Since 1959, when India-China relations sharply deteriorated, India has known that it has two geopolitical adversaries.
Recently, India’s Chief of the Army Staff, General Manoj Mukund Naravane, reassuringly said in May at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses that the Indian Army remains “alive” to a “two-front” war.
Whenever India has forgotten that it has two antagonists and let its guard down, it has paid dearly for it.
The two obvious examples are the 1962 and 1971wars.
The mistake made earlier is instructive today.
The interactions between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping at Wuhan (April 2018) andMamallapuram, Tamil Nadu (October 2019) further blind-sided those involved in foreign and security policy planning in New Delhi.
The lessons of 1962
In the India-Chinainteractions leading up to the 1962 China-India war, India had demonstrated friendliness without reciprocity andfirmness without force.
Despite deteriorating India-China relations in the late-1950s, neitherNehrunor Krishna Menon had contemplated a war between the two countries.
Mr. Menon, “firmly opposed moving a single man from the Kashmir front, so convinced was he that Pakistan would attack at any opportune moment”.
It was his immutable belief that Pakistan was the threat, not China.
Nehru too shared the view that Pakistan posed the greater threat to India.
Indeed, it was Nehru who told Krishna Menon and India’s Chief of the Army Staff that he had reliable information that the Chinese forces would not offer resistance if there was a show of force from India.
The then Chief of the Army Staff, General P.N. Thapar, had told Krishna Menon that the Indian Army did not have the necessary strength to evict the Chinese from their posts.
Krishna Menon reassured him that the Chinese Deputy Premier, Chen Yi, had told him that China would never fight India over the border issue.
On October 20, 1962, the People’s Liberation Army strucksimultaneously, all along the India-China frontier — a move smacking of long preparation.
Nehru had written to U.S. President John F. Kennedy that China was making a bid for leadership, not just of Asia, but “as a first step in their bid for world leadership”.
Although circumstances are different today, India continues to face the two-frontconundrum.
While remainingclear-eyed about Chinese intentions, India must resist the temptation to remedy past errors by precipitate action.
These need a long-termvision, executed with patience and perseverance.
Changing our approach towards mask use
Lately, a series of studies has provided evidence that widespread mask usecan help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and considerably slow the pandemic.
In emergencies, however, demand for hard evidence can prove painful — and it is indirect evidence and conventional wisdom that often guide preliminary responses.
It is such indirect evidence and conventional wisdom that inspired far-reaching measures like nationwide lockdowns, at least in the early days of the pandemic.
The same, however, failed when it came to making masks ubiquitous early on, except for nearly half a dozen small nations which had done so by the end of March.
The WHO’s own NPI (non-pharmaceutical interventions) guidance on pandemic influenza recommends mask use for the public during severe pandemics.
Perhaps what is most unfortunate is that a useful mass-level measure was reduced to a predominantly personal protection measure.
Early recommendations on masks predominantly involved using them to protect either health workers or high-risk individuals.
And it is such an approach that still characterises India’s mask use policy.
The Ministry of Health advisory on widespread use of home-mademasks came on April 3, learning from certain nations like the Czech Republic which had made masks mandatory much earlier.
Then, States such as Maharashtra and U.P. made masks compulsory, and the Ministry of Home Affairs did so as part of lockdown rules.
However, a concerted nationwide drive to ensure universal mask use has remained lacking.
Did appropriate masking practices receive enoughairtime and space in newspapers?
Certainly, masks are yet to receive the kind of emphasis that physical distancing or mass quarantine have.
With community spread presumably rife in many parts of the country, measures like contact tracing and increased testing are increasingly becoming irrelevant.
Achange in our approach towards masks is imperative.
Only when its population-level significance is fully comprehended will comprehensive strengthening on policy, promotional, and regulatory fronts follow.
Don’t Defer To China
The Rig Veda was composed around 1500 BCE, some thousand years before Confucius and Lao Tze ushered in structured thought into China.
