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  Opinion   Columnists  30 May 2020  Abhijit Bhattacharyya | Given China’s psyche, can we take ‘soft line’at face value?

Abhijit Bhattacharyya | Given China’s psyche, can we take ‘soft line’at face value?

The writer is an alumnus of the National Defence College, and the author of China in India.
Published : May 30, 2020, 7:28 pm IST
Updated : May 30, 2020, 7:28 pm IST

The global pandemic has triggered utter destruction of the world economy and a full stop to China’s Belt and Road Initiative juggernaut

A Chinese soldier stands next to an Indian soldier at the Nathu La border crossing between India and China (AFP file photo)
 A Chinese soldier stands next to an Indian soldier at the Nathu La border crossing between India and China (AFP file photo)

After China’s People’s Liberation Army raised tensions along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh and northern Sikkim’s Naku La in early May, and its troops got into fisticuffs with Indian soldiers, there were reports of stepped-up military deployment on both sides of the LAC, following which Beijing indicated it was ready to “soften” its stand and America’s mercurial President Donald Trump offered to “mediate or arbitrate” between the two Asian giants.

The global pandemic has triggered utter destruction of the world economy and a full stop to China’s Belt and Road Initiative juggernaut. India, of course, has been at the receiving end of the People’s Republic’s deception and dirty tricks almost ever since its founding in 1949 from the ruthless capture and subjugation of Tibet (and the subsequent flight into exile of the Dalai Lama), thereby opening the backdoor of the hitherto safe Himalayan border.

If today China claims it is “softening” its position in Ladakh and the LAC overall, and says the dragon and the elephant “pose no threat to each other”, will India once again take this at face value given that there is no indication that the PLA troops have moved away from Indian territory?

Successive Indian governments, in their eagerness and innocence, have done so in the past, and this is all the more so now as this government’s dream of India’s $5 trillion GDP by 2023 lies in tatters. The Chinese are besieged on all sides  its relationship with the United States is headed for a “new cold war”,

Europe is getting increasingly wary, Taiwan is seeking a bigger role in the world and simmering Hong Kong is erupting once again in response to which the Chinese Parliament on Thursday passed a new security law for the territory which might completely stamp out its autonomy.

India is headed for turbulence in its neighbourhood, but it will be a bigger problem for China.

The coronavirus that originated in China’s Wuhan has not only given it a huge jolt, but also forced a lot of rethinking by the rest of the world on how to tackle Beijing’s aspirations to superpower status.

China is still not completely willing to allow an independent, objective international inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, that has led to over 350,000 deaths (including over 4,500 in India) till Friday.

For India too, what initially appeared controllable “China virus” pandemic, the imported disease has accelerated, to firmly grip New Delhi, thus creating an adverse public opinion against any cosying up to Beijing over trade and economics, which was being showcased as an “example” of Han-Hindustani “convergence”, far outweighing the historical border dispute “divergence”, that led to the India’s unprecedented 1962 hammering in the high Himalayas.

This “divergence” factor is disturbing India’s Nehruvian peaceniks, who had once sworn by “Hindi-Chini bhai bhai”. This has spoilt their applecart with a venom more poisonous than the virus pandemic.

Whenever Xi Jinping vowed that not an inch of Chinese territory would be surrendered, the Han lovers in New Delhi would constantly underplay the issue, on the excuse that bilateral trade, investment, technology, etc were more important.

But can any sovereign nation tolerate repeated breaches of its territory. True, the Line of Actual Control does have some grey areas, but just as China has its own “perception” of the LAC, so too does India, so if the Chinese PLA feels free to engage in fisticuffs with Indian soldiers at the border, what is stopping the Indian Army from enforcing its own “perception” of the LAC.

See what happened in 2013 when the Chinese made repeated transgressions deep into Indian territory in April, May, June and September, with 640 sq km of Indian territory occupied by China around Daulat Beg Oldi.

Chinese troops also entered Chumar on June 17 that year and destroyed an Indian Army post all this within a month of Chinese PM Li Keqiang’s official visit. Indians need to understand the psyche of China’s Communists who try to impose their will on the rest of the world the way they subjugate their own people, and brook no dissent. To them, compromise is like surrender.

China’s Communists think India with its divided polity, public opinion that can be easily influenced and a benign media is intrinsically weak, and is thus a ripe candidate for the dumping of its substandard cheap goods, all the while humiliating it at the border.

The United States, with its May 27 decision to audit all Chinese entities making money on the American stock exchanges, and several other “hostile” moves, is getting harder to handle. Australia has challenged Beijing over the probe into the coronavirus’ origins. So, the weak link is India.

Indians must understand China’s fundamental Han tradition and ideology where only power is respected, and all non-Chinese rulers and peoples who cannot dominate them either militarily or economically are basically inferior beings who must submit to the overlords of the Middle Kingdom.

In India’s eagerness for trade and investment from China, has it ever tried to examine or understand this ingrained Han psyche, whose worldview focuses on trying to undermine and challenge the very sovereignty of non-Han states.

After India, in November 2019, rightly drew itself away from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), led by China’s Reds, the Wuhan-sourced virus made Beijing desperate to get India back.

The absence of India’s 1.35 billion heads will be a catastrophic loss for its commerce and profits. The Chinese incursion in the Himalayas must be confronted in this context as well.

Tags: india-china border, coronavirus (covid-19)