Not much assurance

The Centre briefed the leaders of the Opposition parties on the India-China border situation on Tuesday. Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar admitted that though China had in the past created tensions in the border, this time it is “unusually aggressive and vocal” While telling the leaders that India was using ‘diplomatic channels’ to ‘defuse tension’, the Foreign Secretary made a cryptic remark: “There is no question of India being pushed into armed action.” Does it mean that if the Chinese troops resort to force to push back the Indian soldiers and start building the road in Doklam, India will retreat rather than resist and repulse China’s attempt at grabbing Bhutan’s land?  China eyes not just a part of Bhutanese territory but the whole of Bhutan. Then it will turn to Sikkim whose joining India it has now questioned. Then Beijing will cut off the whole of North-East India at the Siliguri corridor. Once you retreat, you go on retreating, step by painful step.
Diplomacy succeeds when one of the parties to the dispute is quite strong and has on its side powerful friends. Diplomacy hardly succeeds when the other side knows that its opponent is weak and in no position to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity by risking even an armed confrontation. Jaishankar saying that there is no question of India “being pushed into armed action” has a defeatist ring because nobody is ‘pushing’ India into doing anything. At the tri-junction where the current dispute has arisen, the Indian side has an enormous advantage over the Chinese in that our troops are on a ridge that is at an altitude of 14,500 feet and can see every movement of the Chinese troops in the entire Chumbi Valley. To retreat from this position will be suicidal for India.
The history of Europe during the ‘thirties and ‘forties of the last century has shown that the expansionist ambition of an imperial power is not sated but whetted by appeasement. China will be more aggressive the more India tries to buy peace by vacating its own or Bhutan’s territory which India is pledged to defend and protect. It is not much of an assurance to be told that we will not be ‘pushed into’ armed action. War may be thrust upon us by the Chinese, leaving us no alternative to defending our and Bhutan’s territorial integrity. The least the Government can and should do is not to lull the people into a false sense of security.

Friday, 21 July, 2017