Doklam standoff-Why China is trying to teach India a lesson

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China: Mere saath kuch bhi karneka ... mera ego hurt nahi karneka

A very famous line from the blockbuster Singham had actor Prakash Raj playing Jaykant Shikre say, 'Mere saath kuch bhi karneka ... mera ego hurt nahi karneka'. By refusing to be part of OBOR and not even sending a representative like Japan and the U.S. did, India hurt China's ego. A stand off like the one we are seeing at Sikkim was only expected.  

There are multiple reasons for and messages coming through the Sikkim standoff.

China was very keen that India be part of OBOR. In response to India's unhappiness over CPEC (Chinese Pakistan Economic Corridor), its ambassador even offered to rename CPEC, an offer that was later withdrawn.  

By consistently reiterating that CPEC passes through Jammu and Kashmir, that India rightfully considers its own territory, India upset China further. A country that is used to having its own way was taken aback by this show of spine.

Further till recently India held the tag of being the fastest growing economy in the world. This hurt the Chinese ego too.

Be it the 1950's or today China is unhappy seeing a rise in India's international stature. It is unhappy with India's moves to simultaneously build relations with the U.S., Russia, Japan, Germany, France, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Israel.  

This makes the Chinese uncomfortable and affects the psychological well being of its only friend Pakistan. Hence, this talk of teaching India a lesson.

Between themselves China & Pakistan want to keep India tied down at the border and with internal problems. With NDA government's response to Pakistan, be it cease fire violations or stoking mass protests in the Valley, and winning the Uttar Pradesh elections, the duo realized that a new front had to be opened. No better place than Chumbi Valley and Sikkim in the east.

Ek teer,char nishane.

One, it puts India under pressure in the east as well and comes closer to the Chicken Neck in Siliguri. Two, because China is upset about Bhutan's refusal to establish diplomatic relations with it and toeing India's line it gives Bhutan a message that its only hope is China because the Indians would not come to her aid.  

Three, it seeks to deflect attention from its forceful occupation of Tibet by saying it could question India's annexation of Sikkim. At the same time is a threat that Chinese support to Sikkim's independence could provoke Sikkimese people and compound India's problems in the North-East.  

Four, if India buckles under Chinese pressure, then Nepal gets the message that only China matters in the Himalayas.

India has done well to stand firm but erred when Army Chief General Bipin Rawat said that India was ready for a two-and-a-half front war (Pakistan, China and against internal extremists) and part time Defense Minister Arun Jaitley remarked that India is not what it was in 1962.

By responding to Chinese provocations India is playing into their hands. Sometimes silence has your opponents guessing. At best a junior officer could have responded.

India must also realize that China's economic linkages with Russia, U.S.A, Israel are very strong because of which they will not take sides in a India China conflict. Having said that, India must gloat over China's increasing arrogance.  

Since China keeps on referring to 1962, it would help if the government published and publicised a brief paper on the 1967 and 1987 border clashes with China.

According to Nitin Gokhale, a leading expert on strategic affairs, "Indeed, 55 years after the 1962 war, one can confidently say that the Indian Army has firmly exorcised the ghost of 1962, thanks to a deeper understanding of the Chinese psyche and decisive victories in two major military face-offs since then -- one in 1967 and the other in 1987. In fact, the stand-off at Nathu La, not very far from the current impasse in 1967, gave the Chinese a bloody nose, just five years after 1962. The other eyeball to eyeball confrontation at Sumdorong Chu in Arunachal Pradesh, exactly 30 years ago too, forced the Chinese to back down from its creeping encroachment." Excerpts from Why China wanted to grab Bhutan's land http://www.rediff.com/news/column/why-china-wanted-to-grab-bhutans-land/20170703.htm

China sought to buttress its claims over Chumbi Valley by referring to the 1890 Convention (known as Convention of March 17, 1890 between Great Britain and China relating to Sikkim and Tibet).

Tibet expert Claude Arpi recently wrote, "Beijing forgot to mention about the two main stakeholders, Tibet and Sikkim, who were not even consulted by the ‘Great Imperial Powers. There was, however, no corresponding acknowledgment on the part of the British of China’s authority over Tibet". Excerpts from The Great Game over Sikkim http://claudearpi.blogspot.in/2017/07/the-great-game-over-sikkim.html

How can the Chinese justify their actions under a 1890 Convention when they annexed Tibet in 1950? To put it bluntly Tibet was not part of China in 1890.

Incidentally, have the Chinese always respected agreements?

Former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal wrote in March 2017, "China has repeatedly demonstrated that either it does not respect the agreements it signs or interprets them as it wants. In 1996 it agreed to 'clarifying the alignment of the LAC in those segments where they (the two sides) have different perceptions'. In 2002 (when the writer was Foreign Secretary) China decided to repudiate this agreement unilaterally." Source http://www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/indianews/article-4321830/Kanwal-Sibal-India-avoid-falling-China-s-trap.html

Recently, Bhutan conveyed to the Chinese side that the construction of the road inside Bhutanese territory is a direct violation of the agreements and affects the process of demarcating the boundary between these two countries.

A July 6 OPED in Globaltimes, mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China, stated that "Beijing should reconsider its stance over the Sikkim issue although China recognized India's annexation of Sikkim in 2003".  

India need not respond to such provocations. Let the Chinese escalate by derecognising Sikkim first. It might be a Buddha given opportunity for India to change its position because Tibet is at the heart of Indo China divide.

The Chinese are adept at psychological warfare. They use the power of their achievements be it manufacturing prowess, construction of gigantic infrastructure projects, military power, success in sports and cheap loans to demoralize other countries.

Jingoism might work with Pakistan but with China India needs a different approach. She must be firm, not escalate issues publicly, let actions speak, continue strengthening relations with global and regional powers and escalate fault lines within Pakistan. Lastly, remain focused on becoming an economic and military power.

India must remember, kuch bhi karo kintoo China ka ego hurt nahi karnekaunka loss of face nahin honeka.

The author is an independent columnist. He tweets @sanjeev1927 

First published http://www.dailyo.in/voices/india-china-border-row-sikkim-standoff-doka-la-1962-obor-pakistan-rawat/story/1/18234.html

Also read
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3.How can India reclaim its leverage in Tibet  
4.Why China wanted to grab Bhutan’s land 
5.17 ways to deal with an aggressive China 
6.How must India deal with China