Media Frenzy over Doklam Standoff and War


(Brig (retd) GB Reddi)

Ironic, but a grim reality, everyone in the media and pseudo intellectuals and analysts predict war to breakout between China and India to settle the Doklam dispute.

To score TRP brownie points, India Today TV Channel has conjured likely “war scenario” based on ‘peace time video clips” of guns firing, tanks racing around and fighters on display. It can’t be more quixotic and foolhardy.

Of course, bellicose and belligerent warmongering mercilessly exposes intellectual bankruptcy. At the same time, “one may be tempted to share the idealists repugnance to war, per se, but it should be tempered by repugnance to their – peaceniks or doves – utter disregard of reality.

Be prepared to counter innumerable challenges – realities – to national security interests or perish!

Philosophically and historically viewed, wars and violence should have no future among civilized societies and nations. However, lesson of history of mankind is simple – crises and conflicts are inseparable and inevitable.

Let me highlight few profound reflections of the emeritus of war Sir BH Liddell Hart: “war is the product of diseased state of civilization”;  “wars have always been, so wars will continue to be”; “war and truth have a fundamental incompatibility”;  and “instability of solutions achieved by force”. He had also draw attention to pontifications of Sun Tzu and Plato: a long war does not pay by Sun Tzu; and   affairs of mankind would never go right until either rulers become philosophers or the philosophers became rulers by Plato.

Of course, none can deny that nations and their armies must be always be prepared for war – to deter wars and ensure national security. However, war should be the last option only when all other means have failed to produce enduring peace.

If war becomes inevitable and imposed, political and military decision makers must demonstrate capability – new Bismarck – the power and the calculative intelligence to control, and to stop it at the point where extra expenditure promised no adequate return”.

Does India have such a high order or genius at the highest level of decision making?

Thus far, the Doklam standoff is based on muscle flexing and pushing only.  No firing has taken place.

China’s policies and strategies have been tailored to counter geopolitical challenges in the Asia Pacific region – Korean Peninsula, East and South China Sea, Taiwan, ASEAN and India among others.

China’s current policy and strategy are based on its perception of “peace prevailing in the Asia Pacific periphery so vital to achieve Xi Jinping’s dream of realizing “Rejuvenation of Chinese Middle Kingdom” thereby emerging as the dominant power by 2049.

Thus, “Creeping Incrementalism and Extended Coercion” strategy currently suits its national security interests.

China faces “seven front” threat perspective. In contrast, India’s “two and one half” threat perspective pales into insignificance. Most important, India holds strategic advantage in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) due to its geostrategic advantage what with ‘like a dagger jetting into the “IOR’.

Thus, the “Doklam” muscle flexing needs to be viewed as China’s attempts to escalate the “crisis situation’ to assert its rights over the territory claimed by it only. It is in line with the “strategy of demonstration’ to coerce and compel the adversary to accept its claims.

Chinese are no fools; but master strategists. Having had the experience of the past two events resulting in a political stalemate, China with its current preoccupation with developments in the Korean Peninsula and South China Sea may not escalate the crisis situation beyond cross-border fire exchanges.

China may not, therefore, escalate the situation even to armed skirmishes like the “Nathu La -1967” or “Sumdrong Chu – 1987-88.

Even outbreak of full scale war is most unlikely. So, visual media’s “war hysteria or chest beating” is quite idiotic.

The most likely outcome in a short term context could be “freeze-freeze” crisis situation with the onset of winter.

Nonetheless, China would allow the “Doklam” issue to remain highly contentious to be settled in its own time when China is more powerful in posterity.

However, “short term fixes’ are not the right approach.  India must diplomatically assert itself and strike peace deal with China.

In retrospect, time is running out for India to settle the long standing border dispute on enduring basis with China. It must be done through diplomacy – ‘soft power’ – option in a give and take atmosphere. After all, both nations have already developed strong mutual economic interdependency. War or situation short of war would certainly be inimical to their growth and consolidation as two Asian Gaints.