TROUBLE ON THE BORDER

While India is locked in a see-saw with China in Ladakh in the north, Pakistan is trying to cause border problems in the west. It is not surprising. The Generals in Pakistan think now is the golden opportunity for them. In their thinking: ‘India definitely cannot fight on two fronts. China's army is superior. A defeat from that side is a foregone conclusion. With Chinese help we too can defeat India for the first time'. In the past, both India and Pakistan have gone through many meetings to bolster their friendship. After opening the religious shrines for the Sikhs, Pakistan had earned a lot of goodwill from ordinary folks of India. The Imran Khan Government seemed to be different from the Governments of the past. It is a civilian government and civilians try to avoid declaring a war. But for the Generals? Fighting is the beginning, middle and the end.

As Pakistani foreign policy goes, Imran Khan has taken some positive steps to reduce tension between the two nuclear power neighbors. But he alone is not Pakistan. Everyone knows that he is the prime minister because the military wanted him to be and facilitated his ascent. It does not want him to go too far in searching goodwill. In order to be relevant, the military must intervene which it has now done. Whenever a civilian government goes far enough to establish a workable relationship with India the army tries to destroy the effort. Therefore, the current disturbance on the western border was bound to happen.

According to published reports, the Indian army claims that China has infiltrated into approximately 2000 square miles of land. It must be happening when no one was looking. Such aggression beyond the actual line of control is worrisome. In spite of some skirmishes between the armed forces of the two countries, a war between India and China is unthinkable. However, should the fighting not be contained from the beginning, things could go haywire and the consequences for both countries would be tragic. Both Xi and Modi know it. Going to the brink is not in the best interest of either country. Therefore, while remaining vigilant about the border, the government must tell the people of India the reasons behind China‘s aggressive behavior. China has problems in Hong Kong. It has problems with Uighar Muslims in the Northwest. It has problems in Tibet. Right now, because of COVID- 19 its economy is in a bad shape. In order to avoid an internal explosion it is generating conflict on the border so that a nationalist feeling would spread the country. China's conflict with other Asian countries confirms the story.

China's current position almost looks like the Soviet Union in the 1960s. Soviet Russia, one of the superpowers, was rich and powerful and on the top of the Soviet Bloc. It could attack Czechoslovakia with impunity. Like Russia of the past, China wants to be a superpower. Without dominating India, its path to the top is blocked. So, the border conflict is a pretense. If the border problems were solved China would still find something else to cause a conflict. For India, just reacting to a border conflict wouldn't help. Long term planning is necessary.

India's Chief of the Army Staff General Rawat's declaration that if diplomatic negotiations fail then India's military is strong enough to prevail. This is a military-speak. But this kind of chest thumping is not helpful in building understanding and trust between countries in conflict. Rawat also has suggested that there should be an alliance between Australia, Japan, India and the United States. Sounds good. But the reality is very different. Australia is dependent on China to sell its coal and wheat. America and China are joined at the hip in trade and investment. Japan needs China to sell its products. Therefore, any of these countries coming out openly against China is very unlikely. Then what is the option? Diplomatic negotiation seems to be the only alternative. While doing so India has to build up its own strength both economically and politically. At home it must strengthen democracy and its economy must be inclusive.. Needless to say India's defense depends on its own strength.


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