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Hi, this is somebody who has taken the quieter by-lane to be happy. The hustle and bustle of the big, booming main street was too intimidating. Passing through the quieter by-lane I intend to reach a solitary path, laid out just for me, to reach my destiny, to be happy primarily, and enjoy the fruits of being happy.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The Ultimate Racism

 A lot many (or rather all of them) mechanical and bio-chemical contrivances, in the form of machines, apparatus and many other things of utility, are simply an extension of our capabilities to accomplish things at the material plane. A car is simply an extension of our feet to reach the destination faster. A boat is an enlarged attempt at swimming. Weapons are simply our extended claws and fists to hurt more painfully. A computer is simply an apparatus to calculate, store, memorize, analyze and help our brain. It is a mere appendage to the brain just like many other machines and tools are the appendages to our legs, eyes and hands.

An earth-mover may move a mountain-side and we may not be able to break even a single clod of earth with bare hands, we are still qualified with something extra. The machine doesn’t exist experientially to know and feel that it exists. It’s a closed system. We can quantitatively go on increasing its power and capabilities, but the fundamental barrier between sentient and non-sentient persists to keep it qualitatively different.

With artificial intelligence people say that this final frontier might be broken. It would be possible for the machines to exist in self-awareness, it’s speculated. It may not be so. You have a heap of stones around. You set masons to work on it and dress the stones in limitless ways and build something architecturally marvelous. But does it change the nature of stone? Is the structure aware of its identity? Same is the case with our rest of creations. Someone may die if the structure crashes down though. The so called AI-stimulated machines of future may crush we humans with their mammoth capabilities but that would be accidental in nature rather than a planned coup by the mankind’s creations.

There is a fundamental difference between what we make and what evolves naturally. Consciousness is the final frontier separating us from our machines. The more the pool of memory to enable a computer to go into the domain of super-computing skills, the more is the realization that it hardly becomes self-conscious. It stays on the path of becoming a larger pool of bits of memory operating across transistors. Its potential is not infinite. It is a closed circuit. Its destiny is planned. It cannot create something beyond the set of memory installed. There is a boundary. And self-consciousness is impossible within a boundary. It may calculate unimaginable things and facilitate things that we cannot even imagine. But it can hardly imagine. It has no free will to define the multi-dimensionality of existence. It cannot dream. It cannot become joyful, cry, feel sad, be ecstatic and get jealous. Can it get excited to make love? Come whatever we may do, it will but stay a machine—bigger though—just like a wheel is a wheel even if it graduated from the stone wheels of the Stone Age to the modern ones. The modern wheel is as much unaware of itself as the stone wheel was thousands of years back. Mere addition in efficiency isn’t consciousness. However, given their super-human capabilities, the AI and its apparatus may spell doom on us, but that would be accidental, not a planned vendetta to bring us down and rule the planet.

There are billions of neurons in our brain that interact through chemical-nature neurotransmitters. These have evolved at the interface of pure energy and matter. There hasn’t been a limit, no pre-set boundary. There are trillions of pathways in which information can be passed on to create infinite experiential possibilities. Being aware of ourselves is just one of them.

Is a stone fundamentally different than the neural fluid in our brain? Yes and no. The structural and molecular arrangement in a stone provides it a rigid identity that contains the seeds of awareness in its most rudimentary form. The stone turns to dust to become soil where bio-signature of life starts in the form of grass, graduating to animals and humans. Human consciousness is thus no abstract entity. It is a drop in the ocean of fellow drops. It’s a leaf on a tree. It’s a part of the whole and has no abstract existence. The moment we talk of an apparatus, we accept an abstraction. A systematically cut off portion from the rest of entire creation. Its destiny is to exist inert as we call it. We humans are a part of the entire set of evolution. Our energy system has the bridges with the whole even with the hard sense of self-awareness. A machine has no such facilitating bridges because it hasn’t evolved. It’s merely a contrivance, a short cut to facilitate some task, a kind of closed system.

The levels of consciousness vary among flora and fauna. Even a stone possesses the level of consciousness that it needs to exist in its particular form and shape. We commit the mistake of evaluating all forms of consciousness using the benchmark of our own consciousness. We have a fluid integrative and ever-expanding picture of things and phenomena through our senses. At least on this planet, it seems the pinnacle of evolution of consciousness. Hence we belittle animals for having raw consciousness and stones for having none.

Artificial Intelligence may not turn out to be catastrophic intentionally—it may bomb out our entire existence in own swipe accidentally though—as many of us may worry about. The real danger will be from within our own minds. The urge to have super-human qualities and capabilities through selective genetic engineering, implanting bio-chips in brains to boost our self-centered design and scheming of life will create a future world where the advantaged and the disadvantaged will be decided by the fact who can afford the new technologies and who cannot. The future world will have two classes, almost different species, of humans: Tech-implanted and simple flesh and blood humans. The latter will occupy a servile category, serving the superior new-breeds because they won’t have any option. The ultimate racism will emerge. The strains of self-consciousness will remain till the last naturally evolved cell—carrying the blueprint of millions of years of natural evolution—stays in the tech-implanted super-species. After that we may have a world of super-machines who won’t be self-aware like we have been.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

The art of life beyond self-preservation

Self-preservation is genetically ingrained in our apparently individual consciousness. It's the basic need for the energy, the soul, to keep clinging to the matter, the body; matter being just a transitory phase in the ever-going cyclical surge of energy. The nature of this energy is nothing yet everything at the same time. It’s a self-sustaining ripple, a pulse, a flicker, in the void; a kind of echo, where the echo itself recreates further echoes; a kind of self-generated reverberation.
The apparent matter is nothing but momentary hiatus, a sort of sabbatical, on the path of energy journey when it decides to drop its guard at low frequencies and minimum speed to be visible and give rise to phenomena, shapes, sizes and the consequent interplays at extremely slow pace in comparison to its normal speed, i.e., the speed of light that we have measured so far. This galactic slow-down of the energy floats around in the form of the five primary elements. The first four namely earth, water, fire and air are floating to maintain equilibrium in the fifth element, ether.
Well, this cosmic macroscopic view may sound too intimidating, filling us with this helpless feeling about our inconsequentiality and worthlessness. So let’s come back to our little backyard on planet earth. Returning to the instinct for physical survival, this urge for survival in a particular form has the natural inclination to go overboard and turn into a chronic obsession. As is the natural law, anything beyond a limit is harmful. Too much of nectar is poison and even poison within limits is beneficial and healing. So this tight grip on survival beyond a limit turns counterproductive.
(I)llness is nothing but the sense of ego 'I' gone overboard, a kind of autoimmune syndrome triggered by lopsided consciousness. Its rampant competitiveness and insecurity turns it almost blind, leaving it capable of going against its own organisms that it is supposed to protect. It harms the matter, the body, that it presumes to protect. It breeds illness of both body and mind. It in turn leaves its negative imprint on the soul—the core point of consciousness functioning as the bedrock for this body—in the form of painful, suffering account pool of karma, which in turn guides it further as per the potential created by the pool of ingrained memories along the path.
(We)llness is nothing but 'I' diluted and replaced by 'We'. The hard knot of ego melts to give way to get a more proportional consciousness beyond the hard limits of the physical self and its obligations of relentless fight for self preservation. The only way we can check this running down the precipice to self doom is to calm down 'l'—leading to Illness of both body and mind—and nurture 'We'—leading to wellness. It’s a quantum jump on the path of creation from illness to wellness. We are the agents of creation. Just that uncontrolled self-obsession turns us the slayers of the self instead of the creators of something bigger. Life’s meaning is just in actualizing this potential.
Life is what we ‘create’ using the tool of consciousness through the process of living. This is a kind of self generation. It’s not necessary that what we hatch out in our pursuit of our free-will will fit in the normal standardization of achievements, rewards and victories that we see around us. These are simple destinations where many people have felt comfortable in creating their lives around the axis of comfort and common acceptance. But it doesn’t mean that these are the sole parameters to judge and evaluate our lives. Life needs evaluation not judgments. The judgements unjustifiably categorize it as high-low, good-bad, success-failure, etc. This narrow compartmentalization is no justice to the infinite dimensions we are capable of adapting to and recreate new avatars. If we live life by judgments, we cut short our potential as per the standard barometer. It may sound safe, but the outcome is equally mundane. It always leaves us with that persistent nagging feeling that we didn’t kiss the nectar of ultimate freedom, choosing rather to tie the chains of our convenience. In contrast, as a creator, we simply evaluate beyond the scales of moral or ethical judgments. We see life in totality with a smile and carve out our own world where we are the sovereign, ruling as per our own set of laws. This is what we mean by freedom. This is the territory where we may feel at rest, free from that nagging restlessness and incompleteness that usually plagues most of us.
We have the collective platform in the form of genetics born of systematic, generational grooming of consciousness along specified paths. It decides in what shape we come out starting from an invisible couple of cells to a meat of ball to finally this body. We also have the surrounding pool of socio-economic platform among which we open our eyes and learn the basics of life. Genetics and the surroundings where we grow are the kindergarten for us to help us lead to a bigger platform. Unfortunately, most of us grab our doctorates and post-docs from the kindergarten only, completely forgetting that we were supposed to come out of the learner’s stage long ago and be creators.
I know genetics and the surroundings we are born in are beyond our control. These are but just the launching pad. After this what we create in the form of life through well directed consciousness is always within our hands. It’s suitable to accept our status to be creators. Create life. Don't survive as a creation, accidently pushed and prodded by the collective factors that have given birth to this body and the circumstances around.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Mating Millipedes and Creeping Corona


