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China is playing Go. India needs to learn the game | Opinion – analysis


The most famous aphorism of the Chinese strategist Sun Tzu is something like this. He said: “If you do not know the enemy or yourself, you will succumb in every battle. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory you obtain you will also suffer defeat. If you know the enemy and yourself, you should not fear the result of a hundred battles “

Strategists learn about adversaries by observing their actions and statements, interpreting their behavior, and studying their leaders. But the cunning ones understand the mentality of the enemies when studying their culture.

Leaders and tactics can change, but strategies and doctrines are embedded in a nation’s culture and mindset and are therefore better predictors of its actions. Both China and India have a rich culture and several texts that explain the respective mindsets, but an easier way to explain the difference is to study the strategy games of the two nations.

Chess originated in India. The game is played by two players on a 64-square board with 16 black and white pieces each. Opponents start the game with all of their pieces aligned with each other and each player moves alternately. The pieces have powers in hierarchical order, with the queen being the most powerful. All the pieces change position continuously during the game.

As those familiar with chess know, it is a game of maneuvers that has a center of gravity: the king; and the goal is to capture or “kill” the opponent’s king. The loss of the rest of the pieces or their positions at the end of the game is irrelevant.

The Chinese strategy game, however, is “igo”, commonly known as “Go”. It is played on a much larger board that has 19×19 sides, resulting in 361 points compared to 64 squares in Chess. In Go, the stones are placed at the “intersections” of the squares to deny “freedom” to the opponent’s stones. Go also has black and white pieces called stones, but that’s where the similarity to chess ends. Go’s goal is not to capture a single piece; instead, it is to surround a larger total area of ​​the board with one’s stones before the opponent. As the game progresses, players place stones on the board to map potential formations and territories. Competitions between opposing formations result in the expansion, reduction, or capture and loss of stones. The winner is decided by counting the territory surrounded by each player along with the captured stones.

China has been playing Go, not chess with India. It has been playing on a multidimensional canvas much larger than the Indian land mass and on various spectrums, ranging from military “intersections” to economic “intersections” that block India’s “freedom” or maneuverability for a long period . He has deceived all of India’s neighbors by persuading, coaxing, or inciting them to his camp. It has infiltrated India’s economic, infrastructure, healthcare, communication and technology value chain so inextricably that, unlike silly calls to boycott Chinese products, India cannot significantly disassociate itself from its dependence from China.

While there is no doubt about the value of our army, the cost of militarily facing an adversary whose economy is more than five times greater than ours and whose defense budget is four times ours would be horrendous in human and economic terms in the decades to come. This is particularly true because China has turned India’s northern and western neighbors into its surrogate pincers, tying up much of our military assets and our strategic involvement in mind. If India considers the military option, it will have to take into account China’s overwhelming superiority in the Ladakh region specifically, and in electronic warfare, cyber warfare, drones, missiles, and the nuclear arsenal of the People’s Liberation Army in general. .

The word “igo” in Mandarin literally means surround, and that is China’s strategy with a combination of the “Chain of pearls” (which refers to maritime line communications from China to the Horn of Africa through strategic points throttling and maritime centers in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Somalia) along the Indian coast and the Belt and Road initiative in the North. Nepal, Bhutan and now Ladakh are additional “stones” that are being placed to restrict India’s maneuverability from all directions.

Rather than treating these episodes as singular events, India should join the dots to appreciate the Chinese game plan and devise a counter-strategy along three lines of thrust.

First, a fence cannot be broken only from the inside. Instead, India must expand the “board” through cooperation with countries such as Japan, Australia, Taiwan, Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore, and Vietnam, which are increasingly threatened by China’s hegemonic movements. At the same time, it must generate pressure from within the fence through an approach with immediate neighbors such as Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka. This requires that we think like a Go player and appreciate that unlike chess, Go stones have no relative power. India has much greater historical synergies with each of our neighbors, including Pakistan, than China. Each stone, or in this case, country, is important, regardless of its physical or economic size. We need to value them as equal partners in the fight against Chinese hegemony. Second, India must restructure its national security strategy horizons into decades rather than electoral cycles. If a government’s image is intertwined with tactical deadlines, then, by definition, strategy will be affected because tactical and strategic objectives generally have cross purposes. The divorce of national security from politics will allow the development of indigenous capacities in the long term and the strengthening of external alliances.

Finally, and most importantly, India needs to consolidate its internal critical mass. The country faces multiple challenges on several fronts, more seriously the economy. Political power, as Mao said, can grow at gunpoint, but national power emanates from a strong and vibrant economy, which, in turn, requires internal peace, cooperation and harmony to inspire trust from customers and investors. Unless these conditions are met, no country can aspire to be a regional power or thwart attacks against its sovereignty.

Raghu Raman is the founding CEO of NATGRID

The opinions expressed are personal.

Hindustan Times