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‘PM’s Ladakh visit underscored India’s resolve to beat back Chinese aggression’

PTI, Jul 5, 2020, 7:49 PM IST

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Ladakh underscored India’s resolve to beat back Chinese aggression and he delivered a clear message there to the neighbouring country with his reference to “expansionism”, strategic affairs expert Brahma Chellaney said on Sunday.

Modi’s visit and the speech were morale boosters for the troops and his reference to “expansionism” echoed the mounting international concern over China’s “imperial overreach under Xi Jinping, who has simultaneously opened multiple fronts”, he said.

“Modi’s visit to the Ladakh front underscored India’s resolve to beat back China’s aggression and encroachments,” Chellaney told PTI Bhasha.

“After weeks of concerted government effort to downplay the Himalayan border confrontation and obscure China’s encroachments, Modi’s visit to Ladakh helped shine a spotlight on the war-like situation India confronts,” the strategic affairs expert said.

Asserting that China has sought to take advantage of the world’s preoccupation with the Covid-19 pandemic, Chellaney said Xi has been pushing the limits, be it breaking Beijing’s binding commitment to Hong Kong’s autonomy, attempting to police the waters off the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands or picking up a border fight with India by encroaching on its territory.

President Xi’s actions are shifting attention from China’s culpability in the global spread of Covid-19 to the threat his authoritarian regime poses to international security, the professor of strategic studies at the Centre for Policy Research said.

“Xi’s ambition, coupled with the concentration camps he has set up and the cult of personality around him, has led some to compare him with other expansionist despots of modern history. US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien recently said that ‘Xi sees himself as Joseph Stalin’s successor’,” Chellaney said.

“Some, however, have compared Xi with Adolf Hitler. Like Hitler’s expansionism, Xi has opened multiple fronts. And, what Xi’s regime is doing to the Muslims of Xinjiang appears to be a reprise of what the Nazis did to the Jews. In fact, Xi has earned the social-media nickname of ‘Xitler’,” he said.

Chellaney said without naming China, Modi delivered a clear message to the country and this was apparent from Beijing’s reaction to the prime minister’s speech.

“If a message can be conveyed without naming the country, is there any need to mention the country by name?” he asked.

Two weeks before he went to Ladakh, Modi had created confusion with a speech at an all-party meeting, but with his remarks in Ladakh, Modi has made amends for the June 19 speech, the strategic affairs expert said.

Modi made a surprise visit to Ladakh on Friday during which he said the era of expansionism is over and that the history is proof that “expansionists” have either lost or perished, in comments seen as a clear message to China.

The Indian and Chinese armies are locked in a bitter standoff in multiple locations in eastern Ladakh for the last seven weeks.

The tension escalated manifold after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a violent clash in Galwan Valley on June 15. The Chinese side also suffered casualties but it is yet to give out the details.

India has been insisting on restoring status quo ante in all areas of eastern Ladakh to restore peace and tranquillity in the region.

Asked about India’s move to ban 59 Chinese mobile applications and the strategy of creating trade barriers to deal with an aggressive China, Chellaney said India must fight China’s aggression on all fronts, including economic and diplomatic.

“It must wage a diplomatic offensive globally to highlight China’s aggression and to shame China. Unfortunately, India’s statement on Hong Kong has been very weak,” the geostrategist said.

India should leverage its buying power to correct the trade imbalance with China and impose costs on Beijing for its belligerence, Chellaney said.

On whether India can depend on the US or some other allies against China, he said India can expect some diplomatic support but no military support from the West.

“India is a strategic partner of the US, not a military alliance partner. But even if India had a military alliance with the US, it may make little difference. In 2012, the US looked the other way when China snatched the Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines, despite America’s military alliance pact with the Philippines,” he said.

Talking about the options for resolving the border crisis, Chellaney said China has changed the territorial status quo through incursions into Ladakh and India wants to restore status quo ante.

“China is unlikely to peacefully vacate its encroachments,” he said.

Against this background, India must use its economic and diplomatic cards to raise China’s costs, Chellaney said.

It must prolong the military standoff to put the international spotlight on the Chinese aggression, he said, adding that India must also end its one-China policy.

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