Two Unrestricted Chinese Hammers and All Nails

“If the only tool you have is a hammer, it is tempting to treat everything as if it were a nail. So said Colonels Qiao and Wang when they outlined the concept of “Unrestricted Warfare”. Though primarily postulated to contend with America, the Chinese have been using this concept widely against India. Off late, Chinese have started behaving as if they have only two tools – economic and military hammers. Anything and everything concerned India are nails to be hammered. All one must do is look around – trade imbalance, CPEC and BRI, String of Pearls, cyber war and more. Time to give China a taste of its own medicine in appropriate dose.

Return Gift Contours

The thought process of a return gift of unrestricted warfare was first outlined in an earlier article – Slaying The Dragon: Unrestricted Warfare( At that time only the tenets of unrestricted war against China were outlined. Now, certain clear lines of action can be identified. However, to start with,  a few broad ideas are being reiterated.
Ø  China is India’s main adversary as said by late George Fernandes. That has not changed and will not change in future also.
Ø  There is only one rule – there are no rules.
Ø  It takes an idea to spark a revolution.

 China in military transition and economic slowdown is entering an instability phase which is  likely to last about a decade or more. In this period, it will not give up its expansionist ambitions of being a superpower. In fact, if anything there is all likelihood that it will be more aggressive than before. Such aggression will be more pronounced when it comes to India: which is the fastest growing economy in the world and perceived to be its major competitor. We need to protect our interests today more than before by means other than conventional war also.

The Taste of Medicine

China has been analyzed to be an overstretched hegemon ( The chinks in Chinese armor are many. The weakest chink of any autocratic socialist system is repressed human capital though it is masked in the garb of collective harmony. A cooling Chinese economy is worrying the world about an impending shock ( That is a major chink. The pace of a transforming military leaves China at the risk of not being able to cope with the rate at which its interests have expanded. These main chinks must be the theme around which some definite action can be initiated.

The Medicine

 Religion. Chinese fear religion the most since it will induce rebellion against communism. It is a loaded pistol at the heart of its system. Communism is great for young minds. An ageing population turns naturally to religion. This has allowed religion to make a great comeback. Buddhism, Islam, Daoism and Christianity are practiced widely and growing. Curbing of religious freedoms is, inevitably, going to become more difficult with the passage of time. The religion with most appeal is Buddhism. China has an estimated 260 million amongst a global 540 million Buddhists.  As per Mr G Parthasarathy, the time has surely come for India to seek political, spiritual, cultural and economic dividends, by virtue of being the land where Gautama Buddha was born, lived and attained Nirvana. Gaya is the mecca of Buddhism and Dalai Lama is headquartered in India. ( These are aces to be exploited through religious tourism. Nothing fanatic. Just spread good religious teachings. This mind battle has tremendous potential. However, we must have the intent to open the flood gates.

Trade War. The trade war is weakening China. It has more to lose economically in an all-out trade war ( If the war prolongs, its production-oriented economy needs alternate markets. India is a major hedge. Though the balance of trade is against us, the balance to negotiate is in our favor. In the dawn of isolation, we need to negotiate without reservation. WTO or not. One way or the other Chinese imports into India must encounter higher tariffs and a more competitive market. Hence encouragement of alternates for cheap Chinese goods should be given. When we can have a ‘Jan Jagran’ campaign against adultery why not against cheap substandard goods or campaigns like ‘be Indian buy Indian’.
BRI and CPEC. The ambitious BRI and CPEC are major vulnerabilities of China. CPEC is the most vulnerable. In some cases, BRI projects are developing as open sores which can be pushed into festering. ROI to China from BRI projects must get into the diminishing zone.  Each case must have a different approach. India along with Japan, Australia and USA must give alternate vision to BRI nations.  It is not a Quad approach but something beyond. Already the Chabahar Port is an alternate narrative ( Also, BRI is taking shape in countries whose political systems are currently autocratic. Inject democracy into the system things will happen.  Malaysia, Maldives and to some extent Sri Lanka are examples. The tide of history is against BRI. Most mega plans of such nature have failed in the past with disastrous results. This has been analyzed earlier.  ( There is already talk of demise of BRI. This will open huge opportunities and change many dynamics significantly. (

