(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
No country has more land or maritime borders than China has. It has 14 neighbours around its’ 22,000 km land borders. In South China Sea, there are six (Vietnam, Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia). And if you thought it had good relations with at least one, even Russia and North Korea could disappoint you. (You could click here and know all why China is so prickly).
It doesn’t add up.
President Xi Jinping once said there’s “no gene for invasion in the Chinese people’s blood.” But then you have its media organs emitting more fire in a day than a Dragon would in its’ lifetime.
It doesn’t add up.
China claims its military preparedness—the monsters it showcases in its military parades—is defensive in nature. Its embedded media in foreign journals, its implanted professors in your OpEds all harangue how the peaceful rise of a nation—which shares its wealth with all comers, be it Africa, Latin America or Europe—is being resented by a fading superpower in the United States. That China is beefing up just in case the United States tries out its hand before the balance shifts irrevocably. But what threat China has from Myanmar, Bhutan, Singapore or Brunei? I mean Nepal?
It doesn’t add up.
As I fiddle with my scrapbook, I find President Xi uttering: “A far-off relative is not as good as a close neighbour.” Really? Then why lay trap for them as housewives do for nibbling rats on the kitchen floors. You want your Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to reach Ushuaia, the end of the world, and yet you want trouble on its very first mile. The only harmony you have is with your “far-off relatives” in Africa and Latin America.
It doesn’t add up.
The funny thing is China hasn’t added an inch to its territory for all this muscle-flexing. I mean ignore Rahul Gandhi for a moment who believes China is already inside our drawing rooms. Or Aksai Chin whose every stone and pebble is worth in gold for the Beijing. But at least for a decade, the only capture China has managed is headlines. It would appear China doesn’t want peace but it doesn’t want war either. Who exactly is sitting inside the Foreign office building of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)?
CCP is different; Chinese people are different
My theory is, to begin with, we must not confuse China with Chinese people. Before Communists took over, China had a civilisation. It had its own tradition, culture and rituals. Now to the outside world, all they have is factory labours whose backs have inclined forward an extra millimetre even as I write this. It’s not a happy society where voices are shackled and your family numbers, your working hours and daily wages are dictated by the Big Brother.
How do you make sure that it remains that way without a challenge to your authority? Well, one of course is the way of Tiananmen Square. The other is to constantly remind them that the decades of Colonial slavery is returning. That West again has a barrel pointing its nozzle towards the peaceful China. That we must make sacrifices—Ah, that essential Communist ideology of eternal struggle—for the glory of the motherland.
Secondly, Beijing has seen the benefits of flexing muscle with its neighbours. Most cower. Like Myanmar who has admitted that they are afraid of China. That if the big neighbour was to shutdown projects, it would strengthen the embedded Communist insurgents who owe their existence to Beijing. Nepal wonders why China is on its tail when it did its bidding against India? That what does Beijing really mean when it constructs 11 buildings inside their territory and then leave them unoccupied? To what end?
Well, the end is to have a still more strangulating effect on the world which already owes hundreds of trillion dollars to Beijing. To make the poor neighbours at its borders to keep prostrating. Very few react the way Modi’s India did. That move has backfired. If the intention was to weaken Modi internally, and its stooges to take over New Delhi, the recent poll wins convey a different outcome. But this exception doesn’t bend the rule of holding neighbours by throat.
When everyone is talking about how to defend the Diaoyu Islands, how to crack whip on the Philippines, how to fix the upstart Vietnam, how to pull India’s ears which is nurturing the Quad and stood up to in Doklam, the society falls in line. What appears a belligerent Beijing to the outside world is projected as besieged Beijing to its people. A handful of people who control the destiny of a billion and a half citizens are probably doing it for selves and not for the future of the motherland. What if China burns and the humanity is doomed.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
It would be a grave misjudgement to believe that China has walked over India in a physical showdown in Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh on Monday.
If nothing, ask the Chinese who made moves in lockstep over the last few weeks to test India’s nerves and found a nation mature in diplomacy and dare in equal measure.
India has used velvet gloves against a petulant Nepal which thumbed its nose on borders but didn’t elicit a raging anger from New Delhi that would’ve played into the hands of its puppeteer, China. India knows, as does Nepal, that the latter can’t survive without India’s open borders. Simply, the land-locked nation would run out of essential supplies. A manufactured border dispute has no future but for headlines and talk shows.
China meanwhile had crossed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) at four different points in Ladakh, agreed for de-escalation but then stayed put when the two armies were to pull themselves back by a few kilometres. India would have none of an enemy’s forward-post left standing inside the Galwan Valley which belongs to India. It didn’t backdown from a physical combat either since arms and ammunitions are avoided by the two neighbours in sensitive stretches of border running into thousands of kilometres.
Now has come the news that Indian Army has been empowered to act as per the ground situation without looking for directions from New Delhi. In other words, the Indian Army has been freed from political constraints. It’s an unambiguous message to Beijing that they are now in the wilds. That your superior nuclear stockpiles, defence spending or armaments wouldn’t be of much aid if it’s bare knuckle fight. So, if it’s to fists, stones and clubs now, may the best man win. There is no referee.
Indian Express has quoted an army source thus: “Army has been given emergency powers for deployment there as per needs and new situations without looking towards Delhi…We have to demonstrate our strength on the ground…there is no need to show aggression, only our strength.”
This would put China in a spot. Either they shove the conventions and turn it into an armed combat. Or they pull themselves back as they did in Doklam in 2017. Or they escalate which wouldn’t go unnoticed to a concerned world. It’s a massive show of intent from Modi’s India which is largely consistent in its zero-tolerance approach on nation’s sovereignty and integrity.
