I am reading a book, ‘Tibet the Road Ahead’ by Dawa Norbu. It is delightfully written and gives a personal account of those macabre days in Tibet during its invasion by China and vivid description as to how the nation was literally subjugated and assimilated within the folds of PRC. What struck me the most in the book is the cryptic reply given by the author’s mother when the author tells his mother that China is claiming sovereignty over Tibet: She replies “And you believe the Chinese?
The Chinese tell lies with greater conviction than we honest people do; when we speak the truth”. The words are ‘pearls of wisdom’ and I rued; only if the Government of India had made this particular statement the basis of its Sino-Indian Policy; we would never have suffered the defeat in 1962 and also not lost Aksai Chin.
CPC is Oppressive and Expansionist
Before the reader calls me a xenophobic racist; let me assure you, my grouse is against the decision-makers in China where the entire country has been taken hostage by one single political party; Communist Party of China. It is expansionist, ruthless and brutal that oppresses its own people and hegemonic towards its neighbours. To convince its own people that it is a great power it invades territories and seas of neighbouring countries.
I feel sorry that the Chinese people have to bear the oppressive regime until they take the heart to change it. When I refer to Chinese in this article it refers to the decision-makers in the country. The members of CPC undergo a mutation and what emerges are like thinking, like acting, like wired immoral robots devoid of all values which humanity takes pride in.
Clash of Cultures
While China lies it does not believe that it is lying. The Chinese mind or morality if any has been wired by two religions; Daoism (Taoism) and Confucianism. Both the philosophies were contemporary and originated in Henan and Shandong Provinces respectively, some 2500 years ago. Confucianism though talks of morality do not stress on truth.
The truth depends on the situation; professes the philosophy. The core Confucian Values are Humanity, social and religious propriety, righteousness, loyalty and filial piety. It comes handy to a Totalitarian Society where the son, student and citizens obey unquestioningly father, teacher and the government respectively. Daoism complements the Confucian Teachings with a few precepts such as; not to steal or receive unrighteous wealth; not to cheat or misrepresent good and evil.
However, nowhere either of them specifically stresses on truth, though the truth could be implied? Hence, when China tells lies it feels it is justified and does it with absolute ease and comfort. Don’t you remember the famous Chines saying; “I'd rather do wrong to others than allow them to do wrong to me!" is so natural that the Chinese keep doing wrong to others to pre-empt others from doing wrong to them.
On the contrary, Indian culture and traditions have been borne out of Truth. Satya Harishchandra of Satya Yug is still quoted in our textbooks as to how he sacrificed his kingdom, his son and everything he had for upholding the truth. Then we have Yudhishthira in Mahabharata who never told a lie. In recent times we have Mohandas Gandhi who symbolised truth.
His book on ‘Experiments with Truth’ lays bare the naked truth of his idiosyncrasies which no ordinary person would ever tell even to his closest confidant let alone to the world. Hence, in the Sino-Indian relations, we see the clash of contrasting cultures trying to understand each other resulting in war and several border clashes.
Invasion of Tibet. I will take you through recent history. China after the invasion of Tibet forced the Young HH Dalai Lama to sign the 17 Point Agreement in 1951. Buddhism believes in four noble truths and stresses unequivocally on speaking truth. Again, the clash was between the Tibetan Truth and Chinese Lies. All the 17 points were reneged and the Chinese started to deracinate Buddhism from Tibet.
Their Lamas were humiliated, their monasteries were destroyed, their religious beliefs were mocked and in one instance the statue of a Buddhist Goddess was removed and was put in a field to be used as a ‘scarecrow’. Such was the humiliation the Tibetan civilisation suffered during the ‘Great Leap Forward’.
Later, during the Cultural Revolution, the Red Guards ran berserk across Tibet destroying anything to do with religion, culture, traditions and ancient monasteries with their priceless and pristine scriptures. The valuables in these monasteries were stolen by officials of the so-called Commission for Cultural Relics. The work of destroying and dismantling the monasteries was done by the Red Guards.
Treaties are Scraps of Paper
Panch Sheel Under the Carpet. Panch Sheel was signed on 29 April 1954 under the Protocol on Trade and intercourse with Tibet; a part of China. The heading of the protocol itself is reminiscent of Indian’s long and futile policy of appeasement. It was one of the biggest farces inflicted on India by China. Just five years later more than 80,000 Tibetans were massacred in Mar 1959 and also the start of Border skirmishes with India beginning at Longju. Rest is history.
