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//Mukesh Kaushik//

“Easier to shake a mountain than the PLA (People’s Liberation Army),” Chinese news agency Xinhua quoted national defence spokesperson as saying, a day after India’s ministry of external affairs spokesperson invoked Kabir’s famous couplet to bring home his point on the Chinese rhetoric about the ongoing military standoff between the armies of the two nuclear neighbours at the tri-junction bordering Bhutan. 

As the war mongering from Beijing reached to its peak and the MEA spokesperson Gopal Baglay was asked to react on it in his weekly media briefing and he was armed with the couplet of Kabir.

 

साधु ऐसा चाहिए जैसा सूप सुभाय

सार सार को गहि रहे थोथा देई उड़ाय

Mr Baglay said, metaphorically terming threat of war from the Chinese side as “hollow husk”, which India was not caring for and New Delhi was only looking at what is having substance in the statements.

Ever since Indian troops stonewalled the PLA’s misadventure to build a road in the doklam area of Bhutan, the tone and tenor of the Chinese spokespersons in the ministry of defence and the foreign ministry have been rather insulting and bad in taste with limits of diplomatic decency being crossed every passing day.

India, on the other hand, has restrained itself with measured responses coming from the MEA and the leadership in the government.

The Chinese were repeatedly reminding India of the 1962 humiliation while India responding to it by saying that the things has changed since the two fought a bitter war more than four decades ago.

But the real and intriguing question is: why China opted to indulge in a bitter face off with India at the tri-junction, a Bhutanese territory claimed by the Chinese.

The intention behind the move is becoming clearer which has been reflected by three surprisingly odd quarters—office of Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, High Commissioner of Pakistan in New Delhi Abdul Basit and CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury.

Mr Gandhi and Mr Basit held separate hush-hush meetings with Chinese and Bhutanese envoys which were uncovered by the media.

There is nothing wrong with the opposition leaders meeting with foreign diplomats but the way issue was handled by the Congress left many in the party red faced. As the news broke, Congress media in-charge flatly denied of any such meeting between Mr Gandhi and the Chinese envoy. Hours after the denial, Mr Gandhi himself and latter the party spokesperson accepted the fact the Party leader met not only Chinese envoy but also with the Bhutanese Ambassador in New Delhi.

Almost same happened with Pakistan High Commissioner’s meeting with both these envoys.

If something was left for speculations, Mr Yechury of the CPI(M) made so much plane talking about the doklam face-off that bared all feelings and intentions of the Chinese side behind the misadventure.

Mr Yechury, not only blamed India for the present state of affairs between New Delhi and Beijing but also insisted in an All Party Meeting called by the Government that the matter be left to Bhutan to sort it out with Chinese as the territory where the armies of both the sides were locked in eyeball-to-eyeball situation is a disputed area between Thimpu and Beijing.

That is what preciously China wants.  

 "On behalf of the CPM, I told the government that there is a need for them to get to the depth of the reasons for the provocation, the changes in the government's policy vis-a-vis China, India's growing strategic ties with the United States of America, and the joint military naval exercise along with the US and Japan in the South China sea," Yechury said after the meeting.

He went on to say that India’s new permissions to the Dalai Lama, and the hoisting of the Tibetan flag in India were other issues that had irked the Chinese.

The position of the Chinese side could not have been articulated better than what Mr Yechury did.

And that is what real Chinese grudge is.

The real intent of China behind the present military standoff is t somehow dehyphenate relations between India and Bhutan and forge a diplomatic relationship with Thimpu, which has been resisting such attempts making it the only country in the periphery of India not having ties with Beijing.

This is the only missing bead in the ring of purl which China has been knitting to encircle India.

Beijing has successfully established strong footholds in almost all the countries neighbouring India, including Nepal where its PLA conducted first ever military exercise this year.

It “gifted” two submarines to Bangladesh, which was seen as diplomatic coup by many after the Chinese completed infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Maldives. Only the Bhutanese leadership has been refusing to come in its fold, which may have irked the increasingly assertive Chinese leadership.

 

Bhutan may be a tiny country but it has been a big bone of contention for China as its northern border prior to 1959 was being maintained by Tibet. Bhutan had five enclaves in Tibet with a a diplomatic mission in Lhasa.

The Chinese side has also been flagging the issue of the Indian Military Training Team(IMTRAT) based in Damthang, Haa.

Bhutan and China have signed two agreements on the boundary issue. In 1988 they agreed to four guiding principles, and in 1998 inked a pact to maintain peace and tranquility on the border areas in accordance with the accepted boundaries before 1959.

In what may be seen as the clear violation these agreements, China constructed roads in 2004 from Langmarpo up to Zuri ridge and started construction beyond Zuri in August 2009.

There is a growing feeling in the intelligentsia of Beijing that India is over indulging with Bhutanese affairs and as result disallowing Bhutan from balancing a relationship with its both neighbours.

The border dispute among Bhutan, India and china is yet to be settled and this area on north-west of Bhutan is where Beijing continues to push for its claim over the disputed four pasture lands of Doklam, Charithang, Sinchulumpa and Dramana. As Mr Yechury pointed out, China and Bhutan want to sort out this dispute bilaterally and India was coming in between them to make it a complicated issue.

But why the issue has flared up so much this time?

“China’s first misadventure of creating its own narrative through media seems to have backfired,” summed up an acclaimed Chinese affairs expert in India’s security establishment.

Unlike in the past, he said, China started using its media to drum up the war cry. “Since everyone knows that Chinese media is controlled by the government, its voice was taken as the official versions which was being supported by Chinese official spokespersons. This complicated the whole matter,” said the expert, requesting anonymity.   

 

He said Chinese are now clueless how to cool down the temperature which they have brought to boiling point. 

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