20 June, 2021

Dateline Xinadu

The Sino-Indian border crisis is framed amidst colonial treaties, old nationalisms, new entitlements. The economic-military edge is with China, yet a conflict would hurt its ‘dream’ as much as ours. India is holding on, but the brink is a dangerous place to hold on to.

Turret Vision
President Xi Jinping peers down from a screen as battle tanks roll down Tiananmen Square in Beijing at a military parade
Photograph by AP
Dateline Xinadu

War arrives unexpectedly. Sometimes a simmering crisis erupts, at other times an unscrupulous leader seeks gain by surprise attack, at other times events simply drift out of control. The biggest problem for those who initiate war is to figure out its scope and when and how it will end, simply because there are too many variables at play. As the saying goes, no war plan survives contact with the enemy. If war between two nucl­ear-armed states is itself self-destructive, limited war is a chimera best avoided.

Anyway, if there was war over Doklam, it would probably be the strangest war ever. It would be over the ‘invasion’—of the extent of 180 metres—of a huge, nuclear-armed country, with the biggest army in the world, by a large but significantly weaker adversary.

Yes, that’s the distance the “invading force” of 40-400 Indian soldiers have travelled into territory China claims as its own, according to a detailed document issued by the Chinese foreign office on August 2, but which is contested by India and...

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