Vulnerability of North-East

Author: 
Barun Das Gupta

In the last four or five weeks, the military threat from China to India’s entire north-east has become apparent. Not since 1962 have Chinese troop movements become so menacing. The trouble started on the 1st of June when personnel of the PLA were found constructing a road in the Doko La or Dokolam area near Sikkim, which India claims as its own and the Chinese claim to be theirs.
Doko La is situated in the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet trijunction in the Chumbi Valley. A look at the map will show that the valley is like a dagger lunged between the Indian state of Sikkim and Bhutan, which is a protectorate of India. It is not necessary to go into old history or examine the Chinese claims and the ‘documents’ they show or refer to in support of their claim. The simple fact is that for all these years since India’s independence and even after the 1962 Sino-Indian war, China never tried to build a road in this highly sensitive and strategically important area.
Another look at the map will show that the construction of the road will enable the Chinese to bring the point of the ‘dagger’ to the vital Siliguri corridor, just short of touching it. The Siliguri corridor, or the ‘Chicken’s Neck’, which it is commonly called, connects mainland India with its north-east comprising seven states with an aggregate geographical area of 2,55,511 sq kms or 98,653 sq miles. China has for a long time been claiming the whole of Arunachal Pradesh, calling it ‘Southern Tibet’. But cutting off the Chicken’s Neck will mean the whole of north-east will come under Chinese control. This is the crux of the problem and that is why India can never allow the Chinese to build a road in the Doko La region.
Three years ago in 2014, China’s official news agency Xinhua in a report said, among other things, that: “Experts say that isolation and years of neglect by the Indian government have fuelled underdevelopment, occasional tribal unrest and insurgency in the region, thus hampering overall growth of the north-eastern India.” The message is clear: India has neglected the north-east and is responsible for its underdevelopment or backwardness. The charge is, of course, not true. The Union Ministry of DONER (Development of North East India) has been pumping in massive doses of funds to accelerate the pace of development of the N.E.
China has, time and again, expressed its sense of identification with the Mongoloid people of the North-East. Intriguingly, the Xinhua report mentioned above identified only Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Nagaland as India’s north-east, omitting Assam and Tripura. The local people of the first four states are of Mongoloid origin. Assam and Tripura are non-Mongoloid. It may be recalled that the Naga insurgency movement, in its early days, got help from the Chinese.
It may not be entirely fortuitous that China’s face-off with India at Chumbi Valley has come at a time when, first, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has revived its militant movement for a separate Gorkhalnd and the Darjeeling hills are burning; and second, Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling has supported the separate Gorkhaland demand as the only way to bring peace in the hills. And thirdly, the Intelligence agencies of West Bengal have reported that Chinese arms are clandestinely flowing into Darjeeling through Nepal.
In July, 2013, an article was posted in the website of the Chinese news agency Zhongquo Xinwenshe. The article titled ‘Six Wars China Must Fight in the Coming 50 Years’ laid out the time table of the wars: the war to unify Taiwan (2020-2025); the war to recover the various islands of the South China Sea (2025-2030); the war to recover Southern Tibet (2035-2040); the war to recover Diaoyutai and the Ryukyus (2045-2050); the war to unify Outer Mongolia (2045-2050); and the war to recover the territory seized by Russia (2055-2060).
Students of Chinese history know that the Chinese rulers – ancient or modern, dynastic or nationalist or communist – have always been obsessed with the ‘Middle Kingdom’ mentality. The characteristics of this mentality are, first, that the Chinese are superior to all other races, second, that China is the centre of civilization and third, the Chinese have the inherent right to rule the world. This mentality runs counter to the very concept of democracy.
In his book The Birth of Communist China, C.P. Fitzgerald, who had spent years in China and studied the Chinese at first hand, observed:  “No ancient Chinese terms meaning ‘democracy’ or ‘aristocracy’ ever existed. But the Chinese sages did very actively contend for opposed systems of autocratic rule.”
It would be naïve to believe that the Indian Prime Minister’s recent meeting with Donald Trump or his current visit to Israel has provoked Beijing to raise the threshold of hostility and confrontation in the Doko La region.  The Chinese are pursuing a cold and calculated policy to retard India’s economic growth and prevent India’s rise as a strong military power that can stand up to China’s bullying and be a source of strength for China’s smaller neighbours. (IPA)

Tuesday, 11 July, 2017