The hovering war clouds between the belligerent and hegemonistic China and resilient and determinate India appear to be dispersing for now with the reports coming that the Chinese troops have started to pull back beyond Patrolling Point-14 in Galwan Valley where a deadly clash took place between the two armies in the night of 15/16 June 2020. Rather than using the modern fire arms, the Chinese troops had used primordial and barbaric weapons like barbed & nailed clubs and heavy stones in a premeditated and well-planned attack while Indians responded with batons and similar weapons snatched from their adversaries. In the ensuing battle which reportedly lasted till about mid-night, the Indian commanding officer and twenty soldiers were martyred with unspecified numbers injured. On the other hand, the Chinese government and media never reported their casualties though many independent and intelligence sources put this tally between 40 to 50 Chinese soldiers including their commanding officer.
The year 2020 began with a sordid note from the middle kingdom (China) spreading the Wuhan virus worldwide deliberately as part of their sinister plan or by accident due to sheer carelessness and disregard of the world community. As of now, the Covid-19 pandemic has taken a toll of over 568 thousand human lives with approximately 12.85 million coronavirus cases in 215 countries, with countries like US, Brazil, Russia, India among the worst hit both in terms of men and economy. The worst part of the entire saga is that the country which is responsible for the pandemic used it an opportunity for commercial considerations and consolidation of global dominance. As if this was not sufficed, China has been simultaneously flexing muscles with its neighbours like India, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, Philippine, and so on in pursuance of its expansionist agenda. The current mood and posturing of the world powers in the Indo-pacific region suggests that the current sino-Indian feud has a potential of a global war.
Intricacies of LAC, Chinese Withdrawal and Future Prospects
The saga began during the first week of May 2020 when Indian patrolling troops noticed PLA (People’s Liberation Army) incursions at several points in Galwan River valley and Pangong Tso (lake) area with fairly heavy deployment of troops and war machinery along with hurriedly erected temporary structures. As expected, Indian patrolling parties objected to these developments with a warning to adversary troops to remove unauthorized structures and return to original positions maintaining status quo ante along the LAC. This led to several face-offs, scuffles and stone pelting incidents between the two sides. With the rising tension due to continued Chinese intransigence and belligerence between peace talks of the local commanders, a deadly clash as referred to in the opening paragraph culminated leading to significant casualties and injuries on either side. As such the troops of the two countries were locked in a bitter standoff since first week of May 2020 and both sides significantly bolstered military deployment along the most part of LAC after this clash.
A lot of misinformation and confusion was also created by some leaders of opposition political parties in India, mainly the Congress, in regard to the Chinese transgression and/or physical occupation of the Indian territory. This was of course yet another effort to use national emergencies like Covid-19 pandemic and Chinese aggression as an opportunity to bolster own image and position domestically and internationally. During an all-party meeting of opposition and ruling parties on 18 June, while apprising leaders about the border situation Prime Minister Modi inter alia said that “neither they (Chinese) had intruded into Indian border nor any post was taken over by them.” This was repeatedly publicised at public platforms by leaders of the main opposition party as misleading and false statement by the Prime Minister. To understand what had really transpired on LAC leading to current conflict, one needs to learn the concept of LAC and ownership.
Historically, the border between India and Tibet (erstwhile independent country) was not well defined but the two countries did not have any dispute either. The problem started after the People’s Republic of China (PRC) attacked and forcibly occupied militarily weak Tibetan country in October 1950. Ever since China has been selectively laying claims on vantage territories across nearly 3,500 Km long Indo-Tibetan border and in the process the two countries had full-fledged war in 1962 and more serious yet localised conflicts in 1967 and 1987 too. Though the countries have evolved a formal border resolution mechanism but the same has hardly produced any results due to constant shifting stand and stubborn approach of PRC. The current conflict mainly occurred in Galwan valley and Pangong lake areas where the Indian and Chinese sides have permanent posts and some buffer areas in between, on which both countries stake claims with the difference that Indian stand has been consistent and clear while China keeps changing it.
