September 27, 2022

Capitulating to China – Part 1

Like many other countries, India too is concerned at recent developments. We urge … restraint, avoidance of unilateral actions to change the status quo, de-escalation of tensions and efforts to maintain peace and stability in the region.”

By Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

Expressing concern over the Taiwan situation, Arindam Bagchi, spokesman for the external affairs ministry said at a recent briefing, “Like many other countries, India too is concerned at recent developments. We urge … restraint, avoidance of unilateral actions to change the status quo, de-escalation of tensions and efforts to maintain peace and stability in the region.” The preamble of “like many other countries” was obviously to soften the comment but the real issue was China blocking the move to designate Abdul Rauf Azhar, deputy chief of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) being branded global terrorist by the UN.

Chinese ambassador to India, Sun Weidong, responded by holding a round table conference of journalists and said that Beijing’s actions to block Abdul Rauf Azhar from being designated global terrorists were “responsible and constructive” (sic) and the US is responsible for cross-straits tensions with Taiwan. Asked about the border situation in Eastern Ladakh, he said that the situation is overall stable (sic) and that troop disengagement at most points had been completed. He also said Taiwan is an internal issue and China has been consistently making efforts to improve relations with India – same as Pakistani governments say but continue terrorism against India.    

Some media reports described Bagchi’s briefing as “India came out with all guns blazing” against China, which appears mighty offensive but is possibly to divert from the pusillanimous response to the Chinese intrusions in Eastern Ladakh during 2020. The same strategy is being used to influence the public at home while exercising servility when talking to China. The defence minister keeps saying not even an inch of territory has been lost whereas we have lost control of some 1,000 sq km of our territory and in addition have vacated the Ladakh Range – signalling this is not our territory? In response, China has indicated they will not withdraw even one more inch from the intrusions they have made.

China has consolidated defences in the intrusion areas, launched two bridges over Pangong Tso including one for move of tanks and mechanised columns and held an exercise with attack helicopters in Pangong Tso area simultaneous to the last Corps Commander-level India-China talks held on July 17, 2022. In fact, in the last three rounds of military talks, China has more than indicated that there will be no more pull back by the PLA. For all practical purposes, India has lost this territory and the whole world knows it but the drama of military talks continues on India’s requests.   

With reference to the above territory, a scholar-strategist has opined that India has possibly traded “something” with China. But what that trade is remains a mystery. It cannot be in exchange of China giving up its illegal claims to 2,126 sq km in the Central Sector and definitely not the Eastern Sector where it illegally claims the entire Arunachal Pradesh. What then could this be if not Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai on Chinese terms?

Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Roads Transport and Highways recently told the Parliament that by December 2023 Indian pilgrims will be able to visit Kailash-Mansarovar through a new route via Pithoragarh, in Uttarakhand without the need to travel via China or Nepal. Gadkari no doubt has done a wonderful job in developing the road network pan India. But how are Indian pilgrims going to visit Kailash-Mansarovar by December 2023 when China stopped issuing visas to pilgrims from India in the past two years, has deployed the PLA in the area of Mansarovar Lake and is holding military exercises there? Has a new arrangement been worked out with China as part of the territory tradeoff in Ladakh?

Union Home Minister Amit Shah has said that the next 30-40 years will be the era of BJP. It is not known whether this is his own appreciation in absence of a national security strategy which NSA Ajit Doval (some call him James Pond) has failed to produce despite being tasked to define one in 2019? Or is this the forecast of his personal astrologer? Others say Amit Shah is including his own tenure as Prime Minister of India when predicting a 30-40 year BJP era.

Talking of astrology, PVR Narasimha Rao, a software engineer living in Boston (America) who has also created the astrology software ‘Jagannath Hora’ predicts that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will retain his premiership in 2024 but will hand over the premiership to Yogi Adityanath midway during the tenure commencing 2024. This prediction spread like wildfire instantly on social media and keeps reappearing periodically.  

