The mention by Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat of the ‘military option’, should negotiations and political arrangements fail between India and China on the LAC in Ladakh, is a statement of resolve rather than of intent. Even if it is India’s intention to settle the issue through military means, it would not be publicly announced beforehand. As such, it is just a reminder for the negotiators of both the countries regarding the consequences of failure.
It is also a reminder that India is what its Armed Forces can hold. No amount of international agreements can ensure the sanctity of any nation’s borders, given the fact that very few governments around the world function on the basis of civilised principles. Any agreement with Pakistan on Kashmir, for instance, would only be looked on by that country as an opportunity to obtain an additional advantage for the ‘final push’ when the opportunity arises. Terrorists would continue to operate under the umbrella of the continuing claim by Pakistan that they operate on their own and not at its behest. This can be seen in the way the UN resolution on Kashmir has been turned on its head by the strategists of Islamabad. Having refused to implement the provision that the Pakistani Army vacate occupied territory of the state, they have the temerity to declare to the world that India is the violator.
Those who advocate a military response on the border as the first option against China’s ‘creeping expansionism’ are irresponsibly overlooking the consequences of an inevitable escalation. Without a doubt, the security establishments of both countries are already on an alert state reaching as high as the nuclear level. This will have also had its fallout on the preparedness status of other nations, too, such as Pakistan and the US. So, to advocate a fight merely to embarrass the Modi Government is not very clever.
At the same time, though, India and China are already at war – by other means. China had not anticipated the response on the economic front in the belief that India could not afford it. Unfortunately for it, this has bolstered a larger reaction among the world’s liberal democracies. While there is much talk about the global dependence on Chinese manufacturing, the opposite is equally true. In fact, the Ladakh stand-off has come as a wake-up call. Any country that has the choice will now systematically reduce its dependence on China, both, in trade and manufacturing. The few square kilometres of land reportedly occupied in Ladakh will have come at a tremendous price – to be paid over the next couple of decades.