A Series of Hollow Agreements. In 1993, the term LAC was recognised by both sides and agreed to maintain Peace and Tranquillity by both sides. The 1996 Agreement on CBMs assures that ‘No activities on either side will overstep the LAC’. Please note the reference to the LAC without delineating it. In 2003 both sides signed the ‘Declaration on Principle for Relations and Comprehensive Cooperation.
In 2005 both the sides laid down the ‘Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of India-China Boundary. Two articles in the Agreement are important; Article VII; the two sides shall safeguard due interests of their settled populations in border areas. It is of vital importance as Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh has a population of 12000 and is claimed by China. Article IX states that the two sides should strictly respect and observe the LAC and work together to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas.
In 2012, both the sides agreed to establish a Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs related to maintaining peace and tranquillity in Border Areas. In 2013, the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement, where neither side shall use its military capabilities against the other side and their respective military strengths shall not be used to threaten to be used to attack each other.
It also envisages the protocol to be followed during the meeting of patrols in order to avoid a clash. With so many agreements the Indian and Chinese Armed Forces should be hugging each other with overpouring love and brotherhood every time they meet. In fact, when China signs such agreements it is very clear that these will not be adhered to. Remember the words of German Chancellor Hollweg; “Treaties are scraps of paper”; that is exactly what China thinks of them. When they are totally convinced that they disagree with all the terms of the treaty; then they go out and sign it to lull the other party into complacency.
The treaties are signed to bind the other country from taking actions against China. It also releases China to do what it wants by repudiating the treaty. Remember the proverb referred earlier; do wrong to others before they do wrong to you.
China Lies Again
Let us take the ongoing India-China Standoff; any teenager who can subscribe to Advanced Google Map Platform or one who can buy digital imageries from open source will be able to ascertain as to who crossed the existing positions and moved forward to occupy ‘No Man’s Land’ in Eastern Ladakh.
Just a comparison of imageries of different dates will lay bare the identity of the invader. Still, China can lie through its teeth by blaming India. It really does not matter to them that they have been exposed to the entire world but the poker-faced Chinese official spokesman unfazed continues with his fibbing.
It does not end there; how many of you have heard the video message released by the Ambassador of China to India; Mr Sun Weidong. Even when the entire world knows the truth; still, on 11 July 2020, he says it is very clear as to who started the crisis? He is implying the marauding hordes of invading Indian Armies had to be stopped by the Chinese forces fighting in self-defence and were forced to fight back and defend the sovereignty of their motherland; he indeed, pulled out a brilliant diplomatic feat!
China’s Breaks Treaties and the World Distrusts
Just look at the UNCLOS: China has signed the treaty and ratified it. Once, they put to sleep the gullible nations of the South East Asia over the issue of the South China Sea; they blatantly invade and occupy it. China scoffs at the verdict of International Court of Arbitration that has ruled that the Chinese have no claim on South China Sea.
Look at Hong Kong; the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 ensures that the existing capitalistic system and the way of life of the people will not be changed for fifty years from 1997 till 2047. China has introduced the New Security Law in Hong Kong, violating the declaration. China had always claimed the Bhutanese territories in Western and Northern Bhutan.
This month it has raised a fresh dispute in Eastern Bhutan and is claiming the Sakteng Sanctuary. Ask any nation in Africa who have unwittingly joined the so-called BRI; have become victims of predatory economics. It would be a separate article if one has to write on China’s perfidy in its international relations.
There is saying; I do not remember as to who said it? However, the essence is “A person will never believe the other person is telling the truth if he would have told a lie, if in his place”. As China tells lies always and every time, it also expects that you are telling a lie whenever you speak the truth. It makes China to be cautious of your truth perceiving it as a lie as it very well knows that it has already lied. This gives rise to an overwhelming distrust which subsumes the entire relationship.
So, the first lesson in International Diplomacy is; Never believe China: A wide-eyed Nehru believed in ‘Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai’; the very wordings are so absurd and outlandish it is ridiculous even to imagine such a farce. Isn’t it? It was a grand geostrategic naivety. You must have heard recently the Mayor of Florence who had launched a ‘Hug a Chinese’ campaign. I can only say; Good luck to the Florencians!
China Short-Changes India in Iran & Nepal
The recent China-Iran Strategic relationship of $ 400 billion investment in exchange for 25 years of oil supply to China on concessional rates has damaged the Indian interest. The foreign minister of Iran had come to India in Jan this year requesting us to expedite the railway line construction from Chahbahar to Zahedan.
