Monday 25 July 2022

For PLA, border negotiations are Zero Sum (The Sunday Guardian)

 Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar have understood the intractable nature of the policy followed by China’s leader, General Secretary Xi Jinping, towards the world’s most populous democracy, soon to be the world’s most populous country. That is, unless Xi has another brainwave and threatens to put any couple in jail if they fail to have three or more children. Of course, just as his lockdown strategy has failed to ensure Zero Covid, even such a draconian measure would not succeed in persuading most couples in the PRC to adopt the example of zealots in Germany in the 1930s, who believed that it was their duty to the state to have as many children as possible to later get spent as cannon fodder in the wars that the country was then planning under its leadership at the time. Over the decades, more and more Chinese people have travelled abroad, and have understood the benefits that a government less than all powerful would bring to the country, were such a system to replace the stifling control of all aspects of Chinese life that is the objective of the CCP led by Xi Jinping. In schools and in the media, the supremo of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) figures as the wise leader, the guide and teacher, and the only individual who can ensure safety and prosperity for the 1.4 billion citizens of the PRC. Xi is only popular among the millions of citizens of his country who have failed to better their living standards, and who relish the fact that those more successful are living in constant dread of an early morning hammering on the door, followed by incarceration and sometimes, not just temporary but permanent disappearance. In China, individuals are picked up, entire families are ruined, for reasons that are opaque, although the usual formulations are trotted out whenever such detentions or disgrace takes place. Corruption, disloyalty to the party, inefficiency, harm to the national interest. These are huge boxes that are capable of being used to fit almost any individual.

China under Xi is not similar to the USSR under Joseph Stalin in the 1930s. Those in charge of the NKVD knew that they had quotas to fulfill in the matter of rounding up and disposing of Soviet citizens, and that unless they met them, they themselves would join the ranks of those whose lives they destroyed. Once he gets the assent of the higher councils of the party leadership to be General Secretary for Life, the numerous acts of repression and muzzling of opinion are likely to proliferate, as those down the line seek to follow the example of the General Secretary. This is the country whose military is sitting down for negotiations with their Indian counterparts. Xi has lavished money and attention to GHQ Rawalpindi on a scale not seen before in the annals of the PRC, a bad bet. Just as Joe Biden seems not to realise that the travail of his country is directly related to his policy of the self-destructive Ukraine sanctions imposed by him in conjunction with Boris Johnson and European leaders who ought to have known better, Xi Jinping has failed to understand the lack of wisdom in his pouring resources into GHQ-run Pakistan at the cost of alienating India. For Xi and, therefore, the PLA, dealing with India is a Zero Sum game in which border negotiations get used to win on the conference table what could not be secured on the battlefield, even as its trade surplus with India grows. PM Modi and EAM Jaishankar understand that, as do our military commanders. To expect Xi to understand that only a full withdrawal by the PLA to the positions they had occupied in 2019 would best serve the Chinese interest (of having India as a friend and not a foe) is to expect the impossible. Given the certainty of another conflict with China, what needs to be done is to prepare sufficiently in terms both international and domestic to ensure that this time around, most of the fighting takes place on PRC-controlled rather than on Indian territory.

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