It was clear since May that China wanted Mr. Ajit Doval or S. Jaishankar to pick up the phone and dial Wang Yi. China wanted a quid pro quo for the backlash on its role in corona spread all over the World. Shockingly, it was Wang Yi who had to dial the phone. The Chinese view of the World is blurred by its fast-economic growth in the last three decades. While it’s true that economic-might translates into defence might, it is also true that war is a dead-end for healthy economics. It is understandable that it’s not Delhi which is a threat to China and Pakistan. But it is Delhi’s democratic set up which is a threat to Chinese Communist party & Pakistan army.
Under the Nuclear Umbrella it is very clear that big, economy-serious nations cannot have prolonged traditional wars. In the concept of hybrid warfare, Information warfare is just one component. Entities like Chinese communist party and Pakistan army are experts in this warfare. The establishment in China and Pakistan are scared of the possibility of their citizens learning about democratic rights and freedoms elsewhere. While they make sure no democracy can maintain in-depth people to people contact with their citizens, they have a free run in all democratic countries from buying out media portals, spying through technology, money laundering, hostile investments and what not.
Wuhan is an education hub. Off late, it has attracted foreign students from all over the World. College campuses are well-known for revolutionary ideas and demands of rights from the state. Foreign students must have shared a lot of freedom-rights’ insights to the local Chinese people with respect to freedoms in their democratic countries. Many Chinese students and people must have been shocked at these stories. Corona chapter could might as well be to press the possibilities of any revolutionary thought at its very point of origin. There are also allegations that the current floods in several parts of China too are manufactured.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is suspiciously silent since few months. There are no international calls or talks from his end despite frequent retorts on China from several nations. The last time he publicly spoke in May, it was a jibe on Jinping under the pretext of highlighting poverty. All is not well in Beijing. Mostly when you are troubled at home you behave madly with outsiders. China has spoiled relations with entire neighbourhood and well beyond its capacity to manage. The fool cards like BRI, blank cheque diplomacy and the debt-traps can buy few leaders of poor countries for short-term, but turn people of these nations into long-term enemies as well. Contrary to this, India enjoys friendly ties by gifting schools, hospitals, bridges, libraries, dams, medicines and roads to poor countries. With 184 out of 192 votes in UNSC, Delhi’s global acceptability stands unbeatable.
India is a vibrant democracy slated to grow to higher economic ranks in the coming decades. US gave up the strategy of negative intent partnership with Pakistan to slow down India’s growth. China has fallen into the same strategy trap now. The propped-up buffer safety state of Pakistan is now no longer a big prick that it used to be for India. This, rattled China into self-actions like Doklam and then this current standoff. Chinese leadership also follows a pattern of meeting every Indian leader outside or in India with a salami slicing attempt in the North for decades. If China wants a war with India, it should know that this Indian leadership is ready for it. China has lost the opportunity of any winnable military aggression during earlier Indian regimes. It should introspect about what India’s shift from non-alignment to strategic partnership with both US & Russia means.
India needs to know that the previous governments’ rule of not allowing forces to respond inculcated the habit of salami slicing in China. Post-2014, China got a first of a kind experience about free hand to Indian forces in Doklam. Immediately after Doklam issue was solved at the 19th Congress, General Zhao Zongqi who had a major role in Doklam was picked as PLA delegate by Xi Jinping. The same General is alleged to be behind Galwan incident too. And this time being Indian territory, they came well-prepared. Galwan incident is a confirmation to Beijing about the change in India’s behaviour. It’s a Doklam plus experience this time for China. The actions of the armed forces are always an extension of the ideology sitting in the PMO in India.
The denial of the legitimate state funerals, non-declaration of martyred PLA men and the subsequent withdrawal at three points of intrusion is a bitter pill to swallow. Imagine the morale of the Chinese army which consists about 70% as the only child of their parents and 100% Communist party membership. Beijing’s policy of shaming the slow growth and democratic side-effects of India in its media machinery to please its people fell flat on its face after Galwan clash. The old Chinese media narrative of ‘Indian democracy is ineffective and a failure’ changed to a so-called aggressive nationalistic behaviour of Indians overnight.
Chinese PLA never attacks a prepared enemy, be it 1962, 1967, Doklam or Galwan. It is well known for deception. Trust is not the word any Indian would ever attach with China. The very fact that the PLA followed the ‘no-weapon use’ policy at Galwan like the Indian forces shows that it’s the leaders in Beijing which breach agreements, not the PLA. The habit of breaking agreements will cost China dear when the World will follow the suit by breaking trade commitments. With Galwan incident, China has poisoned 6-7 future generations of India with animosity. It has also lost a huge consumer market with massive future potential of economic collaborations.
Besides the jaw-breaking fight at Galwan, Indians took a lead in the World by banning some Chinese applications. Through applications like tiktok, China had an access to a massive less-literate population of a country which can be mobilised into believing any anti-government fake information and could have played havoc. Imagine what one lac mis-guided crowd per city can do. Imagine the marketing asset pool China can create with the emotional – social profiling of such a big population size of what they like, feel, prefer and think. The ability of talking to the enemy’s population directly, by-passing the enemy’s leadership is a lethal weapon of information warfare. India plugged a major part of that loop-hole. The ban had everything to do with security rather than just money.
Besides the indirect warning by the QUAD actions and exercises, it will have no major role to play in ending the current stand-off with China. China can stretch the disengagement talks for few more days or weeks to sense the extent to which Indian forces can be aggressive and find out if India attacks a prepared enemy or not. China doesn’t. It may also want to see how far India copies-follows western anti-China diplomatic moves coming soon as the US election is near. It wants to use the standoff as bargaining chip to not let India follow those actions. China is also measuring the extent of political will to let loose the forces, economic pain India can inflict and probing which section of nationalistic voices within India is active. This prepares them well for upcoming 50 Doklams until the real battlefield at the only ocean named after a country, the Indian ocean gets ready.
3 End-Scenarios of the Ladakh Standoff –
- A short military conflict in some other theaters like Arunachal or Sikkim. This can fast-track the slow negotiations going on for dis-engagement. This option gives China a face-saver because all reports point at higher casualties of PLA at Galwan. This is a risky alternative as on-ground response can escalate quickly with all the lethal material already deployed by both sides.
- China can stretch the disengagement talks for few more days or weeks and then complete roll-back well up to the Indian Independence Day. A bitter Independence Day celebration can invite another round of anti-China action by the government. China can completely withdraw after series of new confidence-building agreements and ask for a quid pro quo in return for this or later on also insist on a high-level visit to India.
- China may completely go back based on only the military level talks and without any formal deal or new or amended agreements just like it wrapped up in Doklam. Going back without any new, written, agreed upon formula means they leave space for sudden, future intrusions again anytime they want as per their time-table.
The way Doklam issue ended without any formal or renewed arrangement for border management allowed the current standoff to happen. The effectiveness of unpredictability lies in being a bit predictable at the end of the show. This is a slow poison to the victim to slip into carelessness again.