Jammu and Kashmir has stopped work on an 8-km road project under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) in Demchok in southeast Ladhak following objections raised by the People’s Liberation Army of China. The road was being built to improve road connectivity and provide employment to local residents, but the Chinese army perhaps discovered in it all an anti-China infrastructure with a clandestine Indian motive. So they objected, and the Indian side, like obedient pupils, acquiesced. As Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah told a newspaper, the State government ‘‘had already constructed 4 km of road when the Chinese came and asked to stop the work’’. It is bizarre that a road project in a very remote area, where people face so much of connectivity hardship, should be stopped just because China does not like it as the area has a strategic significance due of its proximity to the Line of Actual Control (LAC). So now ‘innovative’ diplomacy has it that in the bordering areas we should go by what China will dictate, while the neighbouring country has the right to unprovoked incursions and we must never oppose the brazen expansionism. Why, on its side China has already constructed a road parallel to the small stream in Demchok that serves as LAC, but on its side, as is the Chinese decree and logic, India ought not to initiate any development activity because it jeopardizes the strategic balance and gives India the leverage to foment trouble against China! The latest Chinese move — objections against development activities initiated by a sovereign nation within its territory — is a direct interference in India’s internal affairs and a clear violation of the tenet of internationalism shared among sovereign states. But the tragedy is that India has so meekly succumbed to the Chinese pressure. How demoralizing it must have been to the people of Demchok! Or should we still not read too much into it? According to reports, China has been claiming every landmark in India that ends with ‘‘La’’, insisting that such areas belong to Tibet. There would be no surprise, therefore, if one fine morning the Chinese were to claim even Zoji La — the mountain pass connecting Ladhak with the Kashmir valley.
China’s bellicose behaviour, despite its sham to the contrary to fool the international audience, is an outcome of India’s namby-pamby diplomacy. New Delhi’s response to the overt and covert threats from across the border is laden more with civility and unfounded optimism of a Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai return than with pragmatism founded on China’s greater South Asia interest — its hegemony stated explicitly through its official mouthpieces in recent times. To put it tersely, it is India itself that is adding to China’s audacity. Perhaps New Delhi is trying to send out a feeler of an out-of-box diplomatic manoeuvre being staged by remaining silent on China’s moves and by heeding its protests such as in Demchok for a new peace chapter with the neighbour. But this will take us nowhere. We shall only be humiliating ourselves, while China will be convinced that its expansionist march is unbeatable. If the UPA government has any sense of self-esteem, it must ensure that the Demchok project is completed in no time. THE SENTINEL