For instance, in Pangong Tso area India has historically taken a constant stand that the LAC in this sector extends up to Finger 8; Indian army have a regular post near Finger Point 3 and their patrolling parties use to go on patrol up to Finger Point 8. On the other hand, the PLA has a regular post behind the Finger Point 8 and they used to lay claim up to Finger Point 4 and, recently, they have started claiming up to Finger Point 2 as well. Thus, there is overlapping claim of the two countries in certain areas which both countries had resolved to settle through peaceful negotiations. Instead, during the current stand-off, the PLA actually moved up to Finger Point 4 with men and material and blocked the passage of Indian troops beyond this point. This explains Indian Prime Minister’s tactical statement on the conflict whereby the Chinese side has attempted to unilaterally change status quo. These Finger points are actually medium hight ridges bulging towards the narrow lake area and named so for the sake of convenience.
As per protocol, troops of both sides stay at often mutually agreed distance behind the LAC to avoid any wilful or accidental clash. The current Chinese transgression brought the two armies face-to-face at several points leading to otherwise avoidable conflict and clash. Following the deadly clash on 15/16 June night at the Patrolling Point 14 in Galwan valley, while keeping the military, political and diplomatic channels open for peaceful negotiations, India has mobilized its troops to counter the Chinese threat with its state-of-the-art equipment and war machinery keeping them on high alert across the entire Indo-Tibetan border. Similarly, the Indian Air Force too has been fully galvanized to provide necessary support to ground forces in any eventuality. Indian Prime Minister also chose to personally visit among troops in Ladakh to deliver the sternest ever message to enemy without calling names that India is committed to defend its border without ceding an inch of territory to any evil design.
It’s obvious that following the Indian military’s deployment and tough posturing as also PM moral boosting visit among troops in Ladakh, the message had gone well on the other side of the border, Consequently, a protracted meeting between India’s ISA (Internal Security Advisor) and Chinese Foreign Minister though video-talk was organized at the Chinese call , following which clear signals have been received about the Chinese troops withdrawal as per agreement reached. This withdrawal is to take place in phases and under verifiable supervision of the two sides. As per reports, PLA has removed unauthorized structures from Galwan valley and Gogra Hot Spring and their troops and heavy vehicles were observed moving back. There are indications that similar process is also on in Pangong lake area too but some defence experts believe that getting PLA to pull back from Finger Point 4 to Finger 8 will be a tough challenge, particularly in view of the permanent structures viz. road, bunkers etc. already made by them indicating their intention to stay long in the area. Ironically, while pulling back from these areas, China has sprung another surprise and controversy by staking claim on some 650 Sq Km Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary of Bhutan.
The Chinese dragon is famous for its double speak and backing out from their own commitments without any regret or shame; this is actually part of their military and political strategy. Therefore, despite understanding reached, actually pushing them beyond Finger Point 8 in Pangong lake area shall be an uphill task. Now their claim on Bhutanese territory might further complicate the entire process. Bhutan has outrightly rejected the Chinese claim and issued demarche to the Chinese Embassy in India stressing that the aforesaid wildlife sanctuary is an integral and sovereign partof their country and that it has never featured as a disputed area in the boundary discussions between Bhutan and China in the past. However, the development is alarming for India for the reasons that the sanctuary borders Arunachal Pradesh which China claims as South Tibet, and in the event of the violation of any Bhutanese territory, India is obligated to protect the latter.
