Will Doval hold the line, disregarding the ‘Beijing Syndrome’?

Image result for pics of the doklam confrontation 2017

NSA Ajit Doval leaves for Beijing to confer with his opposite number on the Special Representative-level  talks to resolve the border dispute, the State Counselor Yang Jiechi. But Doval is being welcomed by a barrage, to add to the verbal fusillade by the Chinese defence ministry, of rhetorical escalation now involving the Foreign Minister Wang Yi. In a censorious tone that almost sounds comical, he asked Delhi to “conscientiously withdraw its troops”. Yes, there has been an invasion, as Beijing claims, but it is by the Peoples Liberation Army elements on Bhutanese territory, and the sooner the Zhongnanhai recovers a bit of sanity and restores the status quo ante, the better it will be for China. Because already it has gone way out on a limb and, with most of the small and big states in Asia and elsewhere watching, has more face to lose when eventually it backs down from an untenable position, as it will have to.

For the first time the Indian government has shown some spine and, more, displayed considerable cunning in giving Beijing a very big stage to publicly make a fool of itself. The initial resolve to ensure the intruding PLA troops don’t have their way on the Doklam Plateau and the Indian jawans and officers standing their ground, backed by a determined build-up in the rear areas, was as powerful a move as it was unexpected, especially to the Chinese. The confusion it sowed in the Chinese ranks bubbled up all the way through the Xigatze, Chengdu military commands to Beijing and is manifested in precisely the spate of nervously impolitic statements issued by all and sundry. China has been pushed on to the backfoot and it will be good to keep it there.

This is a great call made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and his moves to-date where his government has played it so cool, have been unerringly right. The question is what has he advised Doval to do? One only hopes he has told the NSA to stick by the line laid down at the PM’s behest by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in Parliament of no preconditions and simultaneous withdrawal by the PLA to the Batang La perimeter and the Indian troops to their start-off points before any talks. There should be no flexibility, no give, in this respect because the Chinese can take a mile when offered an inch. There’s, moreover, no time guillotine coming down to arrive at a hurried compromise. It is the PLA unit out of the sub-regional command that is at the end of a fairly long logistics chain, while the Indian forward supply system is arrayed on a shorter, tighter, grid. So, if the Chinese want their soldiers to spend the coming winter at the Dok La heights, it is no skin off our backs. But the principle of the inviolability of the Bhutan border and Thimpu’s territorial claims has to be maintained at all cost by India.

So, what’s the problem? As always it is the Mandarin-speaking veterans of MEA who have pulled long stints in China and suffer from the ‘Beijing syndrome’ — the diplomatic equivalent of the ‘Stockholm syndrome’, wherein Indian diplomats begin so empathizing with the Chinese and their point of view, that they end up pushing  the Beijing line to the govt of India, through the China Desk at the MEA and the ‘China Study Circle’ (CSC), which should long ago have been disbanded but is persisted with by the powers that be. These China-lovers are pushing for a compromise that will hurt the Indian national interest, and that’s the problem.  This band of China lovers have reached top positions (NSA, Foreign Secretary), monopolized India’s China policy, and made a mess of it over the last 50 years, because their instincts are to adjust, accommodate, compromise, and surrender. It was CSC, for instance, that advocated participation in Xi Jinping’s OBOR project until they were firmly over-ruled by Modi. Hope the PM does not at this stage succumb to CSC advice.

Modi and India have gained a lot of admiration in Asia and the world by showing, for a change, some spirit. It shouldn’t be frittered away in the false hope that concessions by Doval will lead to peace on the border. It won’t but will rather only lead to more demands, more truculence and gross misbehaviour. Ask Yangbon, Hanoi, Taipei, Tokyo, Seoul.

