(Brig (retd) GB Reddi)
The recent statements made by Chinese Ambassador in Delhi, Sun Weidong, over the Ladakh border crisis and its aftermath clearly exposes the hidden agenda of China to assert de facto/de jure confirmation and recognition of their perception of Line of Actual Control (LAC) as the real version. His statement clearly reflects the “Strong Arm Diplomacy”; but also diplomatic faux pas. More aptly, it is diplomatic saber rattling threatening India to fall in line on their perception of the LAC.
During a virtual address to a think tank in New Delhi, Sun Weidong claimed that “disengagement has been completed at most locations”. At the same time, Sun Weidong blamed India troops for the “unfortunate” Galwan Valley clash in mid-June and added that neither side wanted to see such an incident.” His “double speak” is glaringly clear.
In reality, the current PLA dispositions in the Finger 5-8 areas of Pangong So area or Gogra, Depsang Plains and other border areas in Ladakh comes as no surprise at all and clearly reveals their military and political intentions.
Of course, Indian External Affairs and military spokespersons have clarified that disengagement has still not been completed at Patrolling Point 17A and Pangong Tso. The Indian Army’s objective is simple – additional deployment of troops in Ladakh, estimated to be around 35,000 soldiers is directly linked to restoration of status quo ante as of April.
Let me highlight that Chinese PLA troops will not pull back to Finger 8 as per the Indian perception of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and also in other areas. Even Xi Jinping may not direct his troops to pull back beyond Finger 8 in Pangong Tso or Gogra areas.
Whereas the Chinese posture is status quo, India’s demand is restoration of status quo ante.
Restoration of status quo ante involves reduction of additional troops deployed by both sides on the border, removal of new infrastructure constructed in contentious areas and restoration of patrolling rights as exercised before the current standoff began in early May.
Sun Weidong has been most insensitive, indiscrete and thoughtless by resorting to a number of phrases – political and economy front – to hurt Indian feelings and further estrange people’s sentiments.
In the political dimension, Sun Weidong compared India-China ties to “exquisitely crafted glass” that could be broken by “recklessness within seconds”. In the second week of July 2020, Sun Weidong had also highlighted the need for China and India “should meet each other halfway” to “overcome” the “complex situation” in ties and “turn it around as soon as possible” to avoid unnecessary confrontation or disharmony with a view to restore peace and stability. Now, his tone is totally different from his past pronouncements.
Yet another veiled blackmail by Sun Weidong when he stated that “new disputes” could arise if one side tries to unilaterally decide the alignment of the LAC.” “Pending an ultimate settlement, we both agree to work together to maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas,” he said, adding that peace was of “paramount importance” to China. Such statements are a clear reflection of “blow hot, blow cold” or “double speak” which do not lend for any breakthroughs is restoring peace and tranquility on the borders and normalization of relation between the two neighbors.
Ipso facto, Sun has only expressed “Beijing’s His Masters Voice”. Sun Weidong blatantly violated diplomacy norms by insinuating Indian army and India for their intractable and irreversible postures.
In reality, China has been bidding for time to seize the opportunity to pursue its expansionist hegemony since Deng Xiaoping’s rule from the 1980s – the “Four Great Modernization Drive”.
Hu Jintao during his reign had stated that the first two decades of the 21st century would be relatively peaceful; and China should pursue the end objective of achieving “Comprehensive power by 2030”.
Now, Xi Jinping has built up on his predecessors’ policies and scripted lines of his “Chinese Dream”, Grand strategy and military strategy.
Since 2015 Xi Jinping clearly defined his “Vision” – achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation to regain the Middle Kingdom status. He also crafted the “Chinese Dream” to include: Two Centenaries – by 2021 (CCP anniversary) build a modern socialist country that is prosperous and strong; democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious in all respects, with a strong military to make China the world’s dominant power by 2049, that is, when People’s Republic China marks its centenary.
Furthermore, as the head of the CMC, Xi Jinping has outlined the military strategy as “Creeping Incrementalism and Extended Coercion”, popularly nowadays known as “Salami Slicing” to seize control over border regions.
All Chinese actions either in the South China or East China Seas or Hong Kong crackdown or Xinjiang’s concentration camps or Taiwan and now on the Indo-Tibet border, particularly in Ladakh are the forerunners of what is likely to follow in the run up to 2049.
If the past the large number of intrusions across the LAC on annual basis is any indication including the Doklam conflict in 2017, Sun Weidong high moral posturing calling for building “mutual trust” and “need to respect and accommodate mutual core interests and major concern”, and “adhere to the principle of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs” blatantly exposes China’s diplomatic fraud.
Let none suffer from illusions that China under Xi Jinping is deliberately and calculatively moving ahead to emerge as the hegemonic nation not only in the Asian regional context but also in the global scenario.
On the economy front, Sun Weidong has attempted scaremongering, more aptly, blackmailing by his veiled threats: “highly complementary, interwoven and interdependent”, adding that “forced decoupling is against the trend and will lead to lose-lose outcome for both sides.” And, “the so-called ‘decoupling’ of China-India economic and trade relations” will “only harm without benefit to oneself, and it will eventually hurt oneself as well”; “Any self-protection, non-tariff barriers and restrictive measures against China are unfair to Chinese enterprises, unfair to Indian employees who lost their jobs as a result, and unfair to Indian consumers who cannot get access to the products and services they deserve. In retrospect, Sun Weidong has indulged in economic blackmail.
When conjointly viewed from political and economic points of views, Sun Weidong has conveyed China’s obdurate strategic end objective of achieving Xi Jinping’s Chinese Dream –Rejuvenation of the Middle kingdom status” by 2049 if not earlier.
Indian political and bureaucratic decision makers must unite and take on headlong the Chinese Onslaught. “We the People” must also rise to the occasion and be prepared to make sacrifices for the sake of consolidating sovereignty and “Pride of Place” in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region – sphere of influence.
Otherwise, Chinese “Dragon” would soon swallow not only Ladakh but also claim the entire Arunachal Pradesh and other disputed areas in the Northeast and Central Sector by 2030 or even earlier if India concedes to China’s LAC claims in Ladakh.
So, the Indian “Elephant” must prepare to face the “Dragon” onslaught ‘head-on’ from all dimensions of national security to secure India’s sovereignty and security.