In the summer of 362 BC, Alexander calmly waited over a month on the inhospitable bank of the Jhelum. He was biding time against Porus’s large army with the most powerful battle tanks of the time, war elephants. Now and then, he needled them a little and withdrew. Porus’s troops grew more confident and got lulled into a sense of security.
One rainy night, while sending a small force across from where he had camped, his main army crossed a monsoon swollen river to outmanoeuvre Porus from the rear. The Battle of the Hydaspes (as the Jhelum was then known) continues to be studied by military strategists across the world.
Today, writes Rajesh M Parikh, “a China 10 times more powerful than us in economic and military might than in 1962, is needling us”. Parikh is director, Medical Research & Hon. Neuropsychiatrist, Jaslok Hospital & Research Centre, Mumbai. He has co-authored The Coronavirus: What You Need To Know About The Global Pandemic.
“They have not just singled us out for aggressive posturing. Hong Kong, Taiwan and the South China Sea have all seen crowing displays of might,” he writes.
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Parikh points to analysts who argue that these may come to nought and are driven solely by domestic concerns. If so, it would be similar to how the India-China war ended in 1962.
In the years preceding the war, Chairman Mao’s Great Leap Forward had been a complete disaster with 40-50 million starvation deaths. His position was in danger and he barely hung in during the 10th Plenum of the Party’s 8th Central Committee in September 1962. A month later, total victory in the war with India reinforced his power in China.
“Could a 2020 war with India attempt to restore Xi’s shaky position?” asks Parikh. At present, at least three factions in China jostle for power — the military, the politburo and within it, Chairman Xi Jinping and his enemies.
What also works against India is that the Chinese have brilliantly outmanoeuvred the virus, even after having conducted themselves disgracefully during the early days of the pandemic.
“For us, the worst of the pandemic is yet to come in loss of lives and livelihoods. We aren’t even thinking of the second wave of the pandemic,” he cautions.
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