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Time to say get lost to China; By Lt Gen PR Shankar (Retd.)

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Article 59/2020

Expansionist One China

China wants the world to repeatedly chant ‘One China’ which is expansionist. China gobbled Tibet, Xinxiang, Inner Mongolia and part of India soon after becoming a People’s Republic. It is now in the process of gobbling up Hong Kong, a sliver of Eastern Ladakh and the South China Sea illegally. Next in line are Taiwan and Senkaku islands.  Xi Jinping’s ambitious consolidation plan of the Chinese nation includes also sovereign Indian territories of Eastern Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh. China covets parts of Nepal, Bhutan, Central Asian Republics and Russia based on some mythologically obscure history drummed up through propaganda. In future, ‘One China’ will encompass all areas taken over through debt traps.  Starting with Hambantota, China is eyeing islands in Maldives, Pakistan and beyond. It will also seek and stake sovereignty over areas where people of Chinese origin reside. Even now it seeks allegiance from them. The future map of ‘One China’ will extend to wherever the BRI has spread its tentacles and people of Chinese origin reside. The world cannot afford a constantly bloating ‘One China’ except of course Pakistan.


China has a history of deceit and violating/dishonouring all treaties and agreements. It militarised the South China Sea despite promises not to do so. It disregarded the International Court of Justice and the UNCLOS in its South China Sea claims. The imposition of the National Security Law broke international promises made on Hong Kong to continue with the UK system till 2047. It violated all trade and investment treaties selectively. As per Chris Patten,  one thing is clear: the world cannot trust Xi’s dictatorship. The sooner the world recognizes this and acts together, it will be safer. Do not forget China’s role and lies in spreading the Wuhan virus. The predicament which you and I as world citizens find ourselves in originated in China.

Tibet Related Issues

The relationship between Tibet and China has varied between suzerainty and sovereignty.  When  China was strong Tibet was sovereign to it.  When  China was weak, Tibet functioned as an independent state under Chinese suzerainty.  The 1914 Shimla Agreement is the fundamental agreement on borders between India, China and Tibet. Iven Chen, the Chinese representative initialled the pages but decamped overnight from Shimla without signing the agreement. He left ‘Chinese ambiguity’ behind which persists till date. Much later China invaded Tibet and usurped it. Dalai Lama fled to India and the rest is history. Despite being defeated in the 1962 war, India never accepted Tibet as part of China. However, it did not meddle in Tibet. Later, in 1987, Arunachal Pradesh was granted statehood. China never objected to it. A thaw took place when Rajiv Gandhi met Deng Xiaoping. China and India entered into Border Peace and Tranquillity Agreements in the 1990s. In 2003 India recognised Tibet as part of China. After that, it kept a distance from the internal affairs of Tibet or China. India kept up the bargain. India has never had a direct connection with Taiwan, Xinxiang and Inner Mongolia. However, we have begun a fledgeling of a relationship with Taiwan now.

Chinese Perfidy and High Handedness

China never allowed a treaty/ agreement to stop it from interfering in the internal affairs of India. It started interfering when it trained Naga Militants in the 1960s and 1970s. Since the 2000s, China has been claiming sovereignty over Arunachal Pradesh, as part of ‘South Tibet’. A term which never existed earlier. It is currently fomenting trouble in Tawang on religious and political grounds.  China has now violated all border agreements to maintain Peace and Tranquillity by repeated military aggression. In 2017, It attempted changing the International Boundary at Doklam. Take note. In Sikkim, there is an International  Boundary and not a LAC.  What’s more, it blamed India for violating the 1890 Agreement during the Doklam stand-off. China attributes its current military aggression in Eastern Ladakh to Indian transgression of the LAC! That’s rich! Now it does not recognise the UT of Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh since they are supposedly illegal. China objects to infrastructure development deep in Indian territory. It has not kept up the bargain on many border related issues and has interfered abnormally in our internal affairs. It has been simply perfidious.

