NEW DELHI: Is it sheer coincidence that June 16 marked the third anniversary of the beginning of the 73-day Dolam standoff? Not just that, there are eerie similarities between the killing of Indian soldiers in Galwan and the 1969 killing of Soviet border guards by the Chinese. Ex-Foreign Secretary Nirupama Menon Rao recounts a Soviet contingent who went to check on the situation on the riverine island of Damansky on the Ussuri river. They were attacked, tortured and killed by their Chinese counterparts 51 years ago. The same adversary took the same actions, totally out of conformity with civilised rules of behaviour, Ambassador Menon says in this discussion with StratNews Global Associate Editor Amitabh P. Revi. ‘I’m chilled to the bone with not just the deaths but the manner in which India’s military men were killed,’ she adds. ‘Which far outscales the proportion of what happened even in the leadup to 1962. Ms Menon, though says it’s good the two foreign ministers have spoken as channels of communication are necessary if the consequences are not to be more serious.
The ex-top diplomat talks about the Chinese playbook and emphasises that the national zeitgeist and mood of sorrow, grief and rage shouldn’t tie the hands of the political leadership like it did in 1962. She examines Xi Jinping’s roots and the national situation in China for answers on why Beijing is opening up so many fronts globally and says India should leverage its support in global partnerships as an asset and deploy it more effectively. ‘It’s very important for the Government to guide the narrative through strategic communication,’ domestically and internationally, otherwise she cautions, ‘the Chinese being past masters at psyops will unleash their propaganda to try control the narrative. Tibet will come to the front and centre when the issue of the next Dalai Lama comes up, Ms Menon says, adding India should be proud to speak out about Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the Uighurs.
During her four-decade diplomatic career, Nirupama Menon Rao was India’s first woman spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs, the first woman high commissioner to Sri Lanka and the first Indian woman ambassador to China. She served as India’s Foreign Secretary from 2009-2011. At the end of that term, she was appointed India’s Ambassador to the United States where she served till 2013.