Dealing with the Darned Dragon-II: Escape Hatch

A day after the meeting between the External Affairs Ministers of India and China, the experts who went deep diving into the official statements of the two, to draw meaning, have not struck upon anything to write home about. Some are now trying to read the body languages of the two ministers during the ten-second photo-op with the Russian Foreign Minister. Until something significant trickles from their efforts, one might take a re-look at the antecedents of the Galwan Valley faceoff and the Pangong Tso standoff. On a dispassionate glance at the incidents in the rear-view mirror, one might just get inclined to draw a conclusion which, might be viewed with mixed emotions… and that inference is:

“Sino-Indian border issue is too serious an affair to be left to a single agency––political leadership, diplomatic corps or the military––to resolve.”

Beyond any doubt, the synergy of the trio has helped India hold the dragon at bay… until now.

The present situation can be summarised thus: India has a tactical military advantage in the Ladakh region––Indian Army will exploit that edge, if a need arises. While China is weighing and considering its options, India is consolidating its position––troops are getting more acclimatised and are stocking up to address the developing situation. China cannot possibly challenge Indian positions in the Ladakh region. If it opens another front elsewhere––say, Sikkim or Arunanchal, where its gains might be iffy––probably Indian troops would en-cash the advantage around Pangong Tso.

A China that now considers itself a world power second only to the US is less likely to eat a humble pie by accepting ‘status quo ante’ (for whatever it means), or by unconditionally withdrawing. A ‘publicised’ setback in Ladakh will affect China’s reputation and stakes elsewhere––Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong, Taiwan and of course, in the sea on its south (some people call it South China Sea‘).

Imponderables are far too many to be summarised here. The time is running out. Suffice it to say that in due course winter will set in and it will become more difficult for Beijing to maintain its forces in the region than Delhi. Dragon is doomed if it accepts India’s terms for peace; it is doomed if it doesn’t. That perhaps is the reason for practically nothing coming out of the meeting between the ministers.

Can India help the dragon wriggle out of a situation it is responsible for creating?

Perhaps Sun Tzu’s Art of War can throw up an answer for India:

“When you surround an enemy [adversary], leave an outlet free…. The object is to make him believe that there is a road to safety, and thus prevent his fighting with the courage of despair. For you should not press a desperate foe too hard.”

~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War, Chapter VII, Manoeuvring

Although not physically surrounded, Beijing’s dilemma in Ladakh is damning––to fight or to find a face saving way out of the imbroglio. While, the Indian Army is holding the fort, can the dragon be nudged into a diplomatic escape hatch from which it can emerge with a smile?

Is Mr Jaishankar listening?

Related posts:

Dealing with the Darned Dragon: Preface

Dealing with the Darned Dragon-I: Border Infrastructure

Dealing with the Darned Dragon-III: A Lesson from Pearl Harbour

Dealing with the Darned Dragon-IV: Exercising (with) the Nuclear Option

Dealing with the Darned Dragon-V: Time to Kowtow!?

16 thoughts on “Dealing with the Darned Dragon-II: Escape Hatch

  1. Hi Chordia,
    I read all your write up wrt China, starting with Champagne and China. And i always feel, that you have really grown as writer. I love to read what you write, because it is very logical and appears as my own piont of view. Thanks.


  2. I liked the Sun zu quote on leaving an escape route.
    Has the dragon reached such a stage of no escape is debatable. The article was interesting. Go on Sir


    1. The weak and the timid don’t need escape roots. They move out of the battle space ‘bravely’—without hesitation. It is those that have an ‘image’ to bother about, that need an escape route to slink away. Escape through a hatch prevents bloodshed and saves face for either side. The beauty is: whether or not China has reached that stage in ‘real’ terms, we’ll probably never come to know.


  3. The Sun Tzu quote is appropriate….and like you have mentioned in your reply to one of the quotes….one really cannot gauge the Chinese next action.
    The Chinese… especially Xi Jinping….with a deadpan face…or half a smile…. cannot really be assessed for what goes on in their mind.
    Our Ministers are definitely listening….and watching their every move.
    What comes next….the Chinese themselves may not be knowing….!!!


    1. At this moment, there’s enough to make the dragon blink. The Chinese build up on the border (despite it being in indefensible position) is a last ditch effort to break India’s resolve. As I said, it is doomed if it acts; it is doomed if it doesn’t. Depends how it wants to meet its nemesis.


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