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Are we afraid of the Chinese Wolf

Not content with fingering India along the Arunachal Pradesh border, China is once again treading on Indian toes in Sikkim. Reports suggest that there have been 65 incursions by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Sikkim over the last six months. The latest such instance by our neighbour occurred last week, when a few PLA men took a ride into Indian territory in light vehicles before returning. Surely, they were not on a joyride. The act was meant to provoke and irritate. It is perhaps part of a larger Chinese design to keep India on the hop even as Beijing and New Delhi engage in formal talks to resolve border disputes and generally improve relations.

Union minister of state for defence, M M Pallam Raju has said that India will take up the issue with China at the “appropriate highest level” as well as raise it at the next flag meeting between the Indian Army and the PLA. Raju said “as two responsible neighbours, we will sort it out”. However, the track record of South Block in dealing with China isn’t distinguished. Our diplomatic dealings with China reflect a tendency to be bullied by it. And China remains a bully even today. On the one hand, we are expected to believe that we are equal to China. New Delhi appears scared of displeasing Beijing in any way. Recall the way our administration bent over backwards to please China and accommodate its demands when the Olympic torch made its way through our capital?

It is quite clear that China is not all that happy about India’s growing stature in world affairs even though its ambassador to India, Zhang Yan, publicly said in Hong Kong last week that China “understands and supports India’s aspirations to play a greater role in international affairs”. China have already proved themselves to be back-stabbers in 1962 Sino-Indian War. Moreover, India’s economy also poses challenges to China’s aspirations to dominate global markets. China is a tough competitor. So, while Beijing keeps diplomatic channels with New Delhi open, it ensures that it keeps India on its toes by constantly heckling it. This, it does through unprovoked incursions or via statements by Chinese diplomats and ministers, which are meant to rile India. And, of course, it keeps strategic tension alive through quiet support to forces in India’s neighbourhood that are not always well disposed towards this country.

India seems to have no clear policy on how to manage its belligerent neighbour. But it is time that South Block got its act together on its China policy. Going forward, India and China will both play a greater role in world affairs, strategically and economically. It is inevitable that they will have to engage each other on a range of issues. If we do not make it clear where our lines of patience are drawn, we might as well abandon hopes of being equals in the future.


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