Six Questions And Answers Regarding India-China Conflict Which Prove That Blind Criticism Of Government Is Not Analysis

Six Questions And Answers Regarding India-China Conflict Which Prove That Blind Criticism Of Government Is Not Analysis Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times) 
Snapshot
  • The Indian government can only lead India’s response, not alter the psyche of Chinese leadership.

The India-China situation, since the beginning of May, has invited various kinds of analyses and interventions by the strategic and the commentary circuit. However, some of the commentary by the usual suspects make no sense. I argue why, in my personal view, the commentary by the usual suspects is flawed.

Let’s take each argument case-by-case.

1. Why has India not been officially screaming since May 2020 itself that China has occupied our land when some so-called experts have been saying that all along?

First of all, the presumption that China is on the Indian side of Line of Actual Control (LAC) is itself not true and has been so clarified at not just at the political level but also at the military level.

What is true though is that China has indeed amassed large number of forces on their side of the LAC and at very close range. This in itself is a new development and this is what is being sought to be resolved.

Even then, this contention by the usual suspects about India keeping quiet would have made sense had India given up its claim or backed down or quietly let China grab our territory.

Has India done any of this? If that would have been the case why would there have been violent clashes at all on the night of 15-16 June?

What India has been doing through May and early June is to give talks a chance to resolve the situation without indulging in hyper rhetoric.

Why, one may ask?

Because rhetoric and official statements on record have consequences. If India had ratcheted up rhetoric in early May or said China is violating LAC, then that would have also meant a military response the very next moment to sort it out. Because you cannot officially say China is violating LAC and then do nothing about it.

But if India had gone for military means in May, the same people would then have said India is war mongering or that India is diverting attention from the Covid-19 fight or made some other similar noise.

It can also be asked that do these so-called experts want India to go to war without giving talks a chance?

This is not to say war may not happen or it may not come down to military means. But talks had to be given a chance to resolve the situation without the overhang of military rhetoric.

Is that not the right strategy?

However, at no point of time did India ever give up or walk back from even an inch of India territorial claim as the tragic events of 15-16 June now bear testimony.

2. Indian soldiers died in Galwan Valley because India did not reveal at political level what the true extent of the problem is?

This is a rather bizarre argument. If India had made the ‘true extent of the problem’ public, as per the definition of so-called experts, what would have been the next step?

Would it not have been calls and demands of military response to evict the so-called aggressors?

Would that have not meant loss of life?

In fact, what the Indian government strategy has done is to prevent any military escalation till it was possible. While at the same time not allow even an inch of Indian territory to be transgressed. The moment China did try to transgress on Indian territory by attempting to put up a tent, there was military contention.

The Indian government strategy has been right all along. Lives of soldiers are precious and they cannot be sacrificed without giving diplomatic and other means a chance to resolve issues.

At the same time, at no point of time would the guard be lowered and if it ever comes to armed conflict, India would be more than ready to respond.

3. Modi is a weak Prime Minister, who appeases China and has now buckled under pressure

This argument again makes no sense whatsoever.

Every strategic expert is of the opinion that China has been rattled because of India’s unprecedented pace of infrastructure construction at the borders. And it is this strategic infrastructure (like operationalising Daulat Beg Oldie airstrip and road connecting it) that has unnerved China.

Now, if Modi was appeasing China why would he give the green signal to build such infrastructure in the first place? Remember, infrastructure construction was stalled under United Progressive Alliance’s (UPA’s) 10 years and it started after Modi came to power in 2014.

And if Modi knew that such rapid infrastructure construction would rile China and yet went ahead and did it, then why would he appease China now?

Remember, Modi stopped One Belt One Road, the dream project of China, by being the sole country to oppose it when the entire world, including Europe and US had lined up to attend its launch.

It was Modi who stood up in Doklam and forced China to retreat. It was Modi who stopped RCEP in its tracks. It was Modi who abolished Article 370 and converted Ladakh into a Union Territory, knowing fully well the implications of such a move.

If Modi did all this, and challenged China like no other country has done, then why would he suddenly turn an appeaser now?

4. If Modi is such a strongman then how come China still contests the boundary?

Such arguments are really non-serious in nature. Modi is an uncompromising leader when it comes to India’s national interest. What this means is that India will use any and every means to protect its territorial integrity.

What it does not mean, however, is that other countries inimical to India since decades have suddenly turned docile.

Why will they? If it is their strategic national objective to weaken India then why will they suddenly give it up?

How India is different now under Modi is that it responds to provocations and challenges in a decisive way.

For example, Pakistan sent terrorists to India in 2008 in Mumbai. Nothing happened. Pakistan again sent terrorists to India in Pulwama in 2019. Balakot, deep inside Pakistani territory was bombed while Pakistani Air Force was caught napping. That is what Modi brings to the table.

China salami-sliced Indian territory as late as in UPA’s 10 years between 2004-2014 (Demjok for example). Nothing happened. China tried in Doklam in 2017. Had to retreat saving face. China tried again in 2020. As per various reports, between 35-90 Chinese soldiers are dead. Not an inch of Indian territory has been ceded. That is what Modi brings to the table.

So here is the crux. Modi has not changed the national character of our adversaries. What he has done is that the world has been put on notice that Indian response to provocation will be devastatingly different.

5. But we elected Modi in 2014. It has now been six years. Why has India by now not overtaken China and put an end to its designs?

New leadership after elections is not like a new chess player coming to play a new game with an existing opponent. Before a new chess game starts, the pieces are reset for both the players, the new player as well as the existing opponent, and there is an absolutely blank field at the start. After that, how the game proceeds depends solely on the expertise of the new player.

Leading a country is a vastly different ball game. Sure, Modi became Prime Minister in 2014. He formed a new government. But the strategic tools and national capacity of India or China did not reset like in a chess game.

The infrastructure, economic, military and other gaps that had built between India and China for 30 years (most of it under Congress) did not suddenly evaporate. Modi had to play within the limitations of the national capacity handed over to him by the Congress-led UPA.

So, what did Modi do? What any leader committed to the nation can and will do under these circumstances. Start taking concerted, focused and time bound actions to bridge the gap.

New aircraft deal hanging for over a decade was finalised.

Infrastructure along the entire Chinese border started getting built at a frantic pace.

Raising a new mountain strike corps was completed.

Army weapons and ammunition shortfall was eliminated.

Weapons procurement and modernisation was put on fast track.

The economy was put back on a growth path.

The gap that Congress governments had silently allowed to build over three decades has started narrowing.

What Modi has also done is signal intent. That political leadership will not buckle under Chinese pressure. That political leadership will not put narrow party interests over national interest. Modi has also empowered the military to take local tactical decisions to best protect our interests.

The answer to the questions as to why has Modi not finished the China problem is that change in political leadership signals change in direction and intent and capacity building and implementation skills – all of which is visible – and not an overnight magical evaporation of your adversaries’ capabilities.

These six years have demonstrated that India under Modi is not India under Nehru or even India under Manmohan Singh.

6. What will happen now? Will there be war?

This can be answered no better than in the words that Prime Minister Modi used himself. “Sacrifice of our soldiers will not go in vain. We will protect our sovereignty with all our might and no one can stop us from doing so.

“No one should have any illusion or doubt. India wants peace. But if provoked, then under all circumstances we are capable of responding decisively.”

So, should there be war? Successful countries the world over have demonstrated time and time again, all through history, that war should always be the last option. But it should always be an option and never be off the table.

Akhilesh is CEO, Bluekraft Digital Foundation.

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