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Spies, lies, and China’s invisible war against India

Source : Moneycontrol

Spies, lies, and China’s invisible war against India
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Amidst a series of pulls and pressure politics, the Sri Lankan government allowed the Chinese spy ship Yuan Wang 5 to dock in at (their own leased) Hambantota Port on August 16. This is neither the maiden visit by a Chinese spy ship nor is expected to be the last, notwithstanding New Delhi’s reservations. However, while we may have taken note of visible security threats from China in the instant case, we are perhaps oblivious of the invisible espionage by Chinese agencies having manifold impact on India’s military, economic, and political security.

The Chinese legacy in espionage is quite rich and traces its origin to the ancient times. As China surges ahead to economic and military superpower status, its espionage network is getting equally strong, wide, and well-connected. The Chinese spy agency, Guoanbu, is a lead spy agency with extensive network all over the world. However, the visible surveillance and counter-surveillance constitute only a small fraction of the vast invisible network that the Chinese have astutely laid around and within India over the years.

China uses different trajectories in consolidating and proliferating its espionage network against India. While Pakistan has always been a permanent backyard for the China to proliferate its surveillance network, the commissioning of numerous projects under the auspices of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) (under its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), may have provided ample opportunities for Beijing to place its listening instruments close to Indian frontier areas. The Chinese spies may have been working as engineers, technicians, etc. in these projects while enjoying complete discretion, protection, and shelter from Pakistan’s ISI operatives, and policemen. Unfortunately, this aspect has not been adequately researched and exposed.

Unlike Pakistan that has a closed and well-guarded border with India, Nepal has an open border with India, and a relatively relaxed border with China. As in Pakistan, China has also undertaken many infrastructure projects in Nepal, some of them dangerously close to Indian border. All this means that the inflow of the same tribe of spies as engineers, technicians, etc. collecting and collating data against India.

For instance, Nepal’s second international airport terminal at Lumbini (which is very close to the Indian border) has come up with Chinese financial and technical support. The near absence of military infrastructure in Indo-Gangetic plains on the Indian side provide safe heavens to Chinese agents indulging in cross-border operations.

In June, two Chinese men were caught on the Indo-Nepal border while trying to go back to Nepal after spending a fortnight in Delhi-NCR. Unlike other frontier areas, the India-Nepal border areas are heavily-populated but poorly policed. Poor conditions of road, rail and intelligence networks make the cross-border snooping perhaps easier. What is true of Pakistan and Nepal, is also true of Myanmar and Sri Lanka, albeit to a lesser extent.

Within India, the Chinese are busy replicating the strategies they have successfully adopted elsewhere in the world. While the heavy dependence on Confucius centres in countries like Nepal is visibly missing in India since there are few takers for so-called Chinese language doles, that has not stopped the Chinese in influencing some think-tanks and academicians.

China’s domination of Indian market again speaks of partial success of China’s economic intelligence. Slowly and silently, the Chinese exports of cheap products have killed many small-scale manufacturing sectors, dominating almost every item being consumed in the household ecosystem. So, even if you want a basic ball pen, it is ‘Made in China’. So is the case with high-end products like laptops and other computer hardware items. Such complete domination is not possible without years of well-crafted economic intelligence.

This then, is the state of Chinese invisible espionage against India. Apart from occupying important positions in most countries of our neighbourhood, it has also made the borders redundant in some cases. It has a long-term grand strategy to shift the societal attraction in these countries towards China, the Chinese language, and the Chinese culture. The Chinese would probably not mind continuing this strategy of an invisible war against India with rich dividends.

While we may have a grand strategy to minimise China’s invisible war against India, there is a disconnect in public policy efforts on the one hand and public apathy on the other hand. Strengthening of infrastructure along India-Nepal border, scrutiny and filtering of misguided academicians, and most importantly, better consumer awareness among the citizenry are the least that can be done. Here lies the challenge before India’s national security apparatus.

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