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Restraint Required


The latest stand-off on 9 December between Indian and Chinese forces in Tawang of Arunachal Pradesh has, once again, raised a storm. The opposition has asked why the incident was not reported to Parliament despite it being in session. It became known only when it was brought to light by the media. The implication is that the Modi Government is afraid to take on the Chinese at strategic and tactical levels.

Does the opposition want India to go to war on these provocations? Or, should all efforts be made, instead, to enforce the present arrangement on the border that has prevented a major conflict for decades now. If the argument is that China is using ‘slice and dice’ tactics to encroach upon Indian held territory, which needs to be prevented, then specific reasons should be given as to how the present response is inadequate.

It would be irresponsible of the opposition to try and push the government into a situation that might provoke a larger confrontation, even war, for which the Armed Forces would have to pay a heavy price in terms of soldiers’ lives lost. Are opposition leaders not aware of the quiet but continuing effort being put in to strengthen India’s defences in the east? This requires not just intelligent deployment of troops but also acquisition of military hardware suited to any possible scenario. For India to take on an aggressive stance, militarily, it needs to be more than satisfied it is fully prepared. As for the occasional skirmishes, Indian soldiers have given more than a fitting response. This is borne out by the fact that the Chinese government has not had to courage to acknowledge the deaths of its soldiers before its people.

It must also not be forgotten in this context that India, too, has been passively aggressive by providing refuge to the Dalai Lama and hosting the Tibetan Government in Exile. The Chinese have always been paranoid about the Dalai Lama’s undiminished influence upon his people. They have made every effort to render the Tibetans a minority in their own land and destroy their spirit. As such, even though they do not acknowledge it openly, they have long seen India as a threat to their legitimacy in Tibet. This is despite the fact that, in the early years of Indian diplomacy, the mistake was made of accepting Chinese suzerainty over that country.

India certainly does not wish to go to war for obvious reasons. It is prepared if war is forced on it. It is a difficult tightrope to walk for PM Modi, who has been attempting to isolate China diplomatically and show it up as the uncivilised entity it is. In light of this, India’s opposition should play its role with the required maturity.