Mar 02, 2024
Mar 02, 2024
Way back I had learnt somewhere that communists seldom follow the universally defined ethical and moral values and norms; instead, they evolve own set of principles best suited to their needs. According to many communist writers and think tanks, the goal of communism is to create a stateless and classless society. In the modern times, the People’s Republic of China is a classic communist regime but instead of creating a stateless and classless society, they have created a paradigm sort of altogether a new order that doesn’t fit into any classical definition.
For a stateless society, they have produced one of the most autocratic and hegemonistic Communist Party controlling every aspect of the life of Chinese people and state; and for the classless society the individuals like Jack Ma of Alibaba Group with an estimated current net worth of $42 billion. Coming to ethics and morality, firstly, of late they consciously pushed the entire world into a survival crisis and economic disaster through a pandemic and then, simultaneously, started muscle flexing with neighbours so much so that two big Asian neighbours are almost at the brink of war despite their peace overture.
The way traditional rivals Indian and Chinese armies are locked up against each other at several points across the Indo-Tibetan border, any misunderstanding between the two armies or any further wrong move on the part of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) might lead to a full-fledged war between the two countries. The risk is more so apparent because, leave behind the dithering and wavering of the past, neither the present Indian government nor the Indian armed forces are willing to accept any violation or loss of the Indian territory. Nearly 3,500 Km of Indo-Tibetan border was largely undefined and undemarcated for centuries but Tibet and India never faced any border dispute so long the former was an independent nation. It is only after the Chinese invasion and forceful annexation of Tibet in October 1950 that the frequent transgression of border by the PLA troops started into the areas traditionally under the control and surveillance of the Indian troops. The current face-off between the two armies is one of such many past instances with the difference that the situation is more precarious and volatile this time.
Points of Conflict Across the Tibetan Border
Despite media and public being agog, the Indian government and the military brass have not been publicly categorical about the Chinese transgression and occupation of the Indian Territory in Ladakh region, instead they are attributing the present face-off to differing perceptions about the LAC. Recently, while replying to various news channels, the Indian Defence Minister evaded a direct response to such queries but has been firm and categorical that the honour of the country will not be compromised. Officially, similar restraint has been exercised by the Chinese officials too despite their propaganda machinery being engaged as usual in boasting about the deployment of troops along with heavy machinery and equipment including guns (artillery) along the border, impressive display of their war preparation, and so on so forth. Apart from some political peace initiative on both sides at Joint Secretary level, Major General-level talks have also been conducted on 2 June and Lieutenant General-level (Corps Commanders level) talks on 6 June 2020, with more talks on anvil.
As it appears from various sources, the initial conflict point was the Muguthang Valley of Sikkim in the Eastern sector, when the PLA men intruded Valley and started shouting at the Indian troops – "This (Sikkim) is not your land, this is not Indian Territory... so just go back". The Indian side responded with equal vehemence leading to physical contact and scuffle between the two sides. Later, the matter was resolved at the local commanders’ level but China neither shared any details of the incident nor issued any denial either. Some reports also suggest that this incident actually occurred on 10 May 2020. The Chinese and Indian soldiers clashed on 5 May, and again on 10/11 May, in the Pangong Tso (lake) area, during which they engaged in fistfights and stone-pelting leading to injuries of several soldiers on either side. This seems to be the more contentious area where India claims sovereignty upto Finger Point 8 and PLA has clandestinely occupied it upto Point 4. Then the Chinese soldiers had also crossed LAC into the Galwan River valley at three places i.e. Hot Springs, Patrolling Point 14 and Patrolling Point 15. During the escalating tension between the two armies, the Chinese President Li Jinping also urged the PLA to "think about worst case scenario" and "scale up battle preparedness" adding gravity to already volatile situation.
