India and Boundary: Containing China

India and Boundary: Containing China

Last 15-16 June witnessed a bloody boundary face-off between India and China at Galwan valley of India, which caused martyrdom of 20 Indian bravehearts and as reported more or less 40 casualties in the Chinese side. In the context of the global coronavirus pandemic, this India-China border clash has assumed an unprecedented significance in world politics and is branded as the starting point of the Third World War by few Western media.

Desh and State

Desh for an Indian means not only an ancestral village but the entire country Bharatvarsha– the Land of Bharat stretching from Himalaya to Kanyakumari, from Kachh to Kamarupa, from Sindhu to Brahmaputra, from Ganga to Godavari. And, this land is not just a piece of land on the earth but the motherland- Matribhumi of Bharatiyas and this auspicious land is revered as Bharat Mata. This sense of belongingness comes out of a consciousness, culture and customs- all crystalized in the word of Rashtra which is more than the English equivalent of State. Bharat Rashtra is more than the modern concept of Nation-State, because the cultural unity of Indians has been flowing underneath through the ages without any break in a form of ‘Culture State’, which got a new political form of ‘Nation State’ in 1947.

In the modern ages the governance system of a state is characterised by the separation of state power between the three pillars of the Legislature, the Judiciary and the Executive. This state power comes under the constant vigilance of the fourth estate of the free Press which is supposed to be the voice of the silent mass. Here comes the paradox of the states of India and China where India is the largest democracy following the principles of separation of power with a multi-party parliamentary democracy having a free press, and China- the largest single-party communistic undemocratic authoritarian autocracy having a unified state power machinery with state-controlled press and even social media. The continuing boundary conflicts have to be analysed from the prism of this paradox.

In today’s world, the existence of nation states arose out of the Westphalian Peace Treaty, 1648 agreed upon among the warring countries in Europe primarily to honour each other’s boundary and non-interference in internal affairs. Following that trend and traditions the concept of nation state has gained a sanctimonious status with the expansion of colonial powers throughout the world. But, after the end of colonial rules in different parts of the world, particularly in the end of WW-II, different nation states came out with the bag and baggage of colonial legacy with not much defined and demarcated boundary of states. India is no exception after gaining independence and the transfer of power through the Indian Independence Act, 1947 from the colonial British rule.

With the independence, India also got the legacy of an undemarcated boundary, particularly with China. As a part of the ‘Great Game’ in the Indian subcontinent before independence, independent India got different demarcation lines with respect to the boundary like Ardagh-Johnson Line (1865/1897), Macartney-MacDonald Line, 1899, McMahon Line, 1914 and other boundary lines. 

Indian State and Boundary

The subcontinental Bharatvarsha got her independence after the ghastly Partition of India as per the Mountbatten Plan and the Radcliffe Lines had demarcated the boundaries between India and Pakistan. Except Pakistan and China, India has almost sealed both the mutually agreed land and water boundaries with her neighbours. Of course, Nepal has now opened a new front in boundary disputes in Kalapani areas, which was under the control of the East India Company as per the ‘Sugauli Treaty’ between the company and the King of the then Nepal in 1816. Nonetheless the border disputes with Pakistan and China have been more grievous than other boundaries. Here we have two border lines, one LoC- the Line of Control between India and Pakistan demarcated by the militaries, and the other LAC- the Line of Actual Control between India and China. Unfortunately, LAC is not demarcated, and it consists of a vast empty space. Not only that Pakistan has ceded illegally a large chunk of PoK to China through the so-called Sino-Pakistan Boundary Agreement, 1963 contravening the international conventions. 

China and Salami Slicing

In military and political terms, salami slicing is a strategy and tactics to grab a landscape silently piece by piece by dominating the opposition and create a new status quo, and ultimately usurp the area under its boundary. From that perspective, China’s salami slicing tactics have been an old one, started with the grab of Inner Mongolia in 1947, and other areas like Uyghur-dominated Xinjiang in 1949, Tibet in 1950, Aksai Chin in 1958, Paracel Islands in South China Sea in 2012-2016 one after another. As per one version of Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong, annexed Tibet was the palm of Chinese hand and Ladakh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh (erstwhile NEFA) were the ‘Five Fingers’ to be annexed later. When the International Court of Justice- ICJ delivered its verdict against China on the disputes with the Philippines over a few islands in 2018, China did not obey the verdict and openly flouted the sovereignty of the Philippines. 

Now the question: what is behind this predatory nature of China? Is it new with the establishment of communist regime in 1949, or is it in its national psyche? The communist party has named the country as the People’s Republic of China in English. But the state has been named as Zhongguo in Mandarin, meaning the Middle or Central Kingdom following the practice of Zhou Kingdom. Simply put, the Chinese establishment thinks that China has been in the centre of the world and they would rule the rest. This is the mindset called Sinocentrism whereby the Chinese think that they are the most civilised and powerful race culturally, politically and economically, and the rest of the world are so barbarous to be controlled by them. This Sinocentrism is like White racism and Eurocentrism. Behind this mindset is the Han Chinese nationalism, where Han Chinese people constitute almost 92 per cent populace, and the Chinese Communist Party has surreptitiously usurped this psyche to iron out nationalist Kuomintang party and built an authoritarian regime to establish the Chinese State in the centre of the world politics. So, the expansionism is in the DNA of China.

Why this Chinese aggression now?

