“The enemy of the enemy is a friend”, is an old adage that suggests that two parties or nations can work together in all areas against a common enemy/adversary. This argument is also found in the wisdom related to statecraft in Kautilya’s Arthshastra from the fourth century BC.
This approach finds manifestations at the national level in almost every country and is practiced by us as well as by our adversaries. In the modern context, Gabriel Manigault in his political credo of 1884 emphasized this approach. In the context of India, China has not only befriended Pakistan, our conventional adversary on the western border, but has also entrenched itself in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the Maldives and in Afghanistan, to say the least. Pakistan has adopted the same philosophy in maintaining an unprecedented and enhanced relationship with China, with the aim of encircling India from both sides and constraining it to the fringes of South Asia.
To counter this, India has developed friendly relations with several countries having conflicting relations with China, such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia, except South Korea. , Australia and the United States. However, these relations are not of the same intensity as those of China for two reasons: India, unlike China, is not the central player in these relations, neither financially nor militarily; and India, unlike China, does not believe in the inculcation of parasitic relations. A targeted approach to issue-based plurilateralism has led to the operationalization of the Quadrilateral Dialogue aka The Quad whose charter is openly non-military, building on vaccine diplomacy, resilient supply chains, climate change mitigation climate and a free and open Indo-Pacific.
In the modern era of political relations, countries need not be alone in conflict or in cooperative mode. Both sides of the relationship can co-exist and the same has been demonstrated in the case of several countries around the world. Sino-Indian relations are no exception. Even during heightened LAC tensions, our bilateral trade broke all previous records despite a massive trade deficit for us. The two countries have also been together on issues such as wealthy country agricultural subsidies at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and a disproportionate burden of climate change mitigation on Third World countries. This amply demonstrates the fact that it is not always necessary to be opposed to a nation and to consider the enemy of the enemy only as a possible and practical friend.
China has tried an additional approach to subdue us and reinforce our adversities. When India had excellent relations with its neighbors like Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Maldives and others, with some downside moments, China adopted a different strategy. While on the one hand he has continued to invest in his relations with Pakistan, he has made deliberate plans to befriend all of our neighbors. Under the guise of financial aid, loans, trade facilitation and infrastructure development, China has “trapped the debt” of a few of these countries, through which some of them started their way. ruinous. Current examples include Sri Lanka and Pakistan. In the process, China not only served its strategic interests, but also defeated India, limiting its attempts to earn a rightful place in the community of nations.
Given the current geopolitical and economic situation, India also needs to correct its policy strategy. While efforts to maintain a healthy relationship with existing neighbors must be vigorously pursued in addition to the “Eastern policy”, it is necessary to launch a new methodology of government to befriend the friends of the East. enemy, that is to say, the friendly nations of China must be connected for the great cause of the national good of India. This is in line with the saying that “there are no permanent friends or enemies in the international system, only permanent interests”.
Pakistan is currently collapsing economically, a colony but in the name of China, with its deep state i.e. military rulers signaling to India that they are ready for change. India should make an extra effort to improve its relations with Pakistan with a “people centered” approach, despite previous failed attempts. Starting with trade, once people’s miseries are resolved and job creation resumes, it can not only facilitate mutual trade and cooperation, but also can provide a gateway to India directly to the Afghanistan as well as to the Central Asian Republics (CAR) and in the process subvert a number of Chinese friends into a win-win matrix.
Not only that, it is also necessary to establish a relationship with North Korea, another friend of China. This relationship probably also hasn’t received the attention it deserves due to our friendly relations with Japan, South Korea and the United States. As Indian diplomacy has effectively met the current challenge of maintaining balance between the United States and Russia during the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, a similar approach is also needed to strengthen our bilateral relations with all friendly countries of the China that can be deliberately identified and an action plan operationalized. While on the one hand this capacity building will provide better leverage to the Indian government, in the long run it could also help stabilize our bilateral relationship with China. The modified operationalization of statecraft is sure to propel India to one of the leading top positions in the world.
Major General Ashok Kumar, VSM (Retired) is a Kargil war veteran and defense analyst. He is a CLAWS Visiting Scholar and specializes in neighboring countries with a particular focus on China. He can be reached at [email protected] and tweets from @chanakyaoracle. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the position of this publication.
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