There are reports that China and Pakistani are conducting joint patrols in POK. It is also helping Pakistan in setting up surface-to-air missile launch sites and a missile defence system thee. Besides this, the flagship CPEC runs through POK.  They have also signed a deal to build three dams in POK  at, Diamer Bhasha, Azad Pattan and Kohala. The dam activity poses a direct military threat to India. Chinese activity in PoK grossly violates Indian sovereignty as also UN resolutions on J&K. No UN resolution says that  POK belongs to Pakistan. Yet,  China has entered into illegal agreements on land that does not belong to either party.

The litany does not end here. China has been into extensive hacking and electronic surveillance in India. Chinese hackers stole 68 Lakh Records from an Indian healthcare site. As per media,  Chinese cloud servers are sending data of Indian users to China. It could involve the technology giant Alibaba. A Chinese ‘hybrid warfare’ data firm with government links has tracked over 10,000 Indians including PM Modi.  40,000 cyber-attacks were attempted by Chinese hackers on Indian banking, IT sector in five days in the current tense times. Further Chinese are even involved in hawala rackets in conjunction with a Chinese bank. The Chinese ambassador even issues diktats to media and the embassy threatens it as if he is a Viceroy of China. Now, Xiaomi Smart Phones have banned  Arunachal Pradesh from their weather app. It has gone to the extent that Jammu and Kashmir are being shown as PRC even by Twitter. The latest is that China has started warning India not to enter into a trade or commercial negotiations with Taiwan!

China has also had the temerity to tell India to remain non-aligned and not get close to the USA. China blocked India from becoming a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. It opposed our entry into the UN Security Council and even helped Pakistan blatantly in the UN and other forums. China believes the Dalai Lama is a terrorist whilst shielding Masood Azhar from being designated as one. It is an unabashed nuclear proliferator. It instigated Nepal to lay claims on Kalapani.

Preparing Ahead

Currently China is stymied by India militarily in Eastern Ladakh. Its endeavour has been a miscalculation. It is trying for a face saving accommodation to buy time. Next time it will come fully prepared. When Xi says“solidify border defences and ensure frontier security… ensuring national security and enduring peace and stability” regarding Tibet and that Buddhism must “adapt to socialism and Chinese conditions” through political and ideological education: he has said a lot. There will be a next time when China will be better prepared and more aggressive. The only way to keep China at bay is to make it look inwards. The USA has recognised this and has started its activities.

Our FM says that what happened this year was a sharp departure over a course of relationship over 30 years. He talks of a very deep public and political impact and a relationship profoundly disturbed. He is incorrect. It is more than that. There is now a generational cleavage between India and China. Most Indians feel that unless the border issue finds some resolution, other issues – economic, cultural, diplomatic and political- must take a back seat. Tibet is an important tool in our kit to deal with any Sino Indian situation. Hence it is imperative that India adopts a suitable stance. While we do not aspire for Tibet, we should not treat it as part of China either. For that matter, Xinxiang or Taiwan or Inner Mongolia are also not part of China. We need not blanche at ensuring that people of Tibet and Xinjiang get their due rights as per common human decency. We must strive to restore a suzerainty relationship between China and Tibet. We should support Taiwan and Xinjiang politically in their quest for Independence and seeking legitimacy. Why should we respect  ‘One China’ which is based on an illegal annexation, when China does not respect ‘One India’ which is legal to it. It is time to say ‘ONE CHINA. GET LOST’.

