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Where is the 'Chinese threat'?

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Finally, India can breathe in relief. The loud saber-rattling from our TV channels is over. Tens and thousands of Indians who feared their school and...

Finally, India can breathe in relief. The loud saber-rattling from our TV channels is over. Tens and thousands of Indians who feared their school and college going children had to learn one more language, Mandarin Chinese, need not fear any longer. Dozens of aged, retired generals whose white moustaches bristled with anger and appeared ready to take on China on their own went back to their clubs and their whiskey and sodas, boasting to their colleagues how they had decimated the Chinese 'intruders' in TV discussions and could put their uniforms once more in mothballs till the next incident.

The most disappointed were the loudmouth TV anchors who roared at the audacity of the Chinese intrusion and the inability of the Indian government to check it. Watching and listening to them night after night, we were apprehensive that India would be swallowed up by China which had intruded 2 A� meters into Indian territory in some remote, almost uninhabited, border area. 'Throw them out' screamed the anchors and the mob of retired generals nodded in support.

The zest, patriotism and fervour lasted for about 15 days. The Chinese succeeded in their objective, made India look foolish. They stepped back 2 A� meters and suddenly, there was no danger to the sacred Indian border. Life was normal and one more episode was added to the never-ending saga of India's TV comedy show, 'Much Ado About Nothing'. It was so comic that William Shakespeare must have turned in his grave from envy.

For many decades, China had been everybody's enemy. The US refused to recognize Red China for long and called it the 'Yellow Peril'. The USSR was the major enemy but they were white and familiar to the West. But the Chinese? American crime authors and Hollywood movie makers were fascinated by the Chinese, portrayed them as ideal villains. Well, James Bond's first major enemy was �� you guessed it, the Chinese Dr No who had the additional 'advantage' of having his heart on the right side.

Yes Sir, the Chinese were different; it was better to keep away from them. Finally, when the US decided to break the 'bamboo curtain', President Nixon and his Sancho Panza, Henry Kissinger, sneaked into China and yellow became an accepted colour!

What about India? From 1947 Pakistan was the traditional enemy and our 'patriotic' film makers had a readymade villain to bash up. Further, from the days of the British, Jawaharlal Nehru grew to admire the Socialist and Marxist principles which, he felt, took better care of the needs of the poor.

No wonder, he enthusiastically went ahead with the 'Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai' policy which brought the two nations together. The policy was further cemented with the emergence of the Non-Aligned Movement. But then the Chinese inconsistency was once again revealed with large-scale intrusion along the North Eastern border areas. The Chinese argued that these border lines of demarcation like the McMohan Line were drawn by the colonial British rulers and had no modern relevance. The Chinese had no intention of waging war against India.

After all, what would they gain by annexing a region where even the soldiers had no tents, guns, ammunition and snow shoes? But the short-lived invasion shook India and helped push her into the arms of the US.

The Indian media of that era played the same role as of now. Thank God, there was no live TV then. The Chinese were denounced as untrustworthy who had betrayed our hand of friendship. But that had been the Chinese strategy, creating turmoil and unease in the neighbouring regions. A Taiwan (Formosa as it was called then)) was recognized by Western nations and was a pain in the neck for Peking. Of course, Taiwan was a part of China but was separated from the mainland.

When China made aggressive noises, the US threatened it would not hesitate to use atomic weapons to protect the puppet regime in Taiwan. As usual, China did not attack Taiwan. But to keep the pot boiling, it rained shells everyday on the thinly populated islands of Quemoy and Matsu and the media kept track of the number of shells which fell on the islands.

It was in this context one should study the recent 100-page Pentagon study on China's intention and postures with its neighbours. Though avoiding any direct reference to the recent border turmoil with India, the Study said, 'since 1998, China had settled 11 land-based territorial disputes with six of its neighbours'.

The specific disputes and the nations involved were not mentioned . But the Study was a key pointer to China's line of thinking in the region. China's focus was now its economy, it was bent upon becoming the most powerful economic force in the world and could not afford to engage in skirmishes with neighbours.

But traditions die hard. There was a recent spat with Japan over the ownership of some uninhabited islands in the region. Both countries sent their naval ships to these seas and carried out air sorties. But the matter ended there. The Chinese attitude seems to be 'Look, don't fool around with me, I am the most powerful nation in the region.'

While Japan was a well-established economic power, India was fast emerging as one. The US and the West believed that by 2050 India would become a member of the Top Three economically powerful nations. China, with its vaster resources and manpower, need not fear India. But the Chinese thought it would be prudent to keep India on its toes and set off occasional panic bombs, like the recent border intrusions.

They could depend on the Indian media to do the rest. China also cleverly expected the fear expressed by some of the smaller nations at the 'expansionist' policies of India. No wonder, it sided with Sri Lanka in its 'Cold war' with India and the hysterical human rights howls over the resettlement of Tamil refugees. Fortunately, Tamil fanatics of Chennai did not get any support from the Centre which saw through their game.

The game was more serious with Pakistan. To keep the balance even in the region, China did not mind keeping a protective eye on Pakistan despite the fact that the US was doing the same. Once again the double game played by China succeeded.

While the Indian government on most occasions played it cool, the same could not be said of our media, particularly TV channels. Becoming hysterical and xenophobic on every occasion, our TV channels acted like the Tea Party right wing Republicans in the US. And like the Tea Party they were bound to bite the dust.

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