How did China become India's biggest trading partner in 2020, Shivshankar Menon said (File)
India needs to restore deterrence if it wants to stop China from attempting to nibble at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and changing its status quo, noted strategic affairs expert and former National Security Adviser and foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon said on Saturday.
In an online discussion, he said making noises or building some international coalition in response to what China has been doing will be ineffective and India needs to strengthen itself along the LAC to make sure that the neighbouring country is not able to change the situation in its favour.
"The answer is not making noise or building some international coalition or passing resolution at the UN. To my mind (it) is ineffective. If you want to stop them from nibbling at the LAC and changing the status quo, you need to restore deterrence which we did partially around Pangong in August. You need to restore it across the line," he said.
Mr Menon, whose book ''India and Asian Geopolitics: Past, Present and Future'' has just been released, was replying to a question at the discussion organised by the Indian Women's Press Corps.
He also called for a broader vision of India's relationship with China.
"If we are saying peace and tranquillity is an essential condition for the rest of the relationship, then how do you explain the fact that in 2020, China again became your biggest trading partner overtaking the US which has been your number one trading partner in 2019. How do you explain the first quarter of this year, where trade has boomed between you and China, maybe because of medical supplies and the outrageous prices they are charging, whatever it is," Mr Menon said.
The former NSA also said that problem arises when attempts are made to spin the issues.
"The problem is when we start spinning these issues when we play them for domestic politics when we start telling lies about what is happening, what is not happening. Then you cannot deal with it effectively on the ground. Then it becomes very difficult," he said.
He said there was a need to think about how far India can economically decouple itself from China and what it is going to do to strengthen itself on the LAC to make sure that China cannot keep changing the situation in its favour whenever it suits it.
Asked whether the perception of India's mishandling of the second wave of the coronavirus crisis will have an impact on its image, Mr Menon said it was not possible now to gauge if there would be any long-term impact.
"I do not know about the long-term impact. I do not think we can say anything yet. But it certainly means that people will not rely on you to some extent," he said.
On what should be India's foreign policy priorities, Mr Menon said it must focus on consolidating relations with countries in the neighbourhood as also in the Indian Ocean region which included Southeast Asian nations.