Edit & Opinion

The China Clutter: Call for clarity

Following the extremely violent clash at Galwan Valley between Indian and Chinese troops, resulting in deaths on both sides, there are trees of newspaper articles, plethora of TV debates, and plenty of name-calling in social media by both the INC and BJP supporters. Frankly, in these highfalutin expositions, there is little clarity, more confusion and little light, more heat.

One is exasperated of the articles, mainly by former diplomats, which are simply trite, mechanical and pedantic interpretation of issues. Sample this one by a former diplomat, who was our ambassador to China, he reminds us of the Indian-China Agreements of 1993, 1996, and 2005. He even quotes Article 1 of the April 2005 Agreement on the Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for settlement of the India-China boundary question, “Neither side shall use or threaten to use force against the other by any means”. His conclusion is even more pedantic and platitudinous. He says, “Bilateral relations between India and China cannot progress unless there is peace on the borders”. Can it be more esoteric?

Why do we not call a spade a spade on China? Why do we beat around the bush? China is devious and perfidious. It has been so since 1924 when Rabindranath Tagore went there to seek Chinese solidarity for building an Asian civilisation. He was disappointed with Chinese cold-shouldering him, and worse, hounding his hosts. They have been consistently anti-India and have betrayed every agreement and understanding with callous impunity. The 2005 Agreement quoted above proscribed use of force and firearms; so on 15 June, the PLA troops used spiked and barbed wired rods, knuckle-dusters and such instruments. It was a premeditated assault on our soldiers.

The second source of exasperation is continued conjectures on China’s motives in encroaching into our territory. I have been saying every week, in this column, and elsewhere that we need not waste our breath or ink in articulating ‘Chinese compulsions’ in trespassing into our territory. They have been doing it routinely since 1962, salami slicing our land. We need to concentrate all our energies– intellectual, diplomatic, military and nationalistic– in demolishing our enemy number one and retrieving all our territory.

The third trite is our non-alignment posturing. A good many commentators and former diplomats are talking of our defence preparedness against China. Some of us have been arguing for long that we have to take on China in strategic alliance, not on our own. It will take time to have parity with China on military and economic terms. We cannot buy that time out, nor will China wait that long to be confronted and compromised, it will keep gnawing at us.

Besides, China is an international land mafia, grabbing territories from other countries. Let us look at some of the land of other countries China is occupying illegally. China is illegally occupying East Turkestan, Tibet, Yunnan, South Mongolia, Manchuria, a big portion of Ladakh, Sakshgam, Pamir Valley. In addition, China has territorial disputes with India, Japan, Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan, and others.

When we talk of China, we simply focus on its incendiary approach to India in collusion with Pakistan. It is, of late, gulling our other neighbours to be antagonistic. We simply concentrate on retrieving 43000 sq km of territory China has snatched from us. The territory we have lost to China includes Aksai Chin taken away in 1962, Karakoram Pass in 1963, Tia Pangnak in 2008, Chabji Valley in 2008, Doom Cheley in 2009, Demzok in 2012, Raki Nula in 2014, Galwan Valley and Pangong Tso are being fought out at this writing.

The other belligerent and inimical acts of China against India need not be repeated here. Its support to terrorism, blocking our membership into NSG, imposing an unfair trade relation, blocking the expansion of UNSC to include India, meddling with our neighbours against us, all these are in public domain now.

The political mud-slinging between BJP and INC is out of order at this critical time. Congress is guilty of being weak against China in protecting our territory. Nehru, in the face of clear caution by Sardar Patel and other socialist leaders like Ram Manohar Lohia was gulled by the Chinese in his obsession against the West. About the other PMs from Congress barring Indira Gandhi, less said the better on their China approach.

Surprisingly, BJP, which warms up to the West more than the INC, has been caught in the China syndrome. Two PMs from BJP, both Vajpayee and Modi too fumbled against China. Modi increased our trade dependence on China; misread the Chinese treacherous mind like his predecessors. He perhaps thought he could charm his way to Xi Jinping. Instead of going on a spree of arms purchase, Modi should have encircled the Chinese with concrete military alliances.

Encouragingly, Modi did try to contain China by joining the Quad and huddling with Trump. He developed good personal equations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and Donald Trump. He should have signed mutual security agreements with all the three countries. Instead, he tried to engage with China. How could he expect China to be friendly when you are jumping into its enemy bandwagon? How can you be in both tents at the same time– in the tents Kauravas and Pandavas in the biggest battle like Mahabharata?

At any rate, we are here now facing a predatory, unlawful and unreliable but a formidable enemy at our door, which has grabbed our territory, tried to squeeze us by engineering hostilities around us. We should not be prisoners of our past, avoid political brinkmanship and fight in complete unity. On matters of national security, no party politics is to be encouraged. The government, however, should not be intolerant of criticism. No one should have the temerity to criticise our army which is so disciplined and motivated. It is the Defence Minister, the politician, we could ask questions to.

In order to undo the past, and fix China, we need to do the following things in short term, medium term and long term. The short term strategy is to take our friends into confidence, Israel and the US in particular, and take military action if necessary to push China back from Galwan Valley, and from our side of the LAC. India should also think of as a retaliation of blocking the Chinese oil ships in the Indian Ocean, where China has no naval presence to fight back. In the medium term, a heavy diplomatic offensive to isolate China as threat to world peace and security, along with that, reduce our trade connection with China in a calibrated manner to the bare minimum in keeping with international trade rules.

In the long term, we must work for the break-up of China to liberate the countries and territories occupied by it. A truncated China, not Greater China is good for us and the world. China, the biggest autocracy fears India, the biggest democracy of the world. Our pluralist democracy is our innate strength the world recognises, we should never dilute it in our fight against China. Finally, any backtracking on China and making it business as usual will be suicidal. We must guard against that tendency we have had from the past vis-a-vis China. There is no room for complacency any more, but a lot of room for manoeuvre. There is no time better than now to deal with China.

 

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