India’s relationship with China is so old, running through thousands of years. But the moot point is Tibet, which has considered Bharat as it’s spiritual guru. The so-called left-liberals are so oblivious in recognising Tibet as an independent entity having civilisational relationships with India through the ages. Even the Tarim Basin which has been in the north-west of the present Galwan valley was referred to as ‘Uttara Kuru’ in Rig Veda and Mahabharata. 

The present-day problem is more of political nature than of cultural and civilisational relationship. That is why the present Chinese state did not recognise the Johnson and McMohan Lines and was not interested in settling the boundary issues permanently with India. After grabbing Aksai Chin, China is adamant to grab five fingers by hook or crook.

In this time of corona pandemic, Chinese aggression has caught India napping. The geo-strategic experts have pointed out the domestic political compulsion as one of the prime factors for external aggression through border conflict by a state. Like Nepal, Chinese Premier Xi Jinping is also under pressure to counter-balance economic slowdown and other issues. Let us discuss a few issues. 

The Modi government had already declined to participate in Chinese ambitious modern version of ancient Silk Route trade roads project Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and strongly protested against China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as it is going through Pak-occupied Kashmir (PoK) violating India’s sovereignty over the whole of Kashmir. Again, the present government has been consistently developing border infrastructure in all sectors and procuring strategic arsenals for the Indian military. Further, India has been reforming its military force with the combined CDS system, proposing theatre commands and developing long-range missile systems. India has already formed one of the best Mountain Strike Corps to counter Chinese aggression. 

Although China has been successful in resisting India’s membership of Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), India has already gotten the membership of another strategic group, ‘Australia Group’. Again, the abolition of Article 370 and the creation of Ladakh as a UT and the declaration of Gilgit-Baltistan and Aksai Chin as the integral part of Indian territory in the Indian parliament have signalled India’s resolve to face China squarely. 

Recently, the revival of the ‘Quad’ of Japan, Australia, United States and India in Indian oceanic area has put tremendous pressure on China. Furthermore, US President Trump’s invitation to India to join the G7 meeting has irked China. India has also supported Australia and others to pinpoint the accountability of China in the origin and spread of Covid-19. 

All these push and pull factors have made China resort to teaching a lesson to ‘Soft’ India. The US News has reported that a Chinese general has ordered this Galwan attack. But, is it possible without the consent of Xi Jinping? Just remember Xi’s announcement to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to be battle-ready. 

China Containment Policy

What would be India’s response to Chinese aggression? It must be multi-dimensional diplomatically, militarily and economically. India must be reminiscent of the disastrous fall out of the appeasement policy as we had seen it in the partition of India in 1947 and also in vote politics later. Now is the time to face the bully head-on. 

From Sardar Patel to Ram Monohar Lohia and Morarji Desai to down the line up to George Fernandez, all the luminaries had cautioned about China as a ‘potential threat’ to India. Actually, China is not a potential but real threat as proved in 1962. But India has been sadly following the same appeasement policy towards China and showing a deferential syndrome. As India has changed her policy towards Pakistan, it is also imperative to adopt a new policy towards China and it must be a counter China containment policy. By doing SWOT analysis, India should follow her own strategist Chanakya’s ‘Sama-Dana-Bheda-Danda’ policy. Because, in world politics no one is friend or enemy for ever. 

Although India is lagging behind China to some extent militarily, India is no more pushover as shown by highly motivated armed forces ever ready to sacrifice their lives for their motherland. Sino-Vietnam war had testified to the point of a motivated nationalistic force. Of course, India shouldn’t go for a limited scale war with China for the moment. But India must resist any further aggression of China head-on.  

Diplomatically, India should make alliances as much as possible against China not only in Indian oceanic area but also with ASEAN nations and openly support the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. India should engage more with Taiwan subject to their acceptance of Johnson and McMahon Lines, and Tibetan state out of the clutches of the present Communist China.

In trade front, the Galwan face-off has already provided India to use the national security clause of WTO to restrict Chinese imports and investments in India. India mustn’t be a dumping ground of Chinese cheap ‘sweat’ products. India has already restricted the ‘automatic approval’ of FDI from China to takeover companies in strategic sectors. 

In industry, India has to restructure its manufacturing base so that India can have a major slice of the global manufacturing value-chain pie when the corporate capital is ready to withdraw from China. 

Way Forward

Without all round growth in agriculture, industry and service sectors leveraging a self-reliant and self-sustainable ‘growth economy’, India can’t contain an aggressive monolith like China in the long run. Indian soldiers have proved their mettle as a ‘united force multiplier’ against the vulnerable Chinese predatory military force.

But as the President of the Government-in-exile Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), Lobsang Sangay opined, India as a nation has to choose either cooperation or competition with respect to China. But sadly, cooperation with China means to surrender before them like Tibet as wished by an official of Beijing Think-tank to divide India in pieces in 2009.

This aim of ‘Balkanisation of India’ has been a grand design not only of China but also of anti-India forces operating overtly and covertly in and outside of India.

So, competition is the only way out for India to contain the dragon. India follows the principle of human unity- ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’, but not at the cost of Indian dignity and national unity. Now is the time for India to concentrate and consolidate her position by breaking silos of hibernations.

Featured Image: DNA India

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Sujit Roy

A Research Analyst with PhD and authored research articles, books and articles on socio-cultural issues.