China’s “wolf-warrior diplomacy” in the Indian experience has gone beyond “sabre-rattling to sabre-thrusting” and India should ensure peace through skillful diplomacy with Beijing as well as by adequately shoring up to defend itself, former minister of state for external affairs Shashi Tharoor said on Thursday. Speaking at an India Global Forum session on ‘Global Leadership – The Future of Multilateralism’, the senior Congress leader said it is very clear that under President Xi Jinping, China is transitioning from “bide your time approach” that it undertook under Deng Xiaoping who wanted China to grow and become strong and wealthy but “keep its head down”.
Referring to the incident of 20 Indian army personnel laying down their lives while thwarting Chinese aggression in eastern Ladakh a year ago, Tharoor said this was not a small matter as the border had been very tranquil for about half a century before the incident took place.
“Suddenly the Chinese come out, move into territory that previously both sides have been patrolling and withdrawing from…establish permanent positions there and when our soldiers go to ask them politely to leave, they are killed,” the Lok Sabha MP said.
“So the wolf-warrior diplomacy in the Indian experience has gone beyond Chinese rhetoric and sabre-rattling to actual sabre-thrusting and that is not something we can afford to take lightly,” said Tharoor who was MoS for external affairs between May 2009-April 2010.
The ‘Wolf Warrior diplomacy’ is a term that has been used to describe confrontational rhetoric by Chinese diplomats to ward off criticism on a host of issues. The term was coined from the 2017 Hollywood Rambo-style Chinese action film “Wolf Warrior 2”.
Sabre-rattling is display or threat of military force
Asked about Xi’s recent remarks that the era of China being bullied is gone forever and China”s wolf warrior democracy, Tharoor said it is very clear that under Xi there is now a transition from the “bide your time” approach under Deng Xiaoping.
“China has transformed itself. Now, President Xi Jinping thinks it’s time to no longer keep the head low,” Tharoor said.
Pointing to numerous examples of China’s “wolf warrior behaviour”, he said the rest of the world has to sit up and pay attention.
“Certainly, in India we would be foolish to ignore what we have seen happening on our own borders and we would be very foolish to not take China seriously when it starts bristling about one thing or another in its own neighborhood,” Tharoor said.
Noting that India is a next door neighbour of China and the country is its biggest trading partner, Tharoor said New Delhi has a lot at stake and has to think carefully while dealing with China.
“We need to be strong enough to discourage any adventurism against us because their language suggests that some day they are quite capable of translating some of that belligerence into more military action across our borders. So, we really have to ensure that we bring about peace both through skillful diplomacy and through being adequately shored up to defend ourselves,” he said.
India and China were locked in a military standoff at multiple friction points in eastern Ladakh since early May last year. However, the two sides completed the withdrawal of troops and weapons from the North and South banks of Pangong lake in February following a series of military and diplomatic talks.
The two sides are now engaged in talks to extend the disengagement process to the remaining friction points.
India has been particularly pressing for disengagement of troops in Hot Springs, Gogra and Depsang.
In his remarks during the session, Tharoor, a former UN under secretary general, also said the importance of multilateral cooperation and global governance can’t be emphasised enough and when this pandemic is finally over, the world must sit down and learn some lessons.
He also strongly backed a reformed UN Security Council and also reform of other UN bodies to make them more representative of contemporary realities.