The Chinese think big, we don't
Rajesh Kalra Tuesday May 19, 2009
A number of readers were upset with my blogpost 'Slumdog India' because I had compared India with China and portrayed China as a nation that had its infrastructure priorities right. Readers pasted me on the comparison and held forth on China's shocking human rights record.
I am a proud Indian and have no doubt that despite poor infrastructure, we are a better country to live in. We have the freedom to do things that would be the envy of the world, leave alone China. But this post, unfortunately, is again a comparison between the two nations, but in a different context.
Let me get to the point straight away and look at the geopolitical aspirations of the two nations. We all know that while we have aspirations, China has gone far ahead, and is feared and envied the world over. A strong dose of such a feeling was administered to me last week as I cycled around the Ladakh region.
In the Changthang region of Ladakh, at 14,000 feet, there is breathtakingly beautiful Pangong Tso (Lake). Only 40% of this 130-odd-km-long lake is in India and the remainder is in Tibet (China). Since the lake is shared between the two, it is inevitable that the forces of India and China have boat patrols too.
Now, the forces of the two nations have an unwritten understanding (as conveyed to me by a senior army officer) that since it is a peaceful region, they would not fire at each other. So, what the two forces often indulge in is a game of cat and mouse. They enter each other's territory, activate their opponents, and rush back to the safety of their home waters. If you shut your eyes, you can actually imagine the Indian game of 'kabaddi'. Both sides have power boats for the task.
It is even so far, but don't pop the bubbly yet. In any case, we have this irritating habit of popping the bubbly too soon. Sania Mirza wins a point in the first round of a US Open game, and we behave as if she has won the grand slam. OK, that may be an exaggeration, but it surely happens when she wins a set in the first round.
But getting back to the boat patrols. How would you imagine, this 'kabaddi' is played? I would have imagined that our guys are sitting ready, in their hideouts, and as soon as they sense an incursion, they scramble into their power boats and chase the Chinese back. How lovely! And the Chinese would be doing the same. I really would have loved to see a game. Pity, neither side obliged. Apparently, that is not how it happens, though. I went around talking to more of our guys around, and the information was startling.
Our high-speed power boats look great, and they can move really fast on water, but, they take 30 minutes to warm up before they can chase our Chinese brethren. We have two such boats. Of course, we have other small motor boats too belonging to the army and the border police, but they are like the ones tourists use when they go visiting a vacation destination. Thankfully, at that altitude, not many are in the frame of mind to demand such facilities.
And how many such boats do the Chinese have? Though villagers claim the number to be upwards of 40, the army guys acknowledge the number to be around 22. So the ratio is 2:22, if you disregard the locals, who are normally well informed. These locals are diehard patriots, who also proudly showed me the indelible ink mark on their fingers that they voted. Ladakh had elections in the last phase, on May 13. They were also aware that no such rights exist on the other side of the border.
I asked the villagers to compare our boats with the Chinese. The honest assessment was that though our boats are fast, their boats are smaller and faster. But that is not what has caught their imagination. Almost all of them claimed that the Chinese boats emerge out of water suddenly, at high speed, and dive back in too. This means the Chinese are using submersible boats.
When I confronted an armyman with this claim, he pooh-pooed it: Why would they have something so expensive here? This one sentence itself made the comparison futile. We think small, they think big!http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.co ... mment-form