Monsoon has painted it green. Grass, trees, plants and flowers, everything is hurtling towards the maximization of their blooming, luxuriant potential. Mildew in the pickle jars, garden millipedes mating in the grass, mold playing musty truant, red milkweed beetles scurrying around as the dandy of the insect world, creepers taking a passionate grip of buxom foliages. Monsoon has stamped its signature pretty diligently. The non-human part of the world is as normal and busy as any other time, unconcerned about the Covid stats creeping like the deadliest vine that has eaten as much into our minds as it has done to the body.   
By the end of the first week of August, total cases world over stand at 20 million (more than 700000 dead) with the US topping the chart like front ranker should at 5 million (1.7 million deaths). India with 2 million cases (43000 deaths) is promisingly moving in the race to topple Brazil (3 million cases, 100000 deaths) and occupy second position. The rise in number of cases has turned normal now with India scoring in excess of 50000 cases daily. The hysteria has subsided a bit as we limp back to our old normal, the skewed set of choice that actually pushed us into the catastrophe.
Have we learnt something concrete to force us to redefine life and living on the planet? Certainly not! With our liberties maimed and freedom curtailed, we are waging the same war from our protective bio-bubbles. It’s like donning fire suits to walk through the fire with much agony instead of taking a detour after reflecting over the choices we have made. Our set of deeds necessitated a chain of unsustainable practices that has left us on the brink where natural imbalances will strike one way or the other. The best option would have been a systematic overhaul of all that we have been doing accidentally. We could have chosen to live by a rebranded, refurbished collective choice that would allow us bypass walking through the fire. Unfortunately, like a stubborn herd of sheep hurtling down and over the precipice we aren’t willing to change course. We are just being carried by the momentum of past mistakes. We are more comfortable with being pushed around instead of charting a new course.  
What inroads Corona has made into our lives! On January 30 India got its first case in Kerala. At that time it appeared as distant as death that preys upon others leaving us alive. Then it crept around viciously. The crisis is critically multi-dimensional. It has transformed the way we think, act and dream. Public healthcare system exposed to the seams, companies have crashed and economy almost torn apart. The labor class bears an unseen and unacknowledged tale of a humanitarian tragedy, the rising middle professional class forced to revision future, customs like marriage and social traditions stretched to bearing limits, children are sitting at home and the current education year severely jeopardized on the verge of going as a blank year in academics with exams postponed and suspended. The single-pointed focus on the bio-security measures have encroached into the façade of life like termites in wood. Will being in a bio-bubble turn a norm in future? Probably yes! All the parameters of social, cultural, personal, professional and political life have been dented for the time being. Weddings, study classes, political gatherings, preaching, religious ceremonies, in fact almost everything went online. Is this an indication of the deeply individualized society in the coming times? Internet is the God of course. We will lose human touch because we will be lesser of humans and more of something else, some new species may be.
Democracies have been forced to take undemocratic measures—like the dictatorial regime of the land that sired the virus—to contain the pandemic. Pre-pandemic India looks as much different from the post-pandemic India like AC is from BC in the chronology of years. Well, AC may be termed now as After Corona and BC as Before Corona. Corona for Christ. The name has acquired divinity itself—with negative shades though.
Although the pandemic is infecting more and more people, it’s killing lesser people now. May be people are better prepared at the mental level now. Only one in seven infected are being hospitalized and among those hospitalized only one in six patients need ICU treatment. Mind over matter. Of course, as per the laws of growth, evolution and dissolution it has to lose its steam. Possibly the disease is getting less virulent. For some time the flu virus overran all its territories and started affecting lungs, liver, heart, kidney and brain. It still is fatal for particular systems that are susceptible to its encroachment but the majority of people are safe against it as herd immunity build up. As far as treatment is concerned, the scientists are still paddling around. For the time being, Remdesivir appears to work with patients having mild or moderate symptoms. Dexamethasone works on people with severe infections. Brazilian president says HCQ has helped him a lot. He was sure earlier that his athletic past was enough to make him immune to this mere influenza. After getting infected, however, he is supposed to draw some lessons not only as an individual but primarily as a leader of a nation that is fighting the pandemic. As they guess about the effect of existing drugs on Covid-19, the easily available and low-cost steroid, Dexamethasone, is shown to cut down death by two thirds among those patients needing oxygen treatment.

