One of the few advantages of living till 82 is that one can remember events that, for 98 out of 100 Indians, are now only history. So, I remember vividly the news items that appeared daily in our newspapers in October 1962, before we found ourselves at war with China.
The similarity between those reports and the ones appearing today are chilling. There is the same self-righteousness, the same casting of primary blame on the other side, the same calculated imprecision about what the actual deployments on the ground are, and the same reassurances that our armed forces are ready to prevent further incursions by the other side.
The only difference between 1962 and today is that, thanks to advances in communication technology, we now also know what the Chinese are saying, and the accusations they are making. So, we know that the Chinese are accusing us of the same, self-justifying accusations of LAC infringement and violation of recent agreements by Indian troops, that we are making against them.
And the tone of their official, fully publicised démarches is chilling:
“The Indian side’s statement may be different from the Chinese side’s but there is only one truth and fact,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said. “China has never provoked any war or conflict and never occupied an inch of other country’s territory.”
The formal statement, issued by Ji Rong, is even more pregnant with menace:
“India’s move has grossly violated China’s territorial sovereignty, seriously violated relevant agreements, protocols and important consensus reached between the two countries, and severely damaged peace and tranquillity along the China-India border areas.” Beijing’s underlying thought processes on the issue have been simultaneously spelt out by its semi-official mouthpiece Global Times:
“From the Doklam crisis in 2017 to the serious clash in the Galwan Valley in June this year, India has been taking a radical and hardline approach in dealing with the China-India border dispute. The system that has managed the border situation for decades is now crumbling. Regular border frictions will exhaust both countries.
“India has not taken negotiations as the main path, but pinned its hopes on strengthening ties with external forces, including the US, to exert pressure on China.India’s actions have seriously increased the strategic mistrust between China and India, and heightened the damage border frictions are creating on relations between the two countries. India has canceled much cooperation with China since Galwan Valley clash. Its nationalism is inflicting damage to itself.
“India’s national security outlook is twisted. New Delhi’s defense budget for 2019 reached $71.1 billion, ranking the third in the world, or about 2.4% of its GDP.
“India has gone astray playing geopolitics with China. Countries like the US will never really offer a hand to India, but rather take advantage of the South Asian giant. “Nonetheless, if China and India are really engaged in comprehensive antagonism, it will be much easier for China to rope in countries, including Pakistan, against India.