In the context of the Doklam military standoff, India has presented two formulations in dealing with China, and it may be in Beijing’s best interest to pay heed. This will also be in the interests of bilateral relations and a stable military and economic environment in the world. If the world’s two fastest growing large countries, which are also among the world’s most significant economies, opt for military conflict, they will both pay a heavy price, but so will the rest of the world. Beijing should note that it’s time for caution, not brinkmanship through war-mongering rhetoric — which has been its staple over the past month and a half — and amateurish attempts to scare away a potential adversary through sabre-rattling, employing various methods of psychological warfare. If Beijing is to show maturity, it should put away the habit of listening only to itself. That’s also the ancient Asian way.
Three months before the 19th congress of the Chinese Communist Party, where President Xi Jinping, who has already been officially declared a “core” leader of his country (being placed in the pantheon of the greats), seeks to consolidate his power and position himself as China’s most significant political personage after Mao Zedong, it is hardly advisable to be seen as being caught up in a mesh of one’s own making. To emerge as the champion of peace rather than war, by sorting out issues with a key neighbour, may prove to be the better way, for there’s no knowing where war-mongering may lead to. The formulation that external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj laid down in dealing with China in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday was that war was not the way out. This was a follow-up on her official statement exactly a fortnight earlier in Parliament that both sides must withdraw simultaneously (for talks to take place). Both are sensible propositions. India is in Bhutan’s territory at Doklam at Thimphu’s urging, not in Chinese territory as Beijing’s warmongers have been claiming.
If Beijing believes that it will lose face by withdrawing from where its forces should not have been in the first place, then it will have to remove its men and machinery in a few weeks’ time when snows in those high altitudes inhibit normal activity. Indians will also have to pull back. That can be the starting point for talks across the entire range of bilateral ties, as Ms Swaraj noted. She also said China had made a contribution to the Indian economy as India had given it a vast range of contracts. This is the language of peace. It’s now time India and China went over the entire gamut of their bilateral ties and perhaps instituted a strategic dialogue.