India-China tension: Diplomacy not warmongering is the right course

By Satyen Mohapatra


June 27, 2020

Delhi: With the fresh tension on the border with China, hawks and war mongers are up with their narrative to push India into an unnecessary war.

But the clash of Galwan Valley should not be allowed to become a major flashpoint for war between the nuclear armed Asian giants, and India has to guard against becoming a pawn in the hands of international powers.

America which is presently showing eagerness to shift European troops to Asia to take on China, ostensibly in view of the recent Chinese assertive stance and threats towards India, one must keep in mind that America has its own political and strategic agenda to fulfill.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently has referred to the necessity of US forces keeping China’s aggressiveness under check in South China Sea and ward off the threats to countries like India, Vietnam,Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines .

But one cannot be oblivious of the strategic importance of this move as it legitimizes stationing of US forces in Indo Pacific. Already three US air craft carriers have been deployed in the region.

Economic manipulation and aggressiveness of China may be an issue but countries in the Indo Pacific region,particularly India may not like to get embroiled in Sino-US long term conflict and be under US umbrella.

Despite several defence and strategic agreements between India and US, India has not relinquished its independent non-aligned stand and has always let its foreign policy be dictated solely by its own strategic, economic and geo-political interest. While keen on getting the latest sophisticated defence equipments from US, it is going ahead with its contract for S-400 Triumf Air Defence Missile System from the Russians despite America showing displeasure.

With ongoing Sino-US trade war, US blaming China for Covid 19 pandemic and declaring it a rogue nation, and the US being in presidential election mode this year, it may not be surprising if President Trump decides to again don the role of world policeman, despite the fact that he himself talks of withdrawing US forces from different parts of the world.

A few days ago US President Donald Trump told cadets at US Military Academy their job will be to defend “America’s vital interests” and not fight “endless wars” in faraway lands, stressing that U.S. troops are not the “policemen of the world.”

Trump said American soldiers’ job is not to rebuild foreign nations but “defend, and defend strongly, our nation from foreign enemies.”

With this kind of mindset and changing US priorities it is anyone’s guess as to whether US would standby India in the eventuality a long drawn out conflict with China.

Secondly the old ally and support of India in times of such crisis, Russia too may not be in a position to antagonize China and support India if tensions escalate to a full scale conflict. It may support India with arms and ammunition as it has traditionally done but may not take up direct confrontation with China.

What New Delhi can rightfully hope is for Russia to influence China to understand India’s position and soften its stand on the border issue.

The border dispute even though resulting in casualties on both sides is well within the powers of both India and China to deal with it themselves in view of the long standing political and economic relationship they enjoy without turning to a third party.

Both have at the beginning of the hostilities pointed out that they would like US to refrain from mediating when Trump had shown keen interest to talk to both parties on the issue.

Border dispute with China is there almost from the time the time British left.Much of it is due to the British not delineating and demarcating the border with any degree of detail and finality. Interestingly the border with China was drawn twice by different British officers. This led to wide gaps in the perception of both countries as to which areas belonged to which country particularly in the icy, rugged ,mountaineous terrain of the Himalayas.

Apart from 1962 when China went ahead forcibly occupied areas in India on which it laid historical claim and withdrew on its own, India and China have never taken recourse to full fledged war to settle their dispute.

Rather over the years China and India have continued to build up their economic relationship and today China is India’s second biggest trading partner today.

China has taken full advantage of Indian market and today imports from China stand at $ 70 billion in 2018-19. India’s major imports include engineering goods, electronics, pharmaceuticals and automobile components. Electronic imports itself stand at $18 billion and nuclear reactors, machinery and parts are around $12 billion.

With India having a trade deficit of $48.5 billion with China and China having deep roots in the critical sectors like electronics,pharmaceuticals, automobile components, engineering goods, it is much easier to say no to Chinese goods or even place higher tariff on Chinese imports because all these moves will hit Indian industry and economy very hard.

China is able to supply quality goods at much lower prices than many other countries. So once we stop buying from China we have to have to purchase the same goods at higher price from elsewhere which may not be feasible.

Being self reliant that is making good quality stuff in India itself is the only answer but that is easier said than done.

India’s humiliating defeat at the hands of Chinese in 1962 cannot dictate our 2020 military , economic and diplomatic policy towards it.

The responses recently by many Indians to the clash between Chinese and Indian troops in Galwan Valley seems to be coloured more by what happened in 1962 then what is happening in 2020.

There is a sea change in both countries since the 1960s when they were just emerging as newly independent nations. Both India and China have taken major strides economically and politically over the years and are clearly major players in the region as well as the world today.

While preserving its territorial integrity, India should in no way get involved in a war to fulfill the global ambitions of either US or China. It must take these decisions solely and solely in its best interest. India must be wary of hawks and war mongers within its own country who would like to push India into untimely and unnecessary war.

Both India and China being nuclear countries, they must act maturely rather than rushing into a full fledged conflict. Over the years, several mechanisms are in place to see that all issues are dealt without use of arms. Both countries do understand that they can grievously hurt each other in case of a conflict despite the fact that on the face of it China enjoyes a greater military might.

China over the years with lot of hard work built its nation economically and militarily. India must also pull itself up and see how India can independently be economically and militarily strong. Today we may not be a match for China but tomorrow we can and we must.

–India News Stream