Energy Security.  Energy security is critical to China. Any imbalance in its inbound energy flow will be an issue for China. It opens tremendous lines of action. This has been analyzed earlier (

Littorals of the China Seas.  Opening new areas of cooperation with the littoral countries of the South and East China Seas takes the battle to China’s shores. If they can do a string of pearls on us so can we to them. One might feel that it is outlandish. It is not. if we stop underestimation of our soft power, which we take for granted and often do not believe in. Combine it with an element of hard power and things will move. Taiwan, Vietnam, North Korea are countries to forge new relations in addition to strengthening relations with South Korea, Japan and other East Asian countries where Indian culture and origin population is significant. 
Tibet in Flames. There is nothing like having your backyard on fire. The threat of Tibet on fire should be enough to cool Chinese heels. In fact, just as Pakistan is China’s catspaw, Tibet could be ours. Tremendous scope to exploit. Hybrid war is China’s Achilles heel. Commitment in Tibet will upset their apple cart of transition.   

Neighbors. There is no doubt that India needs to do more with its neighbors. The basic tenet being deny space to China. This is an obvious line of action and does not need any elaboration.  

Contest Africa. China is Africa’s biggest trading partner. African resources have fueled China’s economy. African nations export minerals and resources and import Chinese manufactured goods. Chinese are heavy into infrastructure financing and development in Africa through the debt trap route. Many African countries are run large deficits with China. There is resentment on ground which gives India space to exploit, specially where there is substantial Indian origin population.

Andaman and Nicobar. Chinese view the Andaman Nicobar chain of islands as an iron wall in their ambitions to dominate the IOR and get out of the Malacca bottleneck. Articles have been appearing in various forum that we should strengthen this island chain. That is a no brainer. What  if we have a third fleet there which functions under the command? We might not have the ships for it at present, but merely designating it as a fleet with a HQ and structure will change many dimensions. 

Pakistani Catspaw. The Pakistani catspaw is a tough line of action but highly necessary. Any line of action against Pakistan will have resonance in China. The weakest link in the Naya Pakistan of Imran Khan is CPEC, the flagship of BRI. CPEC straddles Baluchistan and POK. Both are great vulnerabilities. There are many Pakistan experts who will tell us as to how to deal with the third front.      

Administering the Medicine

The lines of action outlined above are only a few. Many more can be thought of only if we have the will to do so. We might not do much but to just have a plan and let the Chinese know that their medicine could bitter taste will itself change things. If we start testing waters things will change faster. Remember ambition induces flexibility and changes behavior. Interest changes behavior. Ambitious interests under a dissipated cancerous threat will change behavior faster. It is a mind game. I hope this piece gets read in China and their mandarins realize what can happen. President Trump was not a fool to unleash Trade War. I am sure he or his advisers have read Colonels Qiao and Wang. India needs to take a leaf out of this book.      


  1. Extremely well articulated.The illness, the diagnosis, the prescription, and how to administer the medicine.As a Naval officer, I particularly like the suggestion of an Andaman and Nicobar fleet.When I joined the Navy some five decades ago, all the ragtag ships we had, essentially hand me downs frim the then All powerful Royal Navy, constituted the Indian Fleet.Today, we have two balanced three dimenainal fleets.We have graduated from a “buyer's navy” to a “builder's navy”.Yes, there is a ling way ti go to safeguard ouf national maritime interests -7513 Km of coast line and mire than 2 lakh sq km of EEZ.Let's start with the A&N Fleet.Is Naval Headquarters tuned in?

  2. I strongly agree with the point that even just having the strategies to deal with our nieghbours can change things for us as well as them. Though we must work all strategies possible to contain China on all fronts but in the long run may be cordial relations will be mutually beneficial.

  3. Though we should never completely believe in China however friendly the relations become

  4. Shanks extremely well articulated. Your depth of knowledge is phenomenal and your suggestions are bang on target. Govt. needs to set their priorities right and effectively push them through to maintain an upper edge.

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