Sino-India Relation: Time For India to Step Up

18 June, 2020 | Priyanka Sharma

India-China hostility National

About 20 Indian Army and 43 Chinese Army personnel were killed in action in the violent face-off at Galwan valley area of Ladakh on June 15.

Arijit Banarji

Arijit Banarji

As I write this, 43 PLA soldiers have been killed or injured and 20 Indian Army soldiers (along with one commanding officer) have achieved martyrdom in the Galwan Valley of Ladakh.

Though officially only India has acknowledged this fact, the Chinese have yet to respond, but it is clear there have been loss of lives on both sides.

What is not known is how this incident occurred, whether there was any shot fired or was it done intentionally? Whatever the case be, this is the first time since 1975 that soldiers from both sides have lost their lives.

And this could have been avoided!

Under Xi Jinping, China has politically gone back to Mao-style governance. It has become the largest state run surveillance country, with a huge global economic weight, and a deep state that watches everything and everyone. President Jinping alone is responsible for the latest crisis with India and to an extent for the loss of lives on both sides.

India, for her part was simply exercising her right to develop a region which has been calling for it. Ever since the current government exercised it’s right to remove Article 370, the special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and breaking the state into two Union Territories: Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, China on behalf of Pakistan has cried foul, as it also affects their claim on Aksai Chin.

Furthermore, India started to develop a road link to its abandoned forward post at Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO)and Galwan valley. DBO has the world’s highest airfield strip, is closely located to the strategic Siachen Glacier and gives considerable advantage to our soldiers. Similar developments have taken place in China occupied Tibet, along the Chinese side of LAC, with no interjection or intervention from our Indian polity.

So why is China brewing such brouhaha?

One has to understand the Chinese mindset. In my student days at Sydney University, I took up modern Chinese studies in one of my semesters. As a student of history, it only made sense to study and know about my neighbour. Fascinating as it was, my professor, a person of Chinese origin, drilled one information clearly: the Chinese belief in filial piety.

In Confucian, filial piety is a virtue of respect for one’s parents, elders, and ancestors. The CCP believes itself to be all of the above. Anything against the party, even the smallest, goes against this idea. This is not to say that the Chinese themselves still practice this, but it cannot be denied that within their politburo this mindset captures the essence of everything they do.

Since annexing East Turkestan, Manchuria and Tibet, China believes they have the sole right to rule Asia, as they thought so, during their ancient past. The middle kingdom, center in the world, nay, of the universe was a belief then and being revived now.

Its belligerence is the true colour of the party that runs this nation. The CPEC/BRI projects are part of this grand narrative.

There is also the deep seated resentment of India having an entire ocean named after it and the Chinese only getting a sea. More pointedly, India owning the Indian Ocean as her own backyard is something that cannot be digested by them.

So what are India’s options?

In many ways, India has lost plenty of bargaining chips in dealing with China. The almost appeasing, kow-towing China policy has failed. Time and again, it has proven to be true. But, we can still amend this.

In a recent interview, Dave Sharma, an Australian Liberal MP and former diplomat, has called for the G7 to welcome Russia back in to this grouping to contain China.

Indeed, Russia has remained India’s strongest ally. Even during the 1971 Liberation War, Soviet Union’s pressure on China kept them in check to mount an attack on us (as it did many others including the mighty Seventh Fleet of the US Navy). Prime Minister Narendra Modi needs to recalibrate his pro-US stance in balance with Russia.

Recently, Russia has accused China of espionage, with the President of St. Petersburg Arctic Social Sciences Academy guilty of sharing Russian research on hydro accoustic and submarine detection. India should utilise this slight.

Furthermore, India has to take China to task on the incursions along the LAC with the United Nations. As India seeks to play a vital role in multilateral organizations, this is the right time to seek global condemnation on China, improve the Bretton-Woods institutions on crisis-management and cement her position as a peaceful, democratic nation and a powerhouse in Asia.

Playing into this reform, with the WHO’s Executive Board chair belonging to India this year, equal pressure along with Australia and EU states should now be made on China in their mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, pointed enquiries must begin forthwith by India and allying like-minded nations towards this investigation.

The Quad grouping too can be reinvigorated for this time and purpose to contain China. Australia and India prefer themselves to be the middle-power and along with Japan can easily influence ASEAN member states. Firepower from a joint US-India partnership can provide the real muscle and a deterrent to China.

In the end, a peaceful resolution will only provide a band-aid solution to the border issue with China. Bringing global consensus of Chinese occupation in Turkestan and mistreatment of the Uighur population, pledging support to the Tibetan cause and supporting local industries to outbid Chinese made products are long way but the sure way to make the CCP pay.

A dragon can breathe fire and one must not anger an elephant, however, the former is imaginary, the latter has proven true many times.

 (The writer is a former Editor of The Indian Telegraph, a Sydney based news publication catering towards the South Asian diaspora in Australia and a 2018 delegate of the Australia India Youth Dialogue)