The death of 20 Indian soldiers, including a colonel, in a violent face-off with the People’s Liberation Army on the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh has put the Modi Government under tremendous pressure. Quite aside from the Indian public, the armed forces would feel demoralised unless the unprovoked atrocity is not avenged. As a rule, the Chinese do not disclose their casualties. The escalation is bad news for India at a time when it is in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and the economy has taken a sharp downturn. Even as the fight against the virus goes on unabated, it must find ways to inflict costs on China for its unprovoked attack on our soldiers. After its violation of the un-demarcated LAC to occupy areas on the Indian side in early May, its reneging on the agreement to withdraw from the Galwan Valley was a clear violation of trust. No self-respecting nation can accept the Chinese aggression lying down. India may not match China economically and militarily, but it is no pushover. Besides, in any warfare, courage, righteousness of the cause and global public opinion favours the victim of aggression. Unless China is ready to make amends for its unacceptable behaviour, and restore the status quo ante, the war clouds will hover over the Sino-Indian sky. Xi Jinping may have his own reasons to project power to his many rivals in the Politburo, whom he has riled further by self-anointing as president-for-life, but he cannot be allowed to menace the world. As a sovereign nation, India has absolute freedom to conduct its affairs to best serve its own interests. To begin with, the huge imbalance in trade with China needs to be tackled. Ordinary Indians can help by boycotting cheap but popular electronic devices. Several unicorns among startups will soon begin to feel the heat once India weaponises trade with China. Solidarity with nations feeling intimidated by China can be another tool. The point is that if there is one country in Asia which can stand up to the intimidation and bullying of China it is India. And it is for Modi to show that India is not to be trifled with. The place and timing of the Indian response on the 3,450-km disputed border can be left to the military planners, but come it must. Unless before it, China is makes amends. Given the inter-linked trade relations, it may take time to disengage fully from China but that process ought to get a major fillip once it is recognised that China is a rotten apple in the global community, a threat to peace and order. Meanwhile, the Congress leader Rahul Gandhi seems barely to conceal the vicarious pleasure of seeing Modi in a corner. Being unmindful of the larger national interest is bad politics. The current ruling party while in the opposition aggressively questioned the border security policy of previous governments but without people ever suspecting its strong sense of nationalism. The current Opposition needs to reassure the people on this score.
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