In international relations, there are no permanent friends or no perennial enemies: only there are permanent national interests. Though this maxim is attributed to Lord Palmerston of Britain, most policymakers have invoked this at one time or the other to justify their approaches. This pragmatism pervades our relationships with other countries.
After the recent violent clashes, a number of analysts have come out with their views on how to deal with the growing aggressiveness of China. While some suggested a tough policy, others have recommended applying pressure on China non- military means and continue negotiations to ensure that it does not escalate into conflict. Both suggest having an independent foreign policy of our country on the grounds of national interests.
However, there is another category of analysts, which recommends a deferential approach towards China. Their arguments are indeed bewildering if not shocking. In their perception, China is a superpower and should not be annoyed. They hold that with the creation of Strategic Support Force and PLA’s adoption of Intelligentised warfare with the use of Artificial Intelligence, the dragon has become invincible. For them, India’s own strength has remained almost static and possession of nuclear weapons has not made any difference.
They paint a grim picture stating that ‘these are dangerous times, more so for countries in China’s vicinity and specially India’. It is suggested that India should not provoke China by aligning itself with US, Australia and Japan or by joining G 7 on the invitation of Trump as China is not invited. They also suggest that ‘as India is being co-opted into wider anti-China alliance, which China clearly perceives as provocation’, India is creating circumstances that led to the 1962 War. Strange argument!
Such analysts appear to be significantly influenced by the Chinese propaganda. China uses different means to change the perceptions of targets; it is the main objective of their “Three Warfares”. The continuing Chinese aggressiveness not only at the Indo-Tibetan border but also in the South China Sea and East China Sea should be a wakeup call for them. The following ground realities need to be kept in view while determining our approach towards China.
First, China does not follow the international law and norms. It has rejected the PCA’s Ruing based on UNCLOS. Second, it is going back on its commitment on Hong Kong- one country, two systems. Taiwan is continually pressurised with threatening military deployment.
Recently, China has warned military action to “resolutely smash” any move by Taiwan toward declaring independence. It has sunk boats of Vietnam in their EEZ, obstructing drilling operations of other littoral countries in their EEZs, deploying its own oil rigs in the EEZs of other countries, grabbed features which legitimately belong to other countries and created artificial islands and militarised them. Third, in East China Sea it has created Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) that covers Japanese, Taiwanese and South Korean ADIZs.
Fourth, it has annexed Tibet illegally. The natives have revolted several times but it is crushed with strong hand every time. With demographic pattern being changed through force, Tibetans are living in miserable conditions. A few years ag, several monks committed suicide. Fifth, India’s part of Ladakh known as Aksai Chin was annexed illegally. It had stealthily constructed a road in this area in the mid 50s. It did not accept the Jonson-Ardagh line.
It is also not accepting the Macartney-Macdonald Line, which it had informally accepted till 1959. Subsequently, they occupied Lingzitang Plains to the west of this line. However, at that time they left the Chip Chap Valley and Galwan Valley. After the 1962 war, China changed the LAC which included these two areas and began to push westwards beyond Samzungling and Khurnak Fort by anywhere 10 to 100 kms. In addition, the intruding parties often destroy Indian bunkers. Since 2006, they have started claiming the entire Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. Thus, the Chinese LAC is in fact continually expanding.
China is interested not only in Aksai Chin but in the entire region from Tibet to the Indian Ocean particularly Gwadar. This plan was revealed by the Chinese Trade Minister in 1984. Since then it is moving firmly to acquire more areas through the salami tactics. This strategic acquisition of territory in baby steps is often not clearly seen. It becomes clear only when seen over a period. China according to its experts has plans to create three lifelines for expansion of its trade and influence in the region. Hence the entire region from Tibet to the Indian Ocean is important. Pakistan is its vassal state. The only problem they see that if the Indian Army would be present in this region it could cause disruption in its use of CPEC.
China is consistent in its policy of containing India. Now it is involving Nepal as well. Unfortunately, so far, we have ignored the Chinese aggressiveness. Every aggression on our borders was tolerated as a local act and patrolling in their perception of LAC. We continued to roll out red carpet to the Chinese Presidents or PMs after every encroachment. The moot question is whether we should continue to be pursuing the deferential policy or stand up to China to protect our interests. The policy of appeasement would only whet the appetite of China for more territory. Today, India is a nuclear power and 1962 war like conflict is out of the question.
Our China policy need not be determined in Beijing taking into account the Chinese annoyance: it has to take into account our national interests. The joining any nation for a specific purpose does not mean abandoning the non-alignment policy. Our national interests are supreme and their protection should determine our policies. A long-term strategy comprising military, diplomatic and economic dimensions to compel China to stop its encroachments into Indian territory should be put in place and it should be result oriented. In immediate terms, a shift in our stance should be conveyed clearly in real terms and not only in rhetoric. The stern message that the sacrifice of our soldiers would not go in vain is the right step. Alongside, we should convey our support for the self-rule in Tibet and enhance our relations with Taiwan.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.