The standoff in the Doklam Plateau on the China-Bhutan border has now been on for more than seven weeks without a bullet being fired. The Chinese public relations and propaganda machinery is trying its best to intimidate India and present it as an aggressor in the region. Last month the Chinese briefed the diplomats of foreign countries stationed in Beijing about the Doklam crisis. They presented rhetoric that the Indian troops are occupying its territory and violating international laws. However, China is failing in its efforts to isolate India. In fact, it’s falling in its own trap.
To counter China, America has begun to expedite its military relationship with India. The US has accelerated the sale of high technology military equipment to India.
It has sanctioned a hefty budget of over $600 billion in the US House of Representatives which is to be spent on military cooperation with India. Strategists in US are drawing up plans to counter China and bolster India. The enabling Bill is to be processed by the Senate and finally the President would approve it. India and USA have signed a logistics agreement that gives mutual access to each other’s military bases and ports. Recently, Malabar Naval exercises were concluded with India, the US, and Japan participating. This time the emphasis was on anti-submarine warfare. This is to counter China, which has deployed its large fleet of submarines along with an aircraft carrier in South China Sea and Indian Ocean.
ASEAN nations such as Vietnam and Philippines have dispute with China over South China sea. In ASEAN summit Vietnam condemned China and expressed serious concern over encroachment (China’s artificial island building) in South China Sea. Vietnam also wanted ASEAN to plan a code of conduct to deal with China in South China Sea. Beijing has always opposed unity among ASEAN member nations. Last year, in International Court of Justice, Philippines won case over strategic reefs in South China Sea that Beijing claims its own. However, the order of the court was not legally binding. The Communist party in an editorial lambasted the tribunal and alleged that it ignored “basic truths” and “trifled” international laws. In the Delhi Dialogue, that was held in July this year, the annual flagship conversation between India and ASEAN, Vietnam’s highest ranking foreign dignitary, the deputy prime minister, who is also the foreign minister of Vietnam represented it. New Delhi regards Vietnam as “a strong pillar” of its Act East Policy (AEP). While Vietnam supports the policy, but it wants India to play a more active role in the region’s affairs. Vietnam has invited India to explore for oil and gas in the South China Sea, despite Chinese threats. Of all the ASEAN member states, it is Vietnam that has been most concerned about China’s dominance in the South China Sea.
Amid the rising tensions with Chinese, India invited the newly-elected Mongolian President Khaltmaa Battulga for state visit. During his election campaign, Battulga advocated greater economic independence from Beijing and criticized its policy towards the region. China is Mongolia’s largest trading partner. The dependence of Mongolia on China can be stated from the fact that about 90 per cent of Mongolia’s exports go to China. Last year when Mongolia invited Dalai Lama for state visit China punished it by closing a key border crossing between the two countries. It brought Mongolia’s fragile economy to its knees. Beijing cancelled loans sanctioned for various development projects which forced Mongolia to pledge to extend no more invitations to the Dalai Lama in future. Now Mongolia is tired of being over dependent on China and is looking for new partners in the region. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Mongolia in May 2015 he extended a $1 Billion line of credit for Mongolia’s development.
Very few people must be knowing about the border dispute between Chinese and the Russians. The Russia-China border is the world’s longest and also poorly demarcated. In the late 1960s, it became the bone of contention between the two countries when Chinese claimed some territory which belonged to the then USSR. In March 1969, Chinese killed 61 Soviet soldiers in an ambush, and mutilated their bodies. The Russian retaliation was so hard that it left around 800 Chinese soldiers dead and thousands injured. Even though the Chinese were ideological brothers (communist) of Soviets, the stab in the back was so critical that USSR considered launching nuclear attack on Beijing. India has been an old friend of Russia erstwhile USSR. It’s next to impossible that any anti-India propaganda would be supported by Moscow. Modi’s visit to Israel and his camaraderie with Israeli counterpart PM Benjamin Netanyahu has also left Chinese shitting their pants.
Ever since World War 2 Japan and Chinese relationship graph is full of crests and troughs. Although the crests were a result of Japanese goodwill and continuous efforts to improve bilateral relations but they were dwarfed by the troughs. Now the feeling is that the Japanese engagement with China was a mistake. Their neighbor has not changed politically, it still harbors the habit of deceiving. China has never developed grateful or friendly feelings toward Japan. On the contrary, it has become one of the Japan’s worst nightmare which shakes one hand with dagger in the other. The thing which worries ‘the land of the rising sun’ most is the Chinese naval military assets that are threat to Japan’s interests.
It is not difficult to comprehend from all this that the dragon is isolated globally. There is no one to buy Chinese propaganda. Enough is enough, it’s in the Chinese interest to maintain a status quo and take steps to reduce the tension in the region. Also, there were recent reports by Chinese experts which warned China of any nefarious activity on border. Provoking India and making it an enemy would be fatal for its “One Belt, One Road” project. Diplomacy is fundamentally working with your opponents engaging with them together to discuss difficult issues. China is really poor at that.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected in Beijing in September for the BRICS Summit. One must hope that the standoff is resolved till then. In a diplomatic masterstroke, the heads of ASEAN nations are invited for Republic day parade next year. Clearly this would send a strong message to the Chinese who wants to cloud India’s influence in the region. Behaving like a bullying child won’t do any good to the China. India is playing its game well and it must not crumble under any pressure.