The quote by the famous Chinese strategist Sun Tzu many centuries back “The peak efficiency of knowledge and strategy is to make conflict unnecessary” should now be used by an India led alliance to check and contain China which has been harbouring expansionist designs on all its neighbours with whom it shares land borders.
China has a land border of 22,117 kilometres and has border disputes with all the 14 nations that it shares its borders with. It also has a dispute with three other countries over islands. In total, it has dispute with 17 countries over land and islands.
The String of Pearls which is a subset of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is a network of Chinese military and commercial bases from the Chinese mainland to Port Sudan in the Horn of Africa. This network passes thought important maritime choke points that include the Strait of Malacca, Strait of Hormuz, Strait of Mandeb, Gwadar Port in Pakistan, the Hambantota Port in Sri Lanka and also the Chittagong port in Bangladesh.
The String of Pearls coupled with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and some other parts of China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) pose a major threat to India’s security.
China has a diverse landscape with the Gobi Desert and the Taklamakan Desert in its north and the Himalaya, Pamir, Tian Shan and the Karakoram Mountain ranges in its west. It has sub-tropical forests in its south and a 14,500-kilometre coastline in its east.
The Chinese coastline is bounded by the South China Sea, East China Sea, Bohai Sea and the Yellow Sea.
The Yangtze River and the Yellow River which are the third and the sixth largest rivers in the world respectively, run from the Tibetan Plateau in western China to eastern China. Other major rivers in China are Xi, Mekong, Brahmaputra and Amur.
With this kind of a geographical layout, it is but natural that eastern China would be the centre of gravity of the country. No wonder eastern China is home to about 90% of the Chinese population and has the most important cities like Beijing, Jinan, Shanghai and Shenzen located in its eastern part.
Hence, the eastern part of China is the most vulnerable and China is aware that an attack on its coastline would make things difficult as it would get cut off from the world. It is this belly that is the most critical for China.
China has since long wanted to control the Indo-Pacific region which is of immense importance for its security and commercial shipping. The String of Pearls is one such initiative by China in this direction.
China seeks to encircle India by the sea route by wresting control of Gwadar, Hambantota and Chittagong. It has managed to secure full command and control of Gwadar and Hambantota.
The 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party which was held from October 18-22, 2022 in Beijing resulted in Xi Jinping being appointed as the President of China for the third time in a row. In his speech to the National Congress, Xi Jinping stated that the reunification with Taiwan remains his focus and did not rule out force to achieve the unstated unofficial national aim and ambition of the Chinese people.
With several senior Generals of the People’s Liberation Army elevated to the Central Military Commission who have experience in serving in the Western and Eastern Commands which are responsible for operations against India and Taiwan respectively, the next five years will be tough and turbulent for India and China and for the other countries like Japan, South Korea, Philippines and Vietnam.
Since the desires and designs of China in expanding its borders to include the land of the countries it has land borders/disputes with continue unabated, it is high time that a doctrine called the Garland of Pearls is formulated with India, Nepal, Bhutan, Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan as its nine integral members. The nine-member alliance formed out of this doctrine should be a military alliance.
China does not have the capability and capacity to fight a two-front war with India and Taiwan at the same time. The military alliance formed out of the Garland of Pearls Doctrine will rattle and rumble China and will make it uneasy and uncomfortable.
A formidable and forceful military alliance will check and contain China.
Niccolo Machiavelli quip “Injuries ought to be done all at one time, so that, being tasted less, they offend less, benefits ought to be given little by little, so that the flavour of them may last longer” is apt and appropriate for the Garland of Pearls doctrine to be formulated so that the Indo-Pacific region sees an everlasting and an eternal peace.
About the Author
Lt Col JS Sodhi retired from the Corps of Engineers of the Indian Army and is an alumnus of NDA, Khadakwasla and IIT Kanpur. He is a M.Tech in Structures has also done MBA and LLB and is a prolific writer and a public speaker. He features in the World Book of Records, London and the India Book of Records for his articles in the print media and news channel appearances. He Tweets at @JassiSodhi24. The views expressed are personal.