International Relations

Recognizing the central paradox while keeping China in the spotlight

Strategic goals must be determined by principal contradictions, thus New Delhi needs to identify what that contradiction is. India’s primary strategic contradiction today is China. Everything else falls under the rubric of secondary contradictions, including problems with its neighbours, internal insurgencies, and Pakistan.

Principal contradiction

  • A effective approach of optimising and prioritising strategic decision-making is the idea of a main contradiction, which is one that presents the greatest challenge to a person or organisation and has the capacity to influence its future decisions and subsequent consequences.

Principal contradiction with China

  • Simple inquiry regarding the decisions made by the policymakers: The China test, which is asking and responding to the simple question “does x or y choice/development/relationship help cope with the China threat, or not,” should be passed by major decisions in New Delhi’s strategic decision matrix.
  • China tests a tool for formulating policy Long-term strategic decision-making can benefit from a thoughtful “China test,” at least as an analytical tool with potential policy utility.

Elements of ‘China test’

  • Operationally speaking, the “China test” consists of three separate components.
  • Evaluation of Indian decisions: an evaluation of how a particular Indian choice or area growth fits with Chinese regional strategy or objectives.
  • Determining if the decisions need Modifications: An evaluation of whether India would need to make modifications at the level of secondary contradictions as a result of its choice or a particular regional development.
  • Evaluation of whether it necessitates a significant internal policy change: An evaluation of whether this would necessitate a significant internal policy change. Let me use a few instances to illustrate the usefulness of the “China test.”


The takeaway from the China test for New Delhi is rather simple: India’s grand strategic planning and decision-making must include consideration of China’s deft balancing in Southern Asia and beyond.

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