‘Resolving Doka La standoff peacefully has given India a diplomatic and moral victory’

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 03 Sep 2017 10:19:29


By Nandu Andhare,

‘For India, resolution of Doka La standoff with China is a diplomatic and moral victory. The two countries might have agreed for what is termed as classified withdrawal. Yet, from Indian point of view, it has a deep meaning. India proved its mettle on both, diplomatic and military counts,’ in effect says Lt Gen (Retd) Ravi Thodge PVSM AVSM SM VSM, who is a former Consultant to Ministry of Defence.

Talking to ‘The Hitavada’, Lt Gen Ravi Thodge says that India demonstrated speed and decisiveness in dealing with a tough neighbour like China, proving that the world respects strength. “We had demonstrated similar skills way back in 1986-87 at Wongdung, in 2013 at Depsang, and in 2014 at Chumur as well,” he says, adding a historical dimension of practised ease on India’s part.

Doka La issue has been generally related to the Chinese pre-warfare strategy, forcing India and Bhutan to accept Chinese claim and influence the neighbourhood. The Indian response has been very measured and matured, diplomatically and militarily.

With the Doka La standoff resolved, Lt Gen Thodge feels, India needs to understand whether the Chinese move was aimed at helping President Xi Jinping who is seeking re-election. India needs to look at politics and economics of the problem. There are multiple facets that shout for attention in the prevailing situation. These issues cross the barriers of military action and momentary threat-threshold China tired to raise.

Lt Gen Thodge asserts that the recent economic policy initiatives of Prime Minister Narendra Modi -- like ‘Make in India’ -- have given the Chinese reasons to worry. Distinctively, these policies have begun unleashing entrepreneurial spirit in the country, thereby
challenging the Chinese assault of the Indian marketplace through flooding of its goods for Indian consumers.

Also, a firm and strong Centre and the clarity in policy -- economic, military or political -- has given rise to Indian stature in the international arena. Resolution of Doka La issue in this case, was On the perception that Northern border of India is weak, Lt Gen Thodge remarks, “We have a challenging task in building roads and infrastructure in the valley and mountains, while China has a plateau, which makes its task easier.

Preparation on our side, hence, is slow. Constructing roads in the mountains is not an easy task and also costs a lot of money. We also have some problems like seeking environmental clearances that come in the way of our plans to build roads. By felling trees, Border Road Organisation has been facing such hindrances, but with the new Government understanding the importance of national security and its implications, roadblocks have been negotiated and the work is being undertaken speedily.”

Ask him if India’s week infrastructure needs an upgrade, Lt Gen Thodge says, “We have lost time, but with firm resolve and Government support we can overcome the strategic weakness. We are inducting a lot of cutting edge technology, especially our missiles, which are our strength and which are indigenous unlike the Chinese that are reverse engineered.”

On the likelihood of a two-front war, Lt Gen Thodge simply states that it is the ‘worst case scenario’. But, he adds, one has to be pragmatic in assessing the scene. War is a very expensive exercise and can cause economic setback. One needs to pursue national interest using diplomatic means. “We have to look beyond the prism of two neighbours. Our’s is a geopolitical scene. Our policies with our neighbours, firmness of Government, and entrepreneurship of Indian youth has sent a clear message to the Chinese. Countries like Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh are watching. We have displayed our will which will have effect on our relations with our neighbours,” he observes.

About long-term plan for India, Lt Gen Thodge feels that India is guarding sensitive areas and needs to put precautionary measures in place to avert such incidents as Doka La in future. “Government of India must expedite Make in India initiative in Defence equipment, especially ammunition and small arms,” he adds.

Speaking about India’s capability in facing such crisis and giving a fitting reply, Lt Gen Thodge feels that Indians need to change their psyche of belittling self. “Every citizen must take pride in the nation’s well-being. We do not have to be complacent, but proud of having achieved so much in the last 70 years since Independence. Nationalism is taken as a curse in India, which should not be the case. We are fully prepared on all fronts, be it Chinese cyber warfare, or capability to shoot down satellites etc. One should not assume that ability not displayed does not exist. I am certain we can do it. It is just a matter of time. We have indigenous capability,” he explains his point.