Updated: Jul 20, 2020
On the night of 15 June 2020, India lost twenty gallant soldiers to Chinese troops in the Galawan valley of Union Territory of Ladakh, India. I am perturbed and disturbed both; my thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved family who made the supreme sacrifice. In this write-up, I have a few points to make to understand the response that Bharat must have in order to effectively deter the enemy and its nefarious designs. I must also declare here unequivocally and emphatically, this write up is not against the people of China. I have studied in China and have lived in Shanghai for more than 8 months. I have many Chinese friends who are akin to my family. My regard, love, and admiration for Chinese culture, food, civilization, and people is the same as for any human on the face of the earth. We all are one human race with different manifestations of appearance and speech. This article merely underscores the shortcoming of a governmental structure in the great civilization of China.
The raison d’etre of Chinese incursion in Ladakh: Use of armed force as a state policy is always resorted to achieve some meticulously defined political or other objectives. No state would yearn for armed conflict without the tangible objective that it wishes to achieve which is otherwise non-achievable through peaceful means, viz. diplomatic outreach, international arbitration, mediation, or negotiations. Now, what is it that Chinese wish to achieve through their incursion in Indian territory and altering status-quo begs some explanation as to their objective for which use of force is last resort. Is the territorial dispute in arid though critical territory of Ladakh something that India denied to discuss peacefully, was altering the status quo so critical, which left China no choice except military solution. Indian and Chinese sides have well placed mechanism for territorial dispute backed by international agreements between them. Instead of resorting to, China chose heavy military deployment in the disputed territory. The talks have been going on for forty years, and China has been relentless in its claim.
Thus, what was the urgency for China to come to the Indian side of Line of Actual Control with heavy military equipment and personnel? Was it so urgent that necessitated Chinese action in this troubled time of Corona that has caused a steep slump in Indian and the world economy that it has no alternative forum left? Did it approach the UN for dispute resolution? The answer to these questions is that no such urgency, exigencies, or necessity were there given the plethora of forums and mechanisms that are in place for peaceful resolution of these issues for which China has started military buildup. What then explains the Chinese act in Galwan Valley, Ladakh? What is it that India is fighting for, piece of land or territorial integrity, or something else which is more important than all these. What is the objective that China wishes to achieve with the use of force in international relations?
Before I explain the motive and objective of the Chinese use of muscles, let us first see the geopolitical condition of the Indian subcontinent. The subcontinent and its neighborhood are besieged with all anti-democratic and anti-rule of law based political units mimicking as State. India is the only shiny beacon of democracy, free society, a free market economy, and the rule of law based civilization. Her neighborhood is studded with nuclear weapons rogue states of which China is a leader. China has nuclearized two states Pakistan and North Korea, despite sitting as a member of the Nuclear Supply Group. It has given them military delivery systems for these nuclear weapons. India is not fighting just a war of territorial integrity, it's a battle of the ideology of rule of law versus the rule of the person; constitutional sovereignty versus political absolutism; accountability versus authoritarianism; perpetual peace versus perpetual chaos and violence; and sovereign equality versus sovereign hegemony; and spiritual morality versus the morality of strength and money. India represents the former part of this battle and China is the later.
Now, what explains the Chinese flexing of muscle in India? In my humble opinion, it’s a fight between democracy and authoritarianism; the former is represented by India and later is championed by China. The Chinese regime is alien to the idea of political accountability, theirs is not a responsible government, it is an authoritarian government which answers to no one except a handful selected members of Polit Bureau which is the coterie of like minded people; not a Parliament of diverse opinions and ideologies. Chinese people have lots of questions that they are hankering for mismanaging of the Covid-19 outbreak therein; instead of explanation or owning of mistakes, the regime in China is covering up and muzzling any such voice for political accountability. Unrest is brewing within the mainland and in Hong Kong, sweeping the floor under the feet of the Chinese authoritarian regime. The situation has the potential to spiral up into an internal rebellion or civil war. This time China would not be able to quell these revolutions with brute force; because of international pressure, it would give in. Chinese dispensation is well cognizant thereof. Chinese management and opaqueness of internal affairs have led to pandemic worldwide which has caused suffering in terms of loss of life, jobs, and property. The world has changed for good; and the international community is in no mood to let it go unaccountable in international rule of law.
Thus, if there is any diversionary tactic, which could deflect the attention of the international community as well as internal masses; it is engaging the world with armed conflict or mere posturing thereof. This will emotionally arouse the Chinese people with national sentiments and also transfer the anger from Chinese dispensation to the external enemy like India, or other.
Admittedly, war or armed conflict was the reason that European thinkers- likes of Kant, Rousseau, etc., thought of a government, which is not political absolutism. In a democracy where the government is the will of people; it would be virtually impossible to go to war arbitrarily. The focus of the government would be the welfare of the people and not the protection of the government, the hard earned money of the people would not be easily wasted in the cause of war which is not posing any danger to its masses in their individual capacity or as a social group or nations. Additionally, it is empirically proven through research that post World War II, constitutional democracies have not fought a war against each other. It is also established that authoritarian regimes are more prone to wage war against democracies.
European model of International Law: Modern day international law has sprung from European practices. What was European nations select club to protect their internal affairs from external aggression led them to come together under one umbrella not as a federation but as confederation or group of a sovereign nation who wanted to protect constitutional democracies based on rule of law from an external aggressor who was against such societies and ideologies. Thus, came the concept of the modern law of nations or international law. Today it has grown into a full-fledged independent system and has expanded across the world, however, its foundational premise remains the same. It’s a tool to protect and promote democracies and governance based on the rule of law within the home and outside the home. Europe as NATO and the USA have always gone out of their shores to protect free societies at their home is testimony to this fact.
Modern International Law: In international setup, the appropriate forum is UN and its executive organ of Security Council which should now swoop in action, however, it seems impossible because of the nature of functioning thereof. No substantive matter therein can be passed through a resolution without the concurrence of five permanent members, and China is one of the permanent members, therefore, the Security Council is not going to act. Another option that the UN has is United for Peace Resolution (General Assembly Resolution 377A) which mandates the General Assembly to consider and act on those matters on which the Security Council could not act upon because of non-concurrence of all the five permanent members. Given the poor track record of Chinese across the world because of their expansionist movement, the resolution against Chinese incursion would sail through. It is highly unlikely India would resort to it unless there is consensus among the comity of nations.
Indian Options: India is the sole representative of a free world of constitutional societies in the Indian subcontinent and its immediate neighborhood. Indian foreign policy objective should be to further democracy, and rule of law in its region. Foreign policy is nothing but the extension of domestic interest at the international platform. Constitutional democracies need to come together to thwart the authoritarianism and its blatant display by the Chinese. Their foreign policy of China is pummeling the small states, and to grow economically to justify their non-democratic government to its population. Expansionism is the tool of all political absolutist form of government, which is again being established by the Chinese. Because such governments have much lesser domestic focus-politically- as they have perpetual continuity of their government. India must fight Chinese imperialism; not for mere pieces of land, rather for freedom, equality, justice, and rule of law. That is the true and metaphysical nature of this conflagration between India and China. Constitutional democracy would ensure perpetual peace whereas political absolutism would always result in imperialism and subjugation. Let's fight for freedom and rule of law. India did not invade any country in its glorious ten thousand years of civilization should not be the humdinger for us, for we were not spared invasion and attacks. If Bharat wishes peace, it must first fight it out. Change the course of civilization to protect the very civilization.
Author: Abhishek Mishra
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