Thanks to our phenomenal ignorance in National Security, we did not allocate any resources to the development of the port. Backed by China; Iran has now decided to construct the railway line on its own; reading between the lines; the Chinese will finance it. With Chahbahar Port having nearly gone to the Chinese the entire Northern Arabian Seaboard will be in their hands from Karachi, Pasni, Jivani and Gwadar and now Chahbahar. Isn’t it time to ask our NSA what is the progress on our ‘National Security Strategy’? We are just unable to see the ‘Big Picture’.
We know how Nepal has been subverted from India. The PM; I believe has been honey-trapped and is singing the Chinese tune like a canary. I hope the rumours are true then we at least know that its anti-Indian stance is more to do with his dalliances than borne out of national interests.
Pakistan has also gone out and started the construction of Daimer- Bhasha Dam in POK against the Indian objections. It is a joint venture with China Power which is having 70 per cent stakes. Look at the timing of all these actions. Note also the movement of two divisions of Pakistan in Gilgit Baltistan. Aren’t all the actions synchronised with China’s transgressions in Ladakh?
I am surprised with all these shenanigans of China we are still subdued in our actions to pursue our national interests. It is a pity we do not want to play the Tibetan Card; I really wonder; who advises the PM? Must be the exalted ‘China Study Group’ or one of the faceless minions from the MEA? I really hope they mend their ways.
The Road Ahead; 2020
Now, what do we do with the India-China Standoff? Those who are jubilant; I suggest; we pend our celebrations. It is not going to be easy to make China vacate Fingers 5,6, 7 and 8. It continues to claim Galwan Valley. It has to still to vacate the Depsang Plains. It appears to have vacated Finger 4?
During the discussion it will be lying, delaying, clarifying, splitting hair, discussing the same points till the fatigue and complacency descend on the talks. It gives them ample time to fortify their occupations. Let us say; considering a remote possibility they vacate to April 2020 positions; it is temporary reprieve just to placate India.
No sooner we are assuaged, they will again try the same tricks next year, with a different narrative such as the Indians have not abided by the terms of the agreements and China has no option but to respond and defend its sovereignty.
Look at the Doklam Plateau; though we have not allowed them to build a road from Batang La to Gyemochen, the Chinese have occupied the whole of the Bhutanese plateau of 89 Sq KMs and have built an alternative road further east of the road that we had stopped. India can keep thumping its chest but the Chinese have stolen a march and are closer to the plains of India.
China has to remove all transgression in Ladakh and Indian patrols have to patrol areas as hitherto before. China is under pressure worldwide with no respite. We need to thank President Trump for the intimidating presence of two aircraft carriers with B52 Bombers in the South China Sea. Non-recognition of China’s claims on the South China Sea is again a morale booster for the other claimants of South East Asia.
It will pin down the Chinese Pacific Fleet in Western Pacific. It is essential that we join the US to keep Taiwan independent and sovereign. The day Taiwan is gobbled by China, its entire forces will be released against India. We need the help of the US, Japan, Australia, Taiwan and South-East Asian Countries to keep China on tenterhooks on its Eastern Sea Board.
India’s Tibet Card. Has China Achieved its Aim? On 6 July 2020, it was sad that our PM did not wish HH Dalai Lama on his birthday having wished him in previous years. It only shows that China with its unpredictability on the borders has achieved what it wants to achieve. The aim is to deter India from using the Tibetan Card and; has India succumbed to it?
Rather I would suggest that we brazenly use the ‘Tibetan Card’ without any diplomatic restraints. If China can flaunt Pakistan Card, unabashedly use J&K card and also violate our territory by constructing CPEC, use Nepal Card to raise a border claim, foolishly claim Arunachal Pradesh as Southern Tibet, export up to 70 per cent of its arms exports to Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka on our borders; why are we shy to use the Tibetan Card which is in our hands?
We have to just say that the freedom of Tibet has to be upheld. Let China rave and rant. As it is, with all our Gandhinagar, Wuhan and Mamallapuram dialogues; we have achieved nothing? We just wasted our time and energy in trying to reason out with a crass and dour despot. Had we read China well in the last seven decades; it is outright foolish to appease it. The PM should have invested his time in Russia, Iran, Vietnam, Japan, South Korea. Our extremely good relationship with the US has helped us whereas Russia has been silent on the India-China Standoff.
The first thing for the PM is to ensure that his political will sustains till the time the Chinese pull back to April 2020 line. Second, obtain Chinese claim lines in Ladakh on map. Without their claim lines, the yearly border dialogue between the two SRs should stop. It is no use exchanging pleasantries and allowing China to keep it ambiguous and then fall a victim to its chicanery at the time and place of its choosing. Our naïve leadership has not been able to obtain it for four decades, in spite of yearly dialogues initially by the Joint Working Groups and then by SRs. Isn’t it ridiculous?