Apparently, at these places, around 800–1000 Chinese soldiers had crossed over to about 2–3 km, pitching tents with deployment of heavy vehicles and monitoring equipment. Ever since the Indian troops have also been deployed in the area almost face-to-face at a distance of 300–500 metres. Deception, concealment and surprise elements are not new to the Chinese army; they have so often resorted to such tactics in past to gain upper hand and this is what they have done now, simultaneously portraying their Indian counterparts as the actual aggressor through their propaganda machinery. Two points need attention here: One is the timing of aggression when Indian political establishment was completely occupied with coronavirus pandemic and its fallout on public health and national economy; the other paradoxical point is that China has been engaged with the development of roads and other infrastructure across the entire Tibetan border for the decades but they are vehemently opposing similar activity undertaken by India in her own territory in self-defence. The Chinese propaganda machinery is full throttle engaged in misinformation campaign that India is illegally constructing defence facilities across the border into the Chinese territory in the Galwan Valley region.
Role of Indian Politicians, Media and Intellectuals
Ordinarily, such exigencies are utilized by the Chinese communist party and government to generate and consolidate nationalist sentiments among the common citizens through an aggressive propaganda and one would seldom notice any contrary or dissenting voice in China in such matters. Those who choose so for whatever reasons, the Chinese establishment deals with it like treason and penalties are such that the person, if survives, will regret for life. Like the coronavirus pandemic and the Chinese misadventure to simultaneously open border disputes with India cannot be just a coincidence; same way one may wonder if Chinese Doctor Li Wenling’s death on account of the Covid-19 disease was merely an accident or the nemesis of his whistle-blower role which was outrightly disliked and reprimanded by the Chinese establishment. Therefore, such dissenting voices are rare and ordinarily most Chinese citizens, voluntarily or fearfully, endorse the action taken by the Chinese Communist Party and/or the government.
On the other hand, the situation in India is entirely different. While the government led by Prime Minister Modi, Indian armed forces and majority of common people are genuinely concerned with the developments at the border and look forward for an early resolution of the conflict and retrieval of the Indian Territory clandestinely occupied by the PLA. Many of them are very unhappy and agitated with the treacherous conduct of China. On the other hand, there is also a political class, section of media, intellectuals and liberal, who have been maintaining stoic silence over the Chinese trespass all along, be it their role in spreading Covid-19 disease or treachery of LAC violations. They almost daily attack the government and leadership with sarcastic remarks, present twisted versions and misleading interpretations through print and electronic media. One may wonder which team they are actually playing with i.e. whether they are standing for the cause and honour of own country or siding with adversary to weaken and embarrass own government and armed forces.
Incidentally, they represent the same set of political class, journalists and intellectuals, who do not miss any opportunity to criticize Narendra Modi led government and Indian armed forces. They constantly question Indian army’s role in handling terrorists in the Kashmir valley and elsewhere; they have doubted Indian Army and Air Force on surgical operations on terrorist establishments in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir and Balakot in the past; they were found standing with the separatists in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) (nicknamed Tukde-Tukde Gang); they support the cause of urban naxalites and ultras in Indian courts and public platforms; they favour settlement of lakhs of illegal Rohingya and Bangladeshi immigrants in the country but never speak for the rights of lakhs of displaced Kashmiri Hindus and Sikhs in own country; and they oppose grant of Indian citizenship to persecuted people on the basis of religion in Pakistan and Bangladesh because the legislation excludes a community, who are actually persecutors. In fact, the list of sinful acts is rather long; the aforesaid are just a few illustrations. They do this in the name secularism and liberalism and perhaps they have their own definition whereby they feel pain selectively for particular two communities rather than all human beings irrespective of caste, creed and religion.
The origin of coronavirus is beyond doubt that it was in Wuhan, China, from where it spread in the whole world due to negligence or willful act of the Chinese government. As if this was not enough, taking advantage of the situation they resorted to unsolicited transgressions and occupied of certain Indian territories with massive buildup of PLA men and heavy equipment across the border. Notwithstanding, the aforesaid politicians, mediamen and so-called intellectuals have not even once condemned the Chinese action; instead, they have publicly questioned and ridiculed own government on the aforesaid incursions and strategy of the government to deal with it through blogs, social media posts and public utterances. Though currently not holding any substantive position in the party yet a de facto boss, the Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has constantly questioned government's competence to deal with Codid-19 disease and dared the top BJP leadership to reveal the truth on China. "Once RM (Rajnath Singh) is done commenting on the hand symbol, can he answer: Have the Chinese occupied Indian territory in Ladakh?" Gandhi scion tweeted on 9 June 2020.
