Date :17-Jan-2023

THE EXTERNAL Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar was at his best, as usual, when he made it clear that India’s response to China during Galwan stand-off was ‘strong and firm’. Indeed, India has refashioned her diplomatic response to China’s deception.
Gone is the time when China used to dictate terms, coerce others into accepting compromises, and play the ‘long game’ with full cruise control in own hands. Over the years, the comity of nations has realised that their good natured gestures towards China were being construed as victory for Chinese diplomacy.
As has been the case, the diplomacy in China’s case is formed by various factors. One of these is sticking to convenient portions of history as ‘proven fact’. As a result, despite the original Han empire being restricted to a smaller geographical expanse, the present-day Communist China has included a vast landscape in its map. When it is convenient to Communist Chinese leadership, it shows ‘old’ maps. But, when someone shows them the old maps, they say they are ‘old’ and needed to be ‘updated’ with course the history has taken over time. China has played this particular game with India.
The then Chinese Premier Zhou En Lai had told Indian Prime Minister Pt Jawaharlal Nehru once that the People’s Republic of China (Communist) had had ‘no time to study and revise’ the ‘old maps’ prepared by previous Republic of China (Nationalist regime). China gave the first details of its perception of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) only after incrementally occupying Indian territory particularly in the Western sector (Ladakh). Since then, China has continued with unilateral definition of the LAC and trying to coerce India into accepting that through various means.
When India conducted nuclear test, China felt that it was being challenged. It tried to paint India’s image negatively. However, with time, the USA forged stronger nuclear co-operation ties with India and China got isolated. When India raised the bid before the United Nations committee for designating Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as global terrorist, China placed ‘technical holds’ or ‘blocks’ between 2009 and 2019. China failed to realise that it was getting isolated globally while defending a failed and terror-harbouring state like Pakistan. Gradually, China got further isolated as it raked up territorial disputes with other neighbouring countries including Russia. Its aggressive pursuit of hegemony in the South China Sea, dented its image globally.
COVID-19 pandemic just made matters worse for China. The Communist Chinese leadership is in an unprecedented crisis back home. The people are speaking against the Communist authoritarianism. The crackdown on protesters and own people is proving to be counter-productive. Economic crisis is pushing China into deeper morass. The level of commitment to authoritarian Communist regime is crumbling in the minds of Chinese people, and they are getting attracted to democratic values. This aspiration for democracy is finding expression in some or the other measure in all Chinese professional spheres. But the Communist China still has State-controlled and heavily censored media, which glosses over popular discontent.
Little did China realise that despite its leadership’s best efforts, the world has changed. In the past few years, the famed Chinese ‘observers’ have lost grip of the situation. They are more into inventing arguments that please their leadership. Chinese diplomacy rested for long on study of old world order, pursued hegemonistic designs, and treated potential friends like subordinates. Naturally, China failed to gauge the rise of India on world stage and tried to downplay the development.
While China continued with miscalculations, India resharpened her diplomacy. While forging new ties and treating friends as equals, India did not compromise on securing own as well as world’s best interest. This is the ‘strong and firm’ approach that has given India an edge over China. If China tries misadventures like Galwan or continues with aggression and unilateralism, the present-day India has the capability and global influence to hit back hard where it will hurt China the most.