India’s China Problem & the Way Forward
BY MANASH GHOSH
So far as India is concerned, Xi wants to checkmate its southern giant neighbour from becoming a super power and also emerging as its economic and military counterbalance not only in Asia but the world over. This is why it is pursuing an encirclement plan in India’s neighbourhood by building a string of naval ports, network of strategic roads, railways and airports which will be used by its military during peace and at times of war.
Xi’s expansionist plan is being openly aided and abetted by India’s principal Opposition party, the Indian National Congress (INC), whose top leaders signed a secret memorandum of understanding (MoU) in Beijing with CCP in Xi’s presence in 2008 for closer co-operation between the two parties. It also takes huge sums as donation for activities of its various foundations. At the height of the Doklam border standoff, its then Vice-President, Rahul Gandhi, secretly went to the Chinese embassy in Delhi to meet the Chinese ambassador. Despite public pressure, he never disclosed the subject or content of his discussion. But one fallout of that meeting was that he and his mother ,Sonia Gandhi, desperately tried to scuttle the Rafale fighter deal that India had signed with France by alleging that Modi and his business aides had got large kick backs from France. The Indian Communists, who have always worked as China’s fifth column at home, joined the Congress to undermine the deal and desperately tried to scrap it so that this deadly combat aircraft did not join India’s arsenal.
Whenever Congress ruled India, right from the days of Jawaharlal Nehru, China was allowed to annex huge chunks of Indian territory without much difficulty. Nehru, in Indian parliament, justified the annexation of 42,000 sq km of Aksai Chin in Ladakh because “not a blade of grass grows there.” When the Chinese overran NEFA and were at Tezpur’s doorstep, he, in a special radio broadcast bid goodbye to the people of Brahmaputra Valley saying,”my heart goes out to the people of Assam at this hour of their peril.”
China benefited not only territorially but also in every possible way whenever Congress was in power. Nehru not only allowed the Chinese annexation of Tibet but also recognized its sovereignty over the region though, his then Home Minister , Vallabhbhai Patel, had warned him that by allowing China to reach India’s doorstep “ India in future would have serious security problems.” But Nehru rejected Patel’s comment as “uninformed criticism, as China believed in Lord Buddha’s Panchasheel doctrine of peaceful coexistence.” How correct Patel was and Nehru was grievously wrong is borne out is borne out by the happenings on the Sino- Indian border of last six decades. Nehru was also in two minds to give asylum to Dalai Lama in 1959 as that would irk the Chinese leadership. He, even after granting asylum to His Holiness, was heard privately saying that he would welcome the Dalai Lama to leave India and seek asylum in any other country” as China is angry with India for providing refuge to him and his huge retinue” Nehru used to go out of his way to cultivate the Communist Chinese even at the cost of his own and India’s national pride and self-esteem. The Chinese found this as a great weakness in Nehru’s character and exploited it to the hilt to its advantage.
During the three crucial years preceding the Chinese aggression of 1962, Jawaharlal stationed his own first cousin R. K. Nehru as India’s envoy to Beijing so that his orders for improving India’s relation with China were carried out in letter and spirit. Jawaharlal’s objective was to put Sino-India relations on a sound friendly footing. But R. K. Nehru’s tenure as an envoy was a disaster as he was scorned and pilloried by the Chinese Communist leadership for Nehru’s China policy. Despite this, Jawaharlal steadfastly followed the one China policy, though his party colleagues, like Mahabir Tyagi and others and Opposition leaders like Ram Manohar Lohia and H.V. Kamath, wanted India to recognize Taiwan
also.But Nehru refused to exercise this option on the ground that Mao-led Communist party government represented the true and real Chinese people and Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang party led-Taiwan government was a lackey of American imperialists and a renegade.
The Nehru Gandhi family has always been extremely deferential to the Chinese communist leadership and their sensitivities and has always sought to please and accommodate them in whatever way possible, even at the cost of India’s international standing and prestige, national security and territorial integrity. During 1962 Chinese aggression India’s state owned ALL India Radio used to broadcast during the evening prime time a very popular programme”India and the Dragon” anchored by Indian’s legendary and much decorated broadcaster MelvilleDemelllo which dwelt exclusively on Chinese betrayal of India.
But China objected to this “highly reprehensible broadcast as it fanned anti China sentiments among Indians”. Immediately Nehru told then Information and Broadcasting Minister to take the programme off the air. But when the then Director General of AIR told his Minister and Jawaharlal Nehru that China should do likewise by stopping anti-India broadcasts by Radio Peking he was told to “mind his own business and not complicate matters”.
In 1988, when Nehru’s grandson Rajiv Gandhi visited China as India’s Prime Minister, he was told by the Chinese leadership that India, in its own interest, should desist from building its border infrastructure in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh. On his return home, Rajiv not only ordered the stoppage of construction of border infrastructure in the forward areas but enunciated the ridiculously childish theory that India’s best defence against future Chinese aggression lay in not building border infrastructure; he believed that the absence of roads and communication facilities along the LAC would make it difficult for the Chinese to come deep inside the Indian territory. Worse, India’s Defence Ministers, including A K Antony, even defended the rationale and soundness of this theory in Parliament. This blunder committed by Rajiv Gandhi subsequently emboldened the Chinese to issue the cheeky and atrocious diktat to the Indian
Government that Arunachal Pradesh, which it claimed to be its territory, was a “no go area for Indian leaders, including its President and Prime Minister”.
Beijing got angry when Narendra Modi, unlike Nehru,Rajiv Gandhi and Manmohan Singh, refused to be a supplicant Indian Prime Minister and decided to challenge Chinese policies like the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and refused to become a member of China-led or sponsored exclusive economic regional groupings. Unlike Nehru ,Rajiv and Manmohan, Modi refused to turn India into a pliant state which made him incur Xi”s displeasure. What must have irked Xi more was Modi’s decision to build border infrastructure, especially in Ladakh, at breakneck speed which was very close to his ambitious BRI projects in Chinese held Tibetan territory and in PoK, through which its $64 billion-worth China Pakistan
Economic Corridor (CPEC) passes.
Beijing thinks that India, by building and strengthening its infrastructure in Ladakh, is posing a serious security threat to its geo-political ambitions in South Asia and the Indian Ocean regions. The Chinese leadership has also grown extremely wary and jealous of Narendra Modi’s growing international stature, popularity and prestige. By opening four fronts in Ladakh, they want to punish and humiliate Modi, at home and abroad, just as they did to Nehru in 1962, for not listening to all their dictats. Modi’s detractors at home compare him to the Biblical figure David and Xi to Goliath. They say that Modi, by taking on Xi is fighting an unequal battle. But they forget that the puny David with his ordinary homemade sling shot had shot down Goliath.
Manash Ghosh is a former Resident Editor of The Statesman, Delhi, and founding editor of the Dainik Statesman, Kolkata.