New Delhi foolishly playing with fire

China Daily
Li Jiayao
2020-07-01 00:13:26

More than two weeks have passed since the most deadly clash in over four decades on the Sino-Indian border broke out on June 15, during which 20 Indian soldiers died with an undisclosed number of casualties reported on the Chinese side as well.

Yet rather than seeking to cool tensions and bring their damaged relationship back onto the normal track by meeting China halfway as Beijing has urged, New Delhi seems to be riding a wave of jingoism and nationalist fever, and escalating tensions instead.

In another move to stoke enmity against China, the Indian government on Monday banned 59 Chinese mobile apps, including the popular TikTok and WeChat, on the pretext of national security and privacy concerns.

Before that, its customs officials had already held shipments originating from China for extra checks, causing Chinese exports to pile up at the ports, and its politicians were calling for a boycott of Chinese goods. Indian hotels are also reportedly barring Chinese guests.

All this, along with the fact that there is a massive buildup of Indian troops along the border with a reported resetting of the no-fire rule of engagement to allow for "complete action" when dealing with Chinese border forces — which runs counter to previous bilateral accord preventing the use of guns — cannot but spark worries that the situation may get out of control between the two neighbors.

By pushing the envelope on the border issue in disregard of the restraint shown by the Chinese government, India wants to portray itself as a country standing up against a bullying neighbor, because it hopes it may get more than it loses with its political and military adventurism.

The United States, which considers India as a major player in its Indo-Pacific strategy to contain China, has expressed support for India confronting "armed aggression" by China, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo promising a review of its global deployment of forces to counter what he sees is the rising threat of the People's Liberation Army in Asia. India-US military-to-military ties have strengthened markedly in recent years, with arms deals signed worth billions of dollars.

India's experience in the 1962 border war has been attributed to arrogance and poor judgment on the part of New Delhi, which, by provoking China into action, paid the "price for its misadventure in men, money and national humiliation".

The Indian government risks committing the same mistake again if it continues playing with fire by infringing on China's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

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