It is irony and misfortune of the Indian democracy, that even during national emergencies certain forces choose to act against the national interests, by doubting the potential of the armed forces and questioning the moves of the government. In an earlier article, the author had briefly highlighted how an enormous amount of money is spent by Beijing annually to cultivate people in media, institutions and political parties just to “tell China’s story well” through a well-oiled machinery. In the same write up, it was suggested that if an investigation is carried out, it may unravel astonishing findings of Chinese funding and patronage to many NGOs, journalists and intellectuals in India. It is not even a month and reports have emerged how a widely recognized and reputed NGO “Rajiv Gandhi Foundation” has received funding from the Chinese Embassy in India and the Chinese government among others in the past. Needless to mention this Foundation is run by the powerful political Nehru-Gandhi family and their few loyalists. The Trust is now under scanner for Money Laundering and other violations; the moot point is if any quid pro quo exists in lieu of such funding.
What Made China to Go on Back Foot Along LAC
China has chosen to pursue its hegemonistic ambitions at a time when almost all big and powerful countries including US, Russia and India are domestically struggling with the Chinese Covid-19 pandemic to save citizens’ life and economy. While the countries grappled with the spread of coronavirus, China systematically stepped up its familiar tactics to browbeat neighbours such as Vietnam, Malaysia and Philippine that stake commercial rights in South China Sea for oil drilling and other sea resources, threatened Taiwan with bombing and attempted to curtail democratic rights in Hon Kong through new legislation. Reaction of these countries against the violation of their territorial waters including sinking of the Vietnamese fishing vessel were limited to official protests and diplomatic demarche. Perhaps emboldened by its perspicuous dominance in the South China Sea, China also implemented its premeditated design to capture vantage territories of Ladakh its Western neighbourhood in Himalayan region in early May 2020.
Clearly, the Chinese designs at the LAC were foiled by the Indian troops with their tough stand and controlled but befitting response to PLA transgressions. After the Chinese plot got exposed and foiled with combined efforts of the Indian military, diplomacy and political leadership, China on back foot has now started playing victim’s card through its propaganda machinery and official formal releases. If China has agreed to pull back from the disputed areas and their troops have been actually observed vacating some of these points, it certainly is a commendable success of the Indian military and political leadership. While the experts will have their own assessment and opinion on the subject, to my view, two key factors for this feat are the political will of the Indian leadership and strategic grit and resolve of the armed forces. As for the Chinese Communist Party, Government and PLA (all headed by Li Jinping), it is clear that they had failed to learn lesson from 73-day standoff between the two armies on the Doklam plateau in Bhutan in 2017.
For the last few years now, China has been in a race of being recognized as a superpower and global leader, and in the process, it challenged and posed as rival of the United States in several areas. With years of sustained overt and covert efforts, China has successfully competed and dominated in all continents with its cheap consumer goods including communication equipment and software. Liberal GATT regime and bilateral free-trade arrangements have been of great advantage to China in promoting its exports worldwide; in fact, most countries have an unfavourable import-export trade vis-à-vis China these days. Consequently, the Chinese coffers are flooded with surplus money as is evident from the fact that the Chinese foreign exchange reserves stood at $3,112 billion in June 2020 as against US paltry sum of $112 and India $507 billion. Besides, China has the largest army with active strength in the world and militarily ranked as number three, only next to US and Russia. With these achievements, it is not surprising that China is simmering with confidence (or overconfidence) and ambition to replace US in the world politics and power game.
While the Chinese economy is still for behind the US but it is likely to catch up with it in another few decades. However, the US has an enormous edge over China in overall military strength and it is not likely that the latter will be able to match the former in this discipline over the next several decades. On the other hand, China has military edge above India in terms of size and defence spending, which is only next to China in overall global ranking of military strength of the nations. Perhaps this is also the reason why the state controlled Chinese media and newspapers constantly engage in propaganda and publicity of glorifying their military strength in a sort of intimidation tactics and psychological warfare. However, what needs to be kept in mind is that the military data available on the Wikipedia or websites like GlobalFirePower is about general holdings under various categories but it does not indicate the real potential or firepower of the countries, more so because countries prefer to keep their sensitive and strategic inventory under the skeeves.