Earlier, during the months of June and July, as the hysteria built up, expecting the worst the government let loose the planning machinery full throttle. Train coaches as makeshift Covid Care wards to posh hotels as Covid facilities government explored all avenues to cater to the patients of all classes.
Jails are being eased of their burden fearing Corona spread among the inmates. So illegality gets a bit freer hand by allowing more and more fish to escape the net. To ease the burden on courts and jail premises, the Railways is doing away with provisions for imprisonment for tiny mischief such as ticketless travel, pulling the alarm chain without reason, unauthorized travel, trespassing in reserved coaches, hawking, committing nuisance, altering or defacing ticket/pass, littering, trespassing into ladies compartment, smoking in the passenger area and begging on platforms and footboard joyrides. Laws are melting and turning lenient to accommodate a bit of human mischief.   
Social media puts up newer challenges for democracy. Print is losing readership, TV news are going downhill with barely audible remark of sanity among the cackling panelists, and among all this social media with its lies and fabricated facts and figures rises the curve to take possession of mass opinion making process. Earlier there were selected and recognizable channels for opinion making to help the political parties. Presently, there are infinite channels for any fact and figure to be twisted beyond recognition and create alternate realities. These realities then clash, leaving many friction points in societies and among nations, making it a more chaotic world.   
WhatsApp and Facebook do not require one to quote any source, no wonder it lets loose a long trail of blatant lies that outshine truth almost instantly. False alarms, fake news, rumors, photo-shopped pictures on Facebook pages and WhatsApp forwards circulating bogus information have created heartburns to murderous riots. These are potent weapons to stoke and inflame sentiments and emotions. Emotions once roused and triggered generate fear and indignation. On top of this, the already cornered newspaper gets condemned as a pariah as people stand assured that paper spreads Covid despite many reports to the contrary. No wonder, newspaper subscription has plummeted down.
The legal immunity and protection enjoyed by players like Google, Facebook and Twitter, protecting them from any legal fallouts born of the users’ posts, need to be relooked to turn them responsible actors. The unfettered content on the Internet has turned it far more unsafe and suspicious world than ever. There has to be a fact-checking machinery in operation.     
Bollywood is indeed a very lonely place. Bollywood nepotism versus outsiders debate is building up to raise serious issues. How lonely the late actor Sushant Singh Rajput felt can be easily assessed from the statement he made while promoting his movie: “If you don’t watch it, they’d throw me out of Bollywood. I have no Godfather. I’ve made you (all) my Gods and Fathers. Watch it if you want to see me suvive me in Bollywood.”
Kangna Ranaut has taken a vitriolic jibe at nepotism by pointing out filmmaker Karan Johar as the “flag-bearer of nepotism” managing the careers of star-kid-brigade, where people from outside the filmi families are systematically made to feel outsiders. The “self-appointed gatekeepers of Bollywood” also includes a “mean girl gang” that has the power to replace unwelcome actors from big banner movies. A criminal case has been filed against well established Bollywoodians for their alleged role in abetting Sushant Singh Rajput’s suicide. In the complaint, it has been alleged that the late actor was removed from seven films and some of his films were facing problems in release.
Amid all the distrust and fear, a desert flower shines in the oasis in the dusty barren swathes of Balochistan. It’s a depilated mud wall protecting an age-old battered wooden plain door still padlocked. A Hindu had taken a tiny shop on rent from his Muslim neighbor in Balochistan. The partition time blood and gore forced the Hindu to leave for India. Before leaving his birthplace, the distraught Hindu locked the door and told the owner that he would be returning some day. The landlord waited and on his deathbed asked his children not to open the lock and wait for the Hindu. The lock awaits the key-keeper even after 73 years. Goodness in one heart possesses the prospect of removing darkness from a thousand mean-hearted people around.  
The doctors are trained and paid to save lives. The government rules like a King with all the powers to manage people. There are benefits to push them on the path of their duties. I would pick out the ambulance man of India who has selflessly chosen to serve. Himanshu Kalia (41) and his wife Twinkle have been on a mission during the horrid times when mass panic has turned us full throttle on the path of self preservation. They ferry patients to hospitals and take bodies to crematoriums. They do it for free. Their rewards are in another currency which is intangible to commercial eyes. He has a lot of errands awaiting him from arranging plasma donors to funeral services to find out vacant ICU beds. To highlight the extent of his help, we can mention that many ambulance operators charged up to 10000 rupees for just 5 Kms.
Tennis grandslams cancelled, Olympics postponed indefinitely and football played in empty stadiums with only some PPE clad health workers applauding with gentle demeanor and restraint, the sports sector like others is on its knees. There is a bad news for swing bowlers in cricket. They cannot use saliva to make the ball shinier and get swing. Swing bowlers without their swing are like eagles without their claws. They turn easy ducks for easy prey by merciless bowlers. Many Pakistani cricketers preparing for the UK tour have been tested Corona positive. Pakistan hardly gets opportunity to play abroad these days. So fans back home must be seething with anger for their cricketers falling to Corona googlie. Even falling to an Indian bowler must appear digestible not Corona. In the depressive sports scenario when most of the players world over fretted and fumed at home, tennis great Novak Djokovic tried to boost spirits by hosting a charity even in the Balkans. Spectators flouted social distancing norms and thronged the courts; players freely mingled with players, hugged and partied. The world number one along with his wife and many others were tested positive. He has apologized for his sporty transgression. Well, you cannot toss Corona around like the tennis ball even if you are world number one player. The microscopic ball spins and swings with unreturnable fury.  
During the lockdown there has been a noticeworthy decrease in patients visiting hospitals with strokes and heart attacks. Are most of our diseases in minds only? Or at least the operational charts of our mind play a great role in defining a lot many physical ailments. Possibly slowing down of life helps also. Or people are more aware about health as they get more time about themselves. Of course the air is cleaner as well. Nature is healing around. It will hand over a portion of its healing back to us. Just that we have to make a habit to recognize these healthy returns and not simply overlook them like we have done for centuries.  
Look at the Corona onslaught! Even cancer care gets sidelined. About 70% of cancer patients faced unbreakable hurdles in their treatment. In fact the fear of Corona infection seems to keep many cancer patients away from hospitals. Isn’t everything relative? As of now, people would prefer many of the usual time otherwise fatal diseases to Corona.    
Garbage waste seems to comprise only discarded gloves, masks and PPE kits. Cities are struggling to dispose it. These are the wrecks as Corona ambushed our ship. The garbage sorters and rag pickers have left cities and gone into the countryside with their tale of woes. They themselves were left like garbage heap as administrations ran to salvage what could be saved for the front rankers, the people who mattered relatively more. So the garbaged humanity crept like ant trails to their countryside holes. They will of course creep out as hungry bellies seldom allow rest and repose.    
Swami Ramdev almost did a coup against Corona through his press conference announcing the remedy against the devilish virus. Coronil can kill the virus he claimed and at just 545 rupees per month it let loose a wave of triumph among millions of Indians who actually want to believe him. In the absence of any scientific verification, the government had to politely stop the Baba from advertising his latest ayurvedic concoction. Monsoons arrived a week in advance so people welcomed this opportunity to celebrate ij addition to the Baba’s miracle cure. But then to dampen their spirits, diesel stood costlier than patrol. Almost a flummoxing situation.
Corona must be playing too much in our minds. The PIA flight that crashed in June killing around 100 people has a Corona connection. Now it emerges that the pilots were stressed up as they discussed the Corona issues in their families. This pandemic preoccupation meant that they failed to land in the first attempt. The aircraft is supposed to be 100% flight-worthy, just that the pilots lost focus. Corona dominated their mind. They were so much worried about the Corona situation at home that many alerts and warnings about over-speed, ground proximity and problems with landing gear were ignored. They tried landing without the landing gear open and the plane engines touched the tarmac.
Corona has claimed prized most wickets. The hurtling Indian economy has lost steam. The IMF projects that the Indian economy of 2020 will be almost like that of 2022. Means two lost years. Hope the economists will be able to digest this.
Fair and Lovely decides to drop ‘Fair’ from its name. The brand sold the fair dreams to darkish Indians for four decades to become India’s largest face care brand. Now it wants to be more inclusive and break social stereotypes and change the age-old norms of beauty. Let’s be ‘Fair’ in our deeds, if not provocatively ‘Fair’ in skin only.
Till the scientists tell us that this is the vaccine, we can say masks, gloves and precautions is the only medicine. If not more, it will raise our awareness levels. We will learn to keep a watch over our careless ways. Or say, all of us are turning more meditative whether we believe it or not. Elsewhere things seem to be going topsy turvy. There are heat waves, storms, earthquakes and temperatures in Siberia reaching 32 degrees. Now locusts arrive as the dark angels of nature trying to break our ill footed confidence. A massive locust swarm flew over the Delhi NCR as residents ran to shut down windows, banged utensils and played loud music to scare away the pests. The menacing crop-chucking pests, the scary columns of desert locusts, fly during the daytime and settle down to eat away crops and plants at night. They flatten entire fields overnight. They started from the Horn of Africa like Homo sapiens did thousands of years back. They can fly hundreds of kilometers in a day and one km long swarm can chuck out crop food enough to feed 35000 people in a single night. India had sent an advance guard party to stall their progress towards its territory by supplying 20000 liters of malathion to Iran to curb their breeding there and move onto India. Aren’t most of the modern day problems global in nature? So why this infighting?  
Nationalism is getting a boost and multilateralism suffers. Globalization has retreated for the time being. And China is thumping its chest like the super Gorilla to be recognized as a super power.
With hardly any sporting action going on, punters have started putting bets on what else, the most popular ‘Corona’. The illicit betting rings find Corona quite gamey and place wagers on the statistical harvest churned out by Corona. Legal betting is restricted to horse racing only, and race courses hardly have the capacity to adjust the Himalayan enthusiasm of the punters. Great are the ways of illicit gambling games. Syndicates manage illicit satta markets. There is plenty of stuff to speculate upon like lockdown dates, death toll, infection rate, infection and death count in various cities. It hardly augurs well. It shows we humans will stick to our old ways come whatever may.      
You can imagine how horrible is the situation in Covid care wards. After a valiant struggle with their meager resources, both doctors and administrations seem to have given in. People are now just left to fight for themselves. In Hyderabad, a 26-year-old man actually shot his goodbye video moments before death. He is seen gasping for breath and tells that doctors have removed ventilator support. “They have removed ventilator and have not been responding to my plea for the last three hours to provide oxygen support. My heart has stopped and only lungs are working,” he is heart telling his father. Moments later he died. From the Covid care facilities in Delhi horrible pictures have emerged like a patient dying unattended in the bathroom and his 14 year old daughter, also a patient, crying for help. Videos have shown half dead people lying half on the floor and half on the bed senselessly. Doctors pay scanty visits and medicines are handed over from a distance. Dead bodies are not taken out for many hours from the ward.
All those who have been pushed to the fringes have my full sympathy. Myself being one of them only. So I take my intellectual solace and try to feel it at the experiential level also. The one who has been systematically put last in the queue will stand first in the higher dimensions. Here systematization stands for a hobnobbing agreement among the majority to legalize the acts and deeds to justify the inherent insecurity, hate and greed. No superstition or blind faith is involved when I accept this reality. It's just about karmic balancing. Among all the so called established and institutionalized belief systems and faiths, the one that has been put at the bottom--Animism--stands first from the perspective of more elevated plains of existence. Contrary to our scientifically self-hatched truths and norms of front ranks and the last ones, Animism is scientifically, from the perspective of quantum physics, first in perceiving reality as it should at the level of our physical existence. The emerging concept of panpsychism validates my point. Earlier I thought Humanism was the crest jewel of our belief system, but had to downgrade it the moment I realized that Humanism, even though talking of parity and well being among all Homo sapiens, stands on the flawed premise that creation is human-centric and hence it unleashed the futile chain reaction of Homo sapiens versus the rest in cosmos. (May be, Corona is the joint volley hurled at us from the rest pitched against us.) The results we can see in the present world. It could not even serve the cause of the weak and the downtrodden among the Homo sapiens forget about the lesser species among the rest of existence. Feel free to condemn me as a Tribal era wretch; I am but more than happy to attribute living souls to plants, inanimate objects, and natural phenomena. If natural intelligence pervades each and every ounce of this common pool of energy, we cannot just reserve the domain of soul to our own bodies. There is just one soul, one energy, manifesting in countless ways ranging from the so called inert stone to the best brains on this planet or elsewhere.
There is more to dreams than it’s usually acknowledged. Especially the seekers of truth about consciousness know it very well. Sadhguru blessed me with his darshan in dream. I haven't met him in real life, nor have I ever been to Isha foundation. I just listen to Sadhguru's talks online now and then. Not as a disciple, but as a curious learner to know more about life and living from an enlightened sage. A sort of tutorial I take it as. But look at my ego construction, I was sitting on the same platform with him and there was some upheavals in the hills in the distance. Sadguru got up, like so many others, to take notice of the event. I kept sitting. Not out of arrogance or being stubborn I am sure. Just that I kept sitting and Sadguru and the rest got back to sitting position. Don't have any clue. I believe in the symbolism of dreams. Something about our subconscious dimension interacting with the super-conscious dimensions. Can you guys share your opinion on this particular dream?
Plasma Therapy holds some promise. The patient who has beaten Covid-19 gets virus antibodies in his blood which is transfused into someone suffering currently. Shouldn’t we remember the lesson of love and compassion taught by all the world religions? If my blood holds the potential to cure you, the goodness in my spirit will surely do good to you also. So remedying self is as good as helping others. At least we ensure that there is one wrong-doer less in the world.
Mr. Kuroki from Japan has been plating flowers for the last two years so that his visually impaired wife would be able to smell thousands of these flowers. The smell makes her smile now. So much for a smile! Well, a genuine full hearted smile is worth beyond any monetary sum. Let’s redefine our elements that sum up our meaning in life. The best and most beautiful face is the face that smiles. Smile more! Let me share an anecdote to give you a little smile. It’s raining in Scotland and a dog is sitting in the open outside a store, waiting for its master who has gone inside for shopping. The watchman, Ethan Dearman, walks over to the wet dog and holds his umbrella over it. “Well, you never know how dogs feel about the rain,” he says.
Millions of migrant laborers who wrote personal histories in reaching their homes alive against all odds, are now ready to undo all of the feat by somehow reaching the spots they had escaped from. They cannot survive without their well of fire anymore. Immediate death is scarier than a bit prolonged one. They can’t survive without the odd jobs that held the baton of life and living for them. It’s never about the basic necessities and two meals a day. To be human means to be something more than one’s circumstances have cast the mould around. So again they are creeping out of their countryside escape holes and taking a beeline for the behemoths they had run away from.
Kindergarten 2020-21 have lost a year. CBSE has reduced the syllabus of 10 and 12 by 30 percent. Even without no education everybody seems as smart and intelligent as before. The kids don’t seem too dull and duffer. It means we aren’t missing too much even with the entire academic session gone void. Modern education system needs a lot to reflect over.  
The WHO is revising its guidelines to include the fact that the virus may be airborne. If not airborne, how can it be so contagious? Now SERO survey—blood testing for the presence of antibodies indicating Covid infection—conducted on random groups says as much as 4 million people in Delhi might have been infected. More importantly, they got well without too much of symptoms. Corona has played more with our minds than our bodies. If the SERUM survey is taken into account, the fatality rate is even below than 0.2%. In fact, any young Indian faces more risk of dying in a road accident than Corona. The elderly have 1% additional risk of dying in the year with Corona around. It shows that the pandemic plays as much on our minds as it does the body. Of course, we should be bothered by virus like Corona because they highlight mortality and death pretty bluntly and directly. But equally serious are other more virulent killers like air pollution. In the chronically polluted Indo-Gangetic plains air pollution cuts of 5.2 years from the average age of an average Indian.
Well, human system is still to be known in entirety by the medics. T-cells hold the beacon of hope as per the latest researches. Killer T-cells bestow long term immunity to be termed as ‘immune warriors’. They terminate infected cells and are born as our response to any kind of viral infection. They are known to possess long-lasting memory against the germs they fought even after decades. Let’s us we all have robust T-cells that remember to swipe away cowardly Corona virus when it happens to attack our body.
Brooks Brothers who dressed 40 US Presidents have filed for bankruptcy. Pandemic has exacerbated their woes by taking debts to unmanageable height. The Wall Street formalism is dying as workplaces open up to more casual culture. Be prepared for more upheavals. The rate of the occurrence of strange upheavals will go up till a new equilibrium is established between the changed nature and modified human body. Don’t panic. It’s the same old buddy change driving all this. Just that it is speeded up a bit more during the modern times.    
Rafale landed in India amid much patriotic fanfare. It’s a massive morale booster. All of us we Indians feel safer against China. 1.3 billion people pinning hope on five metallic birds of war. Well, what can you do if you are unfortunate enough to have a communist regime as your neighbor?! With Rafale, ew can at least add to our military posturing now. Coming to the destructive war machines and our mindless expenditure on them. More than any Indo-Chinese human brutality or machine lethality in the Galwan scuffle, the inhospitable nature did the maximum pounding as most of the soldiers from both died from hypothermia and low oxygen levels at such high altitudes. Merciless cold awaits with a glee as China wears India out and winters creep in.
Gods have at long last given some respite and vacation as Amarnath Yatra is completed virtually and holy Kaaba having just 10000 well spaced Haj pilgrims. We have given the house of Gods some respite from our continuous haggling and bickering.
August 5 occupies a landmark date in modern Indian history. Kashmir problem was left redundant in its old form last year on the same date. This year it goes onto herald a new era. Now it’s clear after long last that there will be a Ram Temple at Ayodhya. PM Modi officiated the bhoomi pujan ceremony at Lord Ram’s birth place. His performance of ceremonial rituals stands out as a ground-breaking event amidst crores of Indians hailing Jai Shri Ram and Jai Siya Ram. The PM prostrated in shastanga dandvata posture on all fours in front of the makeshift sanctum sanctorum. He put earth on his forehead from the foundation marking the beginning of temple construction. Ram Lalla will now have a proper shrine instead of a makeshift tent after 500 years of struggle that dissected Indian psyche at social, cultural, political and legal levels. As the soil from 2000 pilgrim places across India and water from 100 sacred rivers graces the foundation stone, it culminates almost 30 years of nationalistic mobilization by the party in power in company with its ideological affiliates.
Hope it ushers into peaceful times with progress for all!

