China has fooled successive Indian governments. All these governments, whether Congress under Jawaharlal Nehru or the BJP under Atal Behari Vajpayee and Narendra Modi have been misleading the billion-plus Indian citizens that China was a friend of India. Vapid columnists have been broadcasting that China and India were never rivals but could cooperate in emerging as global superpowers. Their absurd and ridiculous fantasises have been exposed with the brutal pre-planned murder of 20 Indian soldiers. There is no room in Asia for both China and India as global powers because China wants to destroy India by using Pakistan and Nepal as proxies. And if we do not weaponise ourselves quickly, we as a nation will be annihilated by China.
As a former journalist in The Times of India at Mumbai, I was personally present when a Chinese delegation was taken right inside the high-security Naval Dockyard in Colaba between the years 2000 and 2005. Indian citizens are prohibited from entering this naval dockyard in Colaba, next to Regal Cinemas which was part of the Western Naval Command - the sword arm of the Indian Navy.
This Naval Dockyard contained a submarine pen where part of the Indian Navy’s (IN) ageing fleet of Second World War diesel-electric submarines were repaired or retrofitted to make them sea-worthy.
What was absolutely shocking was that this high-level Chinese delegation which comprised senior military officers of the rank of Rear Admiral in the IN were armed with sophisticated cameras and were allowed to click photos of the high-security naval installations. The PROs from Mumbai Port Trust and the other senior officials of IN who strictly forbade Indian lensmen from photographing any activity within the naval dockyard in fact encouraged these military officers to go anywhere within the dockyard, photograph all activities and record whatever was being said. We have to repeat that this was not a civilian port but a high-security defence installation manned by the Western Naval Command and headed by a Rear Admiral.
These photographs with the exact coordinates of the naval dockyard and other naval installations are now without a doubt part of the Chinese military. These photographs with the precise coordinates of all naval establishments have in all probability been fed into the Chinese spy satellites and other military equipment circling high above the skies. These satellites feed the exact coordinates of our military installations to the Chinese air force.
After accompanying this Chinese delegation, I returned to my TOI office and submitted a news report about what I personally witnessed. The executive editor (now editorial director) at the time was Jaideep Bose called ‘Jojo’. I had told him on the phone I would be filing this news report. But the then Resident Editor, a sophisticated Parsi lady by the name of Dina Vakil, belittled the story which was not taken on the front page of this national newspaper. Neither Dina nor JoJo knew much about the Indian Navy or the Chinese military. Four days later, the news was buried as an innocuous single column within the inside pages of the Mumbai edition of TOI.
The point here is that several editorial decision-makers in India are like the aforementioned who know more about running events and experts at Kanjeevaram sarees than knowing about the relative strengths and weaknesses of the Indian and Chinese militaries.
The Chinese have already mapped in detail all the military installations of the Indian armed forces - with help from our defence PROs and ministers. They probably know as much as our defence capabilities and preparedness as a low-ranking defence PRO.
On the other hand, the Indian media has been filled with nonsensical articles about Indo-China military cooperation. These articles are utter nonsense because China will never tolerate India as a rival. It wants to destabilise and weaken India by nibbling at India’s land frontiers in pursuance of its expansionist policies.
I was personally present at another event in the Mumbai Port Trust when a modern Chinese destroyer was welcomed into the Mumbai Port Trust during 2003 or thereabouts. The decks of the Chinese destroyer were crammed with slit-eyed Chinese sailors and naval officers armed with video cameras busy recording the outlines of the Mumbai coastline even as this Chinese destroyer entered the Port to dock alongside a berth. A squat Chinese Rear Admiral disembarked and was warmly greeted by the Rear Admiral of the Indian Navy. The Chinese naval officer spoke in Han Chinese while the Rear Admiral replied in English. A young Chinese naval lieutenant, wearing white gloves and clad in a crisp uniform translated from Chinese to English and vice-versa while profuse proclamations of friendship and cooperation were repeated ad nauseam.
Even before China attacked India in 1962, a gullible Jawaharlal Nehru was warned by General Thimayya that China was preparing to attack India. But Nehru preferred to believe his defence minister, a gullible Krishna Menon who should have been sacked and jailed for losing the 1962 war with China.