According to general source military data available in public domain, China and India are militarily ranked as the 3rd and 4th most powerful countries in the world ranking. Going by broad comparisons, the manpower strength of both the countries is nearly equal; on economic front, China is nearly five times bigger on GDP nominal and approximately two and a-half size on GDP purchase power parity. Active military personnel of China and India stand at 2.18 and 1.44 million, respectively; however, India has 2.1 million men in reserve, who could be engaged for war duties after a brief training compared to China’s 0.5 million reserve. India has more combat tanks but China disproportionately outnumber India in armoured vehicles, self-propelled artillery and rocket launchers. Russian T-90 tanks and Swedish Bofors guns (Artillery) with Indian army are still considered among the best in land warfare, while India has undertaken a vast artillery modernisation programme inter alia including a significant number of M-777 ultra-light howitzers from US especially suited for the mountainous warfare.
In terms of the number of combat and attack aircrafts, China has almost double the number of India but the latter has distinct edge with superior aircrafts in terms of technology and air worthiness; for instance, India’s fleet of Sukhoi-30MKI, a twinjet multirole air superiority fighter, is far superior than the SU-27 and J-series fighter jets deployed by China in Tibet. Similarly, Indian Mirage-2000 is a trusted aircraft having proved its potential and purpose during the Kargil War and recent successful Balakot strikes deep into Pakistan territory. Numerically, the Indian Naval fleet is less than half compared to China yet worthy enough to defend Indian interests in the Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean. The reason for better Indian weaponry, and land, air and marine warfare systems is simple and obvious. As a democratic country, India is more trustworthy and acceptable worldwide with an unblemish record of non-proliferation of the sensitive technologies. While it has decades old partnership with Russia in defence cooperation, it is now equally acceptable to US and other Western countries for such cooperation and thus has access to their war equipment and technology. On the other hand, the Chinese war equipment including aircraft and ships are basically Russian copycat, part indigenous and pirated.
To illustrate it, China significantly outnumbers India in attack jets and helicopters but it still has no match for Sukhoi SU-30MKI, Apache Advanced Attack Helicopters or CH-47 Chinook deployed in Ladakh during the current conflict. Even multirole Mirage-2000 (upgraded to Mirage 2000-5 MK2) has ability to successfully match and counter any Chinese jet variants’ threat on Indo-Tibetan front. China is believed to have developed and deployed 2 to 3 squadrons of the Chengdu J-20 stealth fifth generation fighter aircraft which are believed to have been deployed at some airbase(s) in the Chinese mainland mainly to counter threat in South China Sea; obvious source of such threat perception is US naval presence in the Indo-Pacific region. Since the Sino-Indian conflict started in Ladakh, two US aircraft carriers namely the Ronald Reagan and the Nimitz along with its strike force are cruising through the South China Sea in a reminder to Beijing of the US commitment to work for its allies in the region.
Besides, both India and China are nuclear powers. If China has an inventory of medium (IRBM) and long range (ICBM) missile with carrying capacity of conventional and nuclear bombs, India too is now capable to similarly hit any target deep into the Chinese mainland with its Agni range of missiles. India has inducted at least 3 regiments of supersonic Brahmos missiles that can be launched from the land, ship and aircraft and these missiles are considered deadliest and best in world among the cruise missiles on date. Suffice to say, while China keeps reminding the nemesis of the 1962 War through its propaganda machinery but they very well know that India in 2020 is militarily not the same nation as it was in 1962. The Indian political leadership then was averse to the needs of the armed forces and more than eager tangoing “Panchsheel” with the leaders of the belligerent and treacherous neighbour. The leadership now feels that a strong nation is vital for the peace at borders and is earnestly committed to equip the armed forces with the state of the arts equipment and weaponry within the resources and constraints of the country.