Friday, August 7, 2020

A Day in the Life of a Resident Doctor


I am a residential doctor at a Delhi government hospital. Just like any other student of medicine I was waiting eagerly for my final year post graduation exams just a couple of months away. Life is so uncertain! Who can know it better then we doctors. On a daily basis we are exposed to the warming sunrays of life, living and healing on the one hand and the gloomy shadow of death on the other. I don’t know which one is more substantial. When life and living prevails against all odds with our support, it seems life is the strongest force. But come one swipe by death and it manipulates the very air in the ward. Over a period of time, a kind of detachment builds up towards both life and death. I know we all have to die. But more importantly, I know that we have to live before that.
The initial panic build-up in the hospital designated as a Covid care center left us clueless. It was a viral blast equivalent of an actual explosive blast. There you see the wounds and physical destruction. Here the wreckage lies in minds as panic and hysteria creeps up the walls of logic and common sense. So we jumped up and tried to salvage all that we could. The fear of the unknown manifests in full strength in case of a new and incurable disease. We ourselves were as helpless as the patients. But a doctor has to try to save lives and we did all we could.
Pushed to the corners, we turned even operation theaters into Corona patient care yards. Through the sheer strength of mass fear, the word ‘Corona’ was gaining more and momentum in its avalanche type of march across the routine and normal yards of our lives. We flailed our arms like the ship is sinking and you are in an emergency mode. Usually we doctors feel empowered against the routine diseases as we handle the mission to save a life. However, in this case, we were as much of a prey liable to fall to the new virus as anyone else. Usually, we give our best to save a life. Here we have to devote a lot of energies to save ourselves also. Divided attention. The debilitated mission.
With hundred beds on a floor, it appeared scary to we resident doctors. There was a separate donning area to get decked up like astronauts, where they help each other into the PPE kits. You get suspicious of your hand-washing skills as you go on rubbing and rubbing. You aren’t sure about anything. The nasty microscopic organism might be lurking around to lay ambush. Precaution raised to the power of above normalcy results in paranoia. Let there be the littlest chink in your armor and you are slain. So we padded up like soldiers going to bloody medieval wars and hid behind heavy metallic armor of the uncouth, unsuitable PPE kits. The first layer of gloves goes over the excessively rubbed soft skin. You are scared that some soldier of the evil might have remained behind. The shoe covers appear to make you lose your footprints. You try your level best to steady yourself to be confident of your walk. The overalls take you into the folds of strange anonymity, like you are an alien in a queer setting. The possibility of things going wrong lurking well over the benchmark of calculated risk in medical parlance. You then go faceless to the outside world as you put on an N95 mask followed by a surgical mask still followed by the cap. The withdrawal into the womb of anonymity isn’t still over as another layer of gloves and a face shield or goggles turn you into an altogether different species. You are an thickly armored soldier, cumbersomely space-suited astronaut and a heavily donned firefighter all mixed in one. That’s how I felt.
As the pandemic and the panic arrived like a sudden Tsunami strike, the initial PPE kits were inhumanly cumbersome and suffocating. It shows how unprepared we are against emergencies. You felt tightly squeezed and thrown into the hostile environment of a strange planet like a guinea pig. You lose on something precious to your sense of freedom, making you feel depressive, indecisive and suffocated. Like a lumbering snowman forced into a snowless, sweltering hot valley, you lose your focus as the goggles turn foggy due to your labored breathing. Nervousness and heat turn you a sweating pig inside. You don’t have the liberty to wipe your sweat or clean your goggles. You speak like from a subterranean vault. You are barely audible from behind the covering and hence have to shout to be audible. It scares both the nursing staff and the patients. In case of managing the health of severely ill patients, you are highly responsible for what words you use in your communication. To avoid sounding bullying and rowdy to the patients and nursing staff, we force ourselves to communicate through sign language and hand gestures. Once you go into the cockpit of your PPE kit, you cannot eat, drink or visit bathroom for six hours at a stretch. Sweat drains like tiny rivers over the face. The air-conditioning system is put off to avoid the virus aerosolizing in the central ducts. 
The virus creates Silent Hypoxia, wherein the oxygen level silently creeps down unnoticeably. The patient stays asymptomatic till the oxygen level plummets to a critical point. The normal oxygen saturation level is 99-100%. If it falls below 90%, one needs oxygen support to avoid organ damage. What makes Corona quite fearsome is the fact that the patient doesn’t show any signs of restlessness, drowsiness and difficulty in breathing even when the saturation level has fallen to 80%. This ‘air hunger’ makes it almost fatal.
It’s an ordeal to face dead scared patients arriving with a look as if they are being forced into gas chambers. This acceptance of fear, this surrender of the life force to the veritable agent of death makes the virus all the more powerful as the psychological trauma eats into the vital reserves of energy that would have been used by the soldiers of immunity to build up a counter attack. Inserting oropharynx or swab in the patients’ nose was like performing a big surgery. Not that we found it so difficult. It’s an innocuous cotton bud intended to touch the inside of the nose. All it takes is 20 seconds. But the look of fear turns it into an intolerable ordeal for the patient as if this little medical process is the thin line between life and death.
As a resident doctor, I’m relatively new to see people dying. I was happily awaiting my post graduation exams and get onto the medical bandwagon like in normal times. It’s traumatic to see the first patient dying under your care. The situation makes it all the more painful. They gasp like fish out of water. You are alone on the night shift. The patient dies all alone in isolation beyond the sympathy and support of her near and dear ones.  
You yourself have to keep yourself isolated and quarantined after 12 hour shifts. Imagine two doctors and four nurses for more than hundred patients. As you lumber out of your anonymity, you just try to hydrate yourself as if you have been in the driest desert for months and you simply prey upon water bottles and ORS. You just sleep, work, sleep, work in an interminable sequence.
More than the onerous duties, it’s the paperwork that traumatizes the soul of we doctors. I cannot understand why doctors have to do so much of paperwork themselves. It can be safely designated to some other staff. Doctors doing data entry isn’t too promising for any country’s healthcare system.
The true nature of we humans comes naked during such critical times. We needed blood for a critically ill patient and made a pleading announcement in front of a crowd. They simply vanished. One haggard old man came forward with a few hundred rupees to help.
Nursing orderlies have to carry out the bodies of Corona victims. They think it’s more burdensome than an ox ferrying hundreds of tons of cargo in a rickety cart. They are scared of the corpses and dilly-dally and slip around their responsibilities. The dead body stays in the yard as a ghastly reminder to the patients who get more panicked. We have to run around to somehow get the body sent to the crematorium to salvage some respect for the dead as there are no family members around.    
All I wish is the return of our normal world of six months back. It’s irritants and problems now appear well digestible and worthy to have around.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

