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China: A serial aggressor

China is up to its favourite pastime, of coercing India by one means or the other. While very few would now recall

China

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  30 Jun 2020 6:01 AM GMT

China is up to its favourite pastime, of coercing India by one means or the other. While very few would now recall the word 'panch-sheel' and the slogan 'Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai', it will be pertinent for the present generation to go back and find out what exactly India thought of China and what exactly the neighbour sharing the longest boundary did in reciprocation. The now forgotten Sino-Indian treaty of 1954 had very clearly stated in its preamble that the two governments being desirous of promoting trade and cultural intercourse between the Tibet region of China and India, and of facilitating pilgrimage and travel by the peoples of both countries. That exactly was why the two sides had based their agreement on five principles, these being – (i) Mutual respect for each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty, (ii) Mutual non-aggression, (iii) Mutual non-interference in each other's internal affairs, (iv) Equality and mutual benefit, and (v) Peaceful co-existence. These five principles – or Panchsheel – were however simply thrown to the wind by China in 1962, four years after the Dalai Lama had fled from Tibet and taken shelter in India, and the PLA not only turned a bloody aggressor, but also marched down almost to Tezpur, after having brutally butchering several thousand Indian soldiers. While much water had flowed down the Tsangpo-Siang-Brahmaputra, China's PLA did attack Indian posts at Nathu La (Sikkim) in 1967, while another military duel took place at Cho La and ended on the same day in October 1967. Twenty years later, in August 1987 took place the third Sino-Indian skirmish at the Sumdorong Chu Valley, not far away from Tawang, and another 20 years later the two sides rubbed each other at Doklam. However, since the late 1980s, both countries have successfully rebuilt diplomatic and economic ties. In 2008, China became India's largest trading partner and the two countries have also extended their strategic and military relations. As then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who had earlier served as India's finest external affairs minister, had in May 2003 said, "You can change friends, but not neighbours." It is a fact that modern or new China had emerged only in October 1949, a little over two years of India shrugging off foreign yoke. The People's Republic of China came into existence as a consequence of the Chinese civil war. After its proclamation China took hard decisions regarding its imperial heritance of far- flung frontiers and tributary states. Thus, in 1949 the frontiers or limits of PRC's sovereignty had been clearly defined and it had taken concrete steps in this regard, with India little sensing that the neighbour would turn such unpredictable as far as mutual trust is concerned. Interestingly, it was in 2017 that Chinese President Xi Jinping was heard chanting the five principles, but that being long after it had occupied Tibet, sliced away Aksai-Chin from India, and had aggressively pursued the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the China-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). And like that ageing tiger of folk-tales, Xi Jinpin was also heard saying China had "no intention to interfere in other countries' internal affairs, export our own social system or model of development, or impose our own will on others." From the strategic point of view, China had already secured all Indian territories it needed to before 1962; the most important being Aksai Chin which it required for the Tibet-Xinjiang NH 219. It is important to note that following the 1962 War, it had vacated all additional captured territory, barring some tactically important areas in Ladakh denying access to Aksai Chin and NH 219 as per its 1960 claim line in Depsang , Galwan River, Sirijap-Khurnak Fort north of Pangong Tso, and Kailash Range, the latter about 10 km north of Demchok. While Galwan does not appear to have been resolved, and while China has begun pricking Bhutan, there have been reports that the China has deployed troops along the 4,000-km long LAC with India, prompting New Delhi to also ramp up its military force in combat formations in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. Unfortunately, the carefully built and nurtured framework of cooperation with competition with regard to the India-China relationship in the past two decades was demolished in a day by the Galwan Valley incident, for which the international community definitely holds China solely responsible. While a full-scale war is a remote possibility, the fact remains that India has to upscale her diplomatic acumen, drastically improve ties with the other neighbours – including Pakistan – and take on China, definitely not militarily, but with a global economic initiative.

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