BENGALURU: The armed forces must be prepared for the long haul at Doklam given that China is unlikely to end the stand-off on India’s terms, observed experts who have been analysing Beijing’s foreign policy and military strategies.
N Parthasarthi, former Consul General (of India) in San Francisco, said: “If you look at the language Beijing is using and analyse the way China has operated in the region in the past 10-20 years, it becomes clear what its stand could be. Even in 1986-87, when China entered Arunachal Pradesh, our armed forces flew in troops to confront it. It took us a good seven years before the troops were withdrawn.”
He said that China knows its economic strength and uses military to win over disputed lands and ensure dominance. On the other hand, India, which is also a growing economic power, employs a strategy dictated by the principles of democracy that involves diplomatic ties and negotiations.
“Even a limited skirmish will be disastrous for both the countries as it will be difficult to control. The conflict may not remain restricted to Doklam, but could spread to Jammu and Kashmir and other areas as well. The fact that this time around it won’t just be a land war must be considered,” Parthasarathi said.
Series of lies
Although China is well aware of this and is smart enough to not start anything, it has cornered itself with its over-aggressive stance on the issue, he says.
“First China moves into a disputed area claimed by Bhutan and when India steps in to stand by its ally, China falsely accuses it of moving into its territory. There have been 24 meetings between China and Bhutan over the territory,” he pointed out.
When India did not succumb, Beijing claimed that it had informed the Indian government about its plans to construct a road in the territory and that the latter did not raise any objections.
“Now, if it was Chinese territory, why would China write to India? It was a lie,” Parthasarathi said, adding that strategically India cannot afford to let the Chinese occupy the area as it is dangerously close to the Siliguri Corridor.
Siliguri Corridor, or the ‘Chicken’s Neck’ is the only way the Indian mainland can connect with the northeast. “China’s plan is to eventually move down from Doklam into the Chicken’s Neck, cut off India from the northeast and encourage groups to seek independence,” he asserted.
Lt Gen (retd) VM Patil, a 1962 veteran said: “Not just seven years, the Army is well equipped to stay in Doklam for 70 years.”
Arguing that the forces are well-prepared now compared to 1962 when the government decided against the use of Air Force, he said: “Our pilots are much better and well-prepared than theirs. Chinese pilots haven’t fired in anger since 1953. This adds to the confidence of the Army, and I am certain that we can stay there for as long as the government wants.”
Other experts also opined that the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party next year — where President Xi Jinping will make a pitch for a second term — makes this issue more important. “He cannot be seen losing to India, which China considers inferior,” one of them said.
Parthasarathi added: “The matter must be resolved without a war but since it has assumed too much importance for China, both internally and externally (it will send a message to other countries), they would not want to lose face. India must be open to allow China to save some face and end the matter gradually.”