The Pathless Path to a Grand Old Tree

The moment we leave the last foot trail, thus surrendering the entitlement or privilege of the beaten path's comfort and security, we find ourselves on the open canvas of prospects and potentiality to mark our own trail. A sense of elation, liberation and freedom starts trickling in through the fog of fear, apprehension and inhibition. I get this teasing feeling of adventure and elation as I finally leave the marked path, the last vestiges of the foot trail losing its identity among the rainfed luxuriant forest growth. The human foot loses its smell, allowing the pure scent of nature trees, plants, bushes and vines to cascade around in full freedom. Mother nature basks in pristine sovereignty.
We are conditioned to follow the comfort and security of the marked trail of çustoms, conventions and beliefs as much as we feel secure in following the human foot on a forest trail. The more I move into the open embrace of human-untrampled nature, a sense of wonderment overcomes my apprehension. I move with reptilian grace, with pliability, fluidity, acceptance and receptivity. I don't trangress or try to force my way with my typical human attitude and spirit of controlling the nature elements around. I just have a faint idea of where I am headed to. I request the pristine forest energy to allow me move and be properly guided on the pathless path. Tits, sparrows and pippits send out shrill warnings to each other from the bushes. Rufous treepies shriek accusatively. A kakad, the tiniest memeber in the deer family dashes like the hundred meter sprinter of the forest. Asian barbet lets loose a puk-puk-puk trail of notes that goes gliding over the valley. Jungle fowls scamper under the bushes. Quails quake with fear and anger. Reptiles must have moved unseen as they do with ease. And who knows some leopard must have looked with disgust from some point as there are around 80 of them in the area as per the latest census.
I seek forgiveness for the disturbance I create. Like a vulnerable but joyful child I just ask for guidance on the pathless path. Not too much to my surprise, I find myself at the most suitable points over ridges, brooks and valleys. And my milestone awaits for me as if it has been waiting for me specifically.
An older than the oldest crocodile bark tree instantly makes me feel coming at home at last. Crocodile bark trees are medium size trees that remain leafless for many months in a year. The monsoon rains have infused new life and fresh, verdant leaves gleam with the pure smile of undisturbed nature. Every species have their Behemoth. If there is any among the crocodile bark trees in the region, it must be this tree. The Behemoth is stamped with age. The time worn trunk is massive like that of banyan. It has the oldest of a great-great-great-grandfatherly feel. Toothless, worn out, skin shriveled, huge shock of white hair and massive beard. But still elegant with an all-knowing smile of centuries of wisdom. A mere look and a feeling of its old age fetches reverence. It has been an undisturbed concentration of energy for many many decades. Its path has been clearly free of human intervention. Dead wood has fallen around it and houses mosses and ferns. It has fought its battle under the open forces of nature. It carries its battle scars over the massive moss-laden hollows and crumbling citadel of its trunk. The decaying primary trunk has still enough life to support a few offshoots of the size of young trees of the species. Among the new offshoots, there is enough room for me to lie down and stare into the huge hollow primary trunk carrying its mossy darkness into the oldest roots where I am sure a cobra family would feel at their comfortable most. I take off my shoes and climb into the ancient old wood platform like I enter a temple. I meditate and feel the blessings by its old hand. Imbued with its selfless energy I climb down and bow before it and seek guidance on the pathless path.
As per the logical choice of my conscious mind, I see an opening high on the slope leading to the crest of the hill. As per my reasoning, it should be my first choice. But I have opened myself to the natural guidance of the open forces of nature, so I simply wait for some impulse, some driving of an alternative choice in my mind. On some instinct I am driven into a thick wall of tress and bushes straight ahead instead of the convenient clear path above. I can hardly see anything because the growth is really thick. After struggling for a couple of hundred yards, I find myself on the open clear palm of a ledge in the slope overlooking the valley and a clear path leading to the point that would ensure that I will be able to take knowing steps to my recourse and define my back journey. I then look at the point where I would have reached if I were to take the apparently easy path leading to the hill crest in the other direction. It would surely have left me in the middle of almost nowhere, requiring a few hours of slogging to reach the nearest point on my back journey. A storm cloud is building over the hilltop. A smile of gratitude and love surfaces on my face. I am convinced that the tree spirit has guided me because I have choosen to pay respect to the natural intelligence waving around. I again bow in the direction of the grand old tree and proceed on my journey. Well, not on the pathless path this time, but on the convenient human stamped track!