It may also be remembered that mere numerical superiority of troops and/or quality of weapons does not guarantee victory in a war. A classic case is India - Pakistan 1965 War which the latter fought with the superior armour and air power viz. US supplied Patton M-47 tanks on land and sophisticated F-86F Sabres in air, respectively. It is widely known how the diminutive Indian Folland Gnat fighter aircrafts outsmarted sophisticated Sabres of Pakistan in dog-fights and earned the nick-name sabre-slayer. Similarly, Pakistan armour, considered both numerically and qualitatively superior in battlefield, was outfought in most sectors against not so advanced Indian Sherman tanks largely due to individual courage and valour of Indian soldiers. After 1962, China had to retreat after transgression and considerable loss in 1967 clashes at Nathu La and Cho La, and more recently during the Doklam stand-off in 2017. Despite their constant foul-mouthed propaganda through state controlled electronic and print media, the current Chinese leadership is well aware that the Indian armed forces too have undergone a tremendous change with state-of-the-art equipment and war machinery over the years, especially geared fo futuristic mountain warfare.
It is not surprising then that an independent study by the Belfer Center at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in Boston and the Center for a New American Security in Washington carried out recently too suggests that India maintains an edge over China in high-altitude mountainous environments, such as the places of current face-off in Ladakh region. Analysing the current deployment of two Air Forces in the region, the Study gives the Indian Air Force, with its Mirage 2000 and Sukhoi-30MKI jets, a qualitative edge in the region, where China has chiefly deployed its J-10, J-11 and Su-27 fighters. Besides, to weather a potential PLA attack, India has placed greater emphasis on infrastructure hardening, base resiliency, redundant command, control, and communications systems, and improved air defence. The same study suggests near parity in the number of ground troops deployed but considers Indian army as more experienced and battle-hardened force, having fought a series of limited and low-intensity conflicts in the recent past, while the PLA has not experienced real combat since its conflict with Vietnam in 1979. If China has any technology advantage due to larger defence budget, it would not be able to divert such resources from main land bases to Tibet due to perceived threat from the US deployment in South China Sea, which as of now could be real with growing resentment and all-time low global opinion about the communist nation.
Is Land Grab Only Chinese Objective in Ladakh?
To understand the hunger the Chinese hunger for the land grab of neighbours, one needs to learn its current geographical spread. Broadly, China consists of the Chinese mainland and five autonomous regions. While five autonomous regions Xinxiang, Tibet, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia and Guangxi were conquered at various points of time and forcibly merged with the mainland China, the erstwhile weak Manchurian empire was exploited by the Chinese, Japanese and Russian regimes and finally divided between Russia and China. The Chinese part of Manchuria is now comprised of Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning provinces predominantly inhabited by Han Chinese people. These conquered (Tibet in 1950) territories together account for about 5.2 million Sq Km (54%) as per a conservative estimate as against the Chinese mainland of approximately 4.4 million Sq Km. Notwithstanding, the Chinese hunger of land grab remained insatiable; consequently, they have territorial disputes with almost all neighbours besides claiming sovereign right and monopoly over the vast areas of East and South China Sea.
Technically, China defines the autonomous region as one with a local government having more legislative powers (autonomy) under the direct control of the federal Chinese government but practically these are large geographical entities with different ethnic groups such as Uyghur, Tibetan, Mongols, Zhuang, Hui, Manchu, and so on, which are kept under tight control by the predominantly Han Chinese government in the mainland. We often hear about the hundreds of thousand Uyghur Muslims being held in detention camps to curb terrorism while the same Chinese government acts hand-in-gloves with Pakistan to promote terrorist groups acting against Indian interests. Lakhs of Tibetans, their spiritual head Dalai Lama included, have taken shelter in India to escape systematic Chinese persecution to destroy their cultural identity, customs and rituals. China stakes claim on Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh among other Indian territories as part of Tibet which was not a Chinese land but an independent country till the latter forcibly occupied in 1950s. Similar scenario exists in South China Sea where China forcibly denies neighbouring countries such as Vietnam, Philippine, Malaysia and Brunei their rights of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
China purportedly blames India and other neighbours of being hegemonic and expansionist while this is what it is precisely doing with others. It occupied Aksai Chin and other Indian territories prior to and during 1962 war; similarly, it has arbitrarily constructed several artificial islands and military bases in South China Sea claiming control over approximately 3.5 million square kilometres of maritime zone, ignoring EEZ claims and sovereignty rightsw of the neighbouring small nations like Vietnam, Philippines and Malaysia, and the verdict by the International Court of Justice. An exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is a sea zone extending to 200 nautical miles from the baseline prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, over which a state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind. China wants to usurp all such resources and for that its usual tactics is to make claims citing some vaguest past event or practice. Though it talks of a mutual resolve in settling issues with peaceful means but seldom honours it, instead, looks for opportunity to grab by sheer application of intimidation and force.
