Truth always wins?
We believe that Dokalam standoff ended in mutual agreement but Chinese statements claim otherwise.
BJP, the ruling party of the Indian Union, recently held what it calls its National Executive meeting. Here, Narendra Modi was lauded for a peaceful solution to the Doklam stand-off, over a China-controlled Bhutanese claimed territory on which the Indian Union has no claims. It is important to look at how well the BJP has been able to sell it as a success to its core constituency and beyond, the beyond being non-Hindi upper-caste males. But it is a complete failure according to all publicly propagandised standards of success in that ideology. This shows the power of politically crafted lies crafted as spins on reality, along with a compliant public and private media network that echoes this message all over.
New Delhi wanted a face-saving exit to a situation that was increasingly untenable. New Delhi hopes to manage the possible negative fall out of a climbdown by using a domestic media management blitz, including claims about a rise in Delhi's geopolitical status post 'disengagement'. The shelf life of an Indo-China impasse is short, neither is that shelf life laden with political dividends, given that China is not a Muslim country and hence, the 'emotive' appeal of such a stand-off is marginal in present-day Indian nationalist discourse. For its part, Beijing wanted to end this too without yielding much. China hosted the annual BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) summit in Xiamen, the old southeastern Chinese city. The BRICS idea, a grouping that rules over half of the world population, like SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation), is a forum China takes immense interest in, as it advances its clout in international forums that privilege the global South and not the white world. New Delhi, with its 'natural' alliance now being aligned along with Washington and Tel Aviv, is clearly on the wrong side of history and geography, and probably is the most unwilling member of the BRICS idea. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi could have not gone to the BRICS summit and that would have done some damage to China's aspiration of being the superpower that can bring the major stakeholders of the non-white world together. Thus, the deal happened. Narendra Modi attended the BRICS summit. Naturally, the settlement happened on the basis of the actual imbalance of power that exists between Beijing and New Delhi.
Indian Union's Ministry of External Affairs has claimed in its press statement that, "expeditious disengagement of border personnel at the face-off site at Doklam has been agreed to and is on-going." This wording did not specify whether it was a mutual disengagement, that is, whether troops from both sides were 'disengaging' and what was the nature of 'disengagement'. This vagueness was clarified by an 'Official Spokesperson's response to questions on the Doklam disengagement understanding', that both sides were disengaging and the process is being verified and was almost completed. This sounds fine, except that Beijing claimed that the reality was nothing of this sort, blowing a big hole in the 'equal' and 'mutual' wording that New Delhi's MEA had cobbled together. It clearly stated that it was the Indian troops that were leaving the disputed area, that is, doing the disengagement. Beijing's foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying clarified that the 'disengagement' was neither equal nor mutual. She stated, "At about 2:30 p.m. on August 28, the Indian side withdrew all its border personnel and equipment that were illegally on the Chinese territory to the Indian side. The Chinese personnel on site have verified this situation. The Indian side has withdrawn all its trespassing border personnel and equipment to their side."
According to this, yes there was disengagement and verification as claimed in New Delhi's MEA statement, except that the disengagement meant withdrawal of Indian troops and the verification of that withdrawal was done by China whose troops remain in the area. China's statement has no reference to any stopping of road building exercises in the disputed region, which started the impasse in the first place. In short, Beijing remains there, New Delhi doesn't. In fact, to China, the 'mutual' agreement is merely the resolution of 'the issue of illegal trespass of the Indian troops'. Major international media reports tell 'both sides' of the story whose both sides cant be true at the same time. That is the bottom-line and no spin from New Delhi can change that. As for road building, Beijing states, 'we will take into consideration all relevant factors, including the weather, to make relevant construction plan in accordance with the situation on the ground'. This is the nature of the face-saver that New Delhi has managed. New Delhi wants the issue to vanish from public memory and media scrutiny. Terming the issue as 'sensitive', Union Defence and Finance minister Arun Jaitley said 'there is no need to make multiple statements'. That's a way of saying that New Delhi will not protest Beijing's claims made by its foreign ministry's official spokesperson. This, in diplomatic circles, is a sign of looking away without acknowledging a truth that is mutually known. A question arises from the above sets of claims and facts – why cannot the Indian Union report the reality completely objectively to its citizens?
The deep state of the Indian Union has a certain narrative about its foreign relations, especially those involving armed confrontations. Citizens of India grow up with this set of axioms. The textbooks, the state media, and much of even the private media and the state-funded academia are engaged not only in reinforcing these axioms but actively creating newer forms of this narrative as new events unfold. What are some of these axioms? They can be summed up as follows. The Indian Union always minds its own business and does not poke its nose into other people's business – it is others who do so and that is the start of all problems. The Indian Union reacts super forcefully but reacts only when perturbed first. The Indian Union is surrounded by those who hate it because the haters are just bad and hateful people and the right kind of Indian citizens are not – the counter hate from the Indian Union is a reaction, not an action. The Indian Union is confronting enemies who are cowards and only engage Delhi in unfair fights because, in fair fights, the tricolour will always rule. On all border-related issues, the Indian Union is a victim and its version of claims on territory are the only true claims – all other facts on the ground are wrong or motivated by entities that are enemies of Mother India. And finally, though the Indian Union is technically a democratic republic where power lies with the people and all institutions are subservient to people's power, the Army cannot be questioned and its version of things is always right. Objectivity is near treason in that case – 'our Army', not 'the Army'. What is shocking is that much of Delhi-based media and the thought ecology that is created by it permeates to a great extent to relatively more independent and non-Delhi toe-lining non-Hindi-English media to, who are generally too poor to do independent fact assessments.
Lest there be any doubt, let me state that all of the above-mentioned axioms of state ideology are obviously ludicrous unless one is happy to disengage all faculties of sovereign thought for oneself. Thus, one has to look at the recent Doklam/Donglang impasse between the Indian Union and the People's Republic of China to figure out for oneself what is being fed to citizens of India in light of the axioms above. There, reality becomes irrelevant as Ministry of Defence and English prime-time talk shows become a proxy for facts on the ground. The result is a sense of cohesion among the media hooked class premised on an opposition to some entity, in this case, Beijing. When the truth is a casualty in the aspiration to cohesion, the results are typically disastrous. The scheme is ironic too, especially in a republic whose primary official Sanskrit slogan is Satyameva Jayte (Truth always wins).
(The views expressed are strictly personal.)