The Way Forward

The reason to continue with ‘One China’  despite Chinese perfidy is attributable to weak governments with misguided diplomatic and political outlooks. Perhaps Chinese propaganda and biased Western comparisons have convinced some of us that China belongs to a different league.  We might have been under the awe of their military might or economic prowess or their political heft. We may have also feared that China and Pakistan will wreak havoc. In that respect, things cannot go worse and we have been able to handle them well. Times have changed. Interests have changed.  The past mistakes of deferring to Chinese highhandedness needs instant correction. It is apparent that the Chinese are not ten feet tall. Also, the Chinese Virus has generated immense negative political and human sentiment against China. The faster we decouple from China, and regain trade balance through ‘Atmanirbharta’ the better it is for us. It is now clear that there are finite limits to which China can use strong-arm tactics against us or anyone. In any case, a major part of hybrid/ asymmetric options against China stems from the rimlands of Tibet, Xinjiang, Taiwan and Inner Mongolia. These options will keep China focused inwards and at bay. We must not eschew them. It is poor statecraft to do so. In fact, it would be dumb to do so.

The USA has appointed a Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues. He is to promote dialogue between China (PRC) and the Dalai Lama,  protect the religious, cultural, and linguistic identity of Tibetans; address humanitarian and human rights issues and repression of Tibetans,  look into severe restrictions on Tibetans’ religious freedom and cultural traditions within China. That is a packet. A similar one exists for Xinjiang in all probability. A German delegation at the UN General Assembly delivered a joint statement on behalf of 39 countries conveying their “grave concern on the human rights situation in Xinjiang and the recent developments in Hong Kong”. It called on China to “respect human rights, particularly the rights of persons belonging to religious minorities, especially in Xinjiang and Tibet”. The statement was signed by the US, Japan,  Australia, Canada, France, Britain and Germany. There is a definite move afoot to make China look inward. Why are we not there? A question cropped up from an intellectual on the Social Media “What is stopping media, academics, think tanks, intellectuals in democratic India, from criticizing CCP China’s genocide, religious cleansing, ethnic cleansing etc in Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Inner Mongolia, Manchuria etc? Why can’t they start supporting Taiwan independence? ” Time to smell the coffee.

There is a strong public opinion across India – vociferous and unanimous against this lopsided concept of ‘One China’. The Indian opinion in any media – social, mass, electronic or print –  openly favours Taiwan’s independence,  Tibet’s autonomy, Xijiang’s freedom, Hongkong’s autonomy and Mongolian rights. 3THM is the coinage as it is emerging. The surge of Tibetan and national feeling which burst forth when the SFF was used in the operations to occupy Kailash Range is a pointer.  The ultra-cautious approach of the government is indeed baffling. The people of India must nudge the Government into action on this issue. It is understandable that we work our way forward with caution and incrementally. However, the intent has to be conveyed. Alternately, the government should explain itself as to why it wants to continue to be an ostrich. The nation needs to know.

Our external affairs minister has been talking of a ‘New Equilibrium’ with China. Well, every system in exists in a state of equilibrium – natural or unnatural. That is physics. Currently, the ‘Sino Indian Equilibrium’ is heavily lopsided against us. The Indian Armed Forces have given an opportunity to India to correct this imbalance. Some correction has already happened due to force multiplication of military action with economic, diplomatic and political actions. Beyond this much more cannot happen if we remain hesitant and cautious. A ‘New Equilibrium’ which is ‘Balanced’ can be achieved only if China is made to look inwards. The ‘common man’ of India has been wise enough to recognise this. The poster on Shanti path on Taiwanese National Day conveys a lot – not only to China but also to the Government of India and the world. Indians have made their choice. To put it in the PMs words ‘ यह सवा सौ करोड़ देशवासियों और Team इंडिया का संदेश है ‘. The Government cannot ignore this.  It is time the people’s voice is heard loud and clear by everyone who matters.   ONE CHINA – GET LOST. Onwards to 3THM. 

(Lt Gen PR Shankar was India’s DG Artillery. He is highly decorated and qualified with vast operational experience. He contributed significantly to the modernisation and indigenisation of Artillery. He is now a Professor in the Aerospace Dept of IIT Madras and is involved in applied research for defence technology. His other articles can be read on his blog The views expressed are personal.)

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