By Manish Uprety F.R.A.S. and Jainendra Karn *
Thomas Friedman first put forward the Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention in 1996 which claimed that no two countries that both had McDonald’s had fought a war against each other since each got its McDonald’s.
However, life has its own logic and cannot be interpreted in binaries. The Western logic is rooted in the Greek traditions and is binary, whereas the logic in the Eastern traditions can be multi-dimensional such as the four valued Chatushkoti logic of the Vedas or Buddhism used by scholars like Patanjali and Panini, or seven valued Saptabhangi of the Jainas. It helps one get a bigger, better and richer picture of life.
In contemporary times, the shift from binary Boolean logic to the many valued Fuzzy logic attests to the importance of the latter. The failure of the binaries in Friedman’s Theory of Golden Arches to predict a trend among others is another example. The ongoing conflict between India and China in Galwan Valley, Ladakh, proves that life is not black and white as the Golden Arches of McDonalds reached China in 1990 and India in 1996.
Interestingly, China whose historical boundaries were only till the Great Wall of China was never India’s neighbour. The place Galwan Valley in Ladakh, where the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in a planned ambush killed and later mutilated the bodies of some of Indian Army soldiers who had lost their lives, does not even have a Chinese name.
Galwan Valley is named after Ghulam Rassul Galwan, a hardy Ladakhi adventurer and explorer who assisted many famed European explorers at the turn of the 19th century in the region during The Great Game, as Russia and Britain jostled for dominance in the region.
What is worth noting is that the Han Chinese people have no history or presence in the region. They are just recent occupiers. Aksai Chin is a relatively recent Chinese sponsored Uighur name. Local Ladakhis and Tibetans called it by the Sanskrit name “Gosthana” (place of the cows).
Aksai Chin is a part of Hotan County. The name Hotan actually comes from Sanskrit Godana as mentioned in ancient Indian texts. This is the name under which the Chinese writers of the first and second century CE mention the country. In the 7th century great Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Hiuan-tsang also mentions it.
In Indian literature, “Govansh” includes not just the cows but the entire bovine family. In this case, it includes the Yaks which are found in plenty in this region. The local tribes in Ladakh maintain that it’s called Gosthana because its map looks like the face of a cow. Tibetans called it by the name Gosthana and the entire region had related names.
It is said that during the Mahabharata War, people from Xinjiang, Tibet and Yunnan Province fought on the side of Kauravas. Historically China was never India’s neighbor but Tibet was.
Tibet was annexed by the Communist China in 1950-51 under Chairman Mao and the Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959. India had been paying mightily for Chinese occupation of Tibet ever since including Chinese betrayal of the Panchasheel and invading India in 1962.
French-born author, historian and Tibetologist Claude Arpi in his 2017 book, “Tibet: The Last Months of a Free Nation” came up with an explosive revelation: that Nehru’s India supplied rice for the invading PLA troops in Tibet in the early 1950s.
Arpi writes “The most grotesque incident of this period was the feeding of the PLA’s troops with rice coming through India,” while they were busy rampaging and decimating the Tibetan way of life and culture in the early 1950s. He says: “Without Delhi’s active support, the Chinese troops would not have been able to survive in Tibet.”
India under Nehru remained blind to the Chinese aggression perhaps hypnotized by China’s “bhai-bhai” call, and did not question the 17-Point Agreement, signed in May 1951, to “drive out imperialist aggressive forces from Tibet”. Arpi writes about the Indian babus that “very few realised then that it could be against India”.
It is said that K.M. Panikkar, India’s ambassador to China from 1950-52, often acted like China’s envoy rather than India’s. His priorities seemed like defending the Chinese acts of omission and commission, come what may.
Nehru’s close associate and the then Defense Minister, V.K. Krishna Menon was in New York when the Chinese advanced into Ladakh in 1959. Menon showed no desire to return till Nehru rebuked him.
Nehru who framed economic policy for India had leanings towards the left and Fabian socialism. The notion had been taken to a degree of fault by Menon as he refused to import defense equipment and turned the military factories into production lines for hairclips and pressure-cookers. It was actually Menon who had allowed a Chinese military mission to tour India’s major defense establishments as late as in 1958.
The 1962 debacle of India at the hands of China is well known and so is the July 1972 visit of President Richard Nixon to China planned by the U.S. National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger. China has been on an upward socio-economic and military trajectory ever since.
China’s upward rise also resulted in a certain belligerence and disputes with its neighbors. It encroaches on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbors. There is an opinion that China under President Xi Jinping is asserting its power on the international stage.
