It looks as if China would go on pro­vok­ing In­dia to ex­haust its pa­tience. When war is ruled out, this is the only op­tion China has. How to re­tal­i­ate, with­out re­sort­ing to hos­til­i­ties is the sit­u­a­tion In­dia faces.


THIS is a fa­mil­iar ex­er­cise. China re­sents In­dia’s rule over Arunachal Pradesh, and New Delhi, on the other hand, ig­nores the protests and treats the North-East ter­ri­tory as its own. Bei­jing has been irked by De­fence Min­is­ter Nir­mala Sithara­man’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh. The noise was, how­ever, louder when the Dalai Lama went there ear­lier.

China and In­dia have sel­dom agreed on where the ac­tual bor­der line lies. Bei­jing at­tacked In­dia in 1962 when New Delhi tried to get back its ter­ri­tory. How­ever, this time In­dia showed its mus­cles with the stand-off at Doka La. China had to with­draw its forces be­hind the present bor­der. After the face-off, Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi did re­duce ten­sion for BRICS in Septem­ber.

The pos­i­tive side of the trip is the re­it­er­a­tion by the two coun­tries to fight against ter­ror­ists. But here too Bei­jing elu­ci­dated its own. It has again op­posed the pro­posed UN res­o­lu­tion which sought to put a ban on Azar Ma­sood, a well known ter­ror­ist. He could not be pun­ished. The friend­ship be­tween China and Pak­istan is only get­ting stronger, much to the con­cern of New Delhi.

Not long ago, Bei­jing had be­gun sta­pling visas of In­di­ans vis­it­ing Arunachal. China wanted to in­di­cate that it was a “sep­a­rate ter­ri­tory”, and not a part of In­dia.

New Delhi bore the hu­mil­i­a­tion qui­etly. In the past, it was China that had ac­cepted with­out de­mur the maps show­ing Arunachal Pradesh as In­dia’s ter­ri­tory. To re­call, the dis­pute is over a small ter­ri­tory ly­ing be­tween Arunachal and China’s bor­der. The sta­tus of Arunachal Pradesh has been sel­dom ques­tioned.

Ti­bet for China is like In­dia’s Kash­mir which too has raised a call for in­de­pen­dence. There is, how­ever, one dif­fer­ence: the Dalai Lama is will­ing to ac­cept an au­ton­o­mous sta­tus within China. Kash­mir to­day wants to­tal in­de­pen­dence. Maybe, the Kash­miris will come round to ac­cept a sim­i­lar sta­tus one day. But, the prob­lem is so com­pli­cated that a mi­nor change can lead to a ma­jor catas­tro­phe. So, it is just not worth risk­ing.

I have vis­ited Bomdila Pass from where the Dalai Lama en­tered In­dia to seek asy­lum. His land, Ti­bet, had been oc­cu­pied by China, which also has de­stroyed the Ti­betan cul­ture. The Chi­nese have im­posed com­mu­nism and shown no re­spect for ei­ther Dalai Lama or his monastery.

The Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh brought back the mem­o­ries of the days be­fore the Chi­nese an­nexed Ti­bet. Pan­dit Jawa­har­lal Nehru, In­dia’s first Prime Min­is­ter, did not raise any ob­jec­tion at that time be­cause he was on per­sonal terms with Chi­nese Premier Chu-En Lai. It is an­other story that he be­trayed Nehru and at­tacked In­dia, and oc­cu­pied thou­sands of kilo­me­tres of In­dia. Till now, it has shown no in­ten­tion to va­cate it.

Ti­bet is an­other story of be­trayal. True, it was un­der the suzerainty of Bei­jing but the au­ton­omy of Ti­bet was con­sid­ered un­vi­able. Suzerainty means a Gov­ern­ment ex­er­cis­ing po­lit­i­cal con­trol over a de­pen­dent State. Suzerainty does not mean ab­sorp­tion. Ti­bet was not even a part of China when In­dia agreed to suzerainty of China. Bei­jing be­trayed Nehru again when it made the Dalai Lama’s stay at Lhasa im­pos­si­ble. The big­gest be­trayal was when China at­tacked In­dia eight years later, in 1962.

The Dalai Lama’s visit may not have raised doubts about Ti­bet but it re­newed the de­bate of its an­nex­a­tion by Bei­jing once again. China called his visit a “provo­ca­tion”.

It was a warn­ing to In­dia that the Dalai Lama’s visit would af­fect the nor­mal re­la­tions be­tween the two coun­tries. It in­ten­si­fied with Doka La. Yet, In­dia man­aged to hold its own.

In fact, China’s prob­lems with In­dia have roots in the Bri­tish de­mar­ca­tion of the In­dia-China bor­der. China re­fuses to ac­knowl­edge the MacMa­hon Line that de­mar­cates Arunachal Pradesh to be a part of In­dia. Any ac­tiv­ity that takes place in this area is viewed scep­ti­cally by China.

De­fence Min­is­ter Nir­mala Sithara­man’s visit to the “dis­puted’’ ter­ri­tory de­spite Chi­nese protest showed that New Delhi was pre­pared for hos­til­i­ties if it comes to that pass. Ear­lier, the In­dian sol­diers did not have shoes for a moun­tain com­bat. Now, In­dia is a power to reckon with.

It looks as if China would go on pro­vok­ing In­dia to ex­haust its pa­tience. When war is ruled out, this is the only op­tion China has. How to re­tal­i­ate, with­out re­sort­ing to hos­til­i­ties is the sit­u­a­tion In­dia faces.

Bei­jing is try­ing to re­vive the In­dia-China Bhai Bhai sce­nario. New Delhi can­not trust Bei­jing, par­tic­u­larly when it is try­ing to en­cir­cle In­dia. China has given a big loan to Nepal. The port which Sri Lanka is build­ing is at the be­hest of China.

Bangladesh Prime Min­is­ter Sheikh Hasina is happy that China is try­ing to pla­cate her. All should re­alise that In­dia is no push over now. Apart from war, In­dia has many options. Tai­wan is a trump card. It can re­vive the de­bate on two Chi­nas.

The ques­tion of ter­ror­ism is al­ways there. Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi agreed with a Chi­nese leader that they share com­mon con­cern over ter­ror­ism. A por­tion of Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion liv­ing in China is be­gin­ning to as­sert it­self. The Chi­nese lead­ers are ig­nor­ing the up­ris­ing. But they should re­alise that what the Mus­lims in China are do­ing has the sup­port of Mus­lims in other coun­tries. Still, China would be helped by non-Mus­lim coun­tries be­cause they see ter­ror­ism as heart of Mus­lim chau­vin­ism.

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