There is a media hype on the Chinese side regarding possibility of a border clash in the Doklam plateau. Some reports have even suggested the possibility of a clash within two weeks! The Chinese appear to be determined to throw out the Indian troops in the area. It seems unlikely that the Chinese are so suddenly very much concerned with their border which has been in dispute for umpteen years. Chinese seem to have some other motives in pin pricking India! There appears to be a deeper political and regional motive behind Chinese aggressive posture.
One is reminded about the 1962 clash which too had a background other than the disputed boundary line. It was rather a political and an ideological clash in which China succeeded in completely changing the India neutrality! Those days India led by Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru was aspiring to be the leader of South Asia. He had succeeded in setting up a Non-aligned block with Josef Tito of Yugoslavia, Dr. Sukarno of Indonesia, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, and Nkrumah of Ghana. In fact the Non Aligned Movement was started in 1961 in Belgrade. Those days there were two blocks, one led by the Soviet Union and the other by USA. India under Nehru after very successfully initiating the Non-aligned movement was hoping to be its leader. This was not to the liking of Chinese. They gave a strong border push and Nehru completely forgot about non-alignment and went straight into the lap of America. The Indian Army that time was equipped with Second World War vintage 303 rifles while the Chinese already had automatic weapons. They totally dislodged Indian Army everywhere. The Indians would claim that “to strengthen their defences they have moved back to strategic locations”. A number of villages in North East were taken over by Chinese and the inhabitants had run away leaving everything there!
Once the American C-130’s started airlifting automatic rifles and other weapons for Indian soldiers, the Chinese stopped and subsequently withdrew to the line claimed by them to be the actual border. Other interesting episodes of that conflict were Chinese humiliating steps. They cleaned and painted all the houses in villages whose occupants had run away and put sign boards, “Owners missing”! Also the Indian POW’s were sent back after brain washing and with many gifts for their families. The Non Aligned Movement was completely forgotten! Even though the NAM still exists with over 122 members, after the end of the cold war it has become totally irrelevant.
This time there is a new regional issue but with global ramifications. The alignments have also changed. The issue is the CPEC, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. In sixties of the last centuries, the tussle was ideological and political. It did not materially affect China so much. However, the present conflict has an economical basis. For the first time China is getting a direct access to the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf. Already China has completed the major parts of the corridor. It involves a total investment of over $ 62 billion. The importance of CPEC to China is reflected by its inclusion as part of Chinas 13th five-year development plan. CPEC projects will provide China with an alternate route for energy supplies, as well as a new route by which Western China can conduct trade. Pakistan stands to gain due to upgrade of infrastructure and introduction of a reliable energy supply. Normally, India should have welcomed this economic initiative and joined the group. However, it has deliberately become a US proxy in opposing this initiative. US feel economically threatened by Chines access to the Gulf Region. Ultimately, the tussle is between US and China. Because of problems in South China Sea route and its length, the Chinese have the maximum stake in the success of the CPEC. They will not tolerate any sabotage or interference in the success of this basically an economic initiative. Apart from this the Chinese are also irked by the Indian interference in Tibet by projecting Dalai Lama through his visits to the disputed areas in Arunachal Pradesh. India is also losing its contact with Nepal and Bhutan by a bullying attitude.
Militarily, at the moment the Indian Army even though the third largest in the world, is no match for the Chinese War Machine. There have been a number of articles regarding lack of modernisation in the Indian Armed forces, especially the Air Force. The only sensible solution appears a rapprochement through dialogue. In the larger interest of the region, India should try to solve even Indo-Pak disputers through the Chinese mediation which they have readily offered. The Hindutva wave of lynching the minorities and creating a Hindu Rashtra are not going to help! If the Chinese do really push on militarily, it may prove a nemesis for the present dispensation. The time is running out fast! Let us hope and pray that the good sense prevails all around.
About the Author
Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir in 1996 from which post he retired in 2003 after a total service of 30 years in Tourism. He has been associated with the Adventure Sports at National level and is a past Vice-President of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, the apex body of adventure sports in India. To commend his efforts in introducing rescue measures in Kashmir Mountains, he was awarded “Merite-Alpin” by Swiss in a special function in Les Diablerets in 1993. He continues to be a member of the Governing Council of IMF and is also the Patron of the Jammu & Kashmir Mountaineering & Hiking Club. He considers his greatest achievement the pioneering of Tourism in Ladakh. In 1974, Ladakh was opened for foreign tourism by Government of India. Ashraf was extensively involved in developing tourism in this mysterious and enchanting land beyond the Himalaya. He considers it as his first love and is fondly remembered by its inhabitants for promoting tourism in this area.