Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation

Resolving Indo-China dynamics

By Dr. Anirban Ganguly

Many an Indian apologist for Chinese expansionism have, over the last one month and more, prolifically written on how the Narendra Modi government’s handling of the current Doklam issue will only aggravate the situation and will not serve the cause of India’s stability and the larger cause of “peace” in the region. In short, these apologists want India to back off or back down in the face of the current phase of Chinese belligerence. They too like the CPIM politburo want India to submit to the Chinese reading of the situation with their false claims and propaganda. Over the years it is these types who have been cultivated and feted by certain countries so that they could conveniently serve as their mouthpieces back home and on crucial occasions take a line which is different from the one that serves India’s national interest.

They are many specimens of these “proxies”, some of them call for India’s dismemberment, some others, under the garb of the “Idea of India” debate, baulk at anything that is civilisational India, yet others develop severe intellectual rashes the moment they are confronted with the cries of “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”, yet others have silently, under the garb of academic freedom, associated themselves with separatists and terrorists. These elements, though severely challenged in the last three years, have now become most vocal against India’s position on the current issue with China. It is best that one keeps exposing these elements; it is through a continuous counter that they stand to be gradually dissolved or be battered into silence.

The latest phase of Chinese expansionism follows a phase in which Prime Minister Modi, genuinely reached out to the Chinese and spoke of China and India as being two ancient civilisations that can “reinforce each other’s progress” amid the “global uncertainties of our times.” In a profoundly statesmanlike address to the Tsinghua University in May 2015, Prime Minister Modi had, in fact, laid a road map for India-China partnership for the next two decades. The address was studded with hard truths, genuine appeal, practical suggestions and a civilisational perspective.

Modi had said, for example, that “Today, after difficult and sometimes dark passages of history, India and China stand at a rare moment of vast and multiple transitions in the world. Perhaps, the most significant change of this era is the re-emergence of China and India.” He saw the rise of India and China as the sine qua non for the rise of Asia and for bringing to fruition the vision of the Asian century.

Some of the candid and yet profound statements that Prime Minister Modi made in that address, clearly spoke of a concrete civilisational partnership between our two countries. Some of those points that Modi made are worth recalling today: “Asia’s re- emergence is leading to a multi-polar world that we both welcome. But, it is also an unpredictable and complex environment of shifting equations. We can be more certain of a peaceful and stable future for Asia if India and China cooperate closely. Asia’s voice will be stronger and our nation’s role more influential, if India and China speak in one voice– for all of us and for each other. Simply put, the prospects of the 21st century becoming the Asian century will depend in large measure on what India and China achieve individually and what we do together. First, we must try to settle the boundary question quickly. We both recognise that this is history’s legacy. Resolving it is our shared responsibility to the future. We must move ahead with new purpose and determination. The solution we choose should do more than settling the boundary question. It should accomplish this in a manner that transforms our relationship without causing new disruptions. If the last century was the age of alliances, this is an era of interdependence. Thus, talks of alliances against one another have no foundation. In any case, we are both ancient civilisations, large and independent nations. Neither of us can be contained nor become a part of anyone’s plans.” That both India and China are independent and proud civilisations and can only gain by striking a multi-layered partnership clearly emerged through in this historic address of his. The CPC media and think tanks must have or ought to have analysed this speech if they had actually wished to map Modi’s vision for the region.

The CPC and its government’s present actions clearly show that they have chosen to betray the trust and friendship that Prime Minister Modi’s words conveyed in the summer of 2015. It is a clear case of betrayal of Modi by the Chinese. But there is an obvious difference, the Chinese had not anticipated the sturdy determination which the Indian side has been displaying; the Chinese have miscalculated one crucial aspect, which is, Modi is not Nehru, his trust and hand of friendship is backed by a firm resolve to protect India’s national interest, a resolve which is not merely ideational but which is further backed by a clear road map and strategy.

While Nehru philosophised his trust of the Chinese, Modi’s trust is propped up by pragmatism, dynamism, alertness and the will to take positions and withstand all sorts of pressures. It is thus true that Modi is not Nehru and India of today is not stuck or awed by the phantom of 1962.

(The author is Director, Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation, New Delhi)