But 58 years after Nehru learnt a bitter lesson that the Chinese could never be trusted, Narendra Modi is repeating the same mistake. He is allowing China to bully India by occupying huge tracts of Indian territory. The Chinese Army has illegally occupied the Galwan valley with anti-aircraft and other weapons being taken well within the Galwan valley. India is in no position to get back its own territory without an all-out military confrontation. And Modi, like Nehru, wants to avoid this.
When the Chinese illegally occupied Tibet, India was the first to recognise that Tibet was a part of China although history proves that Tibet was a separate nation with its own culture, language, religion and history. So, by keeping quiet when it should have protested against vicious Chinese expansionism, India fell into a dastardly trap. China is a bully and will never respect India for succumbing to its bullying tactics.
The so-called Great Helmsman, Mao Tse Tung infamously declared: “Tibet is the palm which we must occupy. Next, we will go after the five fingers connected to Tibet. The first finger is Ladakh. The other four fingers are Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.”
China has already laid claim to the whole of Arunachal Pradesh which it calls South Tibet. Hence, successive Indian Prime Ministers, whether from the Congress or the BJP have never stood up to China and allowed India to be bullied and cowed down. By remaining silent when China forcibly grabbed Tibet and supplanted the indigenous Tibetans with Han Chinese, India allowed China to further expand into Ladakh and claim Arunachal Pradesh.
The only defence minister who bluntly called China as India’s enemy no.1 was the late George Fernandes who declared this in April 1998 soon after taking over as defence minister under PM Vajpayee. He justified his assertion by saying it was China which backed Pakistan and Myanmar against India, encircled India with nuclear weapons and was grabbing Indian territory. But the another former Indian PM IK Gujral belittled Fernandes, calling him an ‘adventurist’ defence minister. And of course, China laughed off by saying Fernandes’ statements were not worth rebutting.
But the few who spoke out against China like Gen Thimayya and George Fernandes have been proved right while the very memories of so-called statesmen like Nehru, Krishna Menon and IK Gujral evoke disgust.
The satellite imagery of the Galwan valley and the Pangong lake of 2015 and 2020 show a gradual build-up of the Chinese military in both regions. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his troupe of defence PROs kept mouthing platitudes that ‘nothing had changed in Ladakh’ and the fisticuffs between the Indian and Chinese troops were a result of ‘differing perceptions of the Line of Control.’
These nonsensical lies need to be exposed because the Chinese have openly entered the Galwan valley and the Pangong lake. At the time of writing, Chinese troops have squatted eight kilometres inside Indian territory and have freed 10 Indian soldiers after high-level talks. China wants to show India that it better not align with anti-Chinese countries like the United States, Japan and Australia if it (India) wants to survive. And the Modi government has meekly succumbed to these bullying tactics by mouthing disgusting clichés like ‘India will not give up even one inch of its territory’ while not disclosing that the Chinese are refusing to move out of eight to 10 km within Indian territory.
The late Atal Behari Vajpayee recognised the illegal Chinese occupation of Tibet in exchange for China recognising Sikkim as an integral part of India. But India need not have bothered about Chinese recognition of Sikkim being recognised as a part of India. Our troops should have been given enough modern weapons to repel the Chinese ideas of taking over Sikkim.
India is paying the price for its Prime Ministers lying to the nation while the Chinese troops have occupied the Galwan valley, Pangong lake, part of Arunachal Pradesh and part of Aksai Chin. It is high time we wake up to the harsh reality.
And the harsh reality is India and China can never ever be friends. We cannot co-exist with China. If needed, we have to war with China to defend our territory - whether we like it or not. And if we choose not to fight this impending war with Our Enemy No.1 as declared by the late George Fernandes, we have to live with the prospect of them gobbling Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh and part of Sikkim. The Chinese want to break India in two. Unfortunately, they remain adamant about it. Either we let that happen. Or, break China in two or die trying. China and India cannot co-exist as superpowers.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author's.
(Dr Olav Albuquerque is a senior journalist-cum-lawyer of the Bombay High Court. He holds MSc., LLM and PhD in Law.)