However, such conduct and behaviour of the country’s oldest political party Congress and communist parties is not a new experience. During the Doklam stand-off with China in 2017, when the hostilities were at peak on both sides, the Gandhi scion chose to have a clandestine visit to the Chinese embassy in New Delhi with other family members. When the news of the visit leaked, the Congress party was prompt to issue a denial, Chinese embassy too promptly removed the news item from its website, and later Gandhi scion conceded the fact but justified his action with a plea that he was well within his right to seek information on the subject. Here the point is as a leader of an important national party, should he seek information from own government (MEA) or from the Chinese ambassador in India on the dispute. Similarly, the loyalty of communist parties has always remained questionable in the context of China. In fact, it is an established historical fact that during the Sino-Indian War of 1962, the Indian communist parties had openly sided with and supported Chinese aggression; consequently, Prime Minister Nehru had no option but to put them behind bars.
It deeply hurts and bothers every sane mind in India as to how come these politicians, journalists and intellectuals stoop so low as to consciously or unconsciously start scheming against the interests of the own nation. To some extent the answer lies in the action and manner which PRC has been conducting during the past two decades. Though widely reported in Western media, only few people know how Beijing has been buying up media outlets and training scores of foreign journalists to ‘tell China’s story well’ – as part of a worldwide propaganda campaign of astonishing scope and ambition. In fact, during the past fifteen years or so, China has actively pursued a sophisticated and assertive strategy increasingly aimed at international audiences in an endeavor to reshape the global information environment with massive infusions of money – funding paid-for advertorials, sponsored journalistic coverage and heavily massaged positive messages from boosters. While within the country, the press is tightly controlled, outside the country China seeks to exploit the vulnerabilities of the free press to its advantage.
For many foreign media houses and journalists bogged down with low budget availability, inadequate remunerations and other pecuniary problems, the China Global Television Network (CGTN), the international arm of China Central Television, offers an enticing prospect, whose goal in the words of Chinese President himself is to “tell China’s story well”. Only recently in April 2020, a US Senior Fellow for Public diplomacy had published an article “Western Media Falls into China’s Propaganda Trap” highlighting the fact how some mainstream American and European news outlets are giving more credibility to the Chinese Party line than their own governments on coronavirus pandemic. In the same article, it was also pointed out how the major US newspapers such as The Washington Posts and Financial Times carry paid “country advertising” supplements paid by China, which are nice moneymakers for the Group almost indistinguishable from the regular news. Citing the enormous Chinese money paid to few mainstream US Media Groups in recent times, an established Indian anchor of a major News Media Group has recently opined that a similar position exists in India and if an investigation is carried out, it may unravel astonishing findings of Chinese funding and patronage to many NGOs, journalists and intellectuals in India.
Once again, such Chinese tactics remind a book "Unrestricted Warfare" authored by two senior officers of PLA, Qiao Liang & Wang Xiangsui, in February 1999, which underlined the tactics of China as a developing country to compensate for their military inferiority vis-à-vis United States. The authors inter alia penned a strategy for the country to use money power to prepare an army of loyal people in America who could constantly criticize and oppose the federal government in an endeavor to paralyze normal functioning; wage an economic war targeting financial institutions and target the network system through hacking into websites. Among many other dubious methods, they even justified use of terrorism to achieve desired ends. Practically, this is what is happening today worldwide in US and many other countries including India. Human life is facing survival threat and world economy is in tatters due to coronavirus pandemic yet a large section of mainstream media in US, Europe and India is too critical about own government while often according credibility to the Chinese line. One wonder how much of it Is by design and to what extent real!
