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  Opinion   Columnists  12 May 2023  Abhijit Bhattacharyya | When will Indians counter China’s rising arrogance?

Abhijit Bhattacharyya | When will Indians counter China’s rising arrogance?

The writer is an alumnus of the National Defence College, and the author of China in India.
Published : May 12, 2023, 12:57 am IST
Updated : May 12, 2023, 12:57 am IST

It seems the Chinese know well that despite occasional hiccups, they can get their way with a subservient section of Indians.

While Chairman Xi wants to put the Indian border issue on the backburner, he is desperate to “resolve” the Bhutan border. (PTI file photo)
 While Chairman Xi wants to put the Indian border issue on the backburner, he is desperate to “resolve” the Bhutan border. (PTI file photo)

Once again, the vainglorious and obnoxious arrogance of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), a wing of the Communist Party of China, and the country’s defence minister Gen. Li Shingfu and foreign minister Qin Gang, were on full display in the past few weeks, in New Delhi and Goa, as the two attended different meetings of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. As Gen. Li came to New Delhi, after detailed consultations in Beijing on the “regional security situation” with Pakistan’s Army Chief Gen. Syed Asim Munir, and nonchalantly blurted out cunningly-crafted words of deception prompted by wolf-warrior diplomats that the “India-China border is generally stable”, foreign minister Qin Gang audaciously chose to threaten India from Goa.

Mr Gang spat venom, giving New Delhi a warning with a straight poker face. He stuck to the “stable border” line, directly contradicting India’s stand, and said: “We should draw experience and lessons from history”. The subtext! He was trying to tell India: “Don’t forget the 1962 thrashing by Comrade Mao’s machine-gun toting Marxist militia and Xi Jinping’s birthday gift of Galwan in June 2020. Never forget the lessons we taught you.” He said the two countries “should grasp bilateral relations from the strategic heights and long-term perspective”. This again rubs salt into India’s wounds, to convey that “being the victor, we are at a strategic, commanding height; we are better equipped and more powerful to take you on (vanquished and at a lower, inferior pedestal)”.

Mr Gang’s utterances on Russia and India in the same breath revealed the repertoire of his “diplomatic” double talk. With Russia, he was willing to deepen “communication and coordination” in order to make a “tangible contribution” to “political crisis settlement”. On India, however, Mr Qin was willing to deepen “coordination and cooperation” to bring ties back to a “healthy” track of development.

Whereas “coordination” is an innocuous, routine route to normal acts common to both Moscow and Delhi, and even “communication” being a harmless Russia-China mode of diplomacy; in India’s case the critical word is “cooperation”. It’s an irrevocable and irreversible command: it’s like saying: “Cooperate with us, or worse will follow”.

Thus, both defence and foreign ministers of China want India to put the border issue on backburner “in an appropriate position to promote normalised management” and to “learn the lessons of history”. Do they really believe they can bully New Delhi in this manner, the way they do with smaller Asian and African countries which they regard as being within Beijing’s sphere of influence?

Such diplomatic language doesn’t behove a country that aspires to be a responsible world power. China’s diplomats are well versed in the norms of international conduct, and its top ministers would do well to follow the internationally-accepted, acceptable semantics that are usually forthright, upright and civil in the choice of words, clarity of thought and plans of action. The comments of both Gen. Li and Mr Gang appeared laughable and nonsensical, which India has grown tired of hearing over decades. India will do better to flatly ignore these hostile sermons by the Dragon’s ministers.

It will be pointless, however, to simply target the Li-Qin duo without taking note of ground realities, and taking action to counter China’s deception, deceit, bullying and “lies, more lies and statistics” executed 24/7 on all 365 days of the year. Each and every word that Mr Li and Mr Gang parroted has long-term implications. The forces loyal to the CPC’s supreme overlord Xi Jinping have already penetrated deep into several key and sensitive sectors of India, and are sitting on a heap of the $105 billion surplus earned from this one-way traffic: of profits from so-called “mutually compatible, approved and acceptable” India-China annual bilateral trade. Obviously, Xi & Co simply cannot allow India to get out of its clutches.

The Chinese, sporadically, have had lip-smacking opportunities offered to them by monumental folly of Indians themselves, as the United States, the European Union and their allies had done in the past to earn cash and profits at the expense of their nations’ security, safety and sovereignty. The unthinkable happened when India recently said that the CPC-PLA being economically strong, it would not be feasible or wise to take on the “harmful” denizens of the Middle Kingdom. That was a morale-shattering blow to patriotic, but non-trading, non-profiteering, non-business class Indians who traditionally constitute the first line of freedom fighters against foreigners. These Indians just can’t understand how and why what the British did to India with cash and cunning, China could replicate it through frontier violations and killing warriors, and then cracking finance and economics to bring about a deep penetration of local market and manufacturing. It seems the Chinese know well that despite occasional hiccups, they can get their way with a subservient section of Indians.

A clear message-cum-action is due, to be conveyed, that Beijing cannot expect that it will be “business as usual” with India, along with easy profits from bilateral commerce, till such time that the butchery stops, the border incursions and occasional pinpricks end, and the entire situation gets resolved to mutual satisfaction. Late in April, before the Goa meeting, India’s external affairs minister clearly stated while on a visit to Latin America that India-China ties were “abnormal” due to violations of border management agreement by Beijing. These ties are “abnormal” as those in charge of running China are abnormal, who don’t care to adhere to bilateral or multilateral agreements, treaties, conventions or protocols. Their idea of sovereignty and international relations is stuck in antiquity: that China’s “Middle Kingdom” and its rulers are the “Sons of Heaven”, that, the world pivots around them.

That most nations will end up as China’s subjects paying eternal obeisance.

There is an irony in Chinese diplomacy today: While Chairman Xi wants to put the Indian border issue on the backburner, he is desperate to “resolve” the Bhutan border. Why? The objective is to crack the Bhutan-India relationship and hit India where it hurts — at “Elephant’s Neck”, spanning from Druk to Darjeeling and the Dooars of West Bengal, and beyond. The Dragon intends to pierce India’s ethnic weak spots like it had done in 1960s, setting the countryside on fire for two decades.

There is no question that China constitutes the most serious challenge and threat to India — in economics, defence, commerce, communication, security and every other way. When will Indians, so busy fighting among themselves, realise that the real threat is outside, across the Himalayas? By then, it may be too late, with an ecstatic Dragon having the last laugh.

Tags: india china, sino-india border, china's president xi jinping