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China has an asymmetric advantage over India that lies within India, not at the border front

India has had a dubious legacy of being defeated by schemes of its own more often than at the hands of the enemy in actual war

While India’s western border has always been hot, of late tensions have been mounting on the eastern front as well where till now, things had been peaceful at least on the surface. Things came to a head-on June 15, when India lost 20 of her brave sons in a brutal hand to hand combat with the treacherous Han army, which itself is said to have lost at least twice as many soldiers. The Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi has paid his tributes to the men killed in action, acknowledged that their sacrifice will not go in vain and any attempts to provoke India or threaten its sovereignty and integrity would not be allowed to go unpunished. India and the world at large know that PM Modi is cut from a different mould than some of his predecessors and as shown by his resolve in conducting the surgical strikes and the air strike at Balakot, he can walk the talk if push comes to shove.

Looking at the current situation, while all of us hope for a peaceful return to the status quo on the LAC, further escalation to a short, localised conflict or even full-blown war can-not be ruled out. While Indian Armed Forces are fighting fit and can deliver more than a bloody nose to China, there are some other avenues in which China enjoys an asymmetric advantage over India. A cursory glance over social and mainstream media over the past couple of days is enough to point out what these avenues are.

A war effort requires participation from each and every individual in some way or the other- if the soldier fights on the war front, the civilians work in the farms and factories to replenish supplies and sustain the war effort. As important it is to keep the army’s morale high, in case of an actual all-out war, the morale of the nation as a whole becomes equally important. It is here that China and India offer a study in striking contrasts.

China is a unitary one-party state, with total censorship on media and no party other than the Communist party permitted to function. China can thereby get away with unimaginable acts like not owning up the loss of lives of its own soldiers like it did in the June 15 confrontation and every other clash in the past. Its citizens have no way of knowing if China is mauled at the hands of the enemy or if its armed forces have suffered multiple casualties. In such a controlled and insulated environment, it is thereby easy to keep the spirits of the nation as a whole upbeat.

In stark contrast, India is a multi-party democracy and has a free media. Under ordinary circumstances, this freedom is a boon, but there are also some unique challenges which India faces. While media must keep those in power accountable, certain sections of the media in India seem hellbent on damaging the nation’s interests in their quest to settle scores with the PM and his party. Where else would you find headlines in newspapers proclaiming ‘Ghar mein ghus ke maara’ (they hit us in our own home) or celebrity accounts with thousands of followers making sarcastic comments and snide remarks to target the government and armed forces? Some could hardly hide their desire to see India get a bashing at the hands of the enemy only to prove that the PM is no tough man that his supporters believe him to be.

On one hand, they believe our army when it says 20 soldiers made the supreme sacrifice, but on the other, they are equally eager to cast aspersions about the authenticity of the surgical strikes or air strike. There is a host of self-declared defence experts (sadly including some retired armed forces personnel), making dubious claims about incursions into Indian territory by the enemy and some have gone to the extent of twisting the statements by Hon. Raksha Mantri who said that the Chinese have built up a fairly large number of troops on THEIR SIDE of the border. All limits were crossed when the former head of Amnesty India went on to say that the real enemy of India was its ruling party and not China. In China, the mere mention of the Tiananmen Square incident is enough to set the security agencies on the trail of the individual, whereas in India, students are allowed to get away after shouting slogans calling for dismemberment of India into a thousand fragments at a university in the heart of Delhi.

India has had a dubious legacy of being defeated by schemes of its own more often than at the hands of the enemy in actual war. It should not come as a surprise then, that such elements abound in the present era as well. What is different today though, is the penetrance and access of real-time information to the remotest corners of the country through mobile phones and cheap internet, which places a very large section of the population at risk of being manipulated and demotivated by such vested interests. In a war-like situation, this can prove to detrimental to the nation.

Thus, the enemy which resides within the borders of India- in university campuses, newsrooms, editorial offices and luxurious Lutyens villas is what weakens India against an adversary as deceitful and strong as China. If tensions continue to mount and there indeed is a full-fledged conflict at the border, India must be prepared to vanquish these enemies alongside dealing with the enemy on the front.

(This article has been authored by Dr. Dev Desai. He is an MBBS Graduate from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi)

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