The disengagement in Ladakh seems to have begun. China is stepping back from three contentious areas; Galwan, Hot Springs and Gogra. Everyone at home and abroad is cautioning New Delhi to carefully monitor the withdrawal; never to take the Chinese on their word, which they often go back on.
Frankly, it is not yet clear where the Chinese had come to on the Indian side of the territory, and how far they are withdrawing. On land grabbing China has a strategy of “two steps forward, and one step backward”. They also have ‘nibble and negotiate policy’. The Prime Minister’s statement “no one has entered our territory, there are no foreign troops on our posts’ too had created massive confusion.
Critics argue that New Delhi lost ground in Galwan negotiations. On Chinese aggression in East Ladakh, Modi does a Nehru. New Delhi has given in too soon in pursuit of a quick de-escalation. Modi will be mentioned by historians as the first Prime Minister to lose to the Chinese without a fight.
Evidently, according to the hardliners, China had encroached Despang y-junction and Galwan’s pp-14. By agreeing to a buffer zone on the Indian side of LAC, and to Indian patrolling to the west of the confluence of Galwan and Shyok rivers, India will practically stay out of Galwan valley. This confirms the new claim Beijing makes on the entire Galwan valley.
At any rate, the pro-government media began chest-thumping on the withdrawal. They bloviate that New Delhi pushed the Chinese back beyond Indian territory without firing a bullet. It is the biggest victory led by the Prime Minister from the front. His saber-rattling speech to our soldiers at Nimbu, Ladakh not only echoed in Beijing but empowered smaller countries like Bhutan and Myanmar to stare back at the Chinese dictator Xi Jinping. As a nationalist, and a pluralist, in deep abhorrence of communist, neo-imperialist China I will join the celebration. I did as a panelist in the celebratory discussion on a channel.
However, I made a point strongly. That is, Ladakh is the tip of the iceberg of China’s insidious hegemonic designs. China is claiming territory from almost all of its neighbours, having illegally annexed independent countries like Tibet and Xinxiang. It occupies about 53000 sq kms of Indian territory. Our aim should be to retrieve our land, liberate Tibet, and recreate the buffer (Tibet) between Indian and China. Only then, we should celebrate.
I know it is a tall order, but not an impossible task. It may sound absurd too and it did to some panelists. Recall what the wisest man of the world had said; “only those who attempt the absurd can achieve the impossible”. In any case, the Chinese empire would fall like the Soviet one did. Whether India works towards the disintegration of Chinese empire or not, it is inevitable. But it is in India’s interest that New Delhi aids the process of China’s break-up.
The saying goes, “once a mistake a comedy, twice a mistake a farce, thrice the same mistake a tragedy.” Modi has experienced, if not committed, the mistake twice, Doklam and Ladakh, in his six-year tenure at the helm. If he continues with China as business-as-usual, the tragedy is waiting to happen.
Someone in the panel, innocent of global geo-politics, made an altruistic reaction. She said we are not for disintegration of any country; splitting of Pakistan happened by chance. She obviously did not notice or comprehend the word ‘empire’. We should liberate the illegally occupied lands and countries from the Chinese empire, not truncating the mainland China.
Liberating our land and Tibet should be our long-term goal. That is taking the fight to China. Short of such a paradigmatic strategic shift, we will find China like a fly in the ointment. Look at the most recent experience under Modi. After Doklam standoff, he hit top gear in making up with China. His two informal summits in Wuhan and Mahabalipuram, deepening business ties, heavy imports from China, making our economy China-dependent, were all examples of short-sighted approach. The deepening of relations took place in the face of China’s persistent and unflinching hostility towards India.
Apparently, Modi’s foreign policy suffers from two perceptional flaws. One, Pakistan is Indian’s enemy number one. Fighting Pakistan on terrorism and saving Kashmir has been the raison d’être of our foreign policy. Instead, it should have been China, not Pakistan; the latter is only a vassal of the former. Some experts suggest that anti-Pakistan posturing and policies paid electoral dividends by polarising the electorate. I would not doubt for a second BJP’s nationalism or patriotism, it is their misjudgment of who the real enemy is.
The second flaw is Modi’s assertion of India’s strategic autonomy and the Indian Prime Minister being one of the world leaders. This is a hang-over of Nehruvian aspirations. One can be reckoned as the world leader when the country(s) he leads is economically strong, politically credible and socially stable. India can boast of democracy and pluralism, but not of the other, the crucial one, economy.
Nehru followed a nebulous non-aligned policy which collapsed when we signed the Peace and Security Treaty with Soviets in 1971. He trusted the Chinese and depended on the Soviets. Modi did no different. When the bulk of our trade is with Americans, and we share democratic polities with Europe, Australia, USA, South Korea, Japan and Israel who promise to stand by us in defense of our democracy, we walk into both Soviet and Chinese entrapment. And another imprudent strategy is to massively buy weapons from Soviets which they sell to Chinese as well. Why is this contradiction or compulsion?
Besides, making heavy defense purchases is not a wise step for a developing economy like ours. Why do we have to fight alone when others are willing to help? USA would help in its own interest to maintain the numero uno position. It has no territorial dispute with China, why does it put two of its aircraft carriers in South China Sea. It stands behind Taiwan, Philippines, South Korea, Japan and others. It has declared to support India too. Why is New Delhi dithering?
The first trip any high-ranking leader made abroad during the LAC stand-off was to Moscow in order to purchase more weapons. Why has the Foreign Minister not been to the US to discuss things? One can understand if New Delhi is doing quiet diplomacy and building strategic alliances, placating the Russians, and not escalating the conflict with Chinese, buying time to strike etc. But in these days of satellite and high-tech espionage, nothing remains a secret.
Honestly, New Delhi should pitch its tent high; make the necessary formal strategic alliances to take on China to a logical and satisfactory end, which is the retrieval of our land including Aksai Chin and Shaksgam. These recurrent skirmishes on LAC and Chinese atrocious claim on Arunachal Pradesh etc would cease only when Xi Jinping’s China is made to bite dust like Hitler was. India cannot do it alone, however much weaponry it accumulates.
So, from now on, having recognised her own strengths and limitations, New Delhi will have to embrace multiple alliances and engagement, as a member of a larger team. No more strategic autonomy, nor non-aligned, nor a balancer. These are irrelevant, cost-enhancing, and unworkable stances. A pro-active approach against China in a solid alliance framework is what should be the new internationalism of India.