"While it may be safe to assume that China does not seek an escalation or a wider conflict (with India), the fact is that it holds more cards than India," says Arun Bhatnagar in his book "India: Shedding the Past, Embracing the Future 1906-2017" (Konark Publishers).
"The long-term strategy or goals that the Chinese wish to advance by taking an uncompromising position are to restrict India's influence globally and to curb its emergence as a pre-eminent power in South Asia," says Bhatnagar, a retired civil servant with close to four decades of experience who was also associated with the National Advisory Council in 2004-08.
"The stakes are very high for India," adds the 264-page book, an overview of Indian history from the early 20th century to now.
"As of now, the net result is that India-China relationship, carefully constructed, despite the odds, in the last three decades is disintegrating and this too in a very short period of time," the book says.
Bhatnagar also says that China's growing influence in South Asia amounts to creating a web of strategic alliances with India's neighbours, eclipsing New Delhi's influence in the region. "There can be no underestimation of the Chinese threat."
The author warns that the days of India viewing Bhutan as a "protectorate" were over. "India's Big-Brother demeanour has not helped, either with Bhutan or Nepal, or elsewhere."
The author adds that although a major plank on which Narendra Modi won the 2014 Lok Sabha election was the promise to defeat Pakistan's proxy war, "a blow-hot-blow-cold approach suggests that a coherent strategy has yet to be put in place".
On the domestic front, Bhatnagar says that India cannot achieve its development goals if it was trapped in the morass of communal conflicts and ethnic strife.
"However, the biggest cause of worry should be that the government continues to be in denial mode of the actual state of the economy and often opts for diversionary action such as the setting up of yet another Economic Advisory Council.
"This denial is extremely dangerous since the first step to resolving a problem is to acknowledge that it exists.
"In the fourth year of its term, the NDA-II faces a major crisis which has emerged not from issues like Pakistan and terrorism that dominate the headlines, but from the vital issue of the middle-class standards of living and its expectations.
"Global fuel prices are much lower than they were during the UPA, but the benefit of the drop in prices has not been passed on to the consumer.
"The situation is critical enough to force the preparation of a stimulus package, even at the risk of increasing the fiscal deficit," says Bhatnagar, grandson of eminent scientist and educationist Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar.
The views expressed are solely of the author.
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