Brahma Chellaney's Piece in Japan Times
Brahma Chellaney is a well-known name among Indian intellectuals and defence analysts, who has squarely blamed the Indian Premier Modi for the current Sino-Indian conflict across the border. He has suggested that Modi’s appeasement policy towards China has backfired and this crisis should now be sufficed to change his approach. According to him, last month’s swift and well-coordinated incursions by PLA troops into the icy borderlands of India’s Ladakh region were the product of months of preparation and now they have established heavily fortified camps in the areas of infiltration, in addition to deploying weapons on its side of the LAC within striking range of the Indian deployments. While India was preoccupied with the Covid-19 crisis, China apparently planned its next move to change the region’s territorial status quo by force. PM Modi failed to see the Chinese incursions coming because his vision has been clouded by the naive hope that the appeasement of China could reset the bilateral relationship and weaken China’s ties with Pakistan. Chellaney has also attempted to derive analogy between the first BJP Prime Minister Vajpayee’s “bus diplomacy” to Lahore, Pakistan with Modi’s special focus and recent summit meetings with Li Jinping with similar disastrous results.
Objective Analysis of Chellaney’s Criticism & Chinese Aggression
Let’s first deal with Mr. Chellaney’s barbs and simultaneous digs on two BJP Prime Ministers late AB Vajpayee and Narendra Modi about bus diplomacy and appeasement of dragon, respectively. In the same blog, Chellaney has conceded that the China-Pakistan axis has generated high security costs for India including the risk of two-front war. When he is aware of the vulnerabilities, then he should also realize the need and importance of political and diplomatic efforts to avoid extra burden on military on such a long and porous border in both fronts. Besides, both adversaries are not limited to occasional LAC or LOC violations but are also constantly engaged in malicious agenda and formation of a hostile ring around India. This is evident from constant Chinese attempts of investment and propaganda in smaller countries of the South Asian region such as Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. It’s a long and complex story but just to illustrate, Nepal has been a traditional friendly neighbour with a lot of social, cultural and political affinity but with a communist government there now, they have succeeded in creating wedge by inciting Nepal to put a claim on few Indian territories for the first time.
The question is, in such a hostile and treacherous pitch what a secular and democratic country like India should do with neighbours to minimize tension at borders and extra burden on the Indian military. The answer is plain and simple that you cannot afford too many hostile neighbours and active fronts, and for this peace and cooperation through bilateral dialogue and enhanced interface by regular travel, sports and cultural activities as also bilateral trade between the countries is the only viable answer. Hence it is a gross misrepresentation of facts to say that the bus diplomacy of late Vajpayee with Pakistani Premier, and peace efforts and summit meetings of PM Modi with Chinese President were only part of an appeasement policy. Vajpayee took independent initiative with political leadership of Pakistan and to a certain extent it was successful but Army and ISI calls the real shots in Pakistan and they made sure by dragging India in Kargil war of 1999 that peace initiative is derailed. Obviously, a democratically elected government cannot negotiate with the adversary’s army and terrorists, just because the civilian government is weak and unstable. Modi has independently done his bit since 2014 to improve relations with all neighbours especially China and Pakistan; and you can do your job sincerely but cannot predict or ensure how the others will conduct.
So Prime Minister Modi did not imitate late Vajpayee; instead. he took independent initiatives with heads of all neighbouring countries including China and Pakistan to forge friendly relations for enduring peace and cooperation in all possible areas including trade. As already indicated, one can make sure that he is honest by intent and action in dealing with others but he cannot guarantee how the other party would conduct or behave; also if they don’t conduct well, you cannot declare war. We all know that the issues between India and duo China & Pakistan are complex and a legacy of past and all three Asian nations are also equipped with the weapons of mass destruction. In fact, Pakistan has made its intentions clear on many occasion and so is true with China.This is where experts like Chellaney do not have any viable answer. Quoting the measures of the issue of electronic tourist visas or delisting China as a country of concern as negative and faulty decisions of Indian Prime Minister is not something that really has any negative impact on India socio-political or economic context. Also this is not something that cannot be easily undone, as and when considered necessary. In fact, such shallow arguments are indicative of only rather poor understanding or possibly biased approach of any proclaimed expert.