The continued Chinese belligerent approach, malicious propaganda and LAC violations baffles all; be it military, government or common man. One wonders if it is a reaction to India’s growing relationship with the West, and US in particular; or a retaliation against India’s reluctance of joining the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative; or even India’s resurgent mood in recent years to firmly oppose Chinese incursions and transgressions across the LAC; India’s rise as a potential superpower in Asia in recent years in terms of economic and military power; or a combination of all such and other miscellaneous factors. Occasionally, Chinese state controlled electronic and print media also talk about their boisterous intent to ‘teach a lesson’ to their only rival in Asia. It may be difficult to find one reason or answer; possibly, the Chinese hunger for the land grab is one factor but the aforesaid factors combined with recent developments could be the reason behind the current Chinese misadventure which has now backfired against the perpetrator itself. Some of more recent developments are briefly listed here.
Since Indo-Tibetan border is comprised of mostly mountainous terrain and whoever occupies heights is usually at advantage in any faceoff. As the border is undemarcated and LAC is vague at many points, Chinese PLA endeavours to occupy mountain peaks and ridges whererever possible to achieve strategic advantage over the Indian Army. Of late, India has been preoccupied with the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic to save human lives and recover economy, and China has found it an opportune time to grab more land at the LAC. Besides, if China succeeds in subduing the big and powerful country like India in these times, it will send a signal to rather small and weaker countries in Southeast Asian region making its job easier in the South China Sea. There is yet another crucial factor for reckoning: China has already developed roads and communication infrastructure on their side of Indo-Tibetan border over the decades while the previous Congress or their friendly governments in India avoided any investment in border areas as part of their (faulty) strategy. Now the present Indian government has accelerated pace of development with new roads and other communication infrastructure and China is opposing this with malicious propaganda of such constructions being done in their territory, lest India would achieve parity in ease of military movement in any eventuality.
The current border aggression and growing Chinese brinkmanship has certainly something to do with coronavirus pandemic too. The way entire world, and particularly US, its Western European allies and India, have suffered in terms of loss of human lives and economy, a lot of resentment is brewing against China among the affected nations though the latter is still in a denial and self-adulation mode. A step further, China has attempted to convert the world crisis into an opportunity by supplying large scale corona equipment and kits to other countries on heavy price, 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. Some other developments like Indian move to amend its FDI rules to check unwarranted foreign investment or takeover of Indian companies by Chinese banks and companies, keenness of some foreign companies to shift their bases to India due to unfair Chinese trade practices and recent upgradation of India as Chairman, WHO, could also have contributed to the irritation and stimulus to create troubles at the Indo-Tibetan border.
Ladakh Fiasco Might Shatter Chinese Dream of Global Dominance
Had China succeeded in its current Ladakh venture, it would have achieved twin objectives of grabbing the land for its strategic advantage and humiliating India worldwide for currently being slated as the rising economic and military power in the region. Besides, it would have had a telling effect on other small neighbouring countries in the region with whom it has territorial or maritime disputes. Alas nothing of that sort has happened for now; instead, the Foreign Ministry representatives and Chinese ambassador in India are stressin the need of strategic dialogue, mutual trust and shunning suspicion and friction, although the state controlled electronic and print media is still up to their familiar tricks of misinformation, intimidation and inflammatory remarks. Regretably, China was known as Middle Kingdom since ancient time and was famous for its civilizational and cultural values but the Chinese communist regime clearly has allergy for the civilizational and moral values and, instead, firmly believes in blatantly playing the loan shark and military crusader to dominate the world.
