Sikkim standoff: India needs to stop looking for reasons why China won't up the ante

The powers that be in New Delhi seem cheerfully oblivious to the Chinese belligerence on the border.

Bikram Vohra July 22, 2017 12:34:32 IST
Sikkim standoff: India needs to stop looking for reasons why China won't up the ante

The powers that be in New Delhi seem cheerfully oblivious to the Chinese belligerence on the border. So far, since the 1962 spanking, which we asked for by going a bridge too far in what was supposed, to be orchestrated conflict, the Sino-Indian relationship has teetered between warm and lukewarm. No major conflagration has occurred on the common borders. But where Doka La is concerned, this is an international border. The fear that Beijing‘s influence in Thimpu could be a lot more tangible than we think could see it coming into the orbit of Chinese influence, very much like what Nepal is also experiencing.

Sikkim standoff India needs to stop looking for reasons why China wont up the ante

Representational image. Reuters

That is the intrinsic difference this time around. Their troops are also intensifying their activity and the Chinese global warnings about cutting India to size have a certain credibility.

We have three choices. The first is to play ostrich and pretend it is just a bit of posturing by a nation that will not actually press the button. The second is to wake up to reality and get talking because we don’t need to battle and if Bhutan — whom we have promised to protect militarily against Chinese adventurism — wants to be the prey in that hunt, why do we get into it?

The third is to have coffee and wake up to the unthinkable. We realise that Beijing is not playing games and intends to take us on even as we financially feed the dragon by investing in cheap Chinese ripoffs and continue to play 'let’s pretend this is not happening'.

The massing of troops is not for fun and maintaining them in red alert mode is hugely expensive. You can feed them rah rah rhetoric only for a certain time. At some stage, they have to stand down or see action. Otherwise, their morale droops. This is China’s dilemma. If it backs off now, getting back to pole position again will be onerous. Consequently, even if it hurts itself, the odds of it creating some tension are very good and improve with each passing day.

We have to get our ducks in a row and stop looking for reasons why they will not up the ante.

While the reference to Sushma Swaraj as the ‘lady foreign minister’ might be a gender slur and merely an example of chauvinistic bad form in its mockery of India’s ability to take China on, the Farooq Abdullah statement of intent is a lot more dangerous. The former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister has suggested a third party mediation in the row between India and Pakistan over Kashmir and specifically named China. The timing is worrisome and we should take heed because Beijing could interpret it as an invitation to intercede.

China, at this point, knows that the Northeast is easy pickings and even if it sent scores of soldiers in civvy get up to create a fifth column, they would melt into the masses without our even knowing. Having caused tension in Sikkim and Bhutan, why not stir the stick in Kashmir and place India truly on the back foot?

With all these unpleasant scenarios no longer in the realm of unreality, it becomes an imperative for the government and the prime minister to reassure the nation that we have not lowered our guard and are prepared to defend the land. Don’t hear that call to arms.

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