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Home >Opinion >Columns >Opinion | Ignoring Chinese threat proves deadly in Ladakh

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in conversation with leaders of the Opposition, clarified that none of our border posts, land or soldiers are in possession of China. The leaders asked Modi questions at the virtual meeting. Whether they got the answers, and they were satisfied, we don’t know. A lot is going to come out in the coming days. But right now, there is nothing to reassure the common man.

Wars are fought at the behest of politicians and its manufactured narrative comes out in the form of state expression.

To explain this point, let’s walk into the passage of history. To date, it has not been decided whether China attacked us in 1962 or, as Subramanian Swamy claims, Jawaharlal Nehru ordered it by ignoring reality. Whatever is the truth, the official stand is that China stabbed us in the back and our soldiers were defeated while fighting bravely. It was not just a defeat, China occupied a few thousand square kilometres of Indian land, including Aksai Chin. Our Parliament swore with one voice that we will not sit quietly until we take this land back.

The new generation may not know that the land is still in possession of China.

Bloody clashes in 1967 and 1975 may not have taken the shape of a full-blown war, but they reopened old wounds.

When Atal Bihari Vajpayee, as foreign minister during the Janata Party rule, went to Beijing, the Congress and the media reminded him of that resolve. By then, however, this notion had begun to develop in the establishment that relations with China should be normalized. That is why Indira Gandhi stepped up friendship with Beijing in 1981, and it was given further momentum by Rajiv Gandhi. Even after this, be it Narasimha Rao or Vajpayee, Manmohan Singh or Modi, all were seen singing the songs of friendship with China. Over time, the resolve of Parliament and the wounds of defeat faded away.

There is an old saying that time heals every wound, but diplomacy cannot be decided on the basis of a saying. Before Jesus was born, Chanakya, born on our own land, said that there can be no greater enemy than one’s neighbour.

The only exception was George Fernandes. While holding the post of defence minister in the Vajpayee government, he gave a statement that China is our enemy No. 1. He was put under pressure to tone it down, but informally, he kept discussing it with military officers. As defence minister, Mulayam Singh Yadav also raised serious questions about India’s Tibet policy.

After the Galwan Valley clashes, I remembered George many times. Why did we ignore the issues he had raised? Why did our establishment continue to call a weak country like Pakistan enemy No. 1? We did not make any concrete arrangements along the border with China. On the other hand, China kept preparing. It built roads very close to the Line of Actual Control and got all the necessary infrastructure for the army. Today, we are suffering due to this.

When Pakistani soldiers entered Kargil in 1999, a number of questions were raised, but the martyrs of Galwan Valley are witness to the fact that even after that, proper arrangements were not made. The guilty must include those who want to get rid of this problem by blaming everything on Nehru. The Congress must also be blamed; it ruled the country for the longest period. Our politics has always been used to run two-and-a-half houses like a knight on a chessboard. Twenty years after Kargil, we are doing the same. During this period, the NDA ruled for 10 years and the Congress for the other 10.

So far, India has officially fought four wars. There are stories of each war—the result of ignoring unanswered questions—planted deep in the minds of Indians. Actually, that is how it’s done all over the world. More than answering these questions, the government has to redress the issues over which China or Pakistan dares to do this.

When Modi was in conversation with the Opposition leaders, I was busy in an online conversation with General V.P. Malik, who was the army chief during the Kargil war. Let me quote some of his words, which truly reflect the expression of the common man: “National security is the biggest issue. It is a matter of great sadness that our political parties are publicly raising their fingers on the issue of national security. Of course, raising questions is your right, but instead of doing it publicly, discuss it in the meeting. It would do more good."

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. His Twitter handle is @shekarkahin

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