|General Luo Yuan|
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One cannot expect Indian politicians to really understand the subtleties of the Art of War and Peace, but if they learn a bit from China, it would help New Delhi to not always be the loser
August 15, 1947, is the birthday of free India. It marks for her the end of an old era, the beginning of a new age. But we can also make it by our life and acts as a free nation “an important date in a new age opening for the whole world, for the political, social, cultural and spiritual future of humanity”, wrote Sri Aurobindo in a message for All India Radio; it was also his 75th birthday.
Where are we at today?
While Sri Aurobindo and many others envisaged a leading role for India, it appears that India is today in reverse gear in many domains such as public probity, sustainable development, gender equality, politics, etc.
A Minister of Uttar Pradesh recently suggested that India does not need IAS ‘babus’, but it could also be argued that India would be better without the politicians who only serve their caste, their creed, their political constituency and their pockets.
Not only this, but when five Indians jawans were recently killed on the Line of Control, several Ministers seemed to condole Pakistan, speaking about ‘peace’, ‘talks’ or ‘forthcoming visit’.
Senior analyst MD Nalapat wrote in The Guardian: “Senior commanders in the India-Pakistan battlefield say that the rules of engagement enforced by the Prime Minister’s Office are the cause of the multiplying number of deaths of Indian soldiers at the hands of the Pakistan Army.” He quotes an Army officer as saying: “…unless the Army is given the freedom to act against provocations, more of our soldiers will pay the ultimate price”.
Not only are the bureaucrats in the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of External Affairs directing the operations (we have seen the outcome of this policy in October/November 1962), but also politicians are preaching peace.
Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor, while visiting south India, said that “keeping peace with Pakistan is in India’s national interest”; he affirmed: “The country will not be able to achieve its goals if it is distracted by hostility on its borders.”
It may be a distraction, but five jawans died. For Mr Tharoor, as for many of his colleagues, “We should be careful not to take any steps that would play into the hands of those aiming to derail peace.”
This is an old disease: Most Indian politicians believe that by chanting “Shanti, shanti, shanti”, peace will prevail and the bullies on the other side of the LoC (or the Line of Actual Control) will be pacified. Jawharlal Nehru thought so but he only encouraged Mao and his colleagues to descend towards the plains of Assam.
For the Chinese, it was easy to bully a weak India, who just wanted to talk peace and was unprepared for war. The country has never recovered from the 1962 debacle, but politicians continue to speak of ‘peace’.
It must be said here that the Gujral Doctrine of peace with our neighbours has never brought any positive results for the country. In this context is interesting to look at the how Chinese deal with such issues, and win wars without having to fight. Beijing has a few well-trained ‘Generals’, who make China’s opponents aware of the relativity of peace and war. The most famous is Major General Luo Yuan. He plays an important role when the Chinese Government needs “to kill the chickens to frighten the monkeys”.
During the South China Sea dispute, a Chinese website explained: “At the top of both the military and the Party, there is a consensus that it is beneficial to have a hardline attack dog reminding the world not to mess with the PRC.” The logic was: Official-ish voices, those of like Gen Luo and other hawkish paramilitary figures (one of them is an Air Force officer and another a Rear Admiral), add a layer of unpredictability to China’s foreign policy.
When Defence Minister AK Antony landed in Beijing in July, Gen Luo warned Delhi that it should be careful with its words and deeds; he threatened: “India is the only country in the world enhancing its military prowess while citing China as a threat perception.” He also thundered: “India should not provoke new problems, increase military deployment at the border areas and stir up new problems.”
Gen Luo, who serves in the PLA’s Academy of Military Sciences, reminded the Indian people: “90,000 square kilometres of Chinese territory are still occupied by the Indian side.”
He added that as a military person, it was his “sacred mission” to protect China’s territorial sovereignty. Get the message?
It was enough to frighten some monkeys; Luo Yuan’s utterances were a great media success in India, with television channels reporting ‘China’s threat’. Gen Luo had destabilised India’s mild Defence Minister and made sure that Mr Antony did not ask too many questions about what happened in the Depsang plain in Ladakh in April, and why the PLA had suddenly decided to set up some tents on Indian territory. Obviously Beijing had been deeply embarrassed.
Now that the ‘joker’ had played his role on the stage, the main characters could continue on their peace-footing (Mr Antony said that he would only speak to ‘officials’).
In February, Gen Luo had made his debut on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter; he wrote that if a conflict erupted, China “will bomb Tokyo and take the 130 thousand Japanese citizens in China as hostages”. During the following days, General Luo continued his tirade to entertain his Chinese audience and frighten the monkeys abroad.
Andrew Chubb in the last issue of the China Brief of the Jamestown Foundation has studied the PLA ‘hawks’: “The hawkish generals are able to ‘stimulate’ nationalism and patriotism inside China which is an important factor to pressurize the ‘enemy’ or even scare the enemy that it is better to find a negotiated settlement”, concluding, “The hawks’ activities may have contributed to the Philippines and Japan’s acceptance of the new status quo in a number of ways… The PLA’s ‘hawkish faction’ appear integral to this combined civil-military approach to international conflict.”
The PLA hawks are part of the state’s propaganda machinery and in that particular case, they helped Beijing’s civilian leadership to convince the Japanese Government not to oppose their frequent entries into the territorial waters surrounding the Islands. Great tactic. Beijing’s policy remains, of course, the ‘peaceful rise of China’.
One cannot expect Indian politicians to understand the subtleties of the Art of War and Peace, but if they learn a bit from China, it would help India not to always be the loser. It is perhaps time for India to change gear if it wants to play its destined role amongst nations.