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The Galwan Battle


After 100 days of deep freeze, the world was getting reshaped (un)predictably with mankind coming out battered and bruised, but unfortunately madder and apparently not seeming to have learnt any substantial lessons. On the night of 15-16 June, 20 Indian soldiers got martyred in a bloody gunless eyeball-to-eyeball medieval era hand-combat and confrontation along LAC in Galwan Valley in Eastern Ladhak. It was a fierce physical confrontation, in fact the first one since 1975 when there are casualties in the dispute. So its criticality can’t be missed.
India honors its dead; the PLA keeps their casualty secret. They say that they are not releasing the number of dead on their side lest people of both countries compare the number of fatalities leading to flaring of emotions, thus adding fuel to the fire. Hypothetically the goal appears pretty decent, but can a dictatorial communist regime be expected to be so pure in intention? They say it is a sign of their being ‘responsible’. When does a power-centric dictatorial group, eager to manipulate the lives of millions as per few rigid lines in the red book, behaves ‘responsibly’? So the PLA soldiers who died for the party’s cause will be buried unknown. One can very well imagine the level of secrecy in a dictatorial government by the fact that the Chinese casualties suffered in the 1962 war were inconspicuously shared in internal military history documents in 1990s only. Perhaps they drill it in the minds of their armed cadres that dying unknown serves the cause of the revolution.  
However, even such ‘responsible’ behavior cannot stop people from using their brains to put up conjectures. An American media report says China lost 35 soldiers. We can have our own justifications for systematic, organized dying. Fighting for a democratic nation helps man. The Indian soldiers get tear-eyed farewells with full state honor. There are elaborate funeral processions and ceremonies organized by the grateful nation. The wards of the martyred soldiers are openly rewarded in terms of monetary help and jobs. The highest of the high bow their head in salutation and gratitude.
The fallen PLA soldiers on the contrary get anonymous graves and their wards threatened from opening out to the public on the issue. They die unknown, Indian soldiers die with the entire country singing farewell songs. Well, in my opinion, a soldier in the former case will have more reason to give his all for his beloved country. In the latter, it’s merely an intimidating duty forced down by an authoritarian state.
In India, the news of the Galwan Valley skirmish and the death of soldiers prevailed over all Corona doomsday talk. People just forgot Corona in one swift lot and condemned Chinese aggression. The news media and social media were boiling with the entire country’s common man’s fusillade against the Chinese. Boycot China movement built up. Xi Jinping’s effigies were burnt. People filmed their brave efforts of smashing Chinese products including TV sets. Indians these days are pretty vocal for the cause of the nation, especially if it involves safe, harmless battles on the social media.
Unlike Kargil, the Indian journalists were spared from their frontline duties to cover the daily routine of the war. This time there was no coverage of what actually was happening on the border. It was kept away from the public scrutiny. A direct reporting of the Chinese intrusion into the Indian territory would have been too disturbing to the patriotic audience on the social media. Social media is always a ticking time bomb. It can slay any reputation in seconds. So the image of the keepers of modern India’s nationalism would have been dented. So taking a clue from the communist neighbor, there has been more secrecy in India also this time as journalists were not allowed to take their war front beyond Ladhak. But all in all, a healthy narrative has been build up which is clearly against China and rightly so.   
The sun was setting over the barren tensed up Himalayan heights in the Galwan Valley. The terrain is so inhospitable that there is hardly any life link between the barren stones and the perennial snows. Between 6 and 7 PM, Commanding Officer Santosh Babu led 20 of his soldiers to see the de-escalation process, as agreed in June 6 talks, at a disputed Chinese shelter near Patrol Point 14. The agreements of 1996 and 2005 for the border management between the two countries mandate no use of firearms, blasting operations or hunting with guns or any use of explosives within 2 Km of the LAC. The soldiers were thus unarmed in spirit. The forward troops from both sides patrolling the contentious LAC usually don’t carry guns, and if they do carry weapons, these are slung on their backs and magazines are tucked safely out of reach in pouches instead of being clipped on and thus at the mercy of itching, nervous fingers prone to press the trigger.
All along the rugged Himalayan terrain running for almost 4000 Km between the two Asian giants, there is no clearly demarcated border. The two countries’ claim lines twist and twirl along roughest of mountainous geography. These contested points of friction, so dreary and inhospitable that none of the parties can think of staying there permanently during the winters, are then patrolled by the frontier troops routinely during short Himalayan summer, leaving peace to be enforced by the harsh winters. Status quo is stamped by the snows in winters. And a shift-able status quo is always to the advantage of a predatory dictatorial government in comparison to a democratic one. The former has to push on by instinct because you are not a dictator if you don’t push on principle. All that the democracy can manage is to stand against the push. That’s what China has been doing against all its neighbors.
After the snow-ordained lull in the winters, skirmishes blossom up during the short summers when flowers in the alpine meadows smile and brooks gurgle with pristine snow melts. We humans, however, are looking to seek the last paradisiacal spots on earth to carry the smell of humanity to complete our copyright over mother earth. Before the skirmish, the forward troops keep their hands in pockets as heated verbal power gathers steam. It then creeps to pushing and jostling, and finally fist-fights and stone throwing. Better sense has prevailed over both sides to agree to the no fire use mandate across border because they know there are almost innumerable friction points and the status quo always challenged by the more aggressive party. Again, almost on principle, a communist regime is bound to be more aggressive. In the current scuffle the Chinese took one more step in aggression as they used boulders, stones, barbed wires ties around rocks, and sticks studded with nails. That takes them nearer to the use of bullets itself.  
A nervous dusk was piling up its layers over the ridges defining the highest battlefield in the world. By this time the Chinese soldiers were supposed to have withdrawn from the disputed tent structure. The biggest mistake one can commit is to expect the Chinese communists to keep their words. We have seen Nehruvian blunder in taking their word prior to the attack of 1962. So nothing to feel surprised about it when the Indian verification patrol found the tent and the observation post still there. The PLA soldiers found the lure of the observation post too much to leave it just like that. There definitely was a plan which was beyond the scope of the recent agreement meant for de-escalation. The structure was built within the limits up to which Indian patrol parties did their rounds without any dispute presently. But then as a communist one has to crawl on and on. The ideology thrives as long as the instinct to crawl on thrives. And crawling on always pushes the status quo to a new boundary from where another milestone manifests, thus egging them to crawl still further. Can we have a bigger capitalist idea than this ever-persistent urge to crawl on and on?
Crawling around this particular place in the Galwan Valley allowed them to keep an eye over the Indian troop movement towards the north near the Karakoram Pass. Even more significantly, it would give them an opportunity to lay siege on the army movement on the newly laid DBO road leading to the highest airbase in the world. DBO airstrip where India lands the biggest cargo plane in the world is an eyesore to the Chinese because it’s situated just 10 Km from the multi-billion dollar economic corridor. This cartographic intrusion and aggression is part of their plans to safe-keep and consolidate the logistic route of this CPEC. And there are many more. These but are hidden because the scheming power of a communist regime far more than we can grasp with our democratic conjectures.
The Chinese communists basically perform creeping encroachments thus avoiding a full scale escalation. At least in this region they are trying to gain all the strategic heights necessary to allay their fears about the CPEC. Now CPEC itself is born of their insecurity and sense of danger in the Malacca Straits though which most of their shipping takes places and which can be choked by America because they have naval superiority. Is there any limit to the scale of insecurity? One measure taken to allay one particular insecurity will arrive with another new insecurity needing another measure. They are deploying armed drones to secure the projected 100 billion bilateral trade over the CPEC passing through the remotest corners of the long-disputed region. To gain such strategic advantage they had hardly any issue in laying aside Modi’s peace overtures time and again which turn the great nationalist leader even liable to be a victim of the appeasement policy of the Chinese.
Patrolling Point 14 is also an eyesore to them as it lies on a ridge overlooking the Galwan River Valley. The said river joins the Shyok River a few Kms down west along which the DBO roads moves up north to reach the highest airstrip in the world. As we have said the Daulat Beg Oldie airstrip is just 10 km away from the CPEC corridor running into Pakistan occupied Kashmir. If India allows this observation post, the army supplies to the DBO airbase would directly be at the mercy of the Chinese.  
As the Indian verification patrol found the structure still there in violation of the terms of the agreement, they removed both the tent and the observation post. A brawl and fist fight broke out. Reinforcements from both sides were called in. About 600 troops from both sides were engaged in the bloody brawl and hand-to-hand combat. In the first wave of clashes the brave CO and his 20 troops overpowered the Chinese post keepers. But something was felt missing. The CO realized that these were not those regular patrol troops whom they get acquainted with during their routine sorties. Face-offs between troops, who are used to see each other in the same area, have less likelihood of escalating into bloody brawls. These soldiers had been redeployed from another area. The CO realized this and decided to go and check the PP 14 further up in the valley. He called reinforcements and with his 80 troops went to check out PP14. Here 250 Chinese soldiers had taken vantage positions and had planned an attack with their contrived hand-held weapons. In this round of skirmishes, the CO and two of his soldiers fell to the Chinese attack.
The CO is revered as a father figure and draws immense loyalty from his subordinates. As the Indian troops found their CO Sahib has fallen, whom they take as a godfather, they fought with unheard of spirit in a spirit of revenge. Further reinforcements were called. Given better roads on their side, the Chinese could muster up 400 troops against 200 Indians. Chinese could move more swiftly because they have developed head roads to the heights. Indians have to track along treacherous valley slopes to reach here. No wonder, the Indians were outnumbered 2 to 1 as the scuffle spread to nearby narrow ridges overlooking the river. In addition, the Chinese had subtle additions to their hands this time. They had knuckledusters, lethal batons, spikes and nail-studded baseball bats. The mountain ledge gave up on both sides and caved in resulting in a landslide. Troops from both sides fell into the river. A section of Indian troops were stranded on the other side. In subzero temperatures, drenched in water, at an altitude of above 16000 feet, they stood their guard to stop the Chinese from taking over Patrol Point 14. Many froze to death. In the bloody seven hour standoff, three staggered bloodied melee type clashes took place. 
It is safe to believe that China lost double the number of soldiers despite their numerical superiority. The next day bodies were exchanged. It’s but commendable that both sides refrained from using guns even though they had weapons with them and even in the face of life and death struggle abided by this law. But the Chinese are a bit far from the rules of engagement even here as they used those brutal contrived barbed and nailed batons and rods. India it appears has finally decided to stand up to repeated salami slicing technique of the Chinese through repeated intrusions.  
As details of the bloody scuffle keep percolating from the barren lands of Ladhak, it emerges that our soldiers, although outnumbered in quantity, fought really well. Every Indian platoon has a Ghatak Dasta of young soldiers well trained in martial arts and hand-to-hand fighting. According to reports, they broke the neck of at least 18 Chinese soldiers. China now decides to get their soldiers trained in martial arts. The Indian soldiers will also get riot gear like batons and body protective suits to be better equipped in future brawls. As of now, it’s a show of strength with both sides marshalling thousands of troops along the LAC including tanks, helicopters, fighter jets, missile systems and artillery guns.
