DRAGON’S FAMILIAR D
With the 50th anniversary of the 1962 invasion approaching, history is in danger of repeating
As the 50th anniversary of China’s invasion approaches, history is in danger of repeating itself, with Chinese military pressures and aggressive designs against India not only mirroring the pre-1962 war situation but also extending to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir ( POK) and the oceans around India. China’s expanding axis of evil with Pakistan, including a new troop presence in POK, heightens India’s vulnerability in Jammu and Kashmir, even as India has beefed up its defences in Arunachal Pradesh.
By muscling up to India, what is China seeking to achieve? The present situation, ominously, is no different in several key aspects from the one that prevailed in the run-up to the 1962 war.
The aim of “Mao’s India war” in 1962, as Harvard scholar Roderick Macfarquhar has called it, was largely political: to cut India to size by demolishing what it represented—a democratic alternative to China’s autocracy. The swiftness and force with which Mao Zedong defeated India helped discredit the Indian model, boost China’s image, and consolidate Mao’s internal power. The return of the China-india pairing decades later riles Beijing.
Just as the Dalai Lama’s flight to India in 1959 set the stage for the Chinese military attack, the exiled Tibetan leader today has become a bigger challenge for China than ever. The continuing security clampdown across the Tibetan plateau since the March 2008 Tibetan uprising parallels the harsh Chinese crackdown in Tibet during 1959-62.
The prevailing pattern of cross-frontier incursions and other border incidents is no different to the situation that led up to the 1962 war. Yet, India is repeating the same mistake by playing down the Chinese intrusions. Gratuitously stretching the truth, Indian officials say the incursions are the result of differing perceptions about the line of control. But which side has refused to define the line of control? It speaks for itself that China hasn’t offered this excuse. The fact is that Chinese forces are intruding even into Utttarakhand—the only sector where the line of control has been clarified by an exchange of maps—and into
From a military invasion and cartographic aggression, China is moving to hydrological aggression and a strategic squeeze of India.
Sikkim, whose 206-km border with Tibet is recognised by Beijing.
The 1962 war occurred against the backdrop of China instigating and arming insurgents in India’s North-east. Although such Chinese activities ceased after Mao’s death, China has come full circle today, with Chinesemade arms increasingly flowing into guerrilla ranks in north-east India via Burmese front organisations. In fact, Pakistan-based terrorists targeting India also rely on Chinese arms.
China’s pre-1962 psychological war is returning. In recent years, Beijing has employed its state-run media and nationalistic websites to warn of another armed conflict. It is a throwback to the coarse rhetoric China had used in its build-up to the 1962 war. Its
People’s Daily, for example, has warned India to weigh “the consequences of a potential confrontation with China”. China merrily builds strategic projects in an internationally disputed area like POK but responds with crude threats when other nations explore just for oil.
Just as India in the early 1960s retreated to a defensive position in the border negotiations after having un- dermined its leverage through a formal acceptance of the “Tibet region of China”, the spotlight now is on China’s revived Tibet-linked claim to Arunachal Pradesh rather than on the core issue, Tibet itself. India, with its focus on process than results, has remained locked in continuous border negotiations with China since 1981— the longest and the most fruitless process between any two nations postSecond World War. This process has only aided China’s containment-withengagement strategy.
In the same way that India under Nehru unwittingly created the context to embolden Beijing to wage aggression, New Delhi is again staring at the consequences of a mismanagement of
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