It’s not like South China Sea where the Middle Kingdom has usurped islands, sea tolls, reefs and banks overriding neighbours protests. China could not only carry through the bluff but were assured of its efficacy by the mumbled response of the affected. India seems determined to call out the bully. It’s not the semi-autonomous Hong Kong, a cowering Taiwan or a Vietnamese fishing boat you could sink to the floor of the South China Sea.
China clearly is upset at India’s assertions in recent months. India has signed a pact with Australia in the middle of the pandemic which would give teeth to QUAD (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue) between four democracies of Indo-Pacific: the United States, Japan, Australia and India itself. It has openly given a call to multinationals to shift their operations to India, a blow to China where it hurts the most. It has decided to screen the foreign investments beyond the FDI regulations. It now heads World Health Organization (WHO) which is to take call if China was complicit in hiding the truth on Corona Virus pandemic. It hasn’t helped the matter that Taiwan, which Beijing is paranoid about, could have “observer” status at WHO on pandemic deliberations. Then we have an expanded G-7 group of nations where India is to be included but no invitation has gone out to China
India has an uncontested control of Galwan Valley, between Ladakh and Chinese-occupied Aksai Chin, since 1962. It suffers from poor infrastructure in a hilly terrain unlike China which makes use of the flat Tibetan plateau to carry its road and highway network unhindered. India in contrast has to cross several mountains to access the LAC. It’s only natural that India wants to secure its borders. China would either have to give up the encroachments or face consequences, no less economic. There is a groundswell of consensus to boycott Chinese goods. The little matter of Huawei 5G also hangs in the balance.
There is little doubt China faces uncommon heat across continents. Pushback against its over-arching reach has already begun in Africa and Southeast Asia. Unemployment is unprecedented. Economic woes are spiralling. The world is a hostile theatre after China’s machinations on pandemic which has set the world back by a generation in economic terms. Its present misadventure in Ladakh is an undisguised diversionary tactics.
There is little doubt Indo-China relations would freeze in near future. It would bring Pakistan in closer ambit of China. India, on its part, would have the United States in its drawing room. Distrust between the two main powers of Asia would now run deep. Russia is a common friend which could find its loyalty divided.
India is abuzz with Mahatma Gandhi in the year of his 150th birth anniversary but there is a new version to his message of “ahimsa” (non-violence) which its enemies are finding out at a great personal cost.
Gandhi was the “apostle” of peace and non-violence who offered the other cheek when slapped but India of today would rather leave a black eye on its aggressor as it did on Pakistan with retaliatory heavy shelling in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) on Sunday which left at least 6-10 Pakistani soldiers dead and blew up three terrorist camps into thin air.
It was a grim fresh reminder to Pakistan that India has the doctrine of an eye-for-an-eye in its new rulebook and the “surgical strikes” and “Balakot airstrikes” which followed the terrorist attacks in Uri (2016) and Pulwama (2019) was the new philosophy and not an exception.
India is still an adherent to “non-violence” and has an unbroken history of peaceful coexistence, never eyeing others’ territory but the painful lessons of past demand it puts a premium on the integrity of its Union.
India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval often reminds his audience that India was overrun by invaders despite being arguably the most advanced civilization of its times. It never protected its seas even though they straddle three of its four corners. It led to the servitude of almost a thousand years. It faced wars imposed by Pakistan on three of four occasions: 1947-48, 1965 and 1999. It didn’t use 90,000 prisoners-of-war as a bargaining chip nor advanced deep inside Pakistan after winning a conclusive war in 1971 which led to the creation of Bangladesh.
India was seen as an epitome of a “soft” nation as terrorists kept crossing the Line of Control (LoC) through Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir and cost tens of thousands of civilians and soldiers lives since 1990. The horrific attack in Mumbai, India’s commercial capital, when terrorists from across the border sprayed machine guns on civilians on streets and five-star hotels, known as 26/11 in nation’s damaged psyche, evoked no retaliatory response from India. Worse, the very next year in 2009, the same United Progressive Alliance (UPA), returned to power without any retribution from its masses.
All this has changed for good. India today is driven in its bid to modernize its army: It has only recently ceded its top spot to Saudi Arabia as the biggest arms importer of the world—the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reckons India accounted for 12% of the total global arms imports for the 2013-2017 period. It has lapped up Russia’s S-400 advanced missile system defying the threat of sanctions from the United States. It has gone ahead with its purchase of France’s Rafale fighter jets even though the move threatened to derail Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s bid for a second term on the unfounded charges of corruption this year.
India today is literally taking the fight into enemy camp: It rakes up the issue of Balochistan and its independence from Pakistan; it has vowed to wrest back the control of PoK for a unified Kashmir and its defence minister Rajnath Singh has already debunked the “No-First-Use” nuclear doctrine. India stood up for its ally Bhutan and stared down China in a face-to-face standoff between the two armed forces in Doklam in 2017 which lasted months.
India is not only flexing its armed muscle but is also a crusader against global terrorism on international forums. India has successfully overturned China’s reluctance in having Masood Azhar of Pakistan blacklisted by the United Nations. It dissuaded South Asian countries such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan from joining the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) Summit hosted by Islamabad in November 2016 after the Uri attack. It recently tried it’s very best to have Pakistan blacklisted by the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) and has openly fallen out with Turkey and Malaysia for standing by Pakistan on the Kashmir issue.
India loves and is proud of Mahatma Gandhi and the message of “vasudhaiva kutumbakam (The World Is One Family) which defined the great man’s extraordinary life. But it doesn’t want to ignore the lessons of history. It is prepared to lift arms to protect its people and boundaries which is different from being an aggressor. It’s a nuanced approach to Gandhi’s philosophy and it seems to be paying dividends.
(This is a reprint from Russia Today—rt.com— for whom the author has penned this piece).