The current bloody stand-off between India and China which has already resulted in nearly two dozen Indian army personnel martyred and scores of others injured has left the country in a state of shock. As the reports suggest China has also lost a number of its soldiers in this conflict.
The raging debate whether the Indian soldiers lost their lives to the enemy’s bullets or stones and nail-fitted lathis wielded by the Chinese army personnel holds little or no significance. The more serious fact is that we have lost brave soldiers at the altar of the nation and equally significant is attitude of the Chinese state which is apt at blowing hot and cold simultaneously in relations with India in particular.
As the strategic affairs expert Mr Pravin Sahni rightly described this blow-hot and blow-cold strategy as pivot of the Chinese foreign policy, this deceptive policy was at display in full public eye when Red Dragon struck at the Galwan Valley and other connected points in Ladakh region, along the contentious Line of Actual Control (LAC). He rightly pointed out that the Chinese have a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) to be at a war and in talks simultaneously unlike the Indian sub-continental mindset of an enemy is an enemy with no scope for talks, thereby shutting even all strategic doors. This has repeatedly proved to be a trap for India for which we have been paying with the lives of our soldiers and valuable territory.
The Chinese heated up this theatre of action in the midst of its growing economic interests in India facilitated by the Government of India’s Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and other related policy and overtly friendly gesture of Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi towards top Chinese leadership. And more importantly the action at Galvan Valley took place when the two countries were engaged at a significantly high level of military leadership to resolve the stand-off resulting due to Chinese advance beyond the LAC.
Well, for us China was on a treacherous course but it would be naive to ignore that this (blow hot and blow cold) policy has always been at the centre of its policy towards India. There is no more a glaring example of this Chinese policy than the 1962 Indo-Sino war which was inflicted by China when the two countries were riding high on a friendship note with the infamous slogans of “Hindi-Chini bhai bhai” reverberating all over. And more glaringly the history has repeated itself at the Galvan Valley with LAC witnessing killings of soldiers after a long gap of 45 years.
This is certainly not the time to pin blame on anyone but more definitely the episode has raised many questions that would beg for answers in the days to come. There is no doubt that the opposition parties and the people of India have a right to get satisfactory answers as to what went wrong on the LoC resulting in loss of soldiers’ life, or the much touted Indo-Sino friendship with high pitched rills attached to it.
Many strategic experts and political commentators have been raising questions ever since reports of Chinese ingress in the Galvan Valley and at some other points started emerging, and its serious repercussions. The Government was in a perpetual denial mode, for obvious reasons, and the worst fears of these experts came true when reports of martyrdom of Indian army personnel came to light. The situation is still unfolding and expectedly in the interest of the nation the full facts of the developments on Indo-Sino front would never come to full public light.
It is appreciable that Prime Minister Mr Modi lost no time in accepting the opposition demand for an all party meeting to show a united face to the world against China’s evil designs. Surely, it is a departure from Mr Modi’s streak of solo jaunts, and is in line with the democratic values of the country.
Nevertheless, it is expected that rather than being evasive and remaining in a denial mode, which no more is a possibility, the Government must take the nation into confidence. It is imperative since the happenings run contrary to what the current dispensation has been promising to the countrymen, in terms of national security, during the last over six years. An honest admission rather than sweeping the facts under the carpet and exhibit undue bravado, will help the ruling dispensation to regain some credibility in the eyes of the people who, otherwise, have been overflowing with hope that nothing would go wrong under the nose of Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi.
Coming at a time when the country is fighting to contain the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, the Chinese strike is a cause of great worry particularly for people of the two newly carved out, out of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, Union Territories (UTs)- Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. As is well known that the two UTs are the outcome of dilution of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that gave the erstwhile state a special status.
The Chinese ingress needs to be seen in this backdrop (Article 370 dilution) as well. Given the fact that China illegally claims Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh as its territories, the reorganisation of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh ostensibly has been used as an excuse by it to justify violation of LAC resulting in condemnable killing of Indian soldiers which was reflected in the first reactions given by the Chinese foreign office to the Galvan Valley happenings. The Chinese claim in this connection is totally misplaced and repeatedly rejected by India which has also been time and again fortified by people of these areas overwhelmingly taking part in elections after elections to elect their own government and representatives.
Still, there is a strong case to keep a close eye on the geopolitical and geophysical fallouts of the dilution of Article 370 particularly changing the format of the historic state of Jammu and Kashmir. The problem has also brewed from the fact that these sensitive issues having far reaching impact have been used as material for political sloganeering and political bravado which should be avoided at all costs.
The problem has been further compounded with a friendly country Nepal turning against India and even using force against Indian citizens on the porous Indo-Nepal border. Who does not know that Nepalese Prime Minister, K P Oli is a diehard communist of the Marxist variety with a natural affinity towards Beijing? But what is more distressing is that the Nepalese Parliament has unanimously passed a resolution/ Bill to alter its map showing some of the Indian areas as part of Nepal. It is lost on no one that many of the opposition parties till the other day were pro-India and swore by strong Indo-Nepalese ties based on common cultural and religious values. All this seems to have evaporated under the Chinese influence to the chagrin of New Delhi.
What has suddenly transpired for Nepal to change course and throw its age-old ties with India to dustbin and why India failed to act in time? This is a worrying question particularly when seen in consonance with Galvan Valley clashes.
So, has the Government of India been caught napping on Nepalese front as seems to be the case with LAC standoff? There is need for a more close scrutiny of India’s foreign policy particularly vis-a-vis its neighbours, and defence preparedness. The policies should be chalked out in real-time framework rather than creating illusionary images which could be good for registering electoral success for a short span but would have dangerous consequences for the nation on long term basis.