“China is India’s No. 1 enemy,” thundered George Fernandes, then Union Defence Minister, within a few weeks of assuming charge in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. Though his undiplomatic comments had raised eyebrows among the top echelons of the government, many felt that he had stated the truth and he had his ears to the ground. As blood of Indian soldiers was spilt at the hands of the boorish Chinese counterparts on the border in the middle of this month, the irrepressible socialist leader has been proved right to the last letter.
The Chinese soldiers acted like barbarians. They used nail-struck rods and sticks with barbed wire to bludgeon Indian soldiers who stuck to the protocol of not using weapons in skirmishes between the two sides. On the other hand, the Chinese flew to the winds the protocol agreed upon on June 6 to disengage and de-escalate the tensed situation. Even as further talks were going on, they preferred to stab from the back, an art the Chinese are well-versed. Non-adherence to mutually agreed upon decisions and principles does not augur well for a country with a veto power in the United Nations.
Though there had been several incursions by the Chinese after 1962, it had never reached a flashpoint as it happened on the night of June 15-16, giving a new twist to the India-China border dispute. China has started claiming Galwan Valley, which has never been a bone of contention, taking the hostility to a new level. It seems the dragon was preparing for a bloodbath as seen from the infrastructure it had developed and the tents it had put up in Galwan Valley. As Mr. Narendra Modi was escorting Mr. Xi Jinping in the temple town of Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu and cosying up to the neighbour, the latter seems to have been working on plans to intrude into Indian territory, disregarding the Line of Actual Control.
As a means to teach China a lesson, many are vociferously suggesting boycott of Chinese goods. As India has four times more imports than its exports to China, the general impression is that the boycott will bring China to its knees. But one should not forget that a major share of our imports are inputs meant for vital areas like pharmaceuticals, telecommunications and automobiles. Hence, industry experts point out that sudden ban on imports of those items, without creating adequate domestic facilities, could be suicidal. Knee-jerk reactions will mean that the cure is worse than the disease. Moreover, one should not forget that China’s exports to India is little more than 3 per cent of its total exports and hence our boycott may not inflict as much damage as we wish.
With even tiny Nepal cocking a snook at India, belligerence may not be the right path to solve the border crisis. The Xi Jinping regime may flex more muscles as is its wont. Still, diplomacy could be a better solution to take on the dragon prowling on the border. But, various wings of the government and the defence establishments should talk in one voice for the ultimate victory.(Published on 29th June 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 27)