China's think tanks are different. Unlike US think tanks that are ostensibly independent of government, and a few really are, in China they are tied to the State Council or the Communist Party of China, which itself is the country's leading think tank in terms of effectiveness. They are different too because they are run by genuine intellectuals and scholars, unlike ours, which are packed with retired bureaucrats, generals and air marshals and journalists who couldn't really make it because most are government funded. Which is not to say that good papers do not sometimes come out of them or they are not used by governments for work that needs to seem non-governmental, like the Track II diplomacy with India. But they have little or no impact on government policy. Chinese think tanks have to be taken seriously, especially when they go public, for they definitely reflect government's thinking, and few more so than the China Institute of Strategic Studies. Thus the BBC News report earlier this month that the China Institute of Strategic Studies had come out with a study penned by someone with the pseudonym of 'Zhan Lue', which apparently means 'Strategy', that India should be broken into 30 independent states, made people sit up. We who had grown so used to the perennial claptrap that America would fragment Pakistan never thought that China would talk of fragmenting India. Obviously it put a cat of tiger proportions amongst India's pigeons. The Indian foreign ministry dismissed Zhan's report as "the work of an individual that did not reflect the official Chinese position." The question arises that if this is all that it was, why did the Indian government even have to take notice of it and thus bring it to world attention? The inevitable conclusion is that the report is serious and has to be taken seriously. Zhan suggests that a fragmented India would lead to prosperity in the region and would be in China's interest. The latter is stating the obvious; the former merits consideration because a country as large as India run on an alien political system cannot relieve the poverty of so many people, as China has done and continues to do with its homegrown system. (The same holds true of Pakistan, by the way). Despite 62 years of endless elections that pass for 'democracy', 76 percent or more of India's people remain desperately poor, earning $2 per day or less. (The figure is a couple of points lower in Pakistan, which is equally disgraceful). The report has been removed from the Internet, but the Times of India quoted Zhan as saying that Beijing "should work toward the break-up of India into 20-30 independent states with the help of friendly countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan." Zhan suggests: "China should join forces with 'different nationalities' such as [the] Tamil and Kashmiri people so that they can establish independent nation-states of their own." Zhan also mentions the state of Arunachal Pradesh along the Chinese border over which the two countries have a dispute. The other is Aksai Chin. India and China went to war over these territories in 1962. Then there's the longish article by Bharat Verma in India Defense Review, of which he is editor. Verma contends: "China will launch an attack on India before 2012." Why? "There are multiple reasons for a desperate Beijing to teach India the final lesson, thereby ensuring Chinese supremacy in Asia in this century. The recession that shut the Chinese export shop is creating an unprecedented internal social unrest. In turn, the vice-like grip of the communists over the society stands severely threatened." There is gross exaggeration here piled upon outright fiction and wishful thinking. The Chinese "export shop" (don't you detect a tinge of jealously here?) is not "shut". Exports have gone down, not dried up. As for the "vice-like grip" of the CPC, it's nowhere near being threatened. If Mr Verma knew China, he would know how much the Chinese people cherish stability after the horrors of the Cultural Revolution, though this might not stop the US from trying to conjure up another Tiananmen Square. Unemployment has risen to 14 percent, says Verma, there is massive flight of capital via Hong Kong, "the growing irrelevance of Pakistan, their right hand that operates against India on their behest, is increasing the Chinese nervousness", India's democracy is an eyesore for China and so on and so forth. "The communists in China, therefore, need a military victory to unite the disillusioned citizenry behind them." Such pie in the sky matches some of the pie in the sky that comes from our analysts. Verma then asks whether the Indian leadership will be able to take "the heat of the war", is its military well enough equipped "to face a two-front war by Beijing and Islamabad" and is the civil administration geared to face the internal security challenges (read separatists) who will be sponsored externally. "The answer," says Verma, "is an unequivocal 'NO'. Pacifist India is not ready by a long shot either on the internal or the external front." The 'pacifist' bit is rich, though. China retorted at the "illusion" of a Chinese attack on India by 2012 in an article by Chen Xiaochen in China Business News, saying that the 'reasons' for the attack given by Verma are balderdash. "...there is only one scenario where there is possibility for war: an aggressive Indian policy toward China, a 'New Forward Policy' may aggravate border disputes and push China to use force...The answers lie mainly on the Indian side. Given China's relatively small military garrison in Tibet, India's 60,000 additional soldiers may largely break the balance. Additional soldiers? After some slight friction with China in 1959, the Indian army implemented aggressive action known as its Forward Policy. The Chinese Army made a limited but successful counterattack in 1962." India's additional 60,000 soldiers along the disputed border with China is the latest Forward Policy. So what is Mr Chen saying? That, yes, there could be war but not for the reason Verma mentions but because of India's aggressive Forward Policy which, apparently, is already in place. This is frightening. What's going on? Messers Zhan, Verma and Chen talk blithely of war between two nuclear-armed neighbours with populations of one billion plus each going to war for pretty facetious sounding reasons as if it were a game of chess. One wonders when the human race is going to mature. If this is going to be the Asian Century, it cannot happen if Asia's two biggest countries start a war with each other. They should remember that things never go exactly according to plan in any war. The human suffering alone will be horrific. They should remember too that when the European imperialists started fighting each other during the last century the sun set on their empires. World leadership passed on to the US and the USSR in which the former was the eventual victor and the 20th century came to be known as the American century. The writer is a senior political analyst E-mail: