AoA: Stop Apologising For China

If by some chance you think the media is going overboard with the China incursions issue, you only have to speak to our militarymen in Ladakh. Later today, the establishment will hold a meeting of its China Study Group, a valuable opportunity to harness the latitude provided by the overarching international perception of Chinese aggression, to make some very serious course corrections as far as India's China policy is concerned. Let's first get a few facts straight. India is no longer the reluctant, deluded, unsteady force that it was in 1962. It doesn't have the same deluded Prime Minister nor the pliant dandy of a Chief of Army Staff of that day. No matter which way you look at it, much has changed since 1962. There have been two border skirmishes with China in the 1970s and the 1980s -- both times, China was stung sharply by a radically enlivened Indian response. But this isn't about jingoism. Because there are harder facts to face. The prospect of war between India and China today should be unthinkable. And let's face the hardest fact of all: right now, it's much more unthinkable for India, than it is for our friends across the Himalayas.

For the stepping-stone latitude that the establishment allows our armed forces, the country is in a formidable position today to defend the sovereignty of India. Let's make no mistake about that. We may whine endlessly about how China far outguns India in the final bean-count -- and how India has a long way to go to match China's infrastructural aggressions in Tibet -- but if war were to break today anywhere along the Line of Actual Control, it won't be the bizarrely skewed affair that it was in 1962. We can debate endlessly about deployed mountain divisions and a scattering of artillery regiments. But the fact is, our military planners know what they're doing, and more importantly, have done the best they can within the narrow confines of what the political establishment will allow them to. That's the important thing.

But the entire exercise of our security posture would be belied and discredited, if the only way to prove our defences against China was through a war. War is not a near option, and India should do everything in its power to ensure that such an option is never exercised. One of those ways is to ramp up defences and show China that if they send troops marauding down the Tawang valley like they did in 1962, they'll be mowed down with extreme prejudice by the Indian Army's Korea Brigade. You get the picture.

But the more critical and dangerous aspect is India's inexplicably resolute policy of apology. These past few days, our political leaders have done nothing but justify China's acts of aggression. The SM Krishnas and the Shashi Tharoors of this country, when asked about China's incursions, haven't batted an eyelid before explaining that the incursions have taken place because of a difference in perception. Hold on, isn't that something we should be hearing from the Chinese? No wonder Beijing hasn't felt the need to justify its actions. With folks like our Foreign Office people, China won't ever need to.

Maybe it's only fleetingly occured to the security establishment that it is in China's interest to maintain a status quo along the Line of Actual Control. But why is it not even superficially bothered by the fact that decades pass with absolutely zero progress on the border dispute? If the meeting today has any intentions of making some hard policy course corrections, it needs to first allow the establishment to publicly recognise China's acts of aggression for what they are. Everything else must follow. The NSA's meeting is a precious opportunity to make hard decisions. And decisions taken at this precise point of time, would happily fit in with the UPA's penchant for not doing anything alarming in terms of foreign policy. They wouldn't alarm because the whole world would understand right now. Start by unequivocally denouncing China's dangerous ways. Play their game stepping up activity on the borders. For god's sake, milk the Dalai Lama-Tawang game for all it's worth -- it's a beautiful tool that we still haven't learnt how to use effectively. And if the Gurudas Dasguptas or Sitaram Yechurys of the country so much as show a hair of a pro-China stance -- I notice the hypocrites haven't dared say anything so far on the incursions -- they should be officially rebuked without mercy (if nothing more serious can be permitted).

The image of a soft power can change by the men (and woman, the Foreign Secretary) who meet at South Block today. If only they have the will to see it through. I hope Sonia Gandhi isn't advising her Prime Minister to be like her grandfather-in-law in 1962. I truly hope not. Will be reporting on the meeting today. Will post more later.

(Angle of Attack is a weekly column starting today. LiveFist will also have a few new columnists from abroad from next week. Stay tuned)

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