Contrasting the Indian Response to China vis a vis Pakistan

Sadly, what is sauce for the goose is not always sauce for the gander

india china

In dealing with the issues of national or international implications, it makes sense for the governments to calibrate official responses with an eye on the strengths and weaknesses of the adversary. However, it’s important to distinguish that sort of an approach from the one where responses are informed by the perception of the adversary being looked upon as a pariah or as a bully. That’s exactly how India had previously conducted itself in the aftermath of Pulwama in Feb.2019 vis a vis Pakistan and how it has chosen to capitulate to the bullying tactics of China during its present faceoff with them in Ladakh. The loss of face following the prime minister’s confession to an all-party meeting yesterday that “neither has anyone intruded into our frontier there, nor is any of our posts occupied by someone else” (The Telegraph, June 20th, 2020) is ample testimony to a blind faith in the outrightly amoral motto “Might is Right”.

There is thus a case for contending that the chickens have finally come home to roost. Call it hubris or hypocrisy, it is exactly these traits of the contemporary Indian leadership that have actualised the moment of comeuppance for the political leadership of India. In what has been at best its ‘mellowed’ reaction to the development involving twenty Indian army personnel having been killed during a violent face-off with the Chinese in the Galwan valley, India have stopped short of doing what it always does in such situations: issuing threats to the adversary as their stock response in such situations as long as the adversary in question happens to be the smaller, weaker neighbour next door. Because this time around, it is not the pygmy Pakistan but a formidable China staring into their eyes and calling India’s bluff. Here, they have chosen to take refuge in the meretricious plea that the Chinese have violated a whole set of treaties with India including the so called “Peace and Tranquillity Treaty” of 1993 between India and China. No issues on that account, but hold on! I shall come to that later.

Not to be left behind in its defence of the indefensible, look at how these developments are being seen and presented by our ‘lapdog millionaires’, masquerading as anchors at the TV studios of India and that at a time when China has already occupied about 50 KM’s of what is being perceived as the Indian territory, apart from twenty odd Indian army personnel who have lost their lives during the face off. Here is a random sample of the trivia that one gets to hear from these loud mouths:

  1. The India of 2020 is not the same as the India of 1962 when it was taken unawares by the Chinese onslaught and beaten hollow on the battlefield.
  2. Should China continue with its intransigence, it would get a ‘bloody nose’ from the Indian jawans.
  3. China is not reacting positively to the Indian overtures for dialogue towards restoring calm and peace on the LAC.

Whereas the first two parts marking the hollow braggadocio by Indian commentators stand demolished to the pulp as a result of the Chinese ingress, the last one betrays a lack of spine in the Indian political/military establishment. Hark back to the sheer hubris and arrogance that had marked their response to the peace overtures by Pakistan, before and in the aftermath of Pulwama attack in Feb. 2019. On the contrary, India had responded by claiming to have conducted surgical strikes in Balakot and to have killed no fewer than 350 odd militants during that operation. Reason: no dialogue with Pakistan was on the table till it stopped its cross border activities into India.

Now contrast this with how India is bending over backwards, craving Chinese indulgence to agree to a dialogue and to settle for ‘thus far and no further’ in the interest of restoring calm to the proceedings. This leaves one wondering whether that qualifies as downright hypocrisy or extreme pusillanimity.

On my part, I see that as a bit of both: hypocrisy because India has an unenviable track record in breaking pledges, reneging on promises and violating the sacred treaties it had previously signed with the contending parties. How else would one account for the summary denial of the right to self-determination to the people of Jammu and Kashmir as was sanctified by the UN Security Council through its resolutions which were endorsed both by India and Pakistan? And how would one describe the unilateral reading down of the constitutionally guaranteed article 370 and 35A by India on August 5th, 2019, even as the valley continues to reel under a continuous lockdown for the 10th month running which was imposed across the ‘state’ right on that day? The near-complete suspension of the business activity, the indefinite closure of the educational institutions and the stubborn denial of access to the internet beyond the snail-paced 2G connectivity have been among the smaller manifestations of this continued regime of repression in the valley.

