War No Option for China

Updated: May 26

Rakesh Dwivedi,

Senior Advocate,

Supreme Court of India.

China is in no position to engage in war with India. Though it has a superior army, navy and air power it knows that the Indian forces are also good and not a walkover. 2020 is different from 1962 in many respects. And the 6-day 1967 conflict at Nathu La and Cho La ended in a decisive victory for India. In 1975 Sikkim became part of India. Somdurong Chu is another incident where China made surreptitious encroachment but had to vacate when India matched forces. Today we are stronger. Any war is not likely to be a short one. China cannot afford a prolonged war without a serious loss of political ground internationally.

In 1962 China and Russia formed the Communist block while India, though a friend of Russia, was non - aligned nation. Russia did not come in open support of China but it did help China. It also froze supply of MIGs to India. USA and UK supported India but not much. Today Russia is friends the both China and India but there is no block of Communism. Indian Army today is not dependent on Russia alone. Moreover, India has joined the USA, Australia, and Japan on the issue of South China Sea ( much to the dislike of China). India is now an emerging country economically and close to the USA and Europe. On the issue of COVID19, China is substantially in a bad light. It has economic issues with the USA. Pakistan and Nepal are not of much aid to it. China cannot afford further opprobrium and isolation globally.

Internally its hands are full with serious problems in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Tibet. Two problem areas are adjoining Ladakh and NEFA. It is another matter that Pakistan which was founded on "Muslims as a nation" chooses to close eyes qua oppression of Xinjiang Muslims making nonsense of two-nation theory. Popular protests and ill feelings towards mainland China in the above area could swirl out of its hands. War is therefore not an option for China.

The action of China in Ladakh is not going to scare or put pressure on India. India will not change its stand in relation to the South China Sea or Covid enquiry or Belt and Road project or its occupation of Shaksgam and its projects in Pakistan. China cannot hide behind the philosophical divergence between 'differences' and 'dispute'. We do not need Panini's Grammar to understand the nuance. If, however, China is serious about this philosophy it should first restore status quo ante and then have a dialogue to resolve the land dispute. It's not a case of mere difference.

We accepted that the building of economic relations might help in resolving land dispute gradually. But all we had were talks, talks and talks. Land problem festers. Instead, we are visited with Doklams. This cannot go on indefinitely. The only resolution of all land disputes would help in further growth of economic relations. There is a linkage between the two. It cannot be that the land dispute remains pigeonholed.

Some of us feel that we should accept Chou en Lai's offer of exchange of Aksai Chin with NEFA in the east. It is for the Central government to consider that. But if it is so simple Nehru should have accepted it 65 years ago. So many years have passed. We should not be in a hurry. It's a war of attrition. Indian people are behind the Central government. I think our army should play their game with them and stick on. Let's persist patiently.

A logical question is why China keeps repeating somdurong chu, Doklams and Pangong Tso, Galwan Valley, from time to time. The only gain which emerges is the message to India's neighbours that they should back the stronger horse, i.e., China and India are weak. So let us show that we can stand up and safeguard our rights.

Another aspect is that it is time we stop getting caught off guard. It has happened once too often that opponents troops occupy our land surreptitiously and we then fight to regain. It happened in Kargil and more than once with China. This needs to be plugged speedily.

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