External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, after holding talks with his counterpart Wang Yi in Beijing on 09 May 2013, told reporters that there was still no clarity on the reasons behind the Chinese incursion of April 15 in the Daulat Beg Oldie sector. He was hiding the truth.
They resented India’s construction of bunkers and semi-permanent structures at Chumar and other places.
The fact is that the Indian government is fully aware of the Chinese motives. By pretending ignorance, the government is deceiving itself and the countrymen. It knows that the incursion was not a one-off transgression by an over-enthusiastic local commander but was a very well planned and perfectly timed foray.
In fact, India should have anticipated such an adventure by the Chinese and taken pre-emptive steps to foil it. Of late, India has been improving its ground deployment and long-neglected infrastructure, much to the annoyance of the Chinese. They resented India’s construction of bunkers and semi-permanent structures at Chumar and other places. In addition, they feared that India’s was resorting to aggressive patrolling to strengthen its claim in the disputed areas.
Having failed to deter India through protests, China decided to resort to muscle-flexing, intruded 19 miles deep inside the Indian territory and established a tented camp as a bargaining leverage. The Chinese knew that the timid Indian leadership would be hard-pressed to seek Chinese withdrawal through negotiations. It was a brilliant masterstroke by the Chinese. The subsequent events got played out exactly as expected by them.
To pressurise India further, the Chinese pitched an additional tent, erected fence around the camp and started displaying banners claiming the area to be the Chinese territory.
To start with, the local mechanism was activated and flag meetings held between the local military commanders. The meetings were doomed to fail as the Indian army rejected the Chinese demand of demolition of Chumar and other posts as a pre-condition for their withdrawal. The stalemate continued. To pressurise India further, the Chinese pitched an additional tent, erected fence around the camp and started displaying banners claiming the area to be the Chinese territory. The ploy worked. While a prominent political leader termed Indian response as cowardly, media faulted the government for adopting a timid stance.
The Indian leadership got unnerved. It wanted speedy resolution of the matter at every cost. It overruled army’s objections and ordered it to accept the Chinese terms. Having achieved their aim, the Chinese withdrew. A spineless India capitulated like a vassal and agreed to back-off.
On his return to India on 11 May, Salman Khurshid confessed that China did not express regret for the incursion. Did India really expect China to be sorry for having achieved operational ascendency through a brilliant stratagem? How naïve can India get!
The Urgent Need
Norman Cousins considers history to be a vast early warning system. Unfortunately, the Indian bureaucracy displays a distinct disdain for history. Most bureaucrats suffer from megalomania – a serious psychopathological disorder characterised by delusions of own intelligence, an inflated sense of self-esteem and overestimation of competence. They consider themselves to be the repository of all the intellect and wisdom in the world. Resultantly, India fails to learn lessons from history and be forewarned.
China has never lived in peace with its neighbours. Hostility and disdain towards weaker opponents is in the Chinese DNA.
Every student of the Chinese history knows that a strong China has always been an expansionist China. China has never lived in peace with its neighbours. Hostility and disdain towards weaker opponents is in the Chinese DNA. It respects strength. Diplomatic niceties and good neighbourly relations mean little to it. Coercion and intimidation are well-tried instruments of China’s state policy.
China evolves long-term strategic plans and every single step is well thought through towards the achievement of the final objective. Ad-hocism has no place in the Chinese scheme of things. All wings of the Chinese government work in tandem and in complete harmony. There are no localised or isolated initiatives.
The recent intrusion and the Indian capitulation will certainly embolden China. India must acquire wherewithal and courage to face China confidently. The following issues need urgent attention:-
Operational Control. Unity of command is by far the most urgent and critical requirement. It is well nigh impossible for the Indo-Tibetan Police Force (ITBP) to counter Chinese coercive subterfuges and intimidatory posturing on its own. It must be placed under army’s command forthwith. Ministry of Home Affairs must shed its selfish and anti-national intransigence. Have we learnt no lessons from centuries of foreign rule? Must we continue to sacrifice national interests by remaining mired in egotistical and blinkered thinking?
Operational Preparedness. The armed forces must be given necessary resources to acquire needed operational capability. Proposals for raising of additional forces has remained stuck in bureaucratic quagmire for far too long. The required accretions must be sanctioned without any further vacillation. Equally importantly, the Indian military is carrying huge shortages of critical ordnance. Deficiencies of equipment like 155m Ultra Lightweight Field Howitzer and Light Utility Helicopters cannot be ignored any longer. The Ministry of Defence must constitute an empowered agency to carry out emergent acquisitions under the Fast Track Procedure.
India is perhaps the only country in the world where operationally critical infrastructural works get stalled due to some misplaced concern for ecology and environment.
Infrastructural Development. On a visit to Nathu La in East Sikkim in 2007, Defence Minister Antony was taken aback to see the difference between the infrastructure on the Indian and the Chinese sides. Although he promised to take urgent steps to develop frontier areas, there has been little progress on ground. India is perhaps the only country in the world where operationally critical infrastructural works get stalled due to some misplaced concern for ecology and environment. It is shameful that some activists consider security of the nation to be of lesser importance. Lack of clearance by the Ministry of Environment and Forests has stalled progress of a large number of crucial roads in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh. The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has been pleading for clearance for decades but to no avail. BRO should be exempted from seeking forest/environmental clearance for defence works in the notified border areas.
In 2008, India’s envoy to Beijing was called by the Chinese government in the middle of the night for absurd reasons. The ambassador promptly reported to the Chinese foreign ministry without a whimper of protest. Whereas even a banana republic would have taken offence and chided the ambassador for abject servility, India rewarded her dedication to the cause of Indo-China relations and promoted her to the coveted post of the foreign secretary. Let the South Block try the same with the Chinese ambassador in New Delhi – even a peon from the Chinese embassy will not respond in the middle of the night.
Unfortunately, the decision makers believe that the best way to deal with a crisis is to pretend its non-existence.
India went overboard to ensure safe passage of the Olympic torch in April 2008 as China had expressed its disapproval of pro-Tibet protests. That is India for you; a nation masquerading as an emerging power with a mind-set that is characterised by a total lack of aggressive protection of its national concerns. India’s foreign policy has been a chronicle of shameless submissiveness, utter timidity, sheer gutlessness and inexplicable reticence, especially towards China.
As stated earlier, only a fully equipped military with well-developed infrastructure can counter China’s ill-designs. The armed forces are ready to deliver. It is the leadership that lacks required courage. Unfortunately, the decision makers believe that the best way to deal with a crisis is to pretend its non-existence. After all, no one undergoes major surgery for acne, as diagnosed by Salman Khurshid.
India must consider the recent incursion as a forewarning of the aggressive Chinese designs, draw due lessons from it and put its act together. Great nations are distinguished by their military strength, self-assurance and self-respect. India fares miserably on all the counts. The leadership would do well to remember the old adage – ‘if you behave like a foot mat, you will be treated like one’.