While the people of India associate the treachery of China with the 1962 war where India faced humiliation under a romantic Jawaharlal Nehru, another maudlin personality before him had earlier received a royal snub from Chinese revolutionaries in 1924: Rabindranath Tagore. The history of Chinese non-interest in cooperation with India — let alone to tackle the West — never changed its course as far as the policy of the thinking heads of India’s northern neighbour is concerned. Nevertheless, naive that Indians are, the effort to cosy up to China never ended, be it during the 1979 visit of Atal Bihari Vajpayee to that country, Rajiv Gandhi’s photo-op with Deng Xiaoping, PV Narasimha Rao’s extended hand of cooperation with Beijing with the concern that the US should not be the sole superpower post-Cold War, UPA government’s attempts to woo Hu Jintao. While an India still suffering a socialist hangover in the 1990s was concerned about a unipolar world, a much free-er democracy is now struggling to fit itself in a unipolar Asia. If at all there was ever a change in India’s China policy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi or any colleague of his in the government never stated the expansionist communists must be embraced while cleverly refraining from making provocative statements like George Fernandes who had awkwardly stated in a public forum that China was India’s “enemy number one”. Notwithstanding the optics of Wuhan, Ahmedabad and Chennai, Modi and Xi Jinping in one frame never quite looked photogenic. But now that, in the wake of the Galwan Valley skirmish, nobody is accusing the current political heads of India of unduly trusting the instinctively imperial power, Modi must take the next logical step that all his predecessors either did not even contemplate or were too inhibited about: forging an international alliance against the dangerous force.
If the concern has been the lives of Indian soldiers, the country’s successive governments can barely justify supporting the hardly effective United Nations with peace-keeping forces. Whereas sending the IPKF to Sri Lanka was foolhardy too, shying away from playing an active role in international affairs, especially in south-east Asia, has not helped our geopolitical interests. Thankfully, India can expect better from a flamboyant US President Donald Trump. But we have been so docile, even a sober Barack Obama had got agitated during his speech in the Indian parliament, asking us why, as a democracy, we never did anything about the junta in Myanmar. Then Modi has Japan to look up to, where Shinzo Abe has made his discomfiture with Xi obvious.
Nobody is itching for a war most certainly. Even China, for all its adventurism, isn’t — as capitalistic as a communist that the country is, wary of losing the Indian market for its substandard goods. It will but not stop needling India from the Line of Actual Control up to the MacMahon Line. India must prick it back. To make the balance effective, raising with vehemence the issues of Tibetan independence and Hong Kongers’ democratic self-determination, New Delhi needs Washington as well as Tokyo. Pushing for a fresh WTO regime, countries across the world can also compensate for the rise in cost caused by a global boycott of Chinese products, which can be proposed in the aftermath of the coronavirus mischief. This should go hand-in-hand with the arrival of Russian S-400, French Rafale and America’s superlative surveillance systems.