Has India ever learnt any lessons from the colossal blunders committed at random through 70 years of independence? It seems extremely doubtful in the light of its dealings with China and Pakistan. Today the country has been caught pincer like in their sinister machinations, leaving the political dispensation with very little leverage or room for manoeuvre, despite the hype surrounding the recent foreign policy initiatives.
The entry of an old and dependable ally like Russia into the scenario, wanting a slice of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and cultivating the Taliban, has further compounded matters, a development that the country can only afford to ignore at its own peril, given the craven absence of political will. The portents are ominous, which are likely to become even more pronounced as weeks and months go by.
Where does India really stand in the light of the rapidly shifting global game plans, despite strategic tie-ups with Japan, Vietnam and Philippines to keep the South China Sea lanes free for maritime trade and commerce? Beijing, which has helped arm rogue states like North Korea and Pakistan with nuclear weapons, relies on its vast military might and economic heft to arm twist countries like India that may unwittingly stand in its way. Contemptuous of global pressures, Beijing acts more like a bully than a mature nation, bent on getting its way.
The latest act of Chinese perfidy revolves around Tibetan devotees, whom they prevented from participating in a recent Dalai Lama ceremony organized at the Bodh Gaya. They warned Tibetans of dire consequences in case of non compliance, conveniently forgetting that they are a proud people under forcible occupation. Paradoxically, there has not been a word of protest against China’s riding roughshod over New Delhi’s sensibilities, challenging its very sovereignty on its own soil. The hegemon even issues stapled visas to people of Arunachal Pradesh, brushing aside the foreign ministry’s objections.
What is more, Beijing’s persistent bid to protect a terror mastermind like Masood Azhar, by the virtue of its permanent membership of the UN Security Council, which China owes to Nehru’s colossal short sightedness, is not only a calculated snub to India but also adds insult to injury. Unfortunately, New Delhi’s own record of not only acquiescing in Beijing’s acts of omission and commission, but even concealing the depth of latter’s duplicity, would have shamed any self-respecting nation.
In this context, it is worth recalling the then Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s befitting response to the US. Rattled by Edward Snowden’s allegations that the National Security Agency had snooped on her government in 2013, she promptly scrapped her forthcoming visit to the United States, unmindful of the latter’s superpower status. She displayed a much bolder stand than her Indian peers in her refusal to compromise with Brazil’s dignity and pride, or bow down before President Obama.
China’s ludicrous equation of a global icon of compassion (Dalai Lama), with the likes of a blood thirsty jihadi (Azhar), just because India dared give Tibetans sanctuary decades ago, reflects poorly on our identity as an emerging superpower. Beijing is bound to protect Azhar with its veto power as part of the policy of subduing India through Pakistan’s instrumentality; even if it has no qualms in lifting tens of billions of dollars in trade from the Indian markets every year. Some of the money reportedly finances insurgent groups in the Northeast, which ambush army convoys and kill dozens of soldiers, even as New Delhi watches meekly.
In a replay of the Bodh Gaya event, the West Bengal chief minister also pressurized organizers to call off a Kolkata seminar, which would have highlighted Pakistan’s brutality and genocide in Balochistan, on the grounds that the event would promote communal discord. One wonders why there has been such a deafening silence on the part of the English language media and the foreign ministry, about the sheer absurdity and injustice of it all. The eastern state acts as if it is already a colony of Pakistan. This tendency must be nipped in the bud by the Centre. Or it will end up fanning the fires of Islamic radicalism, which hounds the likes of Taslima Nasreen.
What choices does India have? Modi had pertinently raised the Balochi issue in his last year’s Independence Day address from the ramparts of the Delhi Red Fort, engendering high expectations among the suppressed people. Citizenship for Brahamdagh Bugti and other Baloch leaders would have been a political masterstroke, helping India gain an enormous leverage over both of our neighbours. Who knows, it might have restrained China on the CPEC, fast coming up in the PoK, still legally part of India, besides curbing asymmetric warfare foisted from across the border. But the matter hangs in the balance, for reasons best known to the government.
There is also the distinct possibility that the bureaucratic and civilian security establishment, by the virtue of its proximity to the political class, may have sold them the myth of Chinese invincibility. A behemoth that would crush India in the event of war, by citing the Himalayan debacle of 1962 as proof, so that it is would be suicidal to antagonize them by word or deed. The truth is that while India may have suffered its most humiliating defeat at the time, pockets of poorly armed Indian soldiers valiantly fought the mighty enemy until the last round and the last man, inflicting heavy casualties on him.
Five years later, the Indian military leadership, rankled by the memories of defeat, resolutely faced Chinese intimidation for the second time, when it questioned McMahon Line’s legitimacy. These skirmishes sparked a full scale battle between September 7 and 13, 1967, at Nathu La and Cho La (Sikkim). Young subalterns and majors, leading Indian jawans, killed 300 of the enemy and wounded 450 others, for a loss of 88 killed and 163 injured of their own, according to an estimate. The myth of invincibility built around the PLA stood shattered. It retreated from Sikkim in ignominy.
Those who have gauged China correctly know that Beijing habitually flexes muscles on the high seas and land, or intimidates rivals, without actually firing a shot. Beijing avoids being drawn into a real battle, even 38 years after its last clash with North Vietnam in 1979. It retreated, badly beaten by the Vietnamese militia, its second rung of defence, even as its regular army happened to be busy with Pol Pot’s Cambodia. It is time for the political dispensation to call China’s bluff and let them not walk all over India.