Friday, October 2, 2009

China's Game

China has now started issuing visas to Indian nationals from Jammu and Kashmir in a different format — on loose sheets instead of stamping them on their passports as is the normal practice. In other words, China seems to be trying to give a different status to Jammu and Kashmir, claimed, incidentally, by Pakistan — China’s all-weather ally. This side, China is persistent about its claim on the entire State of Arunachal Pradesh, not just Tawang, while the Indian diplomatic community and political leadership have more often than not fumbled in their search for an apt policy response.

Last month, Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal PV Naik created quite a flutter when he said India’s air-force capabilities are only a third of China’s and are, therefore, ‘‘inadequate’’. It was utterly unbecoming of the chief of the air force to openly reveal the country’s air-force capabilities at a press conference and to thereby let China know of where India stands. And obviously that comment has had a very demoralizing effect on the countrymen, especially in the hinterland bordering China — and more especially for the people of Arunachal Pradesh on which China has set its expansionist eye. However, in a major contradiction on Thursday, the air force chief said that ‘‘a repeat of 1962 is not possible now’’ and that ‘‘we are prepared for any eventuality’’. How is he so ‘‘confident’’ — to quote none but himself — when just a few days ago he was lamenting the country’s air forces’ ‘‘inadequate’’ capabilities?

Such mixed messages are not only confusing, they also suggest a sort of calculated plan by New Delhi to keep the people in the dark about the country’s military capabilities in relation to China’s. While it may not be very unsettling for people in the mainland, those in bordering areas, such as in Arunachal Pradesh as also in the rest of the Northeast, are naturally quite disturbed. The obvious question is: Why the confusing, contradictory statements? What’s the real level of our defence preparedness and capabilities? Or is New Delhi merely playing a self-defeating game? THE SENTINEL

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