Finally, Chellaney has chosen to make personal attack on Modi with carefully worded fashionable jargons and phraseology on which this author would not even like to comment but he has suggested nothing as an alternative and viable course of action by the Indian PM. In this context, his only contribution is to say “unless he (Modi) learns from mistakes and changes his policy toward China, India’s people – and territorial sovereignty – will pay the price. Indeed kudos to him for his wisdom and brilliant ideas (though I am still at loss!) but he perhaps doesn’t even remember that the successive Congress and Congress friendly governments never ever sincerely cared to empower the Indian armed forces both by granting necessary equipment and weapon system for the commensurate defence preparation for the country as also liberty to act at border to protect honour and territorial integrity. The Indian armed forces received some attention during the late Vajpayee regime and now receiving due attention during Modi’s leadership in so for as their needs and opinion in defence matters is concerned. If I am saying this, it is with reasonable responsibility and own long experience and understanding of dealing with the Indian armed forces.
So far what this author has understood is Modi had initially attempted peace and harmony with all neighbouring countries by maintaining personal good relations with all heads of states as also maximum person to person contact by encouraging socio-cultural activities, sports, trade and commerce. Simultaneously, he is first Indian prime minister who has accorded utmost importance and priority to country's armed forces personnel and defence preparations. Large scale roads and communication infrastructure development at the border and Rafale agreement with the French government at the personal initiative and risk could be cited as best example of this endeavor. In the modern age, bilateral peace, proxy-war and war, individually or in-combination, are known instruments to deal with any hostile neighbour; and he tried peace with both China and Pakistan, and simultaneously accorded highest consideration to keep armed forces in readiness for any eventuality of war sans proxy-war. With Pakistan, we convincingly know, peace efforts didn't work; and we are also aware what is happening now on the LOC on Western front. Chellaney considers peace initiatives with China as "appeasement" but has avoided any constructive suggestion for dealing with China. Pakistan experience suggests that shunning or freezing of relations, in fact, pose more serious threat and complications. A gentleman and seasoned expert like him would perhaps avoid recommending proxy-war too; so what is left then! Is he all for a direct confrontation and war with China or this is merely yet another point to personal score?
Now coming to the motives of PRC in precipitating crisis on the Tibetan border in the East Ladakh, there is not one but possibly many reasons. The Chinese global ambitions are not hidden or secret and fairly well known across the global. The most part of the Indian frontier in the Northern and Eastern Sectors runs along the Tibet in the Trans-Himalayan region, and China has assiduously worked for the decades to develop roads and military infrastructure running close to Sino-Indian border. After forcibly occupying Tibet in 1950, incursions in the Indian territories had started in 1950s, which precipitated in Sino-Indian war of 1962 in which ill-prepared India lost almost entire Aksai Chin area of Ladakh to China. Ever since, due to ever shifting stand, new terrestrial claims and periodical incursions, military tensions and face-off has occurred between two neighbours on many occasions. Despite Chinese provocations and continuous buildup of military infrastructure, the successive Congress or Congress friendly governments had always avoided any border development. So now China opposes very instance of road and communication infrastructure development in border areas lest India might achieve parity in military maneuvers and operations with them.
To obstruct this, the Chinese state controlled media and propaganda machinery fabricate the stories of Indian hegemony and false claim that India is carrying out these developments in the Chinese territory. There is yet another reason, in military strategy between the arch rivals, the mountain peaks or for that matter any height is considered advantageous, hence the PLA wants to occupy it wherever feasible to obtain ease and edge in military operation over Indians across the entire Tibetan border. Like US and many powerful European countries, India is also vulnerable and struggling these days due to coronavirus pandemic, so apparently China has found it an ideal time to open border dispute with it. If China succeeds in subduing a big and powerful country like India in these times, it will be easier for them to deal with rather small and weaker countries like Vietnam and Philippine in the South China Sea.