I have already written about all the possible actions which India should take to ‘Countervail China’ in the eponymous article. What should we do now during the ongoing talks between the two military commanders? Let me tell you; the talk by Military Commanders is a ploy by China to gain time. Don’t you feel it should be done at the diplomatic or political level?
Whose brainchild it was to have talks between military commanders? First, the Chinese transgress all the treaties, pacts, norms and then ask the Military Commanders to discuss? What is there to discuss? Then during the discussion, there is a premeditated assault on our troops who had just come there to monitor the adherence to the terms of the agreement.
Twenty of our brave hearts and unspecified numbers of Chinese get killed. The latter not only hides it from the international community but also from the kith and kin of their killed soldiers. The only thing the Chinese have acknowledged is the death of their CO and a junior officer. Regarding the deaths of their soldiers, it is still a state secret. As per western intelligence, the casualties range from 35 to 100.
Actions to be Taken in Immediate Timeframe
We should not buckle down at this stage and the political will should be overwhelming and resolute. This is the time we need to put pressure on China and not give it any breathing space till the statuesque ante is restored on the LAC. Any signs of softening will make China drag its foot. Suggested actions are as under :-
PM to meet his HH Dalai Lama and seek his goodwill. Also, request him to visit the Tibetan Settlement in Ladakh to boost their morale.
Shift the Tibet Government in Exile (TGIE) from Dharmshala to New Delhi.
The President to India to Visit Arunachal Pradesh: The Chinese will protest as they consider it a disputed territory. We should launch a counter-protest questioning the status of Tibet.
Invite Dolkun Isa the President of ‘World Uyghur Congress’ for a seminar in Delhi and he should meet the Indian Foreign Minister and Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay of TGIE to finalise the common agenda and coordinate their joint struggle. He should also meet HH Dalai Lama.
India should let the US know that the Chinese ingress into The Persian Gulf after the Strategic Treaty with Iran could damage the US interests and India alone will be able to strategically assist them by building strong relations with Iran. The US should give a reprieve to India from its CAATSA Act to counter China.
PM Modi should visit Iran for his second visit to salvage the Chahbahar Port and the Railway line from Chahbahar to Zahedan. India should also restart oil supplies from Iran.
PM Modi should also visit Japan, South Korea, Australia and Russia.
India has done well by banning the Chinese Applications; it should be followed up with the ban on Huawei without any loss of time.
India should invite Australia for the Malabar Naval Exercise scheduled this year. Send invitation without any delay to mount pressure on China.
It has been reported that China is building the Second Karakoram Highway through Mintaka Pass in addition to the First Karakoram Highway through the Khunjerab Pass. There is a need to activate the Baluchistan Liberation Front and also start an insurgency in Gilgit-Baltistan Area to disrupt the construction and movement on these highways. Resources in terms of finance, training and arms, ammunition and weapons should be given to the insurgents’ groups.
Don’t trust China. Lastly; always listen to what they do not say and doubt whatever they say.
As I have said before the only alternative for India is to grow strong. It is like building immunity against the COVID. India has to build its Comprehensive National Power to deter China and Pakistan. Strength deters wars and weakness invites it. The PM should have meaningful advisers to apprise him about the security implications.
We starve the defence budget for years and with Chinese, at the door, we tap emergency funds, fast track our defence procurements and dust the files languishing in labyrinths of the Ministry’s cupboards and send the RM on forays to friendly countries; all the time praying to delay the outbreak of hostilities till we are ready for it.
India is like a blind elephant that is rushing into the forests; it crushes weak trees, demolishes branches, crushes whatever comes in front of it, dashes against huge trees, stumbles into pits and ponds and gets up and pushes again till it finally slumps out of exhaustion and falls asleep. It does not have a ‘National Security Strategy’ to guide and open its eyes to straddle the geostrategic terrain to reach its Geopolitical Goal with least resistance, optimum utilisation of resources and with maximum speed.
I pray to Gods of all religions to empower our country with ‘Strategic Vision and Wisdom’ to prepare our country for a combined two and half front war lasting for ninety days. Let us not fall back into our national lethargy once the threat on our borders is removed temporarily. When you prepare for war; you are ensuring peace.
(Lt Gen. PG Kamath is a highly distinguished general who has held some of the most prestigious appointments in the Indian Army. Views expressed are the authors own and do not reflect the editorial policy of 'Mission Victory India')