China is the world’s largest autocracy. China is stronger militarily and economically, but India is no pushover either. The India of 2020 is not the India of 1962.
The latest travesty at Galwan valley should be a wake-up call against a weak mindset.
The first thing to understand is that while Pakistan is a minor nuisance on the sidelines, China is our principal strategic enemy in both the short and long term.
It has consistently and ruthlessly followed a policy towards India of engagement with containment.
For decades now, China is brazenly in possession of Aksai Chin, our territory.
Even when they surreptitiously built an all weather road through this seized territory, we were silent.
China is building the China-PakistanEconomicCorridor (CPEC) through Gilgit-Baltistan in PoK, which we claim as our territory.
China blocks our membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
China, till last year, prevented Masood Azhar from being labelled a terrorist by the UN.
China claims Arunachal Pradesh as its territory, calling it South Tibet.
China is in open military collusion with Pakistan against us, and has invested billions of dollars in PoK.
China flagrantly meddles in ourneighbourhood to encircle us, the latest example being the behaviour of Nepal.
China refuses to rectify the trade imbalance with us, dumping its inferior goods, while setting up barriers to our exports.
And China routinely salami slices territory along the LAC through unprovoked military aggression.
But through successive governments, we continue to kowtow before the Dragon.
During President Xi Jinping’s state visit to India in September 2014, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi and he were sampling dhokla on the banks of the Sabarmati, there was a major intrusion of Chinese troops at Chumar in Ladakh.
China’s singleminded pursuit to contain India was consistent, but we celebrated summits at Wuhan and Mamallapuram as though they signalled a change of heart.
Galwan valley should finally compel us to undertake a major course correction.
First, we need to radically upgrade our border infrastructure along the LAC.
Chinese resentment on our building the Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie road near the LAC was apparent.
But we must persist on a war footing nevertheless, because China’s border infrastructure is such that it can move 30 divisions of half a million troops to the LAC in days.
Second, we must increase our defence preparedness.
Our record on this front is abysmal.
For instance, in 2011 executive go-ahead was given to create a China focussed mountain strike corps in Uttarakhand, Ladakh and Sikkim. But it took years before our finance ministry provided funds for it.
Third, we should shed our reticence in diplomatically isolating China, strengthen forums like the Quad, support the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, expand our interaction with Taiwan, and condemn Chinese bullying in the South China Sea.
Fourth, we should, in a calibrated manner, reduce Chinese imports, and ban China from investing in infrastructure projects.
Fifth, we should use forums like the WHO to ask for Chinese accountability in the spread of Covid-19.
All governments are complicit in our strategic failure to deal appropriately with China.
Modi’s stern message that the martyrdom of our soldiers in Galwan valley will not go in vain, must signal a fundamental change in our China policy.
Returning to the city
The phase of large-scale exodus of migrant workers from major urban and industrial centres to their home states is over.
Not only has Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasised “unlock, unlock, unlock” as the way orward, many industries have restarted in some form.
Sectors such as FMCG are reporting higher demand — whether for staples, biscuits, snacks and instantnoodles or soaps and sanitisers — than even during pre-COVID, simply because of more people still sitting at, if not working from, homes.
While the healthcare and telecom industries operated even during the lockdown, one can expect others as well — the need to avoid crowded traveling and shopping should, for instance, benefit two-wheeler makers and e-commerceplatforms — to ramp up capacity utilisation in the coming days.
All this should result in the returning migrant labourers leaving their villages again.
Their going back was, after all, triggered by the sudden loss of work and no earnings for even sustaining themselves, let alone sending home.
Manpower shortages in production assembly lines, loading and unloading of goods or making home deliveries will force FMCG companies, auto manufacturers and online grocers to pay higher wages in the short run.
Paddy growers of Punjab and Haryana, who have always relied on migrant workers for transplantation operations, are left with no choice either.