A sideline issue, but yesterday evening I heard some commentators on TV talk about this country not being up on the public relations game compared to China. Actually, one of the great pluses of the Indian policy so far is exactly that the Modi government hasn’t been voluble or over-hyped the situation. It’s been low key and low to the ground, leaving it to China to blow the whole thing out of proportion and face regional and global ridicule. Nothing reduces a big power as much as ridicule. The Doklam confrontation is a subject matter that the numerous comedy outfits on Indian social media should make a meal of. Much fun can be had there.



About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Asian geopolitics, Bhutan, Central Asia, China, China military, civil-military relations, Culture, Decision-making, domestic politics, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Army, Iran and West Asia, MEA/foreign policy, Military/military advice, Myanmar, North Korea, Northeast Asia, society, South Asia, Taiwan, Tibet. Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to Will Doval hold the line, disregarding the ‘Beijing Syndrome’?

  1. PD says:

    Elsewhere I read that Doval was going to attend a BRICS or a multilateral conclave and of course would meet his opposite number in China. I wonder what is correct, that the visit is a bilateral one or for a multilateral meeting in Beijing, the opportunity being used to have a bilateral discussion on a burning topic as well. Would Mr Karnad kindly inform.

    • The BRICS is the umbrella under which Doval and Yang will meet, the larger forum and the particular dialogue were scheduled before the Dok La event got going.

      • Apna says:

        INdIa must be kucked out of Brics and Sco for ibdua is a trojan horse for the very anglisaxons against whom SCO was planned to counter in central asia.

      • Apna says:

        IN the whole decade of 80s when usa was using China against russia it was usa and her stooge inside India who were forcing Indian govt. to be very friendly to China and be distant to Russia; So much so that they forced rajiv Gandhi to accept Tibet as part of China in autumn 1988. All because of traitor punjabi cabal .

  2. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    Re. “The Doklam confrontation is a subject matter that the numerous comedy outfits on Indian social media should make a meal of. Much fun can be had there.”

    There never was any time for all that fun. The chinese were so quick on the draw, that nobody got any chance to understand what was happening. People need time to understand things.

    But seriously the US has already said that they would like to see ‘talks’ and Mr. Xi has been wished happy birthday. So there’s the drift. The advise for talks is as much a pressure on Post-LEMOA India as it is on Post-Malabar China. I just hope things don’t go much beyond the heartfelt happy birthday wishes.

  3. raja says:

    Thoughts flow like river through the words! ID

  4. Rahul Deans says:

    Excellent write-up. Good to see a voice of sanity from our side, instead of Indian publications repeating Global times verbatim.

  5. Raj_ryder says:

    Just out of curiosity, if shots are fired(and they might, wars have started because of much less) how does the indian army keep it localized? And what role does the airforce and navy then play?

    • Yea, this is something to mull over. But I assume that should the balloon go up then the air forces and navies on both sides automatically get on alert, and will await the turn the land actions take. It will come down to which side will qualitatively escalate first or, alternatively, begin losing ground in a big way first.

    • Shaurya says:

      The pressure to open multiple fronts will be on China. India enjoys “local” superiority in the air and on the ground on the LAC. China’s logistics tail is long and its choke points defined. These choke points are well in sights of the IAF and the SFF. If China decides to escalate, it will need to build up quite seriously and any such build up would be detected and matched by the Indian side. Even after all this build up, China may not enjoy much superiority. Out of the 62 odd passes, we control of 61 of these passes.

      As long as the game is about defense of the LAC India looks good in DokLa or across the LAC. China has to figure a way to defuse and retract. At worse what we are looking at is a repeat of sumdorong chu, where Deng Xiaoping learnt his lesson. Anything else it is looking to get a bloody nose, only our wits and ball$ should be held in place.

  6. Aban says:

    I wonder what Modi government is doing about the $ 53 billion trade deficit with China. Even in 2004 , India had a $1 billion trade surplus with china. Nothing has hurt the Indian economy more than this one sided trade. Unfortunately, some fools in the government still hope that this trade deficit will be compensated by more Chinese investments into India . That the Chinese will invest hundreds of billion dollars particularly in infrastructure projects and electronics assembly units and there will be milk and honey all over India.

