Herald View: The supreme ‘art of war’ is to defeat the enemy without fighting, said Sun Tzu  

Even as the ruling party gloats over Chinese ‘disengagement’ and withdrawal in Ladakh, reports suggest that the Indian Army too has fallen back. The ‘Art of War’ should be mandatory reading for both

Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: IANS)
Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: IANS)

NH Web Desk

Even as Bharatiya Janata Party gloats over Chinese ‘disengagement’ and withdrawal in Ladakh, reports suggest that the Indian Army too has fallen back and that too in its own territory, that the two sides have mutually agreed to a buffer zone where neither side would do any patrolling. While this is somehow being interpreted as an Indian victory in the Indian media, in the absence of clarity, the ‘victory’ by no means appears certain. Unnamed sources in the Government have been quoted as saying that a telephone call from Indian National Security Adviser AjitDoval to the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi led to the de-escalation.

Other planted reports suggested that the duo spoke for over two hours, which seems unlikely and also raises the question why the NSA did not make the call earlier in May when the Chinese army had first taken up positions in Indian territory. Diplomatic statements issued by both the foreign ministries remain open to interpretation.

While the Indian statement calls upon both sides to respect the ‘Line of Actual Control’, it stops short of stating which LAC it is referring to. The Chinese statement on the other hand holds India as the aggressor and expresses Chinese resolve to protect its sovereignty. It is known by now that China since 2017 has been pushing for a LAC that it claimed in 1959 and which included territory that India has held and patrolled since at least 1993. The two countries had signed a treaty in 1993 in which they agreed to a patrolling arrangement and accepted the territories held by each side on the border then as the LAC.

By all accounts China has reneged on the 1993 treaty and occupied Indian land in May this year. While the Indian Intelligence and military were caught by surprise, diplomatic efforts were clearly inadequate. There is nothing to indicate that the Indian Government took it seriously or if the NSA spoke to the Chinese foreign minister between May and July 5. It was only the deadly scuffle between soldiers on both sides in Ladakh on June 15, when 20 Indian soldiers and an unspecified number of Chinese soldiers were killed, that prompted an admission that the Chinese were in our territory.

Disengagement from what and from where is a question that Indians have not yet been told. If 20 Indian soldiers died protecting Indian territory then the Government needs to clearly say that the intruders have been pushed back. But to the contrary, the Indian Government has allowed China to claim that Indian soldiers were the intruders. The Government may well believe that in the current situation discretion is the better part of valour but its refusal to even reiterate that it still sticks to the 1993 LAC cannot but be seen as a betrayal. If it has indeed surrendered its claim to the LAC which has stood for the past 27 years, the least it can do is to take the country into confidence.

AjitDoval certainly knows the ‘Art of War’ better than most. But there is no harm in reminding him of what Chinese philosopher and military strategist Sun Tzu had stated in the book. “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

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