With Chinese troops at the gates, unity is the need of the hour

Dissent and debate are the cornerstone of any democracy, but these can’t be the excuse to undermine our national resolve and demoralise the armed forces.

The current cantankerous wrangling and one-upmanship between India’s political parties against the backdrop of the India-China border standoff is sweet music to China’s ears. It conveys the impression of a weak, fragmented nation totally vulnerable to its hegemonistic designs, emboldening it to act with impunity.

 In its desperate and shameless bid to embarrass the current government and make itself a serious contender to regain power, it appears that the Congress will not stop at anything. Nothing is sacred, nothing is beyond limits; not even the unity, dignity and security of the nation will stand in its way — this is the guiding mantra of the Congress during this crisis.

 Rahul Gandhi’s relentless and single-minded assault on the government oscillates capriciously between juvenile sarcasm and absurd accusations: an unlikely, laughable and dangerous combination of Rambo and Don Quixote. These scathing attacks serve no utility value at this juncture coming across as petty, vindictive and self-serving rhetoric. Adding their own mite to the voice of their master are a host of obsequious foot soldiers, including Kapil Sibal and P. Chidambaram.

A cardinal tenet of any civilised nation is that in times of war, people band together and rally around the leader. The negativist campaign in play today, though masquerading as a well-intentioned debate, violates this dictum in its entirety. This ill-timed, dangerous and malignant domestic narrative essayed by the “pull down Modi” gang speaks of policy failure, operational lapse and duplicity; an irresponsible baseless hectoring that will only serve to weaken the national resolve.

 As usual Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the target of this vicious battering. The pivotal argument in this concocted composition is that PM Modi was so smitten by President Xi Jinping’s aura and his own ambitions of being a world statesman that he misread the Chinese President’s intentions. Chidambaram, in a 22 June article, indicts Modi for an error of misjudgment — of failing to “take a correct measure of Mr Xi” and accuses Modi of being conciliatory in the face of transgression.

Ajai Shukla writing in the New York Times, on 19 June, reiterates the same line, albeit in a more vocal manner. He characterises Modi’s China policy as being “in tatters”. Using adjectives like “pusillanimous”, he portrays PM Modi as a gullible and expediently timid leader — guilty of misjudging Xi, of being subservient to China and of being too late to “discover his voice” in the current crises.

None of these wild suppositions pass the test of evidence or logic. Modi’s overture of friendship towards China did not preclude or compromise the nation’s military preparedness. Nor did it act as a damper to strike up new strategic partnerships with countries inimical to China, like the US, Japan and Australia. In fact, China’s current aggressive posturing is the direct result of India’s accelerated pace of infrastructure build up along the LAC, especially the completion of the 255-km-long DarbukShyokh-Daulat Beg Oldie (DSDBO) all-weather road that connects Leh to DBO and provides the Indian military access to the Tibet-Xinjaing highway that passes through Aksai Chin and gives it vantage position vis-à-vis the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK). The growth of the India-US strategic partnership under PM Modi has also irked the Chinese.

 Since Modi came to power in 2014, there has been a concerted drive to shore up our infrastructure in the vicinity of the LAC. Bureaucratic hurdles have been removed (blanket approval for roads within 100 km of the LAC) and infrastructure build up has increased at a faster rate: more roads have been constructed, more bridges built and more tunnels excavated in the last 6 years.

The charge that the government failed to act appropriately and promptly once the Chinese transgression was discovered in early May is a rush to hasty judgement. The crisis is not over yet. So far, the government has acted prudently allowing negotiations to run their course before taking effective proactive measures. When China failed to deescalate as per the 6 June meeting of the respective military commanders, India acted decisively at Galwan Valley demolishing a newly-erected Chinese post even at the cost of the lives of 20 soldiers.

The ultimate objective in the current impasse is for both parties to withdraw to pre-April positions and the best-case scenario would be if this is achieved without any further loss of lives or recourse to outright war.

By not resorting to provocative jingoism and by his restrained remarks, Modi has left the door open for any rapprochement if possible, however slim the chances. His silence, read along with India’s enhanced military preparedness (deployment of Air Force and troops in adequate numbers), cannot be interpreted as pusillanimity or naivete. It is the hallmark of maturity and responsibility.

It is nobody’s contention that uncomfortable questions regarding national security should not be raised. But that is a topic for another day and another time when the immediate threat has faded. And at that time we should also seek an explanation from the Congress, which has governed in India for more than 50 years of India’s 73 years of independent existence as to the cause of the power asymmetry between Indian and China. More specifically, we would like to know about the corruption scandal and the delay involving the completion of the strategic DSDBO road that is at the centre of the current IndiaChina confrontation.

Commenting on the current political debate raging in the country, General V.P. Malik, the Indian Army chief during the Kargil war, remarked: “National security is the biggest issue. It is a matter of great sadness that our political parties are publicly raising their fingers on the issue of national security. Of course, raising questions is your right, but instead of doing it publicly, discuss it in the meeting, it would do better.”

 We need to heed this piece of advice. Dissent and debate are the cornerstone of any democracy and it is important that we respect differing opinions. But when someone indulges in such boorish behaviour that undermines our national resolve and attempts to demoralise the Army while an expansionist power is hovering menacingly on our borders then the gloves are off — these are anti-nationals.