Thursday, 30 June, 2022
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The Indian Right cares about national security, except when China tip-toes near our territory

Once it was decided that Modi government would get a free pass on the question of a probable Chinese incursion, every Congress leader – from Nehru to Manmohan – was blamed for seceding territory.  

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The year 2020 is upending a political cliché – that the conservative Right is the best guarantor of national security. The ideologically awkward but artful dodging that the Indian conservatives are engaging in on the issue of India-China stand-offs in the Ladakh area shows they have allowed not only partisanship but also wooly-headedness to override any national security concerns.

In the parallel universe of Twitter, India’s Right-leaning handles gave up their long-held ideological convictions, and, in the last 72 hours, have also suspended their common sense. Once it was decided to give the Narendra Modi government a free pass on the question of a probable Chinese incursion across the Line of Actual Control (LAC), now every Congress leader – from Nehru to Manmohan Singh – would be blamed for seceding territory to China.

Also read: Amid tensions at LAC, Amit Shah brings up China role in Covid outbreak

Are you really a conservative?

As reports emerged about China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) having allegedly parked its troops on Indian territory in Ladakh, many in the Indian Right chose to completely deny it.

And in a couple of days, as the Indian establishment began to signal that everything was not okay along the border, some such as national security analyst Nitin Gokhale cited an ambiguous statement by the spokesperson of China’s foreign affairs ministry to argue that now our northern neighbours were “de-escalating”. Others were confused by this stance:

Meanwhile, Indian defence officials were still warning against reading “too much” into the statements made by the Chinese foreign ministry.

If this wasn’t enough, soon began the game of satellite imagery. While gathering intelligence via open-source satellite images requires a whole set of skills, the Indian Right had managed to produce experts overnight.

Although, there were some with the actual know-how to read satellite imagery, and said it was possible that the Chinese had not crossed over to the Indian side. There were other experts who pointed out the discrepancy between reports and the conclusions being drawn from satellite imagery.

But who cares about caveats and minor discrepancies? A large section of the conservatives chose to just jump on the bandwagon that no incursion had happened. 

The issue here isn’t whether the Chinese have crossed the LAC or not. The question is how do conservatives not go berserk at even the remotest mention of India losing its territory? The idea runs against every grain of national security-nuclear weapons loving conservatives.

Territorial integrity is sacred for every nationalist. After all, isn’t it the love for territory that is supposed to drive our policies in Kashmir?

Also read: Chinese troops blacktopping track in disputed ‘finger’ area in Ladakh amid border tensions

Fait accompli or a figment of imagination? 

Since the reports of Chinese incursion started to pour in, scholars of security studies have hotly debated the possibility of India having undergone a “fait accompli”, a concept of territorial conquest developed by Georgia State University scholar Dan Altman.

During a fait accompli, a country conducts territorial conquest by targeting a small territory of the adversary, which usually has a “low population” and the absence of a “defending military garrison”. The aim is to capture territory in a way that reduces the risk of war, according to Altman.

So, on the one hand, we had scholars debating the possible Indian response in case it had undergone a fait accompli, and on the other hand, a large section of India’s Right-wing claiming that there is no way Chinese troops have pitched tents on India territory.

One would expect that people who adore the idea of destroying Pakistan would at least engage with such strategising regarding a probable Indian military response. For them, even the possibility of territorial loss is unacceptable. It is ironic that the same group that supports the government’s quest to take back Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, would stay silent during a possible territorial incursion by the other neighbour. Much like everything in foreign policy, the answer to how the Indian Right got here lies in domestic politics.

Also read: The Chinese are so predictable, Modi & Shah should’ve seen them coming on 5 August 2019

Pakistan on your mind 

For the past few years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government have projected the idea of a self-sufficient or ‘atmanirbhar’ India, especially when it comes to national security. “India is strongest under the leadership of PM Modi,” said Home Minister Amit Shah in October 2019. 

The overarching claim by the Modi government is that not only can India manage its own security, but no other power would dare to harm us in a serious way. After the Pulwama and Uri attacks, Modi’s India did not turn to the United States but launched strikes as a deterrent.

The problem is the Right-wing’s Pakistan fixation. Several scholars who study Pakistan have pointed to how the country’s political and strategic elite spends a disproportionate amount of time talking about India. This has spoilt the Indian Right, made it lazy, and eroded its ability to analyse an adversary.

When US President Donald Trump proposed to mediate between India and China, a flurry of Right-leaning journalists such as Smita Prakash talked about how the “middle kingdom” being equated to India would not go down well with Beijing.

The obsession with Pakistan is such that news anchor Navika Kumar called China’s PLA the “Pakistan Liberation Army”.

The Indian conservatives have begun to see China exactly how they see Pakistan – a country obsessed only with India. And it couldn’t be any further from the truth. While India might matter for China, it’s hard to miss that Beijing is currently also embroiled in conflict with superpower US, in the South China Sea, and with its estranged cousins Taiwan and Hong Kong.