In modern warfare, you actually don’t fight. You just try to appear too strong and militarily equipped to puncture any design against you. Posturing and propaganda helps a lot in this. Here again, in both these departments a communist regime uses these elements with better effect given their inherent aggressive nature. Simply through posturing the communist regime in China have grabbed many territories from many countries without firing a single bullet.  
An army operating in a democratic set up is more responsible under a political leadership. However, the face-offs in treacherous slopes are pretty tricky. You just cannot go there with a predetermined set of civilian instructions. It has been a big handicap with the Indian army so far in managing the volatile situation popping up with new claims and renewed efforts at changing the previous status quo. The army has been given “complete freedom of action” to handle the situation along the LAC to manage the emergency at their own level. It may be easily interpreted as a clear signal to the commanders that they may not feel bound by the clause of no use of firearms. 
What makes the scuffle standout from the routine browbeats is that Chinese appeared to have premeditated a bloody attack as they used iron rods and nail-studded clubs. Apart from smashed heads and broken necks many soldiers from both sides fell into the icy river in the dark. A few of the Indian soldiers, who were stranded on the opposite bank of the river after the landslide, were captured by the Chinese but were released after three days of captivity.
As the hostilities erupted around the LAC, the Indian military continued with its bridge construction a couple of Kms down the valley. The Bailey bridge was completed in just three days, allowing India better access to the site of the bloody confrontation. The prefabricated bridge built about 3 Km into the Galwan valley above the Shyok-Galwan confluence allows India to move its troop over the treacherous mountain valley to stop the Chinese from filing into the valley and move towards the 255 Km road from Darbuk to Daulat Beg Oldie, which is India’s last military post far in the north just to the south of Karakoram pass.        
The PLA’s Western Theatre Command has been pretty proactive in its push into India leading to many verbal spats, stone throwing and culminating in the 7 hour long violent standoff. All this is just and just meant to unilaterally alter the status quo on the LAC. They have mastered the craft of assertively crawling ahead along the disputed lines and then pull back only to come back again and all along this time declaring full faith in peaceful negotiations. Not to mention, all along this time, they develop infrastructure which gets shadowed by the talks. In this long and protracted scuffle, they ensure that their cartographic creep turns a de facto reality. Do you still need more proofs how a land mafia state operates? 
These are the first Indian casualties against China since 1975. People of course are up in arms against China. Boycott China chorus builds up. Instead of killing Chinese soldiers we can take economic measures to deny them access to the vast Indian market. Many a Chinese product face anti-dumping action alongside Indian Air force and Navy mulling over contingency measures in skies and the seas to tame the fire-breathing dragon. We need to pause and demarcate a line between the PLA and the political wing of the CCP. There is a broad anti-India understanding across all wings of the CCP. However, even within the same pool of animosity against India, the PLA appears to be more rigid on India than the political leadership.   
China had been pretty assertive in its troop build-up in Ladhak region for the last two months and then they laid claim to entire Galwan Valley. By force first they managed a coup and established military presence in some disputed region, followed by staking claim to the same. They have a roomful of issues to torment India with, including expectation that India must not in any way come in the way of choosing the next Dalai Lama and India’s role in calling for international investigation into the ‘zoonotic source’ of the virus along with the route that led to human infection. They are also wary of India consolidating its position as a responsible democracy in shaping the post-Covid world order. India of course can spare responding strategically instead of being carried over by blind sentimentalism. India has the option of taking a stronger position on Tibet, Taiwan and Hong Kong. The partnership with the US is now a necessity not choice anymore. Dilly dallying with unsure mind about QUAD will not help anymore. Operational principles of QUAD need to be turned into a permanent arrangement.
China undoubtedly sees India as a political, economic and military competitor. China has refused to demarcate the LAC after many years of border talks. The issue is kept open to be exploited repeatedly as per the change in situations. Dichotomy is that China is India’s largest trading partner but the biggest challenger to its rise at the world level. It makes it really tricky. India is of course putting many things under a scanner now. Trade deficit appears more unbearable in company with trust deficit. India has swiftly changed foreign investment rules requiring governmental clearance of any investment by any country sharing land border with India. It was done in scared desperation as India got on its knees while fighting the pandemic and China eyed taking over many an Indian company. Thwarted on this front, the Dragon started knocking at the Himalayan borders.      
China usually flummoxes us with its moody swings and we always play it safe and guarded always mulling over the exact reasons for the Dragon’s latest change of mood. So, as it systematically nibbles down little slices of land along the disputed LAC, we are free to use our brains about the reasons for the same in the latest flare up: whether it’s to bully India into a neutral zone regarding international investigation into the origin of the virus, strike back against FDI restrictions, India’s effort to duly curtail the expanding Chinese footprint in its economy, to force India tow its line on the 5G issue, to thwart Modi’s infrastructural boost in mountainous border where it feels threatened of its own, just like a thief gets scared of a new police post in the neighborhood. Is it DSDBO road running along the LAC that has put chili to spoil its mood? We have a long list of speculations because the status quo has opened up a Pandora box of issues that the Red Bastion exploits almost at its free will. Irrespective of all the possible reasons, one thing stands beyond doubt that China is forcing ahead to unilaterally carve out more and more buffer zones, taking over still remaining strategic heights that remain after its heartfelt grab of strategically important heights along the now LAC in 1962.
The battles of 1962 also happened in these very areas where currently the armies are sitting down face to face. In freezing temperatures over the most inhospitable terrain, both armies had to withdraw to their bases as a harsh winter intervened among the hostilities. The Chinese were a bit better placed to keep occupying some strategic heights to serve their purpose. In case of India it was literally like flying to a different planet to defend its claims. There was no political boundary settlement and rounds after rounds of talks continued.
The region concerned bears colonial legacy as the Britishers left the area un-demarcated specifically. One line showed Aksai Chin as part of Jammu and Kashmir. There is another line called Macartney-MacDonald line to its west followed by still another to the west called Foreign Office Line. After 1947, these were left to self-specific interpretation of China, India, Tibet and rulers of Jammu and Kashmir. There are intertwining perceptions which are nice chess pieces for machinations, especially for the communists because they love this kind of bickering. The LAC is left unsurveyed and unmarked on the ground. Patrols and pitching tents can flare up tempers. But this particular tent is unacceptable to India as it allows the enemy to come down the Galwan Valley and choke the vital DBO road leading to the highest airstrip in the world from where they are keeping a watch over the CPEC.    
As India thought of softer versions of punitive strikes against China, they were already waging war at numerous unconventional fronts including Cyber attacks. There were sustained DDOS (distributed denial of service) attacks on important Indian websites. DDOS strikes are malicious efforts to overwhelm a particular network by blooding it with “artificially created Internet traffic”. Banking and other essential services are major targets. Chengdu is PLA’s covert cyberfare headquarter from where many professional hacker groups also operate. Indian governments responded by banning 59 Chinese mobile applications including TikTok, SHAREit etc., on safety and privacy grounds as these allowed the Chinese to extract a large amount of users’ personal data.
Australia spoke against the Chinese hegemony quite openly so the dragon took potshots at the continental nation that is situated too far for it to create direct tension for it. Australian PM spoke about a ‘sophisticated state-based cyber actor’ launching comprehensive cyber attacks. So that is China for us, it launches viruses, cyber attacks and has 2000 missiles on its eastern coast to annihilate any military that tries to reach the mainland.
Richard Nixon, who broke the ice with the communist regime allowing it to enter the mainstream of globalization and thus laying the path for it mammoth rise in the following decades, mulled over his choice during his late life reflections that he might have in fact facilitated the path of creating a Frankstein Monster.
We can avoid blaming 'China' for all the recent time suffering world over. Of course, there is Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that is majorly behind what has seen us tumbling down most seriously since the WW second. However, CCP doesn't mean 'China'. China minus CCP leaves us 95% of Chinese who are people like anyone of us in the rest of the world from New York to Timbaktu going through the rest of various nations imbued in various socio cultural milieu. These 95% of the Chinese have suffered the most at the hands of the CCP. They have multigenerational family history of systematic torture. They need individual freedom and democracy. So hate CCP not China. Condemn the brutality of the CCP red-capped thugs not China because China is far bigger than CCP.
We cannot rule out a kind of military lapse before the situation leading to the current flare-up. Engagement with China had turned into appeasement under the present government. PM Modi has been to Beijing 9 times and met Xi Jinping 18 times since he came to power. He has been the leading Indian PM who has invested wholeheartedly in building ties with China. So if 1962 is betrayal of Nehru, Ladhak 2020 stands out as the betrayal of Modi. Nehru built up his poetic illusions of his Chinese outreach on the basis of his ancient history and civilization scholarship, Modi the strict taskmaster has been too vocal about the practicalities of business, bilateralism and peaceful coexistence. Or may be, as a powerful nationalist leader, Modi could feel some affinity with the strongman from China whose aggressive red ideology is itching to challenge the US all over the world.   
In the rarest of the rare slip of tongue, PM Modi erred in his assurance-giving spirit as he declared there has been no intrusion in our territory. A blunder I would say. In one phrase it legalizes the Chinese claims on our territory. Moreover, if there was no intrusion why has all this war kind hoopla going on for so long? Even if the Chinese have build up posts in the Indian patrolling areas, serving as a buffer among the two neighbors, that itself is an intrusion by default because in this case the new buffer will be pushed further West. So clearly it’s an intrusion. India has been very condescending to their persistent push into more and more of Indian territory. So I cannot imagine this type of Indian reaction if the situation is clearly limited to the patrolling areas only. There must be some intrusion clearly into the Indian territory. There is also a possibility that after the Indian upgrade in border infrastructure, our forces are better placed to go for more effective patrolling and this has irked China because it puts a sturdier resistance to their continuous nibbling at the edges like ant bites, piling up claims over a period of time, maintaining status quo in the guise of endless rounds of talks and meanwhile following the only objective of moving further into the Indian territory.     
As Monsoon mustiness builds up and Corona becomes a part of life—a kind of any other disease that kills some people—the only question that is being mulled over in military commander level talks is whether China agrees to the pre standoff position. China claims the entire Galwan Valley. India is quick to junk all these claims. China may take more time than we expect even if it decides to pull back at all. Ladhak is a sort of China’s Achilles heel, not because India can overpower it from here, but because it’s India’s geostrategic pivot point to reach out to Russia, Europe and Central Asia. Usually Achilles heel is about a weakness that can be exploited by the enemy. In case of China, Achilles heel qualifies to be anything that the rival state can use for its own pursuance of interests even without directly affecting or threatening China. Well, so much so for being an antagonistic state.
Both sides are engaged in diplomatic and military commander level talks. The show of strength goes on over both sides of the border. The weapons are flaunted to show what they might do instead of actually doing anything with them to let loose a chain of conjectures on the other side. No wonder, both sides have created a pretty effective theatrical show of military strength to make their audience happy and assuring each other a lot of mutual destruction if things escalate further. Fear of destruction is bigger driver for peace than any other consideration.