    • exactly, but i think when push comes to shove, it will be a good strategic backstop to use as a leverage against the chinese as an economic jolt which will be a flashpoint for Beijing regarding their economic bluff & bluster worldwide, for instance, the 2016-17 trade of chinese in india accounted for 60 billion $, i don’t think that they ,apart from fake breathing fire & the tactic of SUN TZU (over-whelming the enemy without actually fighting) will do anything which will harm their economic interests.

      • Aban says:

        Not so easy. If India stops Chinese imports, there will be huge shortage of goods in the market. India’s retail sector will bleed, besides various industries using Chinese stuff. And where is Indian manufacturing to provide homegrown replacements ? Most India business conglomerates are crony capitalists doing business in core sector / infrastructure sector and are debt ridden.

    • yes, i know that but we are talking about a real-time war scenario,isn’t it ?

  7. Reblogged this on securityanalystblog and commented:
    a must read for all the security analysts in the world

  8. Respected Sir,apart from the jingoism,strategically speaking,will our Indian Forces,which has been rumoured to have been equipped with BRAHMOS missile batteries this month create a scenario,which will be unimaginable for the PLA when push comes to shove & if that is the case then what could be the appropriate response of the PLA (ROCKET FORCES) in that regard ? I hope that out of my inexperienced language skills to convey my question, you would be able to answer my question ?

    • The Indian forward units on the LAC, especially in the east, are equipped with the Brahmos supersonic cruise missile, with the newer variant with a steep dive capability entering service as well.

      • Aban says:

        What about ammunition ? How long will they last in case of a conflict? what about CAG report that suggest India only has a 10 day stock to fight a war.

    • Mr. Aban since THEN, Parrikar has done a great deal of work to overcome the danger level of ammo stockpile,it includes Russian companies to set-up manufacturing plants & bases in India,having said that, i know its on paper even RIGHT NOW AS WE SPEAK,BUT BRAHMOS is a NUCLEAR-POWERED supersonic cruise missile which is INDEFENSIBLE,so i think if a kilotonne explosion happens in the HIMALAYAN MOUNTAINS,it can cut-off the supply lines of the PLA.the reason being that they can only invade through the passes available,so please don’t worry about it.

      • Aban says:

        Parrikar should have remained the Defence Minister !!!

      • i agree sir,but i think if POLITICS is at the core of all your national & international policies, then i think that it was a wise decision for parrikar to be sent back, if bjp loses ground in any 1 state, how will it be useful in the long run,having said that, (even i am from the RSS ideology) BUT i think that Gen. V.K.SINGH should be the next defence minister, its my bet & i can tell you why,when there was some nudging after 2014 polls that he could be the next defence minister,everyone in the MOD was literally TERRIFIED,i think why he wasn’t made the defence minister was because that the father-in-law of his own daughter (SAMDHI) is still in service at the top brass & he had some tenure left.my guess is that he will be made as the defence minister,after 2019 polls,when again modi will win again with a thumping majority. Afterall, there is no alternative for modi right now & i hope on that note,you will agree with me. And by the way, it was nice talking to you sir. VANDE MATARAM.

      • Aban says:

        Gen VK Singh will always be the first choice for defence minister. But he will probably never get the post. He has be made into a Pygmy . Why? Well, it remains a mystery!!

      • Aban says:

        Speaking of samdhis , many state/central ministers have their close relatives working for government organisations, without necessarily having any conflict of interest.

  9. siddappa says:

    Feeling good in a very long time. Not reciprocating in the manner China dictates is refreshing. It remains to be seen, if not having the talkative Def Min was a blessing in disguise.

    This assured poise of Indian Govt needs to be continued, for….
    itihaas gawaah hai, much of what the sweat had earned, has been lost in swagger. (HajiPir, taking J&K to UN, Shimla settlement,…)
    If there are more fronts, say like daulat beg oldie, nepal border all at once, while NSA is in talks, would the Govt remain as calm?

