General V.K. Singh has shown himself to be highly competent in the responsibilities assigned to him, such as evacuating citizens of India and other countries from trouble spots. The minister showed no hesitation in leading from the front, which is what is expected of an Army officer who has served the nation by being part of the armed forces. However, the comparison between the deliberate and provocative intrusions made by the PLA into Indian territory along the LAC cannot be equated. The PLA does not even recognise the LAC, so why should the Indian Army, which is merely entering into land that belongs to the country and not to foreign territory? If a thief enters a house fewer times than the owner, surely it cannot be said that the owner and the thief should be regarded on the same level. Movement by the PLA is invasive and intrusive, while that by the Indian side is defensive and legitimate. General V.K. Singh has a sterling reputation as a military officer, which is obviously why the Prime Minister ensured that he was given a Lok Sabha ticket and accommodated in the Council of Ministers. Nothing should be said even by accident that can be used as propaganda by such exemplars of independent (of truth) journalism as the Global Times, and it is therefore important that the General clarify that the remarks he made were misconstrued rather than understood in its proper spirit. Which was that the Indian Army would give much harder than it got, as indeed took place at Galwan during the 15 June encounter when troops from both sides lost their lives for the first time since the 1970s. It would be to the benefit of the people of India if the policymakers of the country, especially those in the Council of Ministers, were mindful of the errors made by too many of their predecessors. Vengalil Kumaran Krishna Menon comes to mind. Brilliant, although prone to fits of temper, Menon sought to build a strong defence industry in India, although this effort was handicapped from the start by the aversion that Defence Minister Menon shared with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of private industry. Only during Modi 2.0 are we finally seeing the integration of “All of Nation” capacities into the defence field, as ought to have been done much earlier, but was put off by those who occupied the Prime Minister’s Office in South Block prior to Modi. Sadly for Menon, he shared the naive trust in the presumed adherence to the Gandhian principle of ahimsa of Chairman Mao Zedong. As a consequence, he ignored what was happening on the ground, which was that the PLA was gobbling up Indian territory in big gulps. At the same time, Menon allowed himself to be blinded by smooth talkers such as General B.M. Kaul into forming an unfavourable impression of General Kodandera Thimayya, a military genius. The errors made under Menon resulted in the entirely avoidable disaster that took place across the Himalayas during October-November 1962.
Smooth talkers are no substitute for ability, and it is expected of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh that he will ensure that India does not enter into a one-sided agreement with the PRC in the manner that has happened so often, for example with Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee rubber-stamping in full during 2003 the occupation of Tibet by the CCP regime. It cannot be business as usual unless Beijing agrees to an acceptable border settlement in the way that had earlier been done with Russia. Of course, had Xi Jinping been the General Secretary during the period when the Myanmar and Russia settlements took place, those borders would probably still have remained undefined by the Chinese side. President Xi is a leader in a hurry, and wants much more than what it would be prudent in the long run for the PRC to demand. Countries that overshoot their legitimate aspirations in their demands, especially those using the military to try and grab an advantage wherever possible, have been known to end up badly, as took place in both Asia and Europe in the previous century. The Defence Minister surely is aware that in this satellite age, changes in ground positions become known in a very short time, which is why it is to be expected that he will ensure that the solemn vow he made to the people of India through his speech in Parliament that not an inch more of land will be surrendered will be kept. The PLA must return to the line occupied by it along the LAC on 1 April 2020 to show India that the PRC’s protestations of friendship (sentiments that are guaranteed as correct by Russia) are genuine. Recent reports that even Sikkim is once again being shown as Chinese territory are disturbing, as Prime Minister Vajpayee made the concessions he did partly in the belief that Beijing would accept the status of Sikkim as a part of India. If reports that there has been a backtracking from this promise are correct, it would be difficult not to conclude that any agreement with the other side is not worth anything, much less the publicity that has greeted the so-called “breakthrough in disengagement” a few days ago. Until the PRC agrees to a settlement across the entirety of the LAC, it must be assumed that its intentions remain suspect. The benefit of the doubt was given to it till 3 May 2020 despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and there must never again be another such moment. The nation expects Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to implement the instructions of Prime Minister Modi and see that thieves are not equated with owners, and that not even a smidgen of the territory of India be conceded in a context where so much already has since the 1950s.