The Chinese incursion in Doklam plateau in Bhutan is a calculated move which came to spotlight when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was away on a foreign visit to three nations, which included holding bilateral talks with US President Donald Trump. The move is apparently aimed at dissuading India from working shoulder-to-shoulder with America.
“It is like they are not just happy with the growing India-US relations. They are constantly attempting to remind us that we still have boundary dispute to resolve and India’s growing warmth with the US can be counterproductive. The new realignment between India and USA is pinching China hard as the two great powers come together,” said Lt General (retd) Arvinder Singh Lamba, President, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.
He further adds that this is China problem and India should not be bothered a lot by it.The US envisages a bigger role for India in Asia as a counterweight to China which was evident after the two nations agreed to cooperate on curtailing the North Korea threat, a clear indication that India has a bigger role to play in the international arena beyond the South Asia. In a meeting between Modi and US President Donald Trump, the two leaders agreed to work closely on countering the North Korean weapons of mass destruction programme and vowed to make countries that support its programme accountable. This has made China livid which morally supports the ruthless dictatorship of Kim Jongun in North Korea. An Indian role in the Korean peninsula is unimaginable for China which has been increasing its dominance in the region with hammer and tong.
An infuriated China seeking to curtail Indian ambitions is creating problems at its doorstep to keep it pre-occupied which so far has not deterred India.
Moreover, India snubbed the Chinese after it skipped the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) meeting in Beijing which has further alienated China. But what has made dragon nervous is that US endorses Indian position on BRI that any trade route should not impinge on sovereignty of any country. China is on the wrong footing after it tried to test India’s patience by heightening tensions at Doklam as it may push India to become a part of inner circle of US allies like Japan and Australia.
“China is coercing India for a conciliatory position on BRI which can push India to move closer to US as like Australia and Japan,” says Dr Rajeswari Rajagopalan, Senior Fellow, Observer Research Foundation.
In a calculated move China chose the Doklam area to build the road because of its huge strategic significance for India. The area in contention is situated at the tri-junction of India, China and Bhutan which overlooks the strategic Chumbi Valley. The road once completed will allow Chinese army to come in close proximity to the ‘Chicken's Neck’ area—the Siliguri Corridor which connects seven sister states in north- east with the rest of India. The move is also apparently aimed at trying to send a message to Bhutan that India as an ally cannot guarantee its security.
China sees itself as a global power determined to pursue its interests which are often at time impediment to the regional security. It views India’s growing ties with the USA with suspicion. As India and USA are working together to contain China's imprudent foreign policy which seeks to promote its territorial ambitions with an aim to giving its trade an unflinching dominant position.
India and USA are cooperating to thwart any Chinese expansionism in Indian Ocean as dragon tries to encircle India through string of pearls. The upcoming Malabar joint naval exercise from July 10, between India-US-Japan is aimed at giving a tough message to China to mend its ways. China surely understands its implications that major powers are coming together to stop its hegemony. China’s regular belligerence in its backyard will only show the Chinese policy makers in poor light.
“It is too early. India does not need the US help and is capable of thwarting Chinese aggression itself. India should instead try to drive the point that what China is doing is not appropriate. Certainly, US shares India's perception of China. India should coordinate with the US on the issue,” tells Lamba.
Moreover, dragon’s desire to reign supreme in the South China sea has the potential to conflagrate the situation, as US is equally keen to demolish any such Chinese ambitions. In the past China sparred with its neighbours, particularly Vietnam, on the issue. Last year, the US had lifted embargo on the sale of weapons to Vietnam with an aim to countering Chinese threat. India too has been cooperating with Vietnam by increasing its defense cooperation with the latter which includes planned sale of Akash missile defense system to Vietnam. India’s stature and clout is growing through bilateral engagement in the international arena apart from which it is also modernising its army fast, much to the discomfort of China. China is getting checkmated by its own game plan and the present standoff at Doklam is an act of desperation taken to bully India into submission.
In China's opinion it is the emerging superpower and the USA is a declining power. So it is selling the propaganda that any country increasing bonhomie with USA will be counterproductive, which, in essence, is surreal, given the increased cooperation among the nations post-cold war era.
Experts also feel that India’s growing military ties with Israel are also a major concern for China, as India makes its army stronger by increasing defense cooperation with Zionist state. The visit to Israel by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a step in right direction which will bolster India increased defense cooperation with Israel.
“The Chinese are concerned about India-Israel military tie up. Israel is a definite power in defense sector and technology. India’s high defense preparedness is a big counter to China,” says Lamba. Further an emerging India is unacceptable to China and increased defense purchases from Israel is unsettling them. Moreover, India having a good relation with both USA and Israel has made the Chinese worried. After Donald Trump became President the US-Israel relations are also getting stronger which is very beneficial to India. “There is a positive thing about stronger US-Israel relations which augurs well for India as well. The US and Israel are involved in co-production of arms involving hi-tech material. It will prove good for India as it will make transfer of those hi tech technology a lot easier to India,” says Rajagopalan.
He feels, “it’s important to handle the issue well as Bhutan security lies with India and development at Doklam is being closely watched by our South Asian neighbor that how well India handle the situation.The tough handling of the situation will send a strong message about India’s capabilities to hold peace and security in the region in the backdrop of Chinese belligerence.”
Not to be subdued by Chinese threat and its apparent bid to remind India of 1962 debacle, Defense Minister Arun Jaitley played hard ball just after the incursion incidence saying, “If they are trying to remind us, the situation in 1962 was different and India of 2017 is different.” If history is so sacred then China should also remember how its attack on the Nathula and Cho La in 1967 was repulsed by the Indian army giving the taste of their own medicine.
Surely, the war mongering by China is not unexpected as they are keen to prove the point of their pre-eminence.
India as a strong nation should explore all diplomatic maneuvers to diffuse the crisis without being harassed by the arm twisting. China has been flexing its muscle across Indian Ocean and other areas vital for Indian security, the present crisis in Doklam provides a blessing in disguise to tell China about the strength of India that country will not surrender to Chinese blackmailing. n