While the Chinese military prowess and muscle flexing has multiplied in recent years and is quite apparent in even challenging the US presence in the South China Sea; the typical case of their loan shark or gombeen-man conduct could be illustrated through Chinese acquisition of Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port. Earlier at the feasibility stage, India had given clear verdict about unviability of the port project. However, Chinese liberal loans and assistance followed for the project and Lanka's failure to pay debt obligations ultimately forced it to lease out the Hambantota Port to them for 99 years along with a sumptuous land in the vicinity. Although a counter narrative as part of usual propaganda also exists that the leasing out Hambantota port is not linked with the Chinese debt trap but the submissions made to a Parliament committee that the accumulated losses of Hambantota port was 46.7 billion Sri Lankan rupees just before the port was leased to Chinese agency is sufficed to vindicate the truth behind. Moot point is why does China need a port in Indian vicinity; answer is obvious to keep an eye over the activities of Indian Navy in the region.
The Chinese ambition to become the global leader by replacing US is not a secret anymore. The Chinese supreme leader Li Jinping indeed seems to be in hurry to achieve this feat. For this they have heavily invested in Western educational institutions and media to set desired narrative about PRC and they are spending billions of dollar annually to cultivate NGOs, media outlets, foreign journalists to ‘tell China’s story well’ as part of worldwide propaganda campaign. The Chinese investment in OBOR too was the outcome of their ambition to dominate the world with its economic prowess by persuading economically weaker countries to join it and open themselves to Chinese investments. This was indeed a new order of economics-based world imperialism that found massive support of countries that failed to understand its nuances, except ones like India and Japan in the region. However, the very initiative has now gone sour due to Chinese gombeen-man or Shylock like approach.
There is no doubt that the China has successfully achieved a comfortable living index for its masses, its coffers are full or rather overflowing allowing it flexibility to fiddle with world economy, and its huge military establishment fairly modernised over the years. But unfortunately in a hurry to become global leader by dominating world, China has summarily followed hard options of military and money power for intimidation and control, rather than earning goodwill of others through cooperation and assistance. In the process, China has made two inexorable mistakes in the recent times. One, either deliberately or accidentally, coronavirus was released with Wuhan in China as its epicentre but the dragon acted irresponsibly by hiding the true nature of the virus while coaxing WHO in league. Then unrestricted travel of lakhs of Chinese from Wuhan to various parts of the world unleased the virus, knowingly or unknowingly, to the world populace. Consequently, in an unprecedented emergency some 215 countries are still struggling to save their people and economy from the disaster, with countries like US, Brazil, India and Russia as worst victims. On their part, China is not even regretful; instead, they are trying to encash the pandemic as an opportunity.
As if the pandemic was not enough, China simultaneously started rubbing its neighbours on the wrong side and for wrong reasons. This was second grave mistake when in the months of March and April this year it started flexing muscles in East and South China Sea and its military rampaged against small neighbours like Japan, Vietnam, Philippine and Taiwan. Perhaps emboldened by mild protests against violations from these neighbours, it took on bigger and mighty India too in an attempt to grab vantage heights in Ladakh region in early May 2020. This is the time when US Navy entered the scene in Indo-pacific maritime zone in a balancing act and India resolved to give a befitting reply to Chinese aggressors on LAC. What was done by Prime Minister Modi with Pakistani counterpart, precisely same he did with Chinese Supremo Li Jinping too i.e. initially a sincere effort to forge peace and cooperation between neighbours. After Pakistan betrayed and resumed subversive activities, it was punished twice in a tit for tat response through surgical strikes. After territorial breach at many points and Galwan clash, the way India has responded with its full military might at LAC and economic sanctions against Chinese trade and industry, it has not only surprised the prime accusede but also received global applause and appreciation.