In foreign policymaking, a lot depends on how a country analyses its operational environment. Unfortunately for India, our conservatives – who are supposed to prioritise national security at all costs – are not only choosing to ignore the size and complexity of Chinese strategic thinking, but also deciding to ignore a possible territorial bite by them.

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  1. Right differentiates because pakistan as a nation wants to implement ghazwa e hind to kill or enslave all non believers in INDIA. LEFT columnist whereas have no disagreement with pakistani thinking , but also agree with china on destabilising and insulting INDIA.

    • Mr Shailesh: You seem to forget that China is Pakistan’s all-weather friend and they together bleed India “by a thousand cuts”. Regardless of the regime in power in Delhi and regardless of whether you are a liberal or a breather of Arnab Goswami’s hot air, that equation has not changed over the past 6 decades or so. And any Tom, Dick & Hariharan knows who the puppet and the puppetmaster are in that relationship.

      But the trouble with people like you who seem to have overdosed on gomutra is that you focus on the puppet rather than the puppetmaster. Ideologies such the Pakistani Lashkar e Taiba’s “ghazwa e Hind” and its Hindutva equivalent propounded by the RSS viz. “Akhand Bharath” remain merely the wishful thinking of crackpots on both sides of the border. Of course, people like you might have difficulties in sifting fact from fiction. Especially when facts are not what you see in front of you but what your itchy groined gaurakshak friends tell you.

      And reminding Indians, especially blinkered blind bhakths like you that in reality, China has outflanked and outwitted India in Ladakh and Indian territory is being held by the Chinese is not “insulting India”.

  2. Pakistan thinks its competing with India; India thinks its competing with China. Neither are anywhere close to truth. China is competing with the US for global dominance and the US is competing with itself and the world. All of the weirdness makes for a great dysfunctional joint family, called the UN.

  3. India can’t take on china today. India has to improve defense forces and more importantly need a vibrant and powerful economy. So it is prudent and settle the issue non militarily.

  4. The Indian Right cares about India’s borders not Congress,Communists and Leftist who can all be bought for thr right price so Shekar Gupta who is an Anti-Right must watch out otherwise we will destroy you with Congress.JAI HIND

    • Mr Sunil Chohan: Governments of all hues and stripes and India’s many Prime Ministers who have come and gone have indeed cared for the nation’s borders and the territorial integrity of the nation. That includes everyone – from Jawaharlal Nehru to Narendra Modi, regardless of their party affiliations. Their patriotism is not the issue at hand.

      But the problem with gaurakshaks like you is your fanatical belief that patriotism can only come from the bowels of the BJP or the RSS and everyone else is an anti-national. In that puerile, simplistic worldview, your ilk forgets that one of the masterstrokes of Indian foreign policy was the quick dismemberment of Pakistan in 1971 under the leadership of PM Indira Gandhi. Not only was E.Pakistan eliminated as a threat to India’s eastern flank, it also demolished Jinnah’s 2 nation theory that Pakistan was the homeland for India’s Muslims.

      I understand itchy groined gaurakshaks reared in RSS shakas many not be able to comprehend the nuances I describe here. But alas Mr Chohan, the Viagra you have been prescribed will not treat your congenital intellectual impotence. So do ahead and bray to your heart’s content. You know, empty vessels and all that …

  5. Srijan Shukla’s article sounds like Rahul Gandhi taunting Modi to show 56 inches on Doklam after he had Whiskey on the rocks and ate spicy Kung Pao chicken at the Chinese Ambassador’s residence in Delhi. Srijan as a journalist should at-least know the basics of diplomacy that cannot be conducted in public glare. You have to allow some quiet space for diplomacy to play and if that doesn’t yield then escape gradually with force. There is a euphemism in play among the diplomats and political leaders at both sides claiming perception difference between two countries on actual borders. Why no one bothered last 70 years to explain what are Chinese claims and all media and political propaganda has been on propping up Pakistan in our psyche?

  6. One would not call Ms Pliable “ right leaning “. She always leans towards the incumbent. Did she have any problems with UPA during its decade in power. The first time I became aware of her existence was when she described what it was to be part of the press contingent on Air India One when Dr Singh was PM. Let us not soil the word Nationalist by appending it to carpetbaggers. We are all nationalists in our own ways but do not wear it on our sleeves, like eight rings with different coloured stones on our fingers or wads of sacred thread on our wrists.

  7. Title of the article should have been “Venting Anger Against Indian Conservatives ” . Because this article conveys nothing more than that.

    • Mr Sanket Singh: Unbelieveable that you would rather fight against Indians who support the Congress rather than the Chinese who invade India making a laughingstock of the Gujarati 56 incher and people like you !

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