DOKLAM STANDOFF: INDIA CHINA DID TRY DIPLOMACY BUT IT HAS HIT A ROADBLOCK

A Reuters report has said that the efforts to diffuse the Doklam border standoff between China and India at diplomatic levels have hit a roadblock. The report quoting people who have been briefed on the talks, said that “India’s diplomatic efforts to end a seven-week military standoff with China have hit a roadblock “as there has been no further development “on the low-key diplomatic manoeuvres that took place outside the public eye.”

Last week, while speaking on the Doklam standoff in the Parliament, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had said that war was not a solution and diplomatic efforts were needed to resolve the crisis. But, according to Reuters, “China did not respond to India’s suggestion in the talks that it move its troops back 250 metres in return if India has to withdraw its troops from Doklam,” quoting a source with deep access to the Modi government.

“The Chinese countered with an offer to move back 100 metres, so long as they received clearance from top government officials”, the Reuters report further said but there has no further headway after it, as clear from increasing war rhetoric from China. “It is a logjam, there is no movement at all now,” the report said quoting another source.

Meanwhile China has continued ratcheting up its anti-India rhetoric through statements of its foreign ministry, defence ministry, People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and its state run media, infusing it with war threats, saying it is now up to India to deescalate the border tension and withdraw its troops from an area that it claims as its own.

The editor of the Global Times, a state owned hawkish tabloid, today came up with his second video warning India of war if it doesn’t withdraw its troops from Doklam unilaterally. In his first video message last week, he was seen aggrandizing China’s military strength vis-a-vis India, drawing parallels like ‘if China and India engage in military conflict, the PLA has an overwhelming advantage’’. The hawkish newspaper, a sister publication the People’s Daily, Chinese Communist Party’s official newspaper, has run a number of anti-India editorials laden with rhetoric ever since soldiers from the Indian Army and the PLA first faced off on the Doklam plataue last month.

Doklam that China considers a part of its Donglang region has been a long running territorial dispute between Bhutan and China and Bhutan even issued a demarche to China on construction of road in the area by the PLA. Indian troops entered the area to prevent the road construction with India informing China that it was against the agreement of maintaining the status quo in the area as agreed in the past.

But an autocratic and expansionist China refused to budge, and in fact, unleashed an intense propaganda war against India aimed to dislodge the legally valid Indian claims and employed every possible propaganda tool in its arsenal, be it the high pitched ‘war possibility’ threat or arrogant responses delivered by its higher level officials including daily briefings of its foreign ministry or indiscriminate verbal firing rounds by its official publications.

©SantoshChaubey

WHEN MAO WANTED TO CRUSH NEHRU

It is consensus in India that China backstabbed our first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in spite of his friendly stand that believed the Indian and the Chinese were brothers (Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai). The 1962 Sino-Indian war is the biggest symbol of China’s betrayal in spite of Nehru’s sacrifice that allowed China to have permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Mao Zedong, China’s supreme leader, in fact wanted to crush Nehru alleging India of interference in Tibet, a document released by the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars shows. It is a transcription of meeting between Soviet Union Premier Nikita Khrushchev and Chinese leaders including Mao Zedong and Chinese Premier and Foreign Minister Zhou Enlai on October 2, 1959. It was a heated conversation where the Soviet Premier blamed China for Tibet unrest, defending India and Nehru, and blasted the hostile Chinese action at the Sino-Indian border.

Before Nikita Khrushchev arrived in China, the USSR had passed a resolution, known as the TASS Declaration, taking a public stand in order to be seen neutral and ‘not anti-Nehru’ in the ongoing India-China conflict. This stand by one communist nation on another offended China and in fact laid the foundation of cold-war Sino-Soviet split that continued till late 1980s.

By this time, the expansionist Chinese tentacles had become clearly visibly. China had killed and detained Indian soldiers in Ladakh and had forcefully occupied an Indian post at Longju at Assam-China border resulting in casualties on the Indian side and was increasingly sounding belligerent, especially after the Dalai Lama and countless Tibetans, who were given moral support and shelter by India, had to flee the Chinese oppression, a development that brought China a bad name.

