OPINION: Unwelcome in Arunachal
NEW DELHI (The Statesman/ANN) - One feels sorry for Ms Hua Chunying, the Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, who was compelled to parrot her master’s voice, the Communist Party of China, pertaining to outlandish and absurd territorial claims on the southern slopes of the Indian Himalayas of the state of Arunachal Pradesh, thereby trying to defend the indefensible.
It was also an attempt to rationalise the irrational. She has needlessly embarrassed her own government and harassed the Indian establishment which brazenly reverses the “Spirit of Wuhan 2018” wherein the Indian Prime Minister and the Chinese President had a high profile meeting “without agenda” ostensibly to untie the knotty diplomacy consisting of files, papers, and minutes of meetings.
Thus when the Indian PM visited Arunachal Pradesh in the first week of February to discharge his official duty as head of government of sovereign India, more than 4000 kilometres away, the Chinese were reacting the way which now is so familiar, one that follows a set pattern. That “China urges India to bear in mind……to respect the interests and concerns of the Chinese side” and that China is “firmly opposed to the Indian leader’s visit to the east section of the China-India boundary”. In other words, sovereign India should be sovereign only if it listens to the diktat of sovereign China as Chinese sovereignty is superior to that of India. Master’s voice at parroting is at its best!
The Chinese will not yield “an inch of territory” which they consider to be theirs; even if it falls in the realm of absurdity to infinity. Especially, when it comes to India. It’s in their psyche. From the very beginning. Prime Minister Nehru had learnt it the hard way. Successive Indian rulers too could not see through the real face of the Chinese and read their game-plan. Indians continue to be one of the most innocent ‘good boy’ players in the arena of international relations and the high table. They come. They play. They go home. They rue. They complain. They continue. Life goes on.
This happened four years ago as well. On Friday February 20, 2015. Mr Modi had visited Itanagar to celebrate 28th foundation day of Arunachal Pradesh. It was accorded full statehood by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on Friday, February 20, 1987) Then too, on Saturday February 21, 2015, Beijing’s Foreign Ministry stated that Chinese Vice-President Liu Zhenmin had called Ashok Kantha, the Indian Ambassador to Beijing, late on Saturday, February 21, 2015 to express China’s “staunch opposition” to Mr Modi’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh.
So, there we are, China will “oppose” all the time. To whoever is the Indian dignitary who visits Arunachal Pradesh without the “written permission” (in the form of visa) issued by the “Ministry of External Affairs of China”. Geography, tradition, history, physiology, geology, bilateral diplomacy, assurances, understanding, treaties? All be damned. Might is right. Gun boat diplomacy is supreme. China of the Communist Party is (always) right. All others (non-Communist, non- Chinese) are wrong. Be dumped into the dustbin of destiny or the destiny of the dustbin.
To be fair to the Chinese, however, one is constrained to point out that Indians themselves are partly responsible in creating such a humiliating situation owing to their miscalculation, and depending too much on the verbal assurance of foreigners. That too, like that of the Chinese who are known to go by records, papers and documentation however duplicated, fabricated or forged they may be.
In reality, there has developed over seven decades an unusual propensity on the part of the Indian ruling class, who willingly or unwillingly, wittingly or unwittingly, undermined its own professed stand pertaining to diplomatic issues. The examples are ~ Jammu & Kashmir being taken to the UN in the 1940s; ceding of India’s own territories in both Tashkent (1966) and Simla (1972); inability to put up sustained protest and pressure on China to quit Aksai Chin in eastern J&K and penetration by the Chinese into Indian territory, referred to as “Pakistan occupied- Kashmir” which now stands as so-called CPEC.
To make matter more complicated, there was a letter in 2018 (in the form of an advisory) by a Secretary of the Government of India addressed to the Cabinet Secretary, urging the latter to restrict the movement of celebrities and VVIPs, across Arunachal Pradesh and such other places which may affect Sino-Indian bilateral relations. Fortunately the Secretary didn’t try to restrict the movement of the Prime Minister when he visited Arunachal Pradesh. That would have been the ultimate icing on the cake, and thus destroying our professed stand on our own territory. It was a walkover to the Han. It also marked “perfidy” and “malevolence” of the Chinese, to quote a historical letter of Sardar Patel’s, dated Tuesday, 7 November 1950.
The Chinese, therefore, understand the internal dynamics of the Indian administration and polity rather too well as they do not eat grass. As it is, psychological warfare has for long been their tool of diplomatic manoeuvring, indeed to weaken the opponent through long-term planning. To wear him/her down. the Chinese despise the weak, and are always deferential towards the strong.
Consider the present trade war with the USA. For rather too long the West, led by America, was rather lethargic. They had allowed China to run amuck and this was evident in the industrial base, intellectual property, import of cheap (but inferior) finished goods. Consequently, the Chinese made tons of money and duped the world for more than two decades. Suddenly now comes the headwind. The speed is reduced; suspicion leads to suspension, and possible stoppage of trade flows.
Desperation clearly looms large in the mind and action of the Chinese. This has happened earlier too, notably in 2017 with an unexpected Indian stand in Doklam. The Chinese psyche was then perceptively assessed by Ryszard Czarnecki, Vice-President of the European Union Parliament on July 14, 2017 ~ “Aggressive China didn’t anticipate strong Indian response in Doklam. China needs to realise that its unprecedented economic and military growth must go hand in hand with respect for international rules. Without that, it will be hard to believe in assurances of ‘win-win’ and ‘shared destiny’ by the Chinese leadership”. Mr Czarnecki was spot on.
The scenario is at once heartening as well as disappointing. The Vice-President of EU understands the Chinese psyche. Proximate India fails to understand the ethos and culture of a wolf in the garb of sheep. Let everyone, concerned or unconcerned, know the supreme law of land ~ the Constitution of India. Arunachal Pradesh, being an inalienable part of India, not a single inch of its soil can be ceded to any foreigner… with or without the gun or gunboat diplomacy. Sovereign India’s Prime Minister or for that matter the President or Vice- President, has every right to go to Arunachal for its development. It is part of sovereign India.
(The writer is alumnus National Defence College and Member Aeronautical Society of India. Views are personal)