishes.9 In 1971 China did not even threaten India of military action. Thus post 1967 Indian and Chinese troops were never embroiled in an armed conflict till the impromptu fight at Galwan in 202010. Meanwhile economic ties between China and Pakistan continued to grow culminating in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Chinese involvement in the port of Gwadar. China has backed Pakistan on all occasions in the international forums including the all-important conferences in the UN. If we believe Global Times the Sino-Pakistan friendship goes back 2000 years back when Chinese traders used the trade routes in China for accessing Asia and Europe11. This statement ignores the fact that Pakistan did not exist before 14 August 1947!

There has been a sustained campaign to harm India and Indian interests in all possible ways including conventional, proxy and hybrid wars. The nexus is actively harming Indian interests in all possible domains of the modern day conflict spectrum. The Joint Armed Forces Doctrine – 2017 identifies the spectrum to include politico diplomatic structure, water, economy, energy, education, technology, cyber and space as the key elements12. Modern theories of Information War identify netwar, political and economic war, command and control war, Cyber war as the key components13.Thus when we say that Indian Army is ready to fight a two and a half front war14 the determination for long term sustained response across the full spectrum mentioned above is quite evident.

Envisaged State of Equilibrium by the China- Pakistan Nexus

Apparently the nexus has strived to achieve and sustain equilibrium where:

  • China can pursue its political economic and military dominance globally without any competition and resistance from India. Pakistan will act as Chinese proxy to keep India engaged in multi-dimensional Indo- Pakistan conflicts.
  • The borders between India and China remain unsettled and amorphous so that periodic Chinese ingress into Indian territory continues in synch with Chinese ideology of territorial expansionism.
  • Indian armed forces are seen as inferior to the PLA, incapable of defending Indian territorial integrity.
  • India remains economically weak and dependent on China.
  • Ethnic discord in India (through terrorism, crimes, and insurgency) continues to escalate the cost of doing business and thus hamper Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth.
  • Internationally India continues to be seen as a poor, corrupt, filthy and inefficient nation compared to China that is rich, fair and efficient.
  • Pakistan on the other hand would like to box India as anti-Islamic, mass murderer of innocent Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir
Suggested Theme for Indian Response to the Nexus

Keeping in view the broad spectrum of the threat the response must include building up the human capital (people and leadership matrix), leveraging the knowledge base, economic and political domination, triggering internal turmoil in the target country, conventional military operations, cyber war and dominance in international relations. These are not stand alone domains. There will have to be substantial overlaps among these domains. There may be instances when the entire spectrum of conflict is activated for a limited period. What state of equilibrium we will be looking for or how do we wish to be seen by the comity of nations including the nexus?

  • A nation with exemplary social harmony among all the religions, ethnic and caste based groups. A resurgent economic power-house in Asia and the World.
  • A civilization in synch with the global harmony and rule of law.
  • A peace loving and strong nation capable of defending its territorial integrity and maintaining internal harmony in the face of external threat abetted by internal disruptive forces.
  • A country with settled borders with her neighbours.
  • A leadership with firm resolve to retaliate and act in all possible ways to any threat to India’s security and well being of its citizens.

It is quite evident India has chosen to be assertive and pragmatic. During the last five years actions have spoken louder than rhetoric and dossiers. This is a new approach. We need to prepare for the long haul. The emphasis would generally be in the areas where military power remains a threat in being and counter actions and counter offensives are in the ambiguous region where attribution and accountability are difficult.

End Notes
  1. 4 Hours choppers and 38 Kills: How India avenged Uri Attack https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/army-conducted-surgical-strikes-on-terror-launch-pads-on-loc-significant-casualties-caused-dgmo/articleshow/54579855.cms
  2. The Doklam Standoff Takeways for India https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/doklam-standoff-the-takeaways-for-india/
  3. Balakot How India planned IAF Strike in Pakistan and Inside Story https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/cover-story/story/20190325-balakot-airstrikes-pulwama-terror-attack-abhinandan-varthaman-narendra-modi-masood-azhar-1478511-2019-03-15
  4. PJS Vinay Shankar, G G Dwivedi, Bharat Kumar, Ranjit Singh Kalha, Bhavna Tripathy (eds.) (2015), 1962: A View from the Other Side of the Hill, New Delhi: Vij Books India Private Limited
  5. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, ‘India Wins Freedom An Autobiographical Narrative’ Longman Green and Co 1960
  6. Foreign Relations of Pakistan – CIDOB https://www.cidob.org › content › download › file (this link will have to placed on google search to get the relevant document)
  7. http://www.indiandefencereview.com/spotlights/the-forgotten-fact-of-chinaoccupiedkashmir/#:~:text=It%20is%20a%20historical%20fact,under%20their%20so%2Dcalled%20border
  8. V K Singh Leadership in the Indian Army Biographies of twelve soldiers Sage Publications 2005 Pvt Ltd B1/I-1 Mohan Cooperative Industrial Area New Delhi ISBN 7807613322
  9. Probal Das Gupta (2020), Watershed 1967: India’s Forgotten Victory Over China, New Delhi: Juggernaut
  10. Nathu La September 1967 and Galwan June 2020 Lessons and Future Strategies for India https://www.claws.in/publication/nathu-la-september-1967-and-galwan-valley-june-2020-lessons-and-future-strategies-for-india/
  11. https://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1189007.shtml
  12. http://www.ids.nic.in/dot/ JointDoctrineIndianArmedForces2017pdf Joint Doctrine Indian Armed Forces Issued by HQ, Integrated Defence Staff of the Ministry of Defence April 2017 (Accessed 5 August 2019)
  13. Libicki Martin C, What is Information Warfare? Center for Advanced Concepts and Technology. Institute for National Strategic Studies. National Defence University. August 1995 also John Arquilla and David Ronfedt , ‘In Athena’s Camp Preparing for Conflict in the Information Age’ Rand Corporation 7 October 1997 ISBN 0833025147
  14. Army Prepared for two and half front war General Rawat https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/army-prepared-for-two-and-a-half-front-war-gen-rawat/article18867921.ece

(The paper is the author’s individual scholastic articulation. The author certifies that the article/paper is original in content, unpublished and it has not been submitted for publication/web upload elsewhere, and that the facts and figures quoted are duly referenced, as needed, and are believed to be correct). (The paper does not necessarily represent the organisational stance... More >>

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