As India-China border is simmering, it is important to cool the temperature. It will be unwise to up the ante or add fuel to fire. The country is in the cusp of one of the worst crises after the 1962 war. Though there had been skirmishes and dangerous face-offs in the past, the last two years have seen relationship between the two plummeting to a new low. There have been instances of Chinese Army pitching tents on Indian territory and taking on Indian soldiers. The People’s Liberation Army has intruded deep into Indian territory in the plains of Ladakh and camped for days together on a few occasions. The recent stopping of pilgrims on Mansarovar Yatra and the destruction of Indian bunkers took the crisis to a new height.
It is difficult to discern China’s motives in precipitating the crisis. They are known to violate agreements as in the breach of Panchsheel Treaty, the five principles which formed the bedrock of India-China relationship, leading to 1962 war. The agreements during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China in 2015 were meant to boost the ties between the two neighbours. But, recent events have brought the situation back to square one. The Chinese incursions and violations could be a ploy to pressure India to relent on its objections to some of the Chinese ventures. India did not attend the meeting on ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ which will enhance China’s global supremacy by linking it, through a series of corridors, with Central Asia, Middle East and Europe. China also wants India to settle the border disputes in both western and eastern sectors on its terms which are not acceptable to India.
It may be recalled that Modi government’s coming to power was portrayed as a new beginning in the relationship with its neighbours. The participation of several heads of State at the swearing in ceremony of Modi was showcased as a new chapter in relationship with the neighbours. The inauguration of Nathu La route to Mansarovar, making the annual pilgrimage shorter and more comfortable, was given wide publicity as a proof of bonhomie with the neighbour whom a former Defence Minister had described as India’s enemy No.1. But it did not take long before the bond with the neighbour to hit a new low.
Border standoffs needlessly engender distrust and vitiate relations between neighbours. War of words and clamouring for war may not be the right thing to do in such situations. It is the responsibility of the leadership to make sure that matters do not go out of hand. In this context one has to take with a pinch of salt the remarks of Army Chief General Bipin Rawat that India ‘was ready for a two-and-a-half front war’ and Defence Minister Arun Jaitley’s statement that India of 2017 is different from what it was in 1962. It is good to remember what former Army chief V.P. Mallik wrote a couple of months back. “In the coming days, we can expect more of coercive diplomacy and bullying tactics from China....India will require greater political ingenuity, determination…. to safeguard its national interests.”(Published on 10th July 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 28)