  10. andy says:

    Can’t see India backing off now,it would be a big set back for PM.Modis tough guy image that he’s so assiduously tried to cultivate(the hard line taken against Pakistan and the Kashmir separatists are examples)and such a setback would most certainly have electoral repercussions.

    But China is most certainly not Pakistan,its nominal GDP is 5 times bigger and official defence spending is 3times bigger than Indias.On the other hand India is equally certainly not the Philippines or any other SCS littoral country that can be steamrolled by hard rhetoric and empty threats, It is,as Nisha Biswal recently said ‘a force to reckon with’China will have to acknowledge this fact.

    Another factor that suggests China’s unwillingness to escalate is whilst the pilgrimage to Mount Kailash through Nathu La has been stopped, cross border trade continues.There was a commentary in Xinhua a few days back that sounded worried about India’s stand at the RCEP,to be held in Hyderabad.Also the same Xinhua today praised PM.Modis reforms agenda.Seems like they want to de-hyphenate the border standoff from economic matters.One has heard of de-hyphenation in the context of the US dehyphenating its India relationship from Pakistan or India de-hyphenating its Israeli relationship from Palestine but here China wants it to be business as usual even amidst the ongoing border kerfuffle,certainly a preposterous expectation,only the Chinese bozos could think in such ridiculous terms.If things hot up a little more on the border the first thing China can kiss goodbye to will be the $52billions trade surplus they have with India(might not be such a bad thing for Indian manufacturing).

    The signalling from Delhi also indicates that the tough line will be continued.The RFI for project P75i submarine procurement has gone out a few days back and today the new(anti China)Mongolian President has been invited to Delhi.Both events are sure to needle China.

  11. raja says:

    In an emergency how to make up the losses in the squadron and training?
    options before us?

  12. Apna says:

    Anglosaxons 5 evil eyes must be laughing back to their satanic pentagan.
    Hindu Indians are really delusional.
    Having been not part of ruling elites for last 800 years except for a brief unterlude and serving as vassal of foreign invaders ,the Indians have no concept of how power works and rules. That is sad more coming fron a coutry which gave us the book ” Panchtantra ” written espcially for the moron stupid princes of which India has had in abundance. Even following one tenth of panchtanta -and nothing else in politics and econonics -would have raised India to a world power but alas! As Indians today need foreigner’s approval for everything then let me state that only 6 months ago that evil henry kissinger reccommended usa to follow percepts of “panch tantra ” because that was what the british had followed in their evil british empire.
    So what was that policy ?
    To create doubt amonagt others and let them die to destruction.
    Angliomericans never involve themseles in direct war ; they use plots and conspiracy to create a rift and then use two nations stupid enough to fight as their patsies.
    This is how that evil rhodes of zimmwabe plotted world war one agaibst germany to be destroyed fighting russians
    Second world war was plotted by british to destroy resurgent germany fughting soviets.
    Cold war was plotted by england to occupy germany permanently and keep russia down.
    Iraq and Syrian war was plotted and run by england to destroy middle east.
    In all these usa has acted as patsies working as slave for englands’ agenda.
    So the pattern of anglosaxon cabal is this _ they will pick up propaganda fight first with the most powerful country that they do not like _ then they will side with the second most powerful country.
    Having raised the tempo of lies they will make sure that both the first and second most powerful countries fight each otheter out .
    That is why they will side with second grade India against powerful china at the same time they will side wuth china agaibst still powerful russia as they did in 80s.
    Here you see the pattern of how americans and anglos are using india against china and stupid indians have fallen for this.
    When we kicked out the anglisaxons from india we did not remmove their pernicioy system of mental slavery from here _ that is why we are happy fighting with another asian neighbour for sake of pleasing and at instigation of outside annglosaxon 5 evil eyes.

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