After a two-month standoff, China is showing some definite signs of disengaging from the Line of Actual Control (LAC), following Sunday’s lengthy conversation between National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Chinese state councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
The dent in China’s psyche has not come easily. The demonstration of India’s standout military will—evident from the gallantry shown by Colonel Santosh Babu and his brave troops on the treacherous heights of the Galwan valley on June 15—has been central in “softening” the Chinese mental stock.
Diplomacy has played its due part. Two American aircraft carriers, USS Ronald Reagan and USS Nimitz, crossed the Luzon strait in the Philippine Sea into the contested waters of the South China Sea on China’s doorstep. On the Eurasian front, the Russians have swiftly responded to India’s request for additional numbers of Su-30MKI and MiG-29 fighter jets. France is sending the first batch of Rafale multirole fighters, most probably by the month end.
But the biggest force multiplier has been Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his standout leadership, which has hit the Chinese leadership the hardest. If the mandarins in Beijing thought they could do a Nehru on Modi by militarily embarrassing him before a global audience in Ladakh, those ill-conceived dreams have been shattered.
In the last one week, the world saw how the Prime Minister, the leader of 1.3 billion Indians, dashed to the border to mingle with jawans manning the frontline with China. In their midst, his words, “Days of expansionism are over. Expansionism creates danger for world peace. This is an era of development and expansionist forces have either lost or forced to turn back,” have echoed across the globe.
In Australia, The Canberra Times carried a story titled “India&#39;s Modi visits troops at China border.” The report concluded that PM Modi’s assertions in Leh prompted Beijing to call for restraint at “the tense border area in the northern Himalayan region of Ladakh.”
“Today India is becoming stronger, be it in naval might, air power, space power and the strength of our army. Modernization of weapons and upgradation of infrastructure has enhanced our defence capabilities multi-fold,” it quoted Modi as saying. The article said that the “most serious” crisis on the India-China border in years has erupted while Beijing is embroiled in disputes over the South China Sea, Taiwan, and its tightening grip over Hong Kong, which have all fanned fears of an expansionist policy.
Leading from the front, PM Modi demonstrated the art of chalking out coherent policy involving strategic, diplomatic, economic and psychological aspects to achieve the desired results.
The Prime Minister’s “red team,” including Doval and the cerebral External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, mobilized the network of embassies and influential global Indian diaspora to relay India’s stand. Unsurprisingly, many American leaders such as Rick Scott, Marco Rubio, Tom Cotton, Eliot Engel, and Ami Bera spoke out in one voice against China’s antics.
PM Modi’s personal chemistry with world leaders proved critical in providing India the visible diplomatic and moral high ground over China. The PM’s one-on-one personal equation with the leaders of the US, Russia, France, Japan, Britain, Germany and Israel, paid off brilliantly in India’s hour of need. US President Donald Trump, in fact, moved his naval fleets to South China sea, catching China off guard.
While garnering support from the world, Indian PM also used considerable economic fire power to wobble China. India took the bold step of banning 59 Chinese apps, and cancelled ongoing and future Chinese projects throughout the country. These included barring Chinese companies for bidding for road projects, stopping imports of power equipment, prohibiting Chinese investments in micro small and medium enterprises, and blocking their consignments at ports. A nationwide call was also given by various organizations to boycott Chinese products.
This collective impact of these unprecedented moves was stunning. The combined estimated loss for these apps and Chinese companies is around $50 billion and counting. This number will only go upwards. The lead shown by India is now catching up with the rest of the world.
Asked by Fox News on Monday whether the US should also be banning Chinese apps including Tiktok, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “… your viewers should know we’re taking this very seriously. We’re certainly looking at it. We’ve worked on this very issue for a long time, whether it was the problems of having Huawei technology in your infrastructure. We’ve gone all over the world and we’re making real progress getting that out. We declared ZTE a danger to American national security. We’ve done all of these things. With respect to Chinese apps on people’s cell phones, I can assure you the United States will get this one right too… I don’t want to get out in front of the President, but it’s something we’re looking at.”
Similar sentiments are being expressed in Australia and elsewhere.
If China is now beginning to change its tune, it is out of the realization that New India is no longer a pushover; it is backed by powerful and committed friends. The rules of the old play book no longer apply..