India needs to overhaul its China policy
The Govt of India is not only refraining from informing the country about what is happening at the borders, but has also been failing to articulate a clear policy on China
The mistake Prime Minister Nehru made continues. India's foreign policy has not abandoned its policy of courting China. We have seen how, immediately after coming to power, Narendra Modi started trying to befriend Xi Jinping. Was it different from what Prime Minister Nehru was doing with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai? Most likely, Indira Gandhi was the only Indian PM who remained tough with China
India's response to recent Chinese incursions into the Twang region of Arunachal Pradesh appears to be weak. At the political level, the Bhartiya Janata Party is playing the old game of accusing Jawaharlal Nehru and the Congress of the problems India is facing at the border. Who would believe that Rahul Gandhi is conniving with China for the sake of giving Rs1.35 crore to the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation? Instead of articulating a firm and strong response, the government, with the help of crony media, is indulging in a smearing campaign. Left with no choice, Congress has also made allegations that the PM's Care Fund has gathered a significant amount of Chinese money. In order to score political points, the BJP is ignoring the diplomatic implications of accusing the rival Congress of connivance. It must realize that it only weakens our case.
Experts point out how Prime Minister Modi's statement during the Galwan clashes that China did not intrude into Indian territories, in essence, validated the Chinese position that it did not make any intrusion. The question arises if there were no incursions: why did two countries go into 17 rounds of talks to make peace at the border?
Defense expert Ajay Shukla says that the government has resorted to half-truths on Galwan. He also says that disengagements in Ladakh after the Galwan incident have gone in favour of China. He says that the Chinese military can patrol the area it has been patrolling, while India cannot patrol the area it has been patrolling. The areas India would not be able to patrol are believed by India to be its territory.
International strategic experts believe that China is trying to alter ground positions at the Line of Actual Control. The incursions in Twang are an attempt to assert the Chinese claim that the state of Arunachal Pradesh is its territory. In Ladakh too, China is trying to blunt India's offensive by occupying strategic points and building infrastructure near the border.
The government of India is not only refraining from informing the country about what is happening at the borders, but has also been failing to articulate a clear policy on China. Is it fair on the part of the government not to inform Parliament on time? Is it not essential to take Parliament into confidence to articulate the policy?
In fact, every successive government has been lacking in identifying the nature of the Sino-India relationship. They have been trying to forge better relations with China. We must analyze the historical roots of our relationship with the dragon. Both India and China acquired their present national identities around the same time. India became independent in 1947, and China formed its People's Republic in 1949. However, the two countries took different paths to govern their nations. India opted for democracy, and China turned into an authoritarian state with the single-party rule. This should also be kept in mind because we had different courses in our struggles for freedom. Militarism was the most important aspect of the Chinese struggle. The Indian struggle had no organic link to the Chinese struggle. India's nonviolent struggle never had the same impact on the Chinese as it did on others.
We should not forget that India and China are not only different in their present forms of political systems but have also been different historically, culturally, and demographically. In reality, the two countries nurtured two different civilizations. It is also that we have been communicating culturally and pursuing trade since ancient times, but without forging a strong bond in terms of live interactions. All through our long history, we never mattered much to each other. Colonialism and the search for modern statehood have brought us together. This is in sharp contrast to our relationship with other neighbours, including the Gulf countries, Iran, Afghanistan, Burma, Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet, and South East Asia.
Prime Minister Nehru tried to bridge the gap by aligning with China in his mission to unite nascent nations in a post-colonial environment. Deeply influenced by Buddhism, Nehru inserted the idea of Panchsheel (the five principles) for the peaceful coexistence of nations in international diplomacy. These principles include mutual respect for each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty, mutual non-aggression, mutual non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful co-existence. These principles were first incorporated into the Sino-Indian Agreement of 1954. To promote this friendship, the Hindi-Chinese slogan "Bhai-Bhai" was coined.
We must realize that China has remained as alien as before. How could a nation that had emerged from a bloody civil war and was nurturing the dream of reviving the Han Empire come to believe in Gandhi's non-violence? How could a country that had never allowed diversity in its civilizational journey endorse the idea of peaceful coexistence? The friendship had begun to deteriorate long before China launched its war against India in 1962.
The mistake Prime Minister Nehru made continues. India's foreign policy has not abandoned its policy of courting China. We have seen how, immediately after coming to power, Narendra Modi started trying to befriend Xi Jinping. Was it different from what Prime Minister Nehru was doing with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai? Most likely, Indira Gandhi was the only Indian Prime Minister who remained tough with China.
China is not only trying to grab our territories, but it is also isolating us economically and diplomatically. Pakistan, which had not joined hands with China in 1962, is now its closest ally. China is on good terms with Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh.
We maintained an imbalanced trade in response to Chinese hostility, with a trade deficit of $73.31 billion in 2921-2923.This is likely to go up this fiscal year. Chinese companies registered in India number 174, and 3560 Indian companies have Chinese directors on their boards. Do we not need an overhaul of China policy?
(The author is a senior journalist. He has experience of working with leading newspapers and electronic media including Deccan Herald, Sunday Guardian, Navbharat Times and Dainik Bhaskar. He writes on politics, society, environment and economy)