Incidentally, sustained Chinese efforts with purported investments over the years have created a large section of admirers and sympathisers in democratic countries like US and India. For instance, In India the Congress party has ruled the country nearly for 55 years and its sole ruling family run prominent NGO(s) has been on beneficiary list of the Chinese Embassy as well as Chinese Government for funds. China sympathiser political parties, media and intellectuals in India and elsewhere may not realize it but the fact is the recent Chinese blunders have had a serious dent on the image of the communist nation and this environment of global mistrust against the communist nation is going to stay for a long time. Recent Indian response has also established that India is a peaceful country without any territorial ambitions but it is strong enough to defend its territorial integrity without any external assistance. Unlike other mighty powers like US and allies, the problem with China is that it wants everything for its own prosperity and power without sharing it with other nationalities. But there is no doubt that Indian tigers have forced the Chinese dragon to play on back foot this time; It stands thoroughly exposed now, which might also be beginning of the end of Chinese dream of becoming the global leader.
Chinese propaganda machinery so often boasts of the size of its economy and military strength to intimidate its neighbours, India inclusive. What they forget is the Russian economy does not find a place in the list of world’s ten largest economies yet it competes militarily with world’s only superpower United States and has edge over it in many critical areas. As for India, it is world’s 5th largest economy on GDP nominal and 3rd biggest on GDP purchase power parity (PPP) while in size of the military strength it is placed only next to China. As for the military hardware and firepower, India has access to world’s best technologies while China has built it mainly around copycatting Russian technology and piracy, and justifying it as indigenous technology. The main reason for Chinese dragon being on the backfoot now is its realization of own weaknesses with resources deployed in Tibet & Xinjiang and Indian strength in mountain warfare. Dragon also knows that it cannot significantly divert military resources from the mainland bases in China with US Aircraft Carriers with strike force cruising in the South China Sea in aggressive posture. Even without India making a formal request, White House has given clear indication that US military will stand with India in conflict with China, because the latter has already caused great damage to the US and rest of the world.
Since the escalation of hostilities at the LAC, the general sentiments in India are anti-China and masses are suo moto boycotting Chinese goods and applications. Several Chinese companies have been banned to participate and tenders cancelled especially in infrastructure sector. Recently, the Indian government has carried out a digital strike to ban as many as 59 Apps including the popular yet notorious TicTac. This ban has come now but there has been numerous reports and complaints about the illegal data harvesting and sharing of encryption and decryption codes by companies to the sources in Chinese establishment. The CGTN (China Global Television Network) that handles the Chinese propaganda worldwide has come out with a narrative that such moves will only harm India and it will find it more difficult to address its "developmental challenges" if it takes measures such as to ban the Chinese Apps. True that such moves will adverse impact on both sides but it will also trigger and facilitate self-reliance through make in India movement.
Lastly, India will for sure take Chinese commitment of status quo ante at LAC with caution and care. In fact, according to an old declassified CIA analysis, China had started considering India to be a long-term rival and threat years back; hence despite peace overtures, the Chinese leadership never tires in delivering periodical blows to India's political and military leadership to demoralise and humiliate them. Years of experience is enough to learn that the authoritarian Chinese leadership is devoid of basic ethics and principles, and can go to any extent to embarrass neighbours in achieving its objectives. While verifiable withdrawal of PLA troops is under process, the dragon has already started harassing Bhutan by staking claim on its Sakteng Sanctuary; experts believe this is to provoke India again in view of its security obligations with the Himalayan kingdom. In a déjà vu, a newspaper headline “Chinese Troops Withdraw From Galwan Post” dated 15 July 1962 is circulating on social media these days with caption “97 days after this headline, the 1962 war happened,” suggesting people do not trust China anymore. But it is also pretty settled that if China indeed takes some precipitative action, a firm and resolute India is bound to give commensurate response this time.