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Narendra Modi govt's China policy has always been ad hoc since 2014
PLA attack at Tawang, though limited, needs thorough appraisal
Usually, things start off with a display of offensive banners and end with a flag meeting. Tempers cool, followed by the rival “20-year-olds” going back to their neck of the woods on either side of the LAC. This time, it was at Tawang far to the east of Galwan and it happened on December 9.
“Difficult border, difficult neighbourhood” is what’s told, the tone apologetic and tame, as if India should feel and say sorry to China for the Chinese PLA’s testosterone overdose. This has been the case ever since Narendra Modi became Prime Minister of India and Xi Jinping President of China. The Indo-China border was never demarcated on stone, and the Chinese PLA never let go of a chance to send a message to India that it is the more powerful army.
The Galwan story of twenty years ago was in a league of its own. Twenty Indian army soldiers were killed. The Chinese PLA refused to declare their casualties. That in itself was a kind of psychological warfare.
Usually, the PLA soldiers walk in, take a stroll on the “India side” of the porous LAC and return to “their side” leaving behind telltale chocolate wrappers and messy Chinese things. Sometimes, when they cross in relatively big numbers, the diminutive PLA get aggressive and then it is Shaolin School and nail-studded primitive wooden clubs. Give them an inch and they’ll take a yard. The Modi government is pretty good at playing it safe. The Indian Army’s northern commander, not a month ago, reminded citizens that the army would cross the LoC and take POK if and when it gets the civilian’s order.
The same does not seem to apply to the LAC. Or, perhaps the current civilian leadership likes to play dead and let the PLA get away with murder, so to speak. Reports say six Indian Army soldiers sustained “minor injuries” in Tawang on December 9 and were airlifted to a military hospital in Assam. Are there no military-grade hospitals in Arunachal Pradesh?
The fact is, but for the nosy-noisy media, the Modi government would have kept mum with fervent hope that the media would also keep mum. What rankles “all of us” is the Indian Army is always at the short end of the Chinese PLA stick. The proactive PLA always crosses the ‘Lakshman Rekha.' India’s soldiers get assaulted and then, when the crap hits the proverbial fan, the Modi Government issues anodyne statements that raise a ruckus.
That’s all, end of story. The media reverts to language dull and dead like “de-escalated” and “disengaged” with “face-off” thrown in just so that ‘de-escalated’ and ‘disengaged’ make sense to the dumb millions. Now, with things left unsaid, as usual, the Indian population is tense and insulted. Will 1962 ever be avenged? Just like the age old desire of whether PoK will ever be retrieved.
The Hindu nationalist party is a massive disappointment and it appears like it doesn’t have the cojones to follow through. Thankfully, nobody said “Kadi Ninda” this time, not even the usual suspect Raksha Mantri Rajnath Singh, whose patent and copyright on ‘Kadi Ninda’ is well-recognized.
Then again, maybe, we shouldn’t be taking the Modi dispensation back to school. This is not the time to fly off the handle. Playing dead saves lives. In this case, not getting provoked is the better part of valour. More than Narendra Modi, Xi Jinping requires a facial. Xi’s stringent zero-Covid policy has taken a hit at home and diverting attention to the LAC has helped take the edge off domestic tensions.
Here’s what happened: The Indian and Chinese soldiers had a face-off at Yangtse on December 9 when 300 to 400 Chinese PLA armed with crude weapons crossed the LAC. They came with taser guns, wooden clubs, spikes with nails, and monkey fists made of iron and worn on wrists. Indian soldiers challenged the Chinese army. More Indian troops arrived. Stones were hurled and then hand-to-hand combat took place. Sticks and canes were also used.
More Chinese PLA sustained injuries. The PLA hadn’t expected such a swift Indian response. Then came the disengagement, followed by a brief statement, and a flag meeting. Thereafter, “structured mechanisms to restore peace and tranquility” took over.
But look deeper and it is not hard to discern that the Chinese PLA has the upper hand because it is the aggressor, as always. The Indian Army has to hold back and take it on the chin because the Indian leadership does not have a China policy to talk about other than the one dictated by expediency.
Such tame statements like “in certain areas along the LAC in the Tawang sector in Arunachal, there are areas of differing perceptions, wherein both sides patrol the area up to their claim lines. This has been the trend since 2006” hardly make an impression on the PLA, which treats India like it treats island nation Taiwan, a puny adversary which can be given a spanking once every often. (IPA Service)