border talks

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 03 May 2018 12:41:29

THAT officers of the Indian and the Chinese armies had a border-level meeting at which they resolved to maintain peace and tranquility, is no news. For, such meetings had been taking place from time to time, though to no avail. But this particular meeting at Chusul in Ladakh has an exceptional importance as it has come in the wake of the summit of Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi and President Mr. Xi Jinping at Wuhan in China just a couple of days ago. For, it was at that informal summit that the two leaders directed their respective armies never to allow any Doka La-type situation to arise in future. Obviously, the Chusul meet of the border-level officers stemmed from that highest-level direction. Naturally, some sensible conduct can now be expected from the Chinese Army whose units often indulge in unprovoked incursions into the Indian territory, leading to tension and hostility.

If the Chusul meeting leads to a sensible conduct on the part of the Chinese Army, then the Indian Army, too, would respond with respect. This was the essence of the direction of Mr. Modi and Mr. Jinping to their respective armies. In fact, this has always been the Indian stand for decades. Yet, expansionism being an integral part of its foreign policy, China never paid any heed to India’s appeal in favour of sensible conduct. The Chinese Army units positioned along the international border with India often indulged incursions at will, as if they were itching for trouble. The direction of the two leaders to avoid Doka La-type situations means that the Chinese Army units will have to follow restraint. For the Indian Army units along the border, there would not be much difference in the overall condition. All that the Indians will have to do is to continue to be extremely alert all the time.

Though there are reasons to believe that the Chinese will really follow the principle of responsible restraint after the Wuhan summit, some skepticism, too, would keep surfacing from time to time, particularly against the background of the Chinese habit of needling India every now and then. Only time will tell if the Chinese Army truly follows their leader’s direction. If that really happens, then we can look forward to some peaceful days along India-China border stretching for thousands of kilometers across the ragged and rugged Himalayan landscape.

Despite the improved aspirations post-Wuhan, India cannot afford to be slack in its response to whatever China does. It is true that Mr. Narendra Modi has succeeded in cracking the dead-pan face of the Chinese diplomacy. That did take quite some time to be able to do so. Yet, ‘Be Alert’ should be the only mantra for India. For, sometime ago, Mr. Modi had hosted the Chinese leader at Ahmedabad, dedicated all the time to attend to him, took him for a river-front meet and also to the Sabarmati Ashram of Mahatma Gandhi. That effort, however, did not stop the Chinese Army from needling Indian Army at Doka La. It is because of this reason that India must tell itself that it still has a long distance to travel to achieve a true thawing of troubled relations.

The world has learned by now to recognise the changed approach of Indian diplomacy. It has realised that India is talking tougher these days and is willing to use its increased military prowess as a diplomatic fulcrum. This change indicates one thing clearly -- that the Indian leadership has risen above its own historically-proven weakness; that it is willing to look straight in the eye of any nation and ask straight questions and offer straight answers to the issue anybody raises. In fact, this should have been the hallmark of India’s diplomacy all along. But, first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru led the diplomatic initiatives with a meekness that the world laughed at. Other Prime Ministers, too, followed suit for no obvious reason or explanation. All that is now the thing of the past, which Doka La has demonstrated.