By Sudeep Sonawane
Surat, May 29, 2020
Can India afford to embarrass, if not snub, US President Donald Trump?
Upsetting an important ally while simultaneously dealing with China’s incursion into Ladakh, and border issues with Nepal over Lipulekh, Kalapani, Limpiyadhura, is a millstone India does not need around its neck.
The Ministry of External Affairs seemingly did this on Thursday, according to a Press Trust of India (PTI) report. Citing a source, the PTI report said, “There’s no contact between India and the US since April 4.”
The official clarification came after the US President Trump said in Washington he spoke to Modi over India’s on-going border row with China in Ladakh. The president had offered to mediate to help find a solution.
The clarification embarrasses Trump. It is a serious blunder. India must prioritise preserving cordial diplomatic ties with the US. Instead of being on the same page with an ally who makes an offer to mediate between India-China border conflict, India has snubbed Trump.
India cannot afford to take such a cavalier stance. The current stand-off with China and Nepal is serious. The issue with Nepal is minor and both sides can handle it. They have the advantage of socio-economic and cultural ties, mainly Hindu festivals that are common to both countries.
On the other hand, the Chinese incursion into Ladakh is deep and has serious ramifications. The Peoples Liberation Army’s (PLA) fisticuffs with Indian troopers were an embarrassment and a huge dent to India’s international image.
India currently faces its most difficult test that challenges its geographical sovereignty and honour. New Delhi should be well aware that India has to deal with three hostile neighbours with whom it shares international border over thousands of kilometres.
International media, retired Indian Army officers and defence analysts unanimously say that India faces a difficult situation. Some say ‘China has pre-empted Indian moves to reclaim Aksai Chin and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir’.
India may be in a position to handle a short war on two fronts, but war is the last resort. It incurs huge costs with debilitating consequences to the belligerents.
India just cannot afford to go war with anyone, let alone China. The country is struggling with the coronavirus pandemic, migrant worker crises and an economy in tatters because of the prolonged shutdown.
India would do well to borrow its ancient Indian philosopher Chanakya’s approach of achieving goals through strategy rather than bravado.