Deception is as much effective as a nuclear strike and the Chinese are the masters of the art. In the 1950, the Chinese official maps started showing Indian territories under its jurisdiction. To allay the apprehensions of the insecure Indians, they just casually told them that it has nothing to do with the ground reality. It was merely a hypothetical legacy of the past. But then it sowed the seeds of 1962. They will simply make a claim, intrude to leave a controversial footprint in the area, on a small scale, without creating a big flare up, withdraw for some time, and record the conflict as a kind of proof about their claim in future negotiations. Two steps forward, one step back, teasing the enemy, analyzing the opponent’s response, waiting, intruding again like hyenas, and still again and again, till you either give in or decide to fight. A lot is achieved by appearing to be ready for fight instead of actually fighting. Typical propaganda and posturing.
This time, India has been categorical about its stand of maintaining pre April status quo. It means Chinese army withdrawing troops, remove pillboxes, bunkers and observation posts from Galwan Valley, forward positions occupied by them in Fingers area and a few other friction points where they have sneaked in. The Finger Area is a cluster of strategic ridges along the northern bank of Pangong Tso lake. They have encroached and made permanent shelters in the erstwhile no-man’s land, stretching for 8 Km, between Finger 4 and Finger 8 where earlier the armies of both countries just patrolled to maintain it as a kind of buffer zone. It cuts down the area of Indian patrol parties near the areas that are full time under Indian occupation. The Indian claim Line is up to Finger 8; that of the Chinese is up to Finger 4. Claim and counter claim decide the patrolling points serving as a sort of rugged treacherous zones where there is always a possibility of things going crazy. There are a few such strategic locations along the LAC where they have pushed the ante to change the shape of the LAC. A proactive India under a strong nationalistic government wants to ensure that the days of nibbling over the LAC are over. The PLA has better reach from the plateau side. Their infantry has paved metaled roads to move. On the other hand, the Indian mountain troops get guerrilla warfare at high altitudes. Right now, air defence systems are active on both sides as fighter jets, helicopters and drones tear apart the blue apron of skies with their threat and war mongering curves. Missiles are deployed. India has built up troop deployment in forward positions pretty substantially. Meanwhile, India is furtively busy in building approach roads emanating from the DSDBO road to far off patrol posts in tougher reaches. This has irked China because regular Indian patrols lessen the chances of Salami slicing which is their favorite recipe in the ever-alive kitchen of cartographic intrusions.    
The US was surely expected to take India’s part and that too unequivocally which they have done not to disappoint a billion plus Indians who expect a lot now post Howdy Modi and Howdy Trump. The US secretary of state has termed CCP as a rogue actor that has threatened “the world’s most popular-populous democracy.” The US has pulled out 25000 troops from their German base to deploy them in the volatile east surrounding China. As far as Russia is concerned our massive arms purchases from Putin can at the most buy their neutrality in the current scenario. More the insecurities and tensions between China and India, the better for Russia because that means a boost to their weapons industry.
The US naval deployment changes the contours of the game from blue depths of off shore waters. The super carriers of the US Indo-Pacific Command manage far more than it appears on the surface with its forward marching submarines. There is every reason for China to be worried about what these naval assets can do. It’s not necessary that they will actually do something. Modern warfare is more about posturing with proven military assets, not necessarily using them. Almost all countries have such nasty weapons that it is agreed to just keep skirmishes within containment zones, otherwise mutual destruction is assured. The USS Theodore Roosevelt can choke the Chinese in Malacca Straits and the Bay of Bengal. The behemoth is three times larger than any other carrier and moves like an independent entity accompanied by its cruisers, submarines and destroyer squadrons. This and nuclear submarines can flex military muscles literally anywhere on the planet. After all, you don’t simply inherit the superpower status. One has to fight for it and fight even more to maintain it. The US drones have access to every square inch on earth, the drone spots the target, relays the message to a plane of the caliber of F-35, which in turn either shoots it or further passes on the message to some island based long-range missiles of the Marine Corps. China feels safe because it has deployed around 2000 long-range missiles along its cost. But to emerge as a superpower it has to rest assured on its attacking prowess also instead of just feeling secure at home. Even a lion sitting holed up inside the safety of its cave is no better than a cat that roams freely. Here the US is not only a lion, it moves freely also. The Chinese are cats and that too holed up in their cave.   
In our rat race to forge deadlier weapons, we have ensured that an all out war is the last option, however serious the issue is. So currently tedious rounds of military and diplomatic level talks are going to set up a process of disengagement. Notwithstanding claims and counterclaims, the exact position in the Finger area and Dapsang plains warrant concrete steps from the Chinese side because adhocism here can’t be digested by India. The Finger Area is a set of 8 cliffs jutting outward from the Sirijap range overlooking the lake. The PLA has erected pillboxes, tented camps, solid bunkers and many observation posts between Finger 4 and 8 which was earlier the buffer zone with Indian soldiers patrolling up to Finger 8 and the Chinese up to Finger 4. So the status quo was 8 Km of buffer zone. As per the de-escalation process, the Chinese will surely push the buffer zone into the Indian side. While we have been thinking, even at the cost of sounding appeasing the Chinese, along the lines of avoiding a full blown confrontation with China, their salami slicing techniques have fetched them gains over decades which a full blown war won’t have. They have made territorial gains, and in the guise of these small time clandestine missions they have achieved little by little and gaining what would have been impossible in one go. Shifting claim lines and crawling assertiveness, shameless exhibition of expansionism, maximalist territorial dreams are basically presented through innocuous salami slicing through military jingoism. Al this while they would talk of peaceful resolution of disputes. It has kept Sino-India relations at a level where they could eat the major chunk of consumerism offered by the massive Indian market also.
The Dapsang Plains lie south of the strategic DBO road near Karakoram Pass. It’s the local soft spot for the highest airstrip in the world at 16614 feet (taking India’s airplanes as near as mere 8 Km from the LAC) and the newly constructed road linking it to Leh down south. The Chinese consider the DBO forward base a threat to their own ambitious CPEC in which they have invested billions of dollars. So the PLA has mobilized a lot of troops in the forward areas to disrupt Indian armmy’s patrolling patterns in the region. When multi-pronged self-interests clash they create many points of friction, leading to fears, phobias and insecurities which in turn pump the arms race. The weapons pile up, without any real chance of doing the destruction. The swanky rhetoric and posturing covers almost 90% of the modern day war. And to excel in posturing and propaganda one needs more and more deadly weapons.
So there is pretty solid posturing on both sides at the moment. It is entertaining the respective audience through news channels. India has to make its posturing tangible and douse the flared passion of its domestic audience to make them feel victorious even though we have been at receiving end in the current controversy. India has moved three divisions to the forward posts, many squadrons of frontline tanks, mechanized infantry squads and making plenty of jingoistic noise through Sukhoi-30s, upgraded Mig-29 fighter jets, Apache attack helicopters, power-lifter Chinooks, super-lifter C-17 Globemaster, C-130J Super Hercules special operations aircraft, Ilyushin-76 heavy-lift planes, An-32 transport planes, Mi-17 utility helicopters, P-8I surveillance aircraft, M-777 ultra-light howitzers (sling-loaded to helicopters and set up on hitherto unreachable ridges and fire up to 30 Km), T-72/T-90 tanks and BMP-2/2K infantry combat vehicles. The air-defense system including supersonic Akash missiles has been activated in the region. High-end precision guided munitions have been ordered from the USA. Further, India is pushing Russia to deliver S-400 Triumf air defense missile system (which they have already sold to the Chinese). Validating their proactive approach to counter the ever-persistent Chinese nibbling at Himalayan borders like termites, India has ordered Rupees 40000 crore worth war materials including 33 new Mig-29s and Sukhoi-30s and Israeli surface to air missile system to deal with the contingency. India is trying its level best to acquire Predator B-drone from America that can do surveillance as well as target with laser-guided bombs and missiles. (Americans are although wary that their technology might be leaked to the Russians who have deep defense cooperation with the Indians.) All this posturing has helped primarily Russia because both China and India are running to pour more money in their pockets to buy the latest weapons.
Chinese are doing the same across the LAC. And amidst all this, the talks for disengagement are going on. One has to appear strong enough to make the opponent feel that the costs of undue aggression will be heavy to stop any misadventure. So weapons are better left unused and tried just for posturing and psychological push-backs. Meanwhile, firing another salvo from its expansionist cannon, China has claimed another chunk of land from the Bhutanese territory. The peaceful little kingdom is caught unawares as this new claim was never a point of contention.
Both the Chinese and the Indians are aware of the costs of the persistence of the stalemate. Apart from the deadly weapons that make it almost impossible for the two sides to go into even a limited war, they are wary of the impending winters if the stalemate persists even after September. The harsh winters leave hardly any scope for the two sides to maintain their forward deployment.
Apart from positioning its armed might along the border to send a message to the Chinese that no more nibbling at the border will be tolerated anymore, India has started some kind of economic offensive also. Chinese firms will be kept out of the highway projects, imports will be systematically discouraged, Chinese investments in MSMEs not allowed, upgradation of 4G telecom tenders to be kept out of the Dragon’s reach, etc. All this is going on as both sides are aiming for “expeditious, phased and step-wise de-escalation.”
Amidst all this, PM Modi visited a forward army post in the region and declared that the era of expansionism is over, while China still tries—and will continue, irrespective of come what may—its level best to change the status quo by intruding into the Indian side and changing claim lines to expand its territorial claims. PM is loved by majority of Indians and his word is taken on its face value. But even at the optimistic best his strategic messaging against the predatory tactics, which are basically aimed at eating little slices slowly without firing a single bullet, appears helpless in the face of the single-minded Chinese focus for more and more land.
People now say in jest that now we know why PM Modi has been so proactive in hugging Trump even though the latter appeared reserved in this brotherly gesture. Trump has proved that he considers Modi a dear friend as he says so many times. To tweak the Chinese ears, the US navy has deployed two nuclear-powered aircraft carriers to hold intimidating exercises in the South China Sea. Well, their vulnerability at sea. The US knows it. The Malacca soft spot turns the dragon jittery. The pressure appears to be paying back also as in the second week of July the Chinese have taken concrete steps towards disengagement by moving back 1.5 Km from the Galwan friction point. It serves as a sort of precursor to a kind of mild de-escalation. They are hesitant in moving back and have extended claim lines that lie inside the Indian territory as per the status prior to May 5. India is insisting that the status quo of May 5 should be maintained. The Chinese want to shift the buffer zone to the west along natural features and thus acquire the still remaining strategic ridges that they think make India in advantageous position.
Hours and hours of talks are intended to carry out a phased de-escalation by creating a 4 Km buffer zone at major friction points. For a few weeks there won’t be any patrolling by any troops from any side in the buzzer zone to avoid another face off. But again, China may already have succeeded in achieving its goals of pushing the buffer zone further west and thus maintain the new status quo. So it’s unlikely that Indian troops will be able to patrol in the areas where they had reach before April. And China will fight diplomatically tooth and nail to maintain this new status quo. Geographical features define patrolling points where rival troops patrol up to their lines of perception. It’s very easy for any side to blame the other’s patrol party as intrusion along the contested border. Meanwhile, to help the Chinese keep their mind