China continues to needle India, and India refuses to take heed. It should pay attention to what is perhaps the gravest external threat to its security.
Consider some recent events and happenings. In mid-May, China tried to grab the “finger area”, the northernmost part of Sikkim, after virtually acknowledging the state to be a part of India. The border row between the two countries defies any settlement. Talks between the special representatives of the two countries on the subject have now become a bureaucratic routine after the initial euphoria. The most recent “disclosure” centres on how Pakistan and China coordinated moves to prevent India getting a permanent place in the United Nations Security Council. These are mere illustrations: The list is virtually endless.
As a result, China’s attitude and actions betray something else: a pattern of hostility in its dealings with India, while professing “neutrality” towards it at international fora. It’s time India took this dualism into account.
(Illustration by Malay Karmakar / Mint)
There are many fronts that need attention. One, India should stop trying to appease China and equally stop being bothered by Chinese “concerns”. An example is the presence of Tibetans on Indian soil. China has no business raising objections on that count. They should be ignored. In fact, every time China delivers a snub to India, it should get a fitting response.
Two, it’s important that India’s main political parties— the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party—have a similar, if not identical, position on the subject. Any scoring of issues between the two would be a disservice to the country. This has not happened, so far. If the two parties eschew any public mud-slinging on the issue, it’s their mutual fear that prevents them from taking any meaningful steps. Each fears that the other will try and whittle its nationalist credentials if it takes proactive steps. Nehru made similar mistakes and India continues to pay for them.
Finally, any long-term response to China—military, political and diplomatic—requires that India understand the sources of Chinese conduct. What motivates its external posture—insecurity? Belligerence (if so, why)? Ideological grounds? Or a mix of all these factors? Such understanding ought to be blended in our response to that country. So far, India has not produced a cadre of China specialists (save the occasional apologist from the Left). It should at least begin doing so.
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