One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to realise that the recurring cross-border violations of Indian territory by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the prolonged, unprovoked intrusions into Taiwanese airspace over several days by the PLA Air Force and the illegal fishing expeditions through the Exclusive Economic Zones of smaller and weaker countries in the Pacific, the Indian Ocean and even the Arabian Sea by the PLA Navy’s dual-purpose long-range intelligence armada have a common thread -- and are triggered by the national neurosis of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in its mission to build a worldwide empire.
While the symptoms of this outgrown neurosis were visible six decades ago, when India faced the CPC’s aggression in the high Himalayas in the 1950s and 1962; the world then did not take New Delhi’s warnings with the seriousness they deserved. Today, a fearful and apprehensive world awaits its fate at the hands of the CPC.
In the 1960s, British journalist Neville Maxwell accessed an official report on the 1962 war (which remains “classified” to this day, beyond the reach of all Indians) through Delhi’s civil-military brass to write an audaciously subjective account India’s China War, which sought to pin the entire blame on New Delhi. The world watched India’s plight with glee: “It’s new light”; “unrolls like fascinating thriller”; “shows how India led world up the garden path” (The Herald Melbourne). “It demolishes the ‘contain China’ doctrine -- the belief that in 1962 India was the victim of unprovoked Chinese aggression.” (Prof. John Fairbank of Harvard University in the New York Review of Books)
The world demonised New Delhi and gave a clean chit to the CPC. The lasting legacy of this subjective narration, aided and abetted by a section of the Delhi elite, is that even today no one is ready to question China’s malevolence. The Indian elite’s nonchalance also allows the CPC to take New Delhi for granted just as it treats vassal states like Islamabad and a few others in South and Southeast Asia. And India’s systems, like its land borders, remain porous, fragile and fractious. At this late stage, one can only urge the Indian government to put the classified reports of 1962 in the public domain, so that the people know what went wrong, and why.
It is also time to revisit our China policy – as the waters have started flowing above India’s head. The tell-tale signs emerged from the 13th round of India-China military talks on October 10. As expected, it failed, after which the bellicose Chinese military-media combo resurfaced with full throttle.
The October 2021 India-China border scenario appears too ominous to be ignored even if one invokes the laconic words of Gen. Krishnaswamy Sundarji’s Blind Men of Hindoostan! The current Army Chief, Gen. M.M. Naravane, also agrees: “The Chinese are here to stay”. What exactly does this “here” mean? Does this refer to the Ladakh land forcibly occupied by China after the May-June 2020 standoff and the PLA’s killing 22 Indian soldiers? Has the Army Chief wittingly or unwittingly revealed the reality? Does this imply India has given up its insistence on reverting to the pre-May 2020 “status quo ante” position? True, it may not be fair to hold the general solely responsible if there is a shift in New Delhi’s position.
We should note the date of the India-China military dialogue, which most people are unlikely to be familiar with. October 10, when Indian and Chinese generals met at Moldo, on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control, is the PLA’s “Remembrance Day”. Fifty-nine years ago, on October 10, 1962, the PLA launched its first fierce attack on Indians at Tseng-jong (then in NEFA) where, despite being ill-clad and under-armed, the 9 Punjab and 2 Rajput gave a sterling display of soldierly skill and determination by killing/wounding 33 Chinese to its “seven killed, seven missing, 11 wounded”. The Chinese remember that despite their superior attack force, they got the bloodier nose.
October, therefore, being special to the CPC’s centenary and 59 years of Indian humiliation, it would be absurd expecting the CPC-controlled PLA to accept the Indian Army’s proposals in October 2021. If anyone in New Delhi hoped otherwise, they need to revisit and re-read the art and craft of dealing with the contemporary Communist dragon.
The CPC under its overlord Xi Jinping refuses to play “second fiddle” to any global power. It can deploy up to 40 fighter jets to violate airspaces at will, operate its dual-use intelligence-cum-fishing flotilla thousands of nautical miles away on Africa’s eastern coast, South America’s western coast and in the mid-Pacific islands with ease, and harass Hindustan 24/7 in the Himalayas.
There are innumerable reports of how the CPC’s “fishing fleet” is now ravaging Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia as well as the Galapagos islands. Several hundred “fishermen” were also caught off the Ratnagiri coast, south of the Mumbai naval base, in 2019. However, all of them went scot-free, without any trial, exposing India’s vulnerability in its own backwater. The marauding CPC “trawlers” have penetrated deep into the waters of African nations like Mozambique and Madagascar, to Oman in the Middle East. And the world watches with bewildering numbness.
Understandably, the CPC dictator now treats the world as “Pompous NATO” (No Action, Talk Only). So far, it has been a successful strategy, yielding dividends. The Dragon needs to feed its 1.5 billion heads daily through mega fishing, mega shipping, mega trade-profiteering and mega land grabs to keep its rivals at bay. Economics constitutes the fulcrum of the CPC’s dream to dominate and destroy, without damaging itself.
The national neurosis-afflicted CPC is again targeting India’s civilised pacifism today. “Why is Indian Vice-President visiting Arunachal?” Should he have visited Lhasa instead? And now landlocked Bhutan is the latest prize Chinese catch. Bhutan and China signed a “memorandum of understanding (MoU) for boundary negotiation” on October 14, behind India’s back. This columnist had in an article in this newspaper on July 7, 2017 said: “China’s main target is India through Bhutan. It’s showing a unilaterally created 1890 map to claim land.” Will Bhutan later turn out to be China’s second Tibet?