For the labourers, too, the wage premiums and lack of livelihood options back home — MGNREGA work pays just Rs 194 daily in Bihar and Rs 201 in UP — are going to be significant “pull” factors.
The Modi government has launched a Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyan to provide livelihood opportunities through focused public infrastructure works in 116 districts with large returnee migrant worker populations.
But such schemes cannot substitute for private sector activity in which this workforce was previously engaged.
6th International Day of Yoga
Celebrated across the globe
Prime Minister Narendra Modi: Yoga brings people together and gives a message of universal brotherhood and it has emerged as a force for unity.
The Prime Minister said Yoga helps in strengthening our respiratory and immune system which plays a crucial part in dealing with diseases.
Corona virus hits our respiratory system and several breathing exercises like Pranayam and Anulom Vilom strengthen our respiratory system.
To promote Yoga, My Life, My Yoga-video blogging contest with attractive prizes is also being organized by Ministry of Ayush in which the people are being encouraged to post their short video clips performing different Yogasanas.
The Prime Minister said, taking part in the My Life-My Yoga video blogging contest during the corona virus pandemic, shows that enthusiasm for Yoga is increasing.
In Madhya Pradesh, more than 1 lakh people simultaneously performed yoga via online platforms from different places in Guna district of the state to set a new world record.
The programme was organised by the Guna district administration to mark the International Day of Yoga.
To make this campaign a success, the Guna district administration also created an app called 'Guna Karega Yoga'.
Guna Collector S Viswanathan said that more than 11 thousand people have downloaded this app.
Union Human Resource Development Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank has launched an Online Yoga Quiz Competition to promote integration of Yoga in school curriculum.
The competition has been organised by National Council of Educational Research and Training.
The Quiz competition is open for all students of class 6th to 12th across the country.
Speaking on the occasion, HRD Minister said that the objective of this competition is to create awareness and to motivate children to acquire comprehensive information from authentic sources on different yogic practices.
Mr Nishank said, steps have also been taken to promote active participation of students with special needs by converting question from text to audio.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh today held a high-level meeting with the Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and three service Chiefs on situation in Ladakh.
After review meeting, Armed forces were given full freedom to deal with any aggressive behaviour by China's PLA along the LAC.
The meet also discussed to adopt a different tactical approach in guarding border with China henceforth.
Top military brass also told to ensure strict vigil on Chinese activities around land border, airspace and in strategic sea lanes.
In Jammu and Kashmir, four terrorists have been gunned down by security forces in two separate encounters in Kashmir valley during 24 hours.
Three terrorists were killed in first encounter that broke out between terrorists and security forces at Zadibal area in Srinagar district today.
According to Police, a joint team of security forces launched a Cordon and Search Operation based on a specific input about the presence of terrorists in the area.
As a joint team approached towards this suspected spot , hiding terroritst fired upon them which was retaliated triggering an encounter and resulted in the elimination of three terrorists.
The Union Government today said that the recovery rate reached to 55.49 per cent in the country and a total of two lakh 27 thousand 756 people affected with corona virus have been cured so far.
During the last twenty four hour, 13 thousand 925 people have recovered from Covid-19.
Presently, the total number of active corona cases in the country is one lakh 69 thousand 451.
Health and Family Welfare Ministry said, a total of 15 thousand 413 new cases of Covid-19 have been reported in the last 24 hours taking the total number of cases to four lakh 10 thousand 461.
Indian Council of Medical Research, ICMR said that a total of one lakh 90 thousand 730 tests of corona virus samples were conducted by the various laboratories in the last 24 hours.
The country witnessed a rare celestial event, annular solar eclipse today.
The annular ‘ring of fire’ solar eclipse, wherein the Sun appears like a ring of fire was witnessed in different parts of the country.
The solar eclipse took place on the summer solstice, which is the longest day in the Northern Hemisphere.
People in different places of Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttarakhand could see the annular phase and people in rest of the country witnessed partial eclipse.