Connecting mainland China with Lhasa, opening of the Nathu La pass for trade and commerce between China and India through Sikkim, and the construction of an airport at Nyingchi?a strategic township north of Arunachal Pradesh at the tri-junction of Tibet, India and Myanmar?are significant dimensions of China'sgrand strategic designs that have profound implications for Indian security, economy and territorial integrity. Yet, New Delhi remains paralyzed by self-doubt. It has shown neither imagination nor foresight. UPA Government remains obsessed with the illusionary notion of Asian solidarity and has failed to project a vision of India as a strong economic and political pole in the region. The Government that is dependent on Communist support for its survival is comfortable with India playing second fiddle to Communist China in the regional and global contexts. Strategic thinking and political will are nowhere in evidence in New Delhi'sresponse to Beijing'saggressive forward policy. Rise of China, as an economic, political and military power is a geographical reality. A defeatist and defensive response will take India nowhere. Only an imaginative and aggressive forward policy and a grand vision can help the country emerge as an economic, political and military power in its own right.
Re-opening of Nathu La pass for border trade between Sikkim and Tibet has to be seen in the context of the ?miracle? railway line between Beijing and Lhasa. It is world'shighest and the most technologically sophisticated railway project. Beijing has indicated that the railway line will be extended to Yatung, a traditional trading center just a few kilometers from Nathu La, in two phases. It has also built a massive network of roads upto and along the Tibet-India border. Railway lines and road networks are not only for integrating markets and accelerating economic growth. These have long-term political and military dimensions. The rail connection to Lhasa, an expert on China says, is the ?final solution? of Tibet so far as China is concerned. It will dramatically change the face of Tibet by enabling Beijing to tighten its grip over Tibet and quelling dissents that refuses to die down even after half a century of occupation and suppression. More importantly, it will enable China to unleash a huge wave of Han migration to Tibet to further reduce the indigenous Tibetans to a minuscule minority in their own land.
It is no secret that Beijing plans to extend the 1142-km Gulmud-Lhasa Railway line to Nyugchi?the strategic township developed by China north of Arunachal Pradesh. This line will run parallel to the Brahmputra and the Sino-India border in the Eastern sector. It also has plans to extend this railway line to Kunmurg in the South Western province of Yunnan. This railroad will have to cross steep mountain ranges of Eastern Himalayas and would be as much of a technological marvel as the recently opened railway across the Tibetan plateau. Beijing has aggressively established economic linkages between Tibet and its neighbouring regions. Its long-term perspective is to use the opening of Nathu La pass to extend transit trade across the Himalayas to gain commercial access to the warm waters of the Bay of Bengal.
While Beijing has translated on the ground its grand geopolitical designs, New Delhi'sresponse has been, to put it mildly, insipid. It lacks strategic thinking and vision. The Government is sleeping for long over Sikkim Government'spersistent demand for establishing State'srail link with North Bengal on the specious premise of economic non-viability of the project. The Rail Bhavan bureaucrats fail to understand the strategic and developmental aspects of the project. Financial viability of such projects have to be seen in a wider context?the push the railway line will give to development in the Himalayan region and the export potential to the huge population of Western China in addition to strengthening security on Sino-Indian border. Unmindful of the security and strategic implications of the road network set up by China in the Himalayas, Indian Government is bereft of any credible vision on transport corridors on our northern borders. The need to improve road network in the North Eastern states has failed to evoke any response from the UPA Government that is ever-busy resolving intra-party conflicts and face-offs with alliance partners and the supporting alliance.
Deeper economic integration between the seven sisters of the North East with the rest of the country, establishing a road network in the border areas and extending rail links to the region are some of the measures the Government must take as part of its strategic moves in response to Chinese plans and actions. More importantly, the Government must wake up to the strategic designs of the not-so-friendly northern neighbour and the threat to the country'ssecurity and territorial integrity from the Maoist in Nepal and their comrades operating in India. New Delhi can downplay these challenges only at its own peril.