Some media reports described Bagchi’s briefing as “India came out with all guns blazing” against China, which appears mighty offensive but is possibly to divert from the pusillanimous response to the Chinese intrusions in Eastern Ladakh during 2020

But ‘Deep Throat’ says if the above were to happen, Modi will switch to the presidential form of system at the end of President Murmu’s tenure and himself become President, reducing   Adityanath to the puppet PM. As it is in the existing setup, Governors are chosen and appointed by the Prime Minister with the President only affixing his signatures; no President has refused to approve anyone recommended for appointment as governor by the Prime Minister. With the change to the presidential form of government, entire India can vote for a presidential election in one single day, like in the US. Also, there is always the possibility that someone could be nominated President-cum-Supreme Commander for Life like in North Korea.

Despite being the Supreme Commander of India’s Armed Forces, no President ever wore a military uniform. In contrast, Modi has appeared in combat uniform several times, attracting some reservist comments. But who can question when he becomes the President and the Supreme Commander? The only ambiguity is what happens to Amit Shah who is a Gujju amid claims that he has contributed to Modi’s rise? Will he become Vice President with little powers awaiting his turn to become President or continue as Home Minister directly under President Modi? As for Gadkari, no astrologer dares to predict his future, fearing the ‘politico-religious conglomerate’. 

Interestingly, Narasimha Rao has also predicted that America will be reduced from a superpower to a country like Britain and that the next World War will happen between 2030 and 2031. This is hardly surprising given that Donald Trump orchestrated the attack on Capitol Hill and America is following an increasingly wayward trajectory under the present POTUS riddled with dementia – the debacles in Afghanistan and Ukraine, with Taiwan and Iran waiting in the queue? But India needs to examine the consequences of laying out the red carpet for the PLA – as is happening presently. Rao incidentally is an engineering graduate from IIT Madras, has done Masters from Rice University, Houston, and is a scholar of Hindi and Sanskrit.

In 2013, former foreign secretary Shyam Saran, Chairman of the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) under the National Security Council (NSC), after visiting forward areas submitted his report to the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh; which said that over the years, China had salami-sliced some 640 sq km of Indian Territory over and above the 38,000 sq km of Aksai Chin illegally occupied by it and the PLA had set a new Line of Actual Control (LAC). Simultaneously, former ambassador Phunchok Stopdan, who hails from Ladakh, said that of these 640 sq km, 400 sq km is of Ladakh alone.

China is naturally thrilled that within a span of a few days in 2020 without firing a bullet and without any clash other than Galwan, it has got another 1,000 sq km in Ladakh and shifted the LAC more westward without any qualms by India; totalling Ladakhi territory under illegal Chinese occupation to 39,400 sq km (38,000+400+1000). The main negotiator of this tradeoff obviously was the External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar or the NSA Ajit Doval, if not both together.    

On August 18, 2022, Jaishankar while speaking at the Chulalongkorn University in Thailand, said, “The Asian Century will be difficult if India and China don’t come together. And one of the big questions today is where India-China relations are going.” He also said that the relationship between India and China was going through an extremely difficult phase because of the tense standoff in border areas and that such a strained bilateral relationship could also impede regional growth. But China is ironically benefitting more through the India-China bilateral trade than before the standoff began in 2020.

China was quick to cash in on Jaishankar’s talk. The very next day, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Wang Wenbin, said in a media briefing, “As a Chinese leader put it (referring to Deng Xiaoping), ‘Unless China and India are developed, there will be no Asian Century. No genuine Asia-Pacific Century or Asian Century can come until China, India and other neighbouring countries are developed’. Both sides have the wisdom and capability to help each other succeed instead of undercutting each other.” He also said that Beijing and New Delhi are not “threats” to each other but cooperation partners.

The remarks of Wenbin are the usual sweet talk of Chinese officials who are always ready with a knife at the back. China views India as a rival in Asia and in the American camp no matter that India is retaining its strategic autonomy. Beijing wants a China-centric Asia with others including India crawling up to them. With the tradeoff in Eastern Ladakh, the BJP would be sanguine of continued Chinese support. But there is one problem – China can never be relied upon. Besides, it has the same DNA as a bully; if you don’t’ stand up and look him in the eye, he will mount on your head and rub you face in the dirt.

Part 2 follows.

The author is an Indian Army veteran. Views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of https://strategicaffairsindia.in

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