At least fourteen of the Chinese neighbors are in a territorial dispute with it. In the recent past, while becoming more repressive at home, China’s conflicts with Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and India have been in the news. The statement issued by the PLA on June 16 asserts that China has for a “long time had sovereignty over the Galwan Valley” and is aimed to expand China’s territorial claims.
It is also alleged that China violates international norms and law, and engages in neo-colonial predatory economic practices. China imposes its own worldview and intervenes in the politics of other countries and democracies are especially vulnerable to this tactic.
In a recent interview on “American Thought Leaders“, Joshua Philipp of The Epoch Times expounded the Chinese Communist Party’s publicly adopted “Three Warfares Doctrine’ which comprises psychological warfare, media warfare and legal warfare.
The same has been going on for a significant period. In March 2019, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) came out with the report titled, China’s Pursuit of a New World Media Order, explaining that Beijing is using a variety of strategies including ramping up international broadcasting, undertaking extensive advertising campaigns, and infiltrating foreign media outlets to spread its world view.
But every action has a reaction. Sarah Cook of Freedom House noted that although media influence of China has gone global so has the pushback. As new evidence of Chinese government-linked actors impacting global information flows via propaganda, censorship, surveillance, and control over infrastructure is coming out, Beijing’s campaign to control narratives about China the world over is attracting more attention and opposition.
Karl Popper writes in ‘The Open Society and Its Enemies’ that in a democracy, the powers of the rulers must be limited but that does not apply to Communist or Theocratic states. China’s unique character of a totalitarian communist state can make it take the course it has taken but that is not possible with democracies as they allow dissent and debate.
While one can find Socialist and Communist parties both in India and the U..S, democratic voices find no place whatsoever in China, and are stifled with an iron fist. Criticism of the state policies is allowed in democracies such as Old Lives Matter campaign by Dr. Jon Tallinger in Sweden to save lives of senior citizens afflicted by COVID-19 but that is not possible in China.
Unlike totalitarian states, democracies allow foreign interaction and engagements. In October 2015, China signaled that it is according top priority to its engagement with the Indian Left parties, following a call by Sitaram Yechury, the CPI (M) general secretary, on Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing.
In 2008, Congress party from India signed a MOU with the Communist Party of China (CPC) to consult on important bilateral, regional and international developments. Under the Congress-led UPA government in India, the MOU was signed in the presence of Congress president Sonia Gandhi by the then general secretary Rahul Gandhi and President Xi Jinping himself, who was then the Chinese vice-president and standing committee member of the CPC’s politburo.
China can do what it wants to as it is a totalitarian state but democracies of the world would have to respond to the Chinese onslaught strategically and not in binaries. Chinese economy is the second largest in the world making it an important part of the global economic and technological ecosystem. Not its appeasement but this demands an engagement with China, and ways and means have to be explored to build leverage to deal with China in a fair manner.
The unfortunate incident between India and China has tempers flared up in India, world’s largest democracy. The local MP from Ladakh Jamyang Tsering Namgyal said “Time has come to take back Aksai Chin from Chinese occupation”.
Renowned scholar from the U.S., Prof. Christine Fair, wrote about China: “Can you imagine a P5 nuclear weapons state and a permanent member of the UNSC using this ‘Genghis Khan-era’ putative ‘weapon’? And where is the U.S. ‘leadership’ on this?”
We have to remember that Democracy is a core value of the international platforms including the United Nations. The opening words of the Charter of the UN, “We the Peoples”, reflect the fundamental principle of democracy – that the will of the people is the source of legitimacy of sovereign states and, therefore, of the United Nations as a whole.
The commitment to protect and promote the rule of law and democracy, was also reiterated by Member States in 2007 in the UN General Assembly resolution A/RES/62/7.
Democracies of world especially the U.S. and India have to close ranks and come together to deal with this Chinese aggression. The bond between the U.S. which is the world’s oldest democracy and India which is the largest goes long back in time. The national anthem of the U.S. ‘Star Spangled Banner’ was written by Francis Scott Key on HMS Minden, a ship built by the Wadia ship makers of India. No wonder the Indo-Pacific Charter has started gaining support in India, the U.S., Australia and Japan.
And on a serious note, the recent episode is a lesson for all to remember that one should not bite off more than one can chew especially when one goes to have the Maharaja Mac Veg Burger the next time at McDonalds.
* Manish Uprety F.R.A.S. is an ex-diplomat and Jainendra Karn is a senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)