By J.V. Lakshmana Rao
Is India being dragged into a Mahabharat War of 21st Century? If the answer is “yes,” it appears that China is assuming a tough modern villainous role of a Duryodhan of the world famous epic Mahabharat in which he played a role of a self-esteemed and egotistic villain, who became the cause for downfall of the Kauravadynasty.
Indications are that China in the lead is trying to create a group (gang) of four countries comparable to the four evil characters of the Mahabharat-fame called Dushta Chatustaya (Ensemble of Four Evils).
If China with its aggressive and ambitious attitude, can be compared to the characteristic lead role of Duryodhan, Pakistan with its Kashmir obsession, can play the role of greedy expansionist Dusyasan. Already troubled and wobbling Afghanistan has been dragged into the group to play the role of Karna, and the role of a “trainee” Shakuni to be played by Nepal, the Himalayan state, which has recently been lured with sops and incentives by China. Though Nepal, as a new entrant to the quartet, it cannot be as crooked as Shakuni but it can, however, “dance to the tune of China.” With the China-induced courage, Nepal’s Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli is getting over smart and bold, ignoring the Nepal’s age-old historic, cultural, philosophical and spiritual bonds with India.
If the Mahabharat War took place in Kurukshetra, the modern 21st Century Mahabharat War, God forbids, is likely to be held somewhere on the India-China border close to the Himalayas. More precisely, such war can be held anywhere — be it at the Galwan Valley bordering Ladakh or between Finger 5 and Finger 8 close to the Pyongyang Tso.
Reluctantly, China has completed its first phase of troop withdrawal after the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defense Minister Rajnath Singh to Ladakh in July. Both of them have sounded a stern warning to China and Pakistan without naming them, echoing that India would not tolerate occupation of even an inch of its territory and violation of India’s integrity and sovereignty by them. Sacrifices of Indian soldiers will not be allowed to go in vain.
A virtual meeting was organized by China in Beijing, with the participation of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal on July 27, ostensibly to seek the cooperation of these three countries to overcome the Covid-19 crisis and continue to work on projects under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), including the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Presiding over the meeting, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that these four countries should work together to extend CPEC to Afghanistan.
But isolated by most nations of the world, including some of its neighboring countries and facing the “wrath” of the US and, in the backdrop of India-China border standoff, China is trying to seek the support of Pakistan, Afghanistan and of late, Nepal to form an evil quartet.
China has been pricking India over several years with border violation, which has culminated into a faceoff between the soldiers of the two countries at the Galwan Valley on June 15, resulting casualties on both sides.
Subsequently, amid strained relations with China, India has called for boycott of Chinese goods and ban on 59 apps first and again 47 more. India has also intensified its border security by moving more troops and military hardware and opening new or strengthening the existing airbases along the border.
The Indian Navy has also conducted joint naval exercises with the US warships in the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal. The air and naval establishments in Andaman and Nicobar Islands have been fortified. Already increased defense budget has been further raised.
Amid a lot of fanfare and celebration, five of the French 36 Rafale jet fighters arrived at Ambala air base on July 29. India is on high alert and has strengthened its defense preparedness along the India-China border.
The US has warned China against its naval exercises in the South China Sea, and called its occupation of sandbars and isolated islands there as violation of international maritime stipulations. Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam and Indonesia have conducted naval exercises in the South China because of China’s aggressive overtures.
According to the latest information on July 27, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced that People’s Liberation Army and the Indian troops have completed disengagement in “most locations and situation is cooling down” between the two sides.
However, this information has to be confirmed by India, as it claims that there is no progress in the disengagement after the fourth round of corps commanders’ meet of both the countries on July 14. India insists that China must restore the status quo as of April 2020 at LAC as the Chinese troops still have not vacated the Finger 5 area in the Pangong Tso as they continue to hold the ridges in the Finger 4 area. And the Chinese troops still have to vacate the area between Finger 5 and Finger 8, which, according to India, is its territory.
China’s lie has been exposed as satellite images have shown huge buildup of troops and installation of artillery guns by China at Pangong Tso. However, China has indicated that a fifth round of commander-level meeting is currently under preparation “to resolve the remaining issues.”
While India enjoys solidarity of friendly countries like the US, the UK, France, Russia, Israel, Australia, Germany, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Taiwan, India also faces two external enemies – China and Pakistan — and one adversary, — the Opposition parties internally.
The Opposition parties led by the Congress Party question every action of the ruling NDA government led by the BJP. Congress leaders like Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi jointly, individually or in turns, criticize Prime Minister Narendera Modi and his government and seek proof for every action his government takes. Rahul Gandhi recently blamed the Prime Minister for misguiding the people of India and hiding the facts, and alleges that “in reality” China has occupied vast areas of the border. Constructive opposition is part of the democratic government, but unrealistic destructive comments and criticism only strengthen the external and internal destructive forces.
By J.V. Lakshmana Rao