Remember Nathu La! Facing the Chinese in Doka La.

The standoff over Doka La has apparently been going on over the last month. The India Bhutan friendship treaty entails that India protects the Himalayan kingdom from the continual aggression of the Chinese state to the North. More strategic is the Doklam Plateau which has long been a territory of Bhutan but strategically vital to India’s interests as it sits across the Siliguri Corridor or ‘chicken neck’ for India.

The Chinese have held the long-held policy of Mao Zhedong policy of Tibet being the palm of China’s hand while its five fingers are Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh for which the China also has tried to rename as ‘South Tibet’.

Looking through history one would realize that China claim to such territories are completely ludicrous apart from off the cuff comments by its communist leaders. Indeed, it was India’s tragedy that India could come to the aid of the Tibet annexation by 30,000 battle hardened Chinese against the poorly trained 4000 Tibetans. What followed was a complete massacre of Tibetans and Buddhists as a whole with up to 90,000 Tibetans quickly dispatched.

Thankfully, Bhutan has a long-standing friend in India who for decades have guarded Bhutan’s borders. The Indian Army maintains a training mission in Bhutan called IMTRAT while the BRO (Border Roads Organization) has long been associated with creating and maintaining Bhutans roads. Over 1500 km of Bhutans roads have been built and maintained by BRO.

China more recently has decided to test Bhutan and India’s long-standing friendship by making a strategic advance into the Doklam plateau. Thankfully the Bhutanese informed the Indian Army who quickly arrived and hunkered down in the plateau stopping any Chinese advancement.

This is led to the standoff which China has recently raised the political ante with its frequent and almost belligerent press releases.

Held by the Indian Army on the Doklam plateau the Chinese foreign office has been at their creative best in trying to force a outcome of the stalemate achieved. Frequent press releases refer to “teaching India a lesson” as in 1962, then later to ‘withdraw or get kicked out’.

The Chinese are well aware of Indians capability including multiple air fields that have recently been activated in Arunachal Pradesh. Sukhoi 30 MKI long-range bombers and Brahmhos missiles have been stationed as a deterrent to any Chinese advancement. The Chinese know that they would face ‘unacceptable losses’ if they try to engage the Indian army. Since 2010 four mountain battalions Of the Arunachal and Sikkim Scouts who specialize in mountain warfare stand ready at India’s  and Bhutan’s borders.

No doubt in time, the stalemate will also result in the Chinese withdrawing to previous long-held borders by both Bhutan and China. As much as China boasts of the border war of 1962, (for which they also incurred heavy losses) a repeat border skirmish in 1967 known as the Nathu La Clashes would also serve as a potent memory.

In a similar standoff Chinese incursions led to a scuffle between Indian and Chinese troops. This later led to unprovoked firing while Indian Army Jawans were trying to lay border wire. While some in Jawans died initially in the firing, the retaliatory artillery response was so overwhelming that all the Chinese bunkers were destroyed in the response across Nathu La. Close to 350 Chinese were killed at the battle of Nathu La.

So what options does India really have on the diplomatic front? India has already had the Dalai Lama touring through Sikkim and Arunachal much to the distaste of the Chinese. It seems that the Dalai Lamas serves as a constant irritation to the ruling party in China for the danger he presents to a Independent Tibet.

Indeed, India may send feeders into the news media about rethinking its stand on its one China policy. Where is the need for India to recognize this policy when the Chinese simply do not reciprocate? The last few years have increasingly seen the Chinese become more belligerent in their brief forays into Indian territory, with the most recent being the 2013 Daulat beg Oldi incident, where the Chinese were forced to withdraw again.

China is also well known for having disputes not just India but almost every other single neighbor. With increasingly friendly ties to Japan and Vietnam, India may use diplomatic back channels to ensure that countries friendly to India make their position well known on the ongoing standoff.

Indian naval patrol vessels may increasingly make their presence felt towards the Malacca Straits. Indeed the Andaman Islands are a strategic launching point for the Eastern command of the Indian Navy to which a greater presence may be ‘felt’ especially for Chinese trade vessels.

On our part we may too support our Indian Jawans by really taking the stand against Chinese goods flooding the market. While this may be difficult initially, the Chinese would definitely feel a pinch if the largest growing economy were to place a levy on imported Chinese goods of around 30% via the newly launched GST.

The Chinese often refer to 1962 in any confrontation with India. What should be well known is the ferocity that the Chinese faced at Nathu La and the heavy losses they had to endure. The Chinese may dream about Mao’s palm and five fingers analogy, but at Nathu la Sikkim, only one finger gave them a very bloody nose.

‘Jai Mahakali, Ayo Gorkhali!!’




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