Amit Shah plays Ali more than Tyson against China: ducking, guarded, with the occasional sting

In great conflicts, the side speaking less and in a low voice is usually in better control. The side that resorts to bluster, makes grand shows of strength and complains the loudest is normally the shaky or insecure one.

In the India-China standoff, China has repeatedly cavilled about Indian incursions into the territory it claims, bad-mouthed and issued threats, and childishly posted show-off videos of military might. India has been more restrained in its statements but obstinately firm and aggressive in standing its ground.

One expected signature fireworks and a departure from India’s stoic restraint from Union home minister Amit Shah when he spoke to Network18 group editor Rahul Joshi in an interview telecast on Saturday.

But Shah was firmly restrained, dropping only pale but significant hints about India’s moves.

It could only mean one thing: India’s topmost security leadership is working to a plan with silent resolve, and will not let any brash statement ruin that. It also shows that India is fully aware of China’s immense military power and does not underestimate the enemy’s ability to surprise and overwhelm.

“We are trying to find a solution at the military as well as diplomatic levels. I don’t want to comment much on the issue but want to reiterate what PM Modi has said… We are completely aware of every inch of our land at the border and no one can take it from us,” Shah told Joshi.

He sidestepped a question on whether it is time for India to change its policy towards Tibet and Taiwan since China doesn't consider Ladakh and Arunachal to be a part of India.

“I think this is not the right platform for such issues. This is a complex subject and has far-reaching repercussions. Defence minister Rajnath Singh and external affairs minister [S Jaishankar] have already spoken on it in Parliament. That is enough. Talks are on and we are completely aware of our rights. We will protect our land at all cost,” he said.

Asked if the Indian Army was war-ready since Xi Jinping had instructed his forces to prepare, Shah said the standoff would not have happened if the Indian military did not stand its ground.

Then came the biggest hint at India’s diplomatic offensive against China. Asked if India was ready to take on an alliance of two hostile nations – China and Pakistan – on both sides, Shah said it won’t be easy.

“No one can take India for granted and we have a lot of International support,” he said. “China and India share a different kind of relationship with different nations.”

Indeed, India is at the heart of a growing coalition against China’s bullying and expansionism which includes nations like the US, Australia, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and even Philippines.

The only time Shah stepped out of the crease was when Joshi cited Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s allegation that China had encroached 1,200 km and a Congress government would have thrown it out in a flash.

“Rahul Gandhi has no data or facts. The Congress has no right to talk like this because it was during its regime that China occupied our land. I want Rahul Gandhi to answer this to the public. In the 1962 war, when Rahul's great grandfather [Jawaharlal Nehru] was PM, China occupied our land,” he said.

This was Shah’s first interview after a bout of Covid-19. While taking on the pandemic’s creator, Shah seemed more Ali than Tyson. Guarded, but not without the sting.



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