Indian political establishment doesn'tseem to have learnt right lessons from the national humiliation in 1962. Our failure to understand the Chinese long-term strategic objectives and our political leadership'spropensity to live in make-believe were primarily responsible for our debacle in the border war with China. We were taken in by China'ssweet talks and ?Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai? slogans and thought it was our ?great friend?. We failed to understand its dangerous ?map diplomacy? and Nehru simplistically accepted Chinese excuses that these were old maps that the new Government hadn'thad time to correct. Later these very maps were produced as proof in support of Chinese territorial claims.
Our Government slept as the dragon occupied large swaths of Indian Territory in Aksai Chin and built a road through it. Nehru made no effort to take the people into confidence about Chinese over-whelming military superiority in border areas and went public with his order to the army to throw out the Chinese aggressors from our territory, particularly from the then NEFA (now Arunachal Pradesh) in utter disregard to the situation on the ground. Not that our soldiers lacked the will and courage to fight. They made huge sacrifices and fought battles heavily leaded against them. They were ill-equipped and out-numbered. Alas, unprofessional Generals backed by Nehru and his Defence Minister V.K. Krishna Menon did us in. This piece is not on our fault lines in 50s and 60s. One is obliged to recall these sad developments as we are again facing a similar situation what with our Government'shalf-hearted response to the China'sstrategic moves.
NDA Government entered into talks with China to resolve the boundary dispute. The UPA Government followed it up and in 2005, the two countries agreed to certain political parameters for the resolution of the dispute. It was heartening to hear Dr Manmohan Singh declaring that there was no question of unsettling populated territories. However, there has been no progress on finding mutually acceptable territorial compromise. There are disputes over the interpretation of the 2005 agreement. The situation on the ground is worse. China has rapidly modernised and strengthened the rail and road infrastructure in Tibet whereas India failed on both the economic development and transport infrastructure in border areas. Chinese hostility is manifested in its aggressive action. The situation in Arunachal Pradesh is so serious that a senior army officer had to go public with the startling information that there had been as many as 146 incursions in the first 10 months of 2007. Two Arunachal MPs belonging to BJP took up the issue in right earnest to caution the nation about Chinese intentions. They also lamented that Chinese forces had entered areas under Indian administration to blow off a Buddha statue claiming that it stood in Chinese territory.
Prime Minister'svisit to Arunachal Pradesh immediately after his return from China and his description of the state as ?Our land of rising Sun? is a hugely welcome development. Another positive of the visit was the announcement about a massive scheme to build roads and other infrastructure in the border state to provide inter-district connectivity and better connectivity with the rest of the country. However, it is extremely regrettable that the Prime Minister didn'tgo to Tawang during his trip to the state. A visit to that strategic corridor?a large number of Indian soldiers had laid down their lives in 1962 in defending it?would have sent a strong and unequivocal message to Beijing. Indian response to China'sdiplomatic protest against Prime Minister'svisit to the state is heartwarming. External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee lost no time in reiterating that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India and that the Prime Minister can visit any part of the country. Beijing will have to be made to understand that whatever its maps may say, Arunachal Pradesh is a full-fledged Indian state that is governed by a democratically elected Government and that it also sends elected representatives to Indian Parliament.
Unfortunately, there was not much the country gained from Prime Minister'sofficial visit to Beijing. It was a routine trip and there was not much to write home about. There is lack of transparency about what transpired during Dr Singh'stalks with his counterpart. Did he convey to Chinese leaders India'sdeep concern over military-capable infrastructure Beijing is building in Tibet to gain strategic depth and reduce tactical reaction time? As usual, a section of English language media hailed the visit a great success. One newspaper said it was ?significant? that China'shad declared support to India'saspirations to play a greater role in the United Nations, including the Security Council. The newspaper completely ignored the stark reality that Beijing had colluded with Uncle Sam to scuttle the proposal to expand the Security Council with a view to deny India its rightful place in the Council. This is how Beijing reciprocating Nehru'sstrong advocacy of a Security Council seat for Communist China in 50s. A multi-edition English language daily claimed that Prime Minister'sofficial visit had contributed incrementally to the maturation and diversification of a bilateral relationship that had done well over the past two decades. What prompted the newspaper to make this claim remains a mystery.
It is not only our political establishment but also left liberal media and the chattering classes that are responsible for our weak and confused response to the Chinese threat to our territorial integrity. Their casual response to serious developments have let the country down time and again. How can a responsible newspaper claim that relations between India and China have matured during the past two decades? Of course, India has committed itself again and again to ?one China? policy and our Government conceded that Autonomous Region of Tibet is an integral part of China. All this and more even as China continues to show large swaths of Indian territory as theirs in maps and denies visas to Indian citizens from Arunachal Pradesh. Is questioning our Prime Minister'sright to visit one of the country'sstates, a sign of mature relations between the neighbours? No one is against negotiations to settle disputes but let us not negotiate out of fear. Let us find ways and means to raise issues like independence of Taiwan and Tibet to tell the Chinese that it is a game we can also play.