China’s Bhutan foray a cause for concern
FIFTY-NINE years after the October 1962 Chinese invasion, are the recent Bhutan-China border talks a harbinger of bad news? Is India’s Himalayan blunder in for a potential encore? Shouldn’t India revisit the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) naked aggression of 1950 to forcibly capture Tibet behind Delhi’s back which it unwisely ignored, owing to an advisory to the nascent Indian government by its first ambassador to China (1950-52): The Indian ambassador appeared worried more for the foreign country where he was posted, rather than the security of his own country: “I don’t think there’s anything wrong in Red China troops moving in their own territory (Tibet).”
However, despite a 71-year-gap between the October 1950 Tibet invasion and October 2021 Bhutan dialogue, the CPC aggression remains constant. Expansionism and land gobbling constitute the CPC’s core competence and sole aim. Tibet was crushed; today’s long-term plan to rout Bhutan proceeds under a diplomatic garb. The Dragon’s Tibet dagger was strengthened by Indian indifference, ignorance and incompetence. Diplomacy with Bhutan today is CPC compulsion, not choice. Because, beyond a point, Delhi will have to protect its core national and geostrategic interests. Delhi can’t afford to sit idle, allowing the CPC to pose an existential threat to its sovereignty. The CPC-PLA entry into Druk must be countered, for it can rip apart areas from Darjeeling, Dooars, Dirang Dzong, Digboi, Dibrugarh, Dispur, Diphu and Dimapur axis to access Dhaka and break the east and north-east away from “One India”. It’s undoubtedly the deadliest, most dangerous of all challenges to have occurred since the partition in 1947, threatening the very foundation and fabric of Delhi and its hinterland’s fractious polity.
Way back in October 1950, at the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, Tamil Nadu, when the news came of forced Chinese entry into Tibet, the British commandant Major General Joe Lentaigne burst into profound professional prophecy, widely misunderstood though: “India’s backdoor had been opened…with…expansionist China. Defence of this mountain frontier would cost India more than she could afford. India would pay dearly for failure to act.”
So, we visit the fundamentals of South Asia’s biggest geopolitical nation, India, and assess the global canvas. Axiomatically, every large state does have its zone of influence and interest, like the exclusive economic zone ((EEZ) and territorial waters. For the USA, it is Alaska and Hawaii; for Russia, the Caucasus, Finland, Ukraine and Central Asia’s landlocked states; to Australia, it’s Tasmania and New Zealand; for Iran, the Persian Gulf; for Turkey, Bosphorus and Dardanelles Strait, connecting Black Sea to the Aegean/Mediterranean; and to India, the Himalayas — from Karakoram to the Tibet-India-Myanmar junction, notwithstanding the absurd, hallucinatory claim of a remote Han CPC.
In juxtaposition, how will the CPC take India or Russia’s diplomatic discussions with Mongolia for upgrading of the mission status or the EU conferring with Hong Kong for expanding consular facility; the USA basing the Pacific fleet of three carrier battle groups (CBG) along with Ticonderoga cruisers and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers at Da Nang (Vietnam); the UK initiating Hong Kong’s “special status” restoration; Taiwan becoming NATO’s Indo-Pacific Far-East Air Command; and Russia’s 99-year leasing of nuclear subs to North Korea? Obviously, each will be unacceptable to the CPC, being its perceived zone of influence, notwithstanding their remoteness.
Today, the silent and virtually top secret Bhutan-Beijing talks too amount to an unethical encroachment on India’s core strategic security which goes far beyond the mundane semantic “zone of influence and interest”. Beijing’s entry into Bhutan is one-for-all prelude to an inexorable change of future India map. It surely gives the CPC-led dictator vantage “punching ground to knock out India from her own territory”. Like Mao, his disciple Xi too is itching to cement his place, outclassing his idol. Xi sees the CPC centenary year as a life-time opportunity to put India on the mat in her own backyard.
And regrettably, if Beijing does break the traditional Bharat-Bhutan goodwill to directly access the landlocked sub-Himalayan nation, all of India’s seven states in the North-east and the eastern states of Sikkim, Bengal and Bihar instantly come under the CPC’s “fire-and-forget” trajectory and line of fire.
Unmistakably, the officially mandated August 2009 CPC goal propounded by Zhan Lue of the China Institute for Strategic Studies (CIISS) comes alive: “China should break India into 20-30 states with the help of friendly countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.” Understandably, in the Chinese game plan, Bhutan’s importance originates not from gun-power or manpower, but the power of geography which makes the CPC’s long-cherished dream come true: Mission Break India.
It is India’s time of reckoning, as even at the best of times, the North-east has shown fragility and vulnerability, thanks to CPC malice for the last 60 years. In the east too, three vivisections (1905, 1947, 1971) and two partitions (1947, 1971) have made it volatile in patches. The CPC, therefore, is bound to relish the taste, at the expense of acute Indian distress. Thus, more the division and destruction, nearer comes the CPC’s Mission India — from acquiring the water resources of Himalayas to operating across the Bay of Bengal for trade, marine food, profit, cash and expansion without expenses. Conquest without combat, money without mayhem, intelligence without investment!
Though India is ceased of CPC malice, yet what’s worrying is the conspicuous and recurring failure to deal with visible and known China malware. This has cost India dear as her smaller neighbours, instead of banking on traditional friendship, are steadily looking up to the Dragon, thereby pushing Delhi to an acute angle where from its becoming impossible to launch an effective counter-measure against the CPC onslaught.
Lastly, Delhi may remind Bhutan of the Dragon’s long-term game-plan. Mao had assumptions of claim to Bhutan as ‘lost territory’ (1939) and Nepal as ‘lost’ Chinese property, whose envoy from Lhasa wrote in 1904: “The Bhutanese are subjects of the Chinese Emperor who’s Lord of Heaven”, adding significantly that Bhutan is the “Gateway on the South”. Isn’t the 1939 warning grave enough? South Asia’s Bhutan going to remote Beijing implies a massively territory-shrunk Bharat!
Postscript: The calculated inexorable result appears near. Dragon’s October 23, 2021 stipulated “law”, effective January 1, 2022 states: “Sovereignty and territorial integrity of China are sacred and inviolable”, thereby suggesting that India’s is not. Obviously, Beijing is bent on a long haul over Bharat through Bhutan. Ominous indeed are the days ahead for India’s territorial integrity. The Han-engineered Himalayan “climate-change radiation” has started harming Hindustan to the point of no return.
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