The Chinese transgression at the LAC in Galwan river valley is linked with the Indian efforts to improve upon the border-area infrastructure in Ladakh particularly the Darbuk–Shyok–DBO Road. But the point is why China is doing this now, after all the work on this 255 km all-weather road in eastern Ladakh was going on for years and completed in April 2019. So another possible reason for the current conflict could be the Chinese desire to pre-empt any further Indian effort to improve its logistics and communication links in the area but even that couldn’t be the sole cause. The current border aggression and growing Chinese brinkmanship has certainly something to do with coronavirus pandemic. The way entire world, and particularly US and its Western European allies, have suffered in terms of loss of human lives and economy, there is a lot of resentment among the nations against China but the latter is still in a denial and self-adulation mode. In fact a step further, China has tried to convert the world crisis in an opportunity for self by supplying large scale corona equipment and kits to other countries, prompting own banks and companies to buy shares or even vulnerable companies in other countries, and flexing muscles in South China Sea to claim sole ownership of waters and islands in the region. In fact, by all likelihood, the following developments have also contributed to the dragon’s irritation and resolve to create troubles at the Indo-Tibetan border.
So it is not surprising in these circumstances if a bully nation like China opts for military harassment by raising border conflicts with a hope to subdue its docile neighbour (India) to rethink and revise its political, economic and commercial priorities in more favourable terms. Their confidence is not entire misplaced too considering India’s own inner complexities, conflicts and challenges, and that a good number of politicians, journalists and intellectuals’ are ever ready to play a dubious role even during emergencies like war with an enemy nation. There has always been a significant gap in deceitful neighbour's saying and doing, so my apprehensions are that situation may go out of control any time unless and until PLA men actually honour LAC and retreat to maintain status quo ante.
There is a Hindi phrase "Nindak Niyare Rakhiye" (Keep the critic in proximity). Opinion of a genuine critic should always be welcomed for own good. The title of Chellaney's blog published in The Japan Times is "India's appeasement policy toward China unravels", although in essence it points out only flaws of the strategic working and policies of Indian Premier Narendra Modi. I was wondering if the author was genuinely concerned about the national security and indeed wanted Modi to amend self by highlighting flaws of his policy, was it really necessary to choose a foreign newspaper for this noble mission or it is just yet another Indian intellectual exercising his freedom of expression. Obviously, only Chellany will know about his motive or motivation to write in a Japanese newspaper about the failures of Modi's policy and strategic working. At the same, it is also true that these days many mainstream newspapers and magazines owned by powerful and influential International Media Groups purportedly render handsome offers for contributing on a particular line.
Chinese game of deception and concealment often clubbed with a surprise element is not new and open countries like India with its secular and democratic values have to live with it forever because broad geographical boundaries cannot be altered or redefined. On one hand, they have reportedly withdrawn to previous positions in Galwan River valley but Finger Points 4 to 8 in Pangong Tso remain a hotly contested issue which is yet to be resolved despite 4-5 rounds of talks at senior commanders level. Either side has not divulged with details but it not so difficult either to decipher where the glitch lies. While Indian side would not accept any change of status quo through Chinese denial of Indian access upto Finger point 8 in Pangong Lake area, the Chinese side having already occupied it in a clandestine operation would certainly press for the whole area or at least some concessions. Simultaneous reports also suggest a heavy concentration and movement of troops and heavy machinery & equipment on either side of the Tibetan border right from India's Uttarakhand state in North to Arunachal Pradesh in far East. So dark clouds of war are also looming large along with the peace initiative and we may only keep fingers crossed while awaiting situation to resolve.
Some analysts and experts habitually compare India vis-à-vis China and Pakistan in an illogical manner. On Western border, the LOC is perennially hot with constant shelling from the Pakistani army, infiltration of terrorists and frequent casualties. Accordingly, Indian army engages itself in hot pursuit to respond to enemy's shelling and nab or liquidate infiltrators. On the Eastern front, though PLA is engaged in incursions as also occasional arguments and scuffle between soldiers of two sides, but it is also a fact that even a single bullet has not been fired from the either sides in decades. So the country has no option but to continue with a sort of “carrot and stick” policy while dealing with the Eastern neighbour. However, whatever politicians and analysts world over say in regard to the Chinese claims, the fact is China had forcibly annexed peaceful Tibetan state in 1950 on the analogy of “might is right” otherwise it has no locus standi in Tibetan peninsula. This being the position, every Chinese claim on Indian territories from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh is unfounded, untenable and illegal.
More by : Dr. Jaipal Singh