The recent statement made by Indian Army Chief BipinRawat regarding a possible two-front war with Pakistan and China is quite unfortunate. Speaking at a seminar in New Delhi, General Rawat said that India should be ready for a potential two-front war with China and Pakistan.
According to the Indian media, he referred to a recent standoff with China and said the situation could gradually snowball into a larger conflict that Pakistan is likely to exploit. Rawat said that India could not afford to be complacent and should be prepared for the possibility of an all-out war.
It is difficult to buy the argument put forward the Indian general. He did not substantiate his claims regarding a possible conflict. It is clear that Beijing is keen to follow an economic agenda that is next to impossible in an explosive situation that might lead to war. If the Chinese leadership was interested in heightening tension, it could easily have resorted to sabre-rattling over the Doklam issue. Beijing’s move, which is geared towards de-escalation, clearly indicates that the communist country does not want to be distracted from its economic agenda that seeks to connect various states of Asia and beyond through the One Belt One Road project.
The statement prompted a number of analysts to ask whether the general had issued these remarks on his own or had sought prior permission from the civilian government before he shared his views on the matter. This is something that was also noticed by Beijing. China’s foreign ministry reacted sharply to the statement. Suggesting a contradiction between General Rawat’s statement and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s conversation with Chinese President XI Jinping, GengShuang, the spokesman for Chinese foreign ministry, asked if the Indian army chief was authorised by his government to make such a specific observation.
Shuang referred to the conversation between the Chinese president and Modi where Xi Jinping had told the latter that both countries are each other’s development opportunities, not threats.
It seems as though India – which was once a staunch supporter of the Non-Aligned Movement – has become a poodle of large capitalist powers under the leadership of Hindu right-wing leaders. It does not miss any chance to raise tension with its giant neighbour whose economic prosperity should prompt it to lift millions of Indians out of abject poverty. The two states stand to achieve nothing from a military confrontation. Instead, such a conflictwill push the region towards a conflagration.
The Indian army chief also dragged Pakistan into this imagined conflict. Pakistan wisely ignored the statement because Islamabad knows that any conflict in the region would scupper its chances of benefitting from the huge Chinese investment in the cash-starved state.
The question is: why should any country think about such a conflict? Can Pakistan, with over 60 million people living below the poverty line, afford a conflict? Can India, with more than 270 million people who are condemned to a life of abject poverty, afford a war that could ruin its dream of achieving rapid economic growth? Can China, with its ambition to become a global leader, afford to trigger a conflict that is poised to benefit its economic rivals and ruin its plans of connectivity?
A war in the region will benefit no one. Many analysts believe that, instead of resorting to sabre-rattling, New Delhi needs to learn how it can benefit from the Chinese experience that helped Beijing improve the standard of living of its vast population.
Although there are still many problems in China, the country has left India behind as far as progress in the social sector is concerned. For instance, China ranked in the 90th position in the human development index whereas India was ranked in the 131st position. Life expectancy at birth is 76 in China whereas in India it is 68.3. The expected years of schooling are 11.7 in India and 13.5 in China. The mean years of schooling in China is 7.6 years. However, in India, it is 6.3.
A few years ago, Indian economist and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen cited statistics that reflected New Delhi’s poor performance in serving its people. The infant mortality rate was 50 per 1,000 live births in India while in China it stood at 17 per 1,000 live births. The mortality rate for children under five was 66 per thousand live births for Indians and nineteen for the Chinese. The maternal mortality rate was 230 per 100,000 live births in India and 38 in China. China’s adult literacy rate was 94 percent whereas India’s literacy rate stood at 74 percent. Only 66 percent of Indian children were immunised with triple vaccines (diphtheria/pertussis/ tetanus) while 97 percent of children in China were administered the vaccine.
Sen noted that one of India’s serious failures is that a substantial proportion of children are, to varying degrees, undernourished – depending on the criteria used, the proportion can come close to half of all children – compared with a small proportion of children in China.
These statistics underscore the need for India to address the issues that millions of its citizens face in their day-to-day life. Talking of war and conflicts amid all these problems will just add more hysteria that will sap the foundations of Indian society. Therefore, it is important that both India and Pakistan should declare a multi-front war on poverty and religious fanaticism that is pushing the region towards a conflagration.
Both countries should learn from China’s experience and vow to improve the quality of life for their citizens. Such improvements will only come through peace rather than war or the threat of conflict.