India: heed geo-po­lit­i­cal re­al­i­ties, es­chew reck­less­ness

People's Review - - OP-ED - BY M.R. JOSSE mr­josse@gmail.com

GAITHERS­BURG, MD: Though the past week has been a most event­ful and dra­matic one here in Amer­ica - and a tragic pe­riod in Barcelona, Spain - this col­umn will deal with mat­ters closer to home, es­pe­cially as one feels that not enough in-depth at­ten­tion has been fo­cused on key strate­gic as­pects of the now more than two month-long stand­off be­tween India and China - and their im­pli­ca­tions for Nepal. Apart from re­quests from friends back home to ex­pound fur­ther on the sub­ject and con­sid­er­ing that there are sig­nif­i­cant se­cu­rity/ for­eign pol­icy ram­i­fi­ca­tions, I will now at­tempt to do so, start­ing with the re­mark I made in open­ing my col­umn last week: that Bhutan has be­come largely ir­rel­e­vant or in­audi­ble in the whole ca­boo­dle. BHUTANESE 'IN­VI­TA­TION'? With plea­sure I now note (vide last week's Weekly Mir­ror), that much the same ob­ser­va­tion was force­fully ar­tic­u­lated by 'Global Times', Beijing's English lan­guage daily, in an com­men­tary en­ti­tled 'Bhutan's neu­tral stance em­bar­rasses India.' It claimed, in­ter alia, that "Se­nior Bhutanese of­fi­cials have openly never said the area of stand­off is Bhutanese ter­ri­tory and never ac­knowl­edged they re­quested India's in­ter­ven­tion in China's road con­struc­tion. New Delhi took the lib­erty to speak on Bhutan's be­half.... Bhutan ob­vi­ously wants to re­main neu­tral in the stand­off. It does not ap­pear like a coun­try that has been 'in­vaded' by China and des­per­ately wants India's sup­port. India is bul­ly­ing Bhutan and its fabri­cated ex­cuses are gound­less in front of in­ter­na­tional law." As far as yours truly is con­cerned, India's trans­par­ent Bhutanese ' in­vi­ta­tion' to her to in­ter­cede with China is redo­lent of Hafizul­lah Amin's De­cem­ber 1979 fig-leaf 'in­vi­ta­tion' to Soviet leader Leonid Brezh­nev's for his in­va­sion of Afghanistan. To come back, how­ever, to the sub­ject at hand, I would now like to quote re­veal­ing ex­cerpts from a write-up in Asia Times, a few weeks ago, penned by for­mer se­nior Indian di­plo­mat, M.K. Bhadraku­mar, en­ti­tled "Indian mil­i­tary stand­off with China was all about Bhutan." GROTESQUE LEGACY Dis­clos­ing that "de-es­ca­la­tion is the new mantra" in New Delhi, Bhadraku­mar as­serts that there has been "no Chi­nese 'in­tru­sion' on the China-Bhutan bor­der"; the much re­ferred to road has been in ex­is­tence and now "pos­si­bly widened"; and that "Indian troops moved into Dok­lam, which has been un­der Chi­nese con­trol all along." Con­tin­u­ing, Bhadraku­mar ar­gues, "All the in­di­ca­tions are that the cur­rent stand­off is not so much about ter­ri­tory as the 'Great Game' over Bhutan... Bhutanese na­tion­al­ism and re­sent­ment of Indian hege­mony is, no doubt, a strong un­der­cur­rent and New Delhi can­not ig­nore it much longer... In­ter­ven­tion in neigh­bour­ing coun­tries to brow­beat them is a grotesque for­eign pol­icy legacy left be­hind by decades of suc­ces­sive Congress Party gov­ern­ments of India. It is an ar­chaic mind­set. It's time for India to bring in imag­i­na­tive 'new think­ing' ap­proach to Bhutan." As far as the for­mer Indian di­plo­mat's ref­er­ence to 'deesca­la­tion' is con­cerned, I wish to re­call my com­ment in a col­umn three weeks ago wherein I stated that in spite of much ear­lier sound and fury on the sub­ject in India there were clear in­di­ca­tions of a 're­treat'. To back that in­ter­pre­ta­tion I had re­ferred to Indian for­eign min­is­ter Sushma Swaraj's state­ment in the Ra­jya Sabha where she said "though mil­i­tary re­dress is al­ways there, war is not a so­lu­tion." Against the above back­drop, I will now re­fer to Indian op­po­si­tion leader Rahul Gandhi's re­cent pub­lic taunt to Indian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi. As re­ported in The Indian Ex­press (16 Au­gust), the Indian Congress vice pres­i­dent mocked Modi for be­ing silent on the sub­ject of China's ag­gres­sive pos­ture in his In­de­pen­dence Day speech from the ram­parts of Lal Kila in Delhi, "Some­time back, the Chi­nese pres­i­dent came to India. While our Prime Min­is­ter was hug­ging him, a thousand Chi­nese sol­diers en­tered our ter­ri­tory. Yes­ter­day, did any­one hear the PM say that the Chi­nese forces are still sit­ting inside Bhutan?" E. Jaya Kumar, in the Asia Times (18 Au­gust), in­ci­den­tally, re­minded read­ers, too, that Modi was "silent on Dok­lam" in his In­de­pen­dence Day speech, adding that "his pledge to de­fend the coun­try against for­eign threats was a pro-forma vague state­ment that was not ex­plic­itly aimed at China." I might add that no rant of "sur­gi­cal strikes" against Pak­istan was heard. As many will surely re­call, a year ago, on the same oc­ca­sion, Modi, full of blus­ter and brag­gado­cio, openly threat­ened to help sep­a­ratists in Pak­istan's Baluchis­tan prov­ince. Clearly, Modi has ap­par­ently qui­etly moved away from such an bel­liger­ent, anti-Pak­istan stance. Which would seem to sug­gest that he will do the same vis-à-vis a far more pow­er­ful China. Yet, to go by some ar­ti­cles in the Indian me­dia, a mood of un­re­al­is­tic bravado against China is still ram­pant, as re­flected in sug­ges­tions that India should boy­cott the up­com­ing BRICS sum­mit slated for Xi­a­men in Fu­jian prov­ince in Septem­ber. As all know, India needs BRICS more than China. All the same, if India, throw­ing cau­tion to the winds, is rash enough to take on China mil­i­tar­ily she will meet the same ig­no­min­ious fate that be­fell her when, af­ter re­buff­ing China's re­peated, rea­son­able of­fers for talks, she nev­er­the­less de­cided to mil­i­tar­ily chal­lenge the lat­ter, in Oc­to­ber 1962. If, even now, de­spite all in­di­ca­tions to the con­trary, Modi be­lieves such reck­less­ness would be backed by Amer­ica, he is build­ing cas­tles in the air! I can as­sure you that Don­ald Trump's Amer­ica - con­fronted with a wide ar­ray of se­ri­ous threats in­clud­ing that from North Korea - has no ap­petite for con­flicts it does do not need, even as it re­flects on how best to ex­tri­cate it­self from a 16-year war in Afghanistan, the long­est in her his­tory. DEUBA IN DELHI Prime Min­is­ter Deuba would do well, while in India, to se­ri­ously mull over the mul­ti­ple geopo­lit­i­cal and for­eign/ se­cu­rity pol­icy lessons from the con­tin­u­ing Sino-Indian stale­mate and en­sure (a) that he does not 'sup­port' India's cur­rent an­tiChina stance, as also (b) con­vey to his Indian coun­ter­part the need to end Indian cul­pa­bil­ity in an­nual flood­ing in Nepal, dur­ing the mon­soon.

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