On the other hand, an idea of India’s pusillanimity may be gathered from how it chooses to react towards Pakistan even when there is no tangible evidence to point to the latter’s active involvement in something as provocative and as flagrant as the Chinese incursion into Ladakh where the Indian army personnel have been bludgeoned to death without the evidence of the latter wishing to fight back in defence. Because they fear that they would meet their nemesis if they dared to call their bluff. As mentioned earlier, recall how India had sought to ‘teach Pakistan a lesson’ in retaliation for the Pulwama attack, even as there never emerged a clinching evidence of Pakistan having been involved in that attack. And the only reason for this was that because Pakistan was, and continues to be, perceived as weak, the idea was to pave the way for a situation where the credit was sought to be taken by the ruling establishment for ‘teaching the hostile country a lesson of their life’. The same mindset is brought to bear upon its approach when it comes to handling the Resistance in Kashmir. Here again, what is at display is this abysmally low level of cowardice and timidity which is manifested in their relentless apathy in taking on the scarcely equipped young recalcitrant Kashmiris who are killed in their dozens every single week. Come to think of it, in the last twenty four hours alone, as many as eight young Kashmiris have been killed by the Indian security forces, without the former posing even a semblance of resistance during the operation.

All this is suggestive of how a bullying muscleman has his way by throwing his weight around involving those who are perceived as weak and effete. That’s exactly how the two most powerful faces in the union cabinet who, in a display of raw bravado, had vowed to spill blood for claiming back PAK, Gilgit Baltistan and Aksai Chin into the Indian territory on the day when article 370 was illegally and illegitimately abrogated from the Indian constitution. Which is why, what is in witness today is the benumbing fear of the Dragon, or else something like a surgical strike on their territory would since have been attempted – or at least ‘claimed’ to have been undertaken. This is redolent of the cowardice as much as it of the ‘Might is Right’ motto, which is now dictating the tragic course of events by the Chinese in Ladakh on the one hand, and the utterly inept and inhuman handling of Kashmir over the past three decades by India, on the other. What is sad, but amusing all the same, is the realisation how the same motto has been used to pay such rich dividends in a country like India where the gullible masses are ‘successfully’ misled into mistaking the milk and honey for mud and muck.

Back to the Chinese incursion into Ladakh which calls for soul searching on the part of those who have provided a carte blanche to the Chinese for undertaking this daring venture. Here I wish to draw attention to a whole lot of my friends – especially from those living outside Kashmir – who used to counsel restraint and console my hurt sentiments in the aftermath of what all of us here in Kashmir have been going through since that darkest day of our history on Aug.5th, 2019. A constant refrain of these good friends has been that “it is always pitched dark before the break of dawn”, implying thereby that unprecedented peace, prosperity and affluence were to unfold for Kashmiris in the aftermath of that mother of all perfidies that was visited upon them on that day involving the abrogation of article 370 from the Indian constitution.

Lastly, I wish to use this occasion to remind those friends that as I am writing this column, it has now become ‘official’: that the genesis of the Chinese intrusion into Ladakh has to be pinned down exclusively to that monumental betrayal of Aug.5th by those whose sole idea of a New India entails reneging on pledges and going back on promises. These include but are not limited to the promises made to the Kashmiris by the Indian leadership in the parliament from time to time, the inviolability of article 370 as enshrined in the Indian constitution or of the UNSC resolutions on the disputed nature of Kashmir. That self-defeating idea of a New India feeds itself on the policy of dividing the people of India on caste, creed and religious lines while remaining smug in the belief that they could brazen their way through this utterly divisive and dangerous brand of politics without compunction and without attracting a backlash. That is not surprising, though! After all, how does one get to learn the statecraft necessary for running a country, even when most of those holding a ministerial portfolio in the current cabinet can’t boast of an educational qualification higher than that of a high school degree? How one wishes that those aspiring for a career in politics were required to possess a minimum qualification of a university degree supported by a track record of service to the society in various ways including in the alleviation of poverty, disease and hunger, apart from showing evidence of a strong belief in justice and peace in the society. In the absence of that culture based on morality, the country shall continue to be held to ransom by the likes of those who have brought so much ruin and shame to the country which is now being pushed to the precipice on the strength of such zany notions of development and nationalism.

Prof M A Sofi, Central University of Kashmir, Srinagar



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