India’s Soft Power Remains Diminished, But Beijing’s Appeal Remains Untested

The politics of the subcontinent are intractable.  That’s because most westerners shape their policy convictions from inside the ideological symmetries of the enlightenment whose apex is Westphalia.  Clearly, whoever continues to teach it this way hasn’t visited the subcontinent where caste, identity, race, religion and nation state all compete for allegiance.  This contorted reality isn’t something that can be taught, it must be experienced and the best way to encounter it is language.

Chinese languages are tonal.  So is english in Briton.  Tonal incantations reveal class, just as they do in Shanghai, London and throughout the subcontinent.  This is a tactile reality that is only partially encapsulated in language.  To experience this as an encounter, one would need to ride the rails of India and witness the barrage of class separated upon ticketed in railways.

Beijing isn’t a credible proxy in the subcontinent.  It barely gains credibility outside of Bhutan, a small Buddhist nation state that it seeks to usurp.  Chinese partisans just recently found out that Bhutanese politico’s are housed in New Delhi, where India’s own address the fleeting concerns of Bhutan.  The heavy hand of Beijing isn’t credible within the social machinations of India and its dependencies.  India has historically dominated its smaller neighbors effortlessly much the same way the U.S. handles the Caribbean.

Beijing has proved to be a fast learner and has sought to envelop India.

Sri Lanka granted Beijing a 99 year lease on its geo-strategically southern cost.  In the recent Nepalese elections, two communist parties swept parliamentary polls having openly campaigned for stronger Chinese dependency.  The southern Maldives became the second south Asian nation state after Pakistan to ratify a free-trade agreement with China.  Chinese cartography dominates its view of the both trans-Indian trade and geopolitics.

What’s different this time around is the scale and speed of China’s incursion on the periphery of the subcontinent.  Beijing continues to test Bhutan’s traditional Indian orbit by openly building a road contested by India and China.

Even though New Delhi suffers from weak institutional constraints in its relations with border states throughout the subcontinent, Beijing continues to openly rely on a heavy approach in its relations with Indian dependencies.  The actual foundation underwriting this approach is racial, nevertheless, Indian consternation will have profound consequences that have yet to unfold.

India’s foreign aid has yet to break through a thicket of poorly reformed public sector companies.  And while Modi may be stumbling, Beijing hasn’t prepared for what is to happen when New Delhi pushes back.  India’s upper political chamber is riddled with oligarchic monopolies that can sustain, even rival the best sovereign intelligence networks in the world.

If China thinks it can openly solicit to dominate New Delhi on its periphery, just wait until its ensconced deep inside India.

About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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