There is now no doubt that China will remain India’s greatest strategic threat in the decades to come. Beijing is not just interested in taking control of strategic areas or in stopping India’s infrastructure build-up at the border. As is visible in the statements emerging from retired officials and its State-controlled media, China wants to send a message to India — to accept Chinese dominance in the Asian hierarchy of power, stop deepening the partnership with the United States, and reconcile to a curtailed global role.
New Delhi cannot do this, for its own national interests are at stake. While there is a need for a diplomatic reset, enhanced military capabilities and economic policies to reduce dependence on China, one other area which requires greater investment is the expertise on China in India. India is too dependent on a very limited set of retired diplomats and military officials who have engaged with China, select intelligence officials and diplomats who speak Mandarin, and a small set of academics outside government. This is not tenable. To understand Chinese motivations better, India needs more experts on the decision-making apparatus in China, the functioning of the Chinese Communist Party, the dynamic between the party and the People’s Liberation Army, China’s economic drivers and changing social dynamics, and its quest for digital dominance. For this, India must invest in language training, field visits, fellowships, and dedicated institutes. To battle China, understand it better.
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