The transcript of the meeting shows how China was hell-bent on proving India and Nehru wrong even if it was not able to convince Nikita Khrushchev of its words, motives and action.

Nikita Khrushchev: We….do not understand in particular your conflict with India. You have had good relations with India for many years. Suddenly, here is a bloody incident, as result of which [Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal] Nehru found himself in a very difficult position…..If you let me, I will tell you what a guest should not say the events in Tibet are your fault. You ruled in Tibet, you should have had your intelligence [agencies] there and should have known about the plans and intentions of the Dalai Lama.
Mao Zedong: Nehru also says that the events in Tibet occurred on our fault. Besides, in the Soviet Union they published a TASS declaration on the issue of conflict with India.

Nikita Khrushchev: Do you really want us to approve of your conflict with India? It would be stupid on our part. The TASS declaration was necessary. You still seem to be able to see some difference between Nehru and me. If we had not issued the TASS declaration, there could have been an impression that there was a united front of socialist countries against Nehru. The TASS declaration turned this issue into one between you and India.

Mao Zedong: Our mistake was that we did not disarm the Dalai Lama right away. But at that time we had no contact with the popular masses of Tibet.

Nikita Khrushchev: You have no contact even now with the population of Tibet.

Mao Zedong: We have a different understanding of this issue.

Though sounding harsh on the Dalai Lama, Khrushchev goes on to vindicate India’s stand on giving shelter to the Dalai Lama pinning the blame squarely on the Chinese Communist Party, “It’s not a matter of arrest; I am just saying that you were wrong to let him go. If you allow him an opportunity to flee to India, then what has Nehru to do with it? We believe that the events in Tibet are the fault of the Communist Party of China, not Nehru’s fault.”

Mao Zedong: No, this is Nehru’s fault…. We also support Nehru, but in the question of Tibet we should crush him.
Nikita Khrushchev: Why did you have to kill people on the border with India?

Mao Zedong: They attacked us first, crossed the border and continued firing for 12 hours.

Zhou Enlai: What data do you trust more, Indian or ours?

Nikita Khrushchev: Although the Hindus attacked first, nobody was killed among the Chinese, and only among the Hindus.
Zhou Enlai: But what we are supposed to do if they attack us first. We cannot fire in the air…. In my letter of 9 September to Nehru we provided detailed explanations of all that had occurred between India and us.
Nikita Khrushchev: Comrade Zhou Enlai. You have been Minister of Foreign Affairs of the PRC for many years and know better than me how one can resolve disputed issues without [spilling] blood. In this particular case I do not touch at all the issue of the border, for if the Chinese and the Hindus do not know where the borderline goes between them, it is not for me, a Russian, to meddle. I am only against the methods that have been used.

Zhou Enlai: We did not know until recently about the border incident, and local authorities undertook all the measures there, without authorization from the centre.

Nikita Khrushchev: That the centre knew nothing about the incident is news to me.

Like China is sounding obstinate today, in the ongoing Doklam standoff, it was the same behaviour on display even then. They kept on repeating their falsities that finally frustrated Khrushchev, “There are three of us here, and nine of you, and you keep repeating the same line. I think this is to no use. I only wanted to express our position. It is your business to accept it or not.”

Though Mao Zedong assured Nikita Khrushchev that the border clash with India was a marginal issue and would be resolved peacefully, the Chinese had other designs and it becomes clear from the letter that Zhou Enlai wrote to India in the aftermath where he blamed India for escalating tension by indulging in border aggression, anti China propaganda and Tibet unrest.

China, in fact, was preparing to betray India all along 1950s, clandestinely intruding into the Indian territories to forcefully acquire them and the Tibetan uprising of 1959 was just a pretext to impose its sinister designs of grabbing thousands of kilometres of Indian Territory in Jammu & Kashmir’s Ladakh, i.e., Aksai Chin that the whole world saw after the 1962 war. Prime Minister Nehru, in fact, detailed these Chinese designs in response to Zhou Enlai’s letter that how Chinese were intruding into the Indian territory since 1954, that how they had built a road in Ladakh, that how China arrested Indian security forces personnel in Aksai Chin in 1958 and so on. Nehru also added in the letter that India did not make public these because it was still hoping for their peaceful resolution.

The streak of the Chinese betrayal has continued ever since, resulting in China usurping India’s territory and claiming for more, ignoring India’s sovereignty by developing an economic corridor in Pak-occupied-Kashmir that is legally India’s, its persistent belligerence on Sino-Indian border, its attempts to encircle India by having military presence in India’s neighbouring countries and its anti-India stand on global multilateral platforms that exhibits itself in its moves like blocking India’s entry in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) or vetoing India’s and world community resolution to ban Pakistan based Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist Masood Azhar.

©SantoshChaubey

HOW CHINESE HEGEMONY IS SHAPING UNDER XI JINPING

The article originally appeared on India Today.

This time, it was the turn of China’s defence ministry to warn India. Its defence ministry spokesperson Wu Qian said China would go to any extent to protect its sovereignty and India’s should have ‘no illusion about China’s military strength’. It added to the long list of warnings and threats made by China’s foreign ministry, its People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and its official media that began unfolding a month ago with Chinese transgression of the disputed Bhutanese tri-junction near Doklam in the Sikkim Sector.

The Chinese action on border is a sudden change in its stand when we see it in the context of India-China border negotiations as recent as April 2016 when both countries held the 19th Round of negotiations emphasizing on maintaining peace and tranquillity.

But when we see these developments in a wide perspective of Xi Jinping’s global ambitions, it seems well timed. Xi Jinping after emerging as an undisputed supreme leader of China, ruthlessly crushing any rival voice in the name of anti-corruption purge that has swept China, has declared himself a ‘Core Leader’ like Mao Zedong.

And as his China imprint is almost finished, he has turned his gauge take it outside China. And from his acts in last few years, it is quite clear that he seems in a hurry and he is exploiting both, China’s military might and its economic prowess to push the agenda of his power projection.

BORDER HOSTILITY WITH INDIA – SUDDEN CHANGE IN TONE AND RHETORIC

In May 2014, China had congratulated Modi on his victory. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was in India in June 2014 and Chinese President Xi Jiping in September 2014. Indian Army Chief Bikram Singh visited China in July 2014 while Modi met Jinping for the first time in the same month on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit in Brazil. The meeting between them lasted for 80 minutes and Jinping remarked about the meeting, “When India and China meet, the world watches us.”

In February 2015, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj visited China. Xi Jinping then had this to say, “I have full confidence on the future of China and India relations and I believe that good progress will be achieved in the growth of bilateral relations this year.”

In March 2015, India and China held 18th Round border talks in Delhi. India was represented by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. China had sent its State Councillor and Special Representative Yang Jiechi. The Ministry of External Affairs release on the talks says, “The talks were marked by cordiality and candour and were held in a constructive and forward looking atmosphere.”

From the language of the MEA release, it is quite clear that India and China were on the same platform to settle the border issue, “The Special Representatives expressed satisfaction on the progress made in the negotiations and emphasized commitment to the three-step process to seek a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable resolution of the border question at an early date.”

In April 2016, India and China held 19th Round of border talks in Beijing between Ajit Doval and Yang Jiechi. While Doval didn’t share details of the meeting, he did say that the talks were held in a good atmosphere. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson echoed, “The two sides enhanced mutual trust and expanded consensus through this meeting which is of great significance in promoting settlement of the boundary question, maintaining peace and tranquillity of the border areas and securing sound and stable development of bilateral relations.”

In the light of these developments, just a year after, this sudden change in the stand of China is surprising and tells us about the hegemonic designs of China. China is behaving like a power-blinded imperialist regime hell-bent on its territorial expansion, something that it has been known historically – be in Tibet or Aksai Chin or South China Sea or Taiwan.

ECONOMIC IMPERIALISM

China is known for territorial expansionism and autocratic rule but its increasing economic prowess has added another dimension to its clout – the economic imperialism. It is now financially big enough to first pump its money in small, poor nations and then acquire controlling stakes in organizations as the nations fail to repay, be it the poor or financially weaker nations of Asia or Africa.

ONE BELT ONE ROAD (OBOR): India’s neighbourhood countries that China is eyeing are Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Myanmar. Having a strong Chinese presence in these countries would give China strategic advantage over India. So, China, in the name of building economic corridors linking Asia, Africa and Europe, is offering these countries huge loans for infrastructural projects at higher interest rates and when these economically poor countries are not able to repay the loans, China goes on to acquire controlling stakes in them, as high as 85 per cent.

THE AFRICAN BLUEPRINT: There has been consensus among experts that China, that has ramped its ties with African nations significantly in the last 15 years, has used Africa as ‘testing ground’ for its global ambitions. African countries are rich in oil and minerals and some one million Chinese entrepreneurs have settled there. “Africa has been a workshop of ideas that now have a much bigger scale and strategic significance,” writes a Financial Times commentary quoting Howard French, journalist, Columbia University professor and author of “China’s Second Continent: How A Million Migrants Are Building A New Empire in Africa “.

China-Africa trade rose to $220 billion in 2014 from mere $10 billion in 2000 according to Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and is investing $60 billion to develop infrastructure in different African countries but there are valid questions on this humongous rise, “Many are suspicious of what they see as a neocolonial land grab, in which companies acting as proxies for the Chinese state extract minerals in return for infrastructure and finance that will saddle governments with large debts. There have been legitimate complaints about Chinese companies employing few locals, mistreating those it has and paying scant regard to the environment,” the Financial Times commentary further writes.

Though there are African experts like Horace Campbell, a Syracuse University professor and renowned international scholar, who question this stand, calling them western afterthoughts on increasing Chinese footprints in Africa, going by China’s history and its recent acts of imposing itself on some South Asian countries where it invested heavily, we have reasons to think otherwise.

GLOBAL LEADERSHIP OR HEGEMONIC PROJECTIONS?

China has been more than eager to represent itself as the new world leader that is going to replace America. Reportedly, China is eyeing to replace America in the proposed 12-member trading bloc of Pacific-rim counties, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) after US President Donald Trump withdrew US from the treaty in January this year. The other members of the proposed trading bloc are Japan, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, New Zealand, Mexico, Chile and Peru and after American withdrawal they have warmed up for a Chinese prospect.

Then China, the largest carbon dioxide emitter in the world according to the Global Carbon Project, portrayed itself as an environment crusader after Donald Trump withdrew the US from the global climate agreement in June, i.e., Paris Climate Accord of 2015, to reduce the emission level of the greenhouse gases to check global warming. Rejecting the Paris Accord was one the main campaign themes of Trump in the US presidential election, something that would have appealed Jinping’s designs to pitch in on a global stage. So, in May, before Trump had even officially announced his decision, Jinping declared that he would ‘protect the Paris climate deal’, pledged his commitment to the pact after the formal US withdrawal and China held a meeting of energy ministers to find ways to push clean energy.

OVERSEAS NAVAL BASES: Earlier this month, China sent its troops to Djibouti, its first overseas military base. China has entered into an agreement with Djibouti which allows it to station its 10,000 troops in the country till 2026, much higher than 4000 US soldiers stationed at Camp Lemonnier, also in Djibouti, America’s largest permanent base in Africa. And experts say its second overseas naval base is going to come up in India’s backyard, at Pakistan’s Gwadar Port in the Arabian Sea.

This is quite contrary to the earlier Chinese stand when it didn’t want to have overseas military presence. “China has previously been very reluctant even to contemplate a serious overseas military presence,”, the India Today magazine writes quoting Andrew Small, author of The China Pakistan Axis: Asia’s New Geopolitics.

Clearly, Xi Jinping, the only second Core Leader of China after Mao Zedong, wants to go beyond Mao. Mao had an absolute power grip over a China that was not in the global mainstream and was not a military and economic superpower. Jinping’s China is both now. It is an economic powerhouse and a global manufacturing hub with a military might that is probably next only to US and Russia. Something that has, probably, given Xi Jinping wings to fly far and wide. Under Mao, China was inward looking and protectionist. Under Jinping, China is trying to become the leader of the world, but probably with a more protectionist streak of its national interests that are no longer limited to China.

©SantoshChaubey