Chinese coercion in Ladakh India’s defining moment

Ashish Kaul
From reporting the tragic martyrdom of 3 to 20 in 24 hours was a big jolt to a seemingly transparent Government, That was not it, Government clearly stated that 20 Indian soldiers were martyred, followed by specific statements that not an inch of Indian soil was occupied and that none was taken a prisoner by PLA, eventually various media stating that two odd dozen Indian soldiers were indeed released 26 / 48 hours later. This has been followed by serious drubbing to voices that are pointing out the absolute flaws in Government stand and statements over last 48 hours. However, the questions should not be whether our brave hearts had guns or not, it is as foolish question as it is to ask a cricketer if he carried a Bat to a match. We don’t have any right to pose such questions to the best ever defenders called the Indian Army. There are far serious questions to raise.
It is a clear communications debacle to say the least. Not only have our flip flops internationalized a non-existent issue to an International dispute. Firstly, the entire messaging has been exceptionally chaotic; were we armed or not ? Were Chinese on our soil or were we on theirs? Either way someone was occupying someone’s land otherwise the brutal melee would not have ensued. Off course Indian army is without a doubt the most disciplined and professional Army in the world and that precisely brings forth another important lapse of the safety of our soldiers. While the nation understands the so called no bullet protocol that was in force but when attacked in an unprofessional manner, in an uncivilized and inhuman manner then why did we not retaliate? Yes, the reason could be the CO having attained martyrdom, followed by the 2IC in a sudden attack may have incapacitated the leadership judgment – if so, then so be it and why should that not be accepted? There is nothing wrong if we did not use arms as none of us are competent to make a judgment on that situation in the most hostile and stressful battle frontier on the world.
Same is true for Pangong Tso lake. We have all along been saying that PLA have come into Indian side of proclaimed LOC and yet we say China has not occupied even an inch ? So, what is a common Indian supposed to make out of this freckled Government communication? There are other brazen abominations as well – every voice seeking a clarity is now being showed an alleged memorandum of understanding between China and ridiculously Congress ( I) party way back in 1993 and rightly so but then is that something discovered in last 5 days ?. The Government has been in power for nearly 6 years and has engaged at the highest ever level with China – so what happened?. Why was this travesty never corrected?. I have a far more embarrassing question for Congress (I) , far more embarrassing than the 1993 honeymoon with Chinese.
The Ladakhi students and activists would year on year hold demonstrations in Jammu in the 80’s and the 90’s to draw attention of Government about steady advancement of Chinese forces into Indian terrotries. No one ever paid attention to the cries of our front line eyes and ears in NEFA – the shepherds and frontier nomadic groups. Year on year, they would come, demonstrate and regrettably return. This is embarrassing to write that subsequent Governments in India have systematically gifted our motherland to China. We have been a nation run by cowards at the centre. Fault lies with us too for sending those cowards to rule us.
This fracas has led to another fallout – the Ban China wave. Regrettably, I have to say, given the challenges of economic spectrum in India, we need to differentiate between plain rhetoric and harsh reality. At least for next 10 years, there is no way India can suffice domestic commercial needs sans china. Even so, to what extent would it pose a road block to Chinese coercion? May be less than 1% – is that good a consolation for our bruises and the last full measure of supreme devotion of our soldiers? Ultimately, ban china wave will only harm our own small time shopkeepers whose windows will be broken and glass smashed for displayed Chinese products. Goods worth a billion dollars have already been paid for so what are we going to do with them ? Ask our fragile downtrade and SME to burn their investments to create a spectacle for TV news channels ?
Then there is a geo-political tragedy waiting in the wings. Can we go to war with china ? Even if it is within the ravines and deep alleys of Galwan for a surgical 5 days engagement? May be may be not but wars are no longer about valour but more of two way communication statements of people in power. India is quite capable of giving a bloody nose to China in a focused mountain theatre of war but a resolute ascending China has been demonstrating for long their intent to deliver knockout punches. They have thrown in the towel and the gloves now it is up to India to stand up or seek a face saver. Short term economic sanctions may drive the short term rhetoric but in long term any traditional sanction on China will hurt India more as the costs of multi-dimensional projects will rocket by about 20 to 35%. This is a huge setback to a post corona Indian economy. New allies along the Atlantic may be economic but the landed cost in India will be far higher and tip the economies of scale. May be over next 5 years, when India builds a hinterland economic web to replace China, India can hurt China but any interim economic roadblock will only be a face saver to an emotional balm to bruised national feelings.
There is another aspect that we rick by firing the salvo. We risk Daulatbeig Oldie and Siachen contrary to common belief. A Chinese response will make it challenging and economically unviable to maintain both given the position of battle readiness backed by incredible infrastructure build up and back up China has. In the ultimate theatre of IndoChina short term adventure, India risks a permanent Chinese buildup at stones throw from Leh. Then there is CPEC going right through Gilgit Baltistan. This is as embracing as it gets considering we proudly include Gilgit Baltistan in our map; so the question remains, what have we done so far?.
The answer to all this is apparently quite simple – yes we are working on various international diplomatic fronts to raise the issues and isolate China. This is a same answer we have been rendering for our Pakistan woes since 1947. The bigger question is – does China care a damn about International diplomatic coercion or collation against it ? and then what does India do? Accede quietly and seek an extended dialogue for years to come or wait for US and Russia to rally for us – or be assertive? Extremely difficult position that India finds itself in given China is not Pakistan. As far as I see it, this is a defining moment for India. India must decide sans diplomatic coercion and stand on its own. It may falter, it may fail but what will rise in a new India that will forever dominate the entire North South Asia as an absolute symbol of democracy and resurgence. Today, India is led by the best ever government and the most popular and capable leader since Independence. 125 crore Indians stand by our Prime Minister and we are prepared to face the frailties of war, of escalations and demonic recessions for years to come but once we are done then we will truly wake up in a country that is free from fear, from terror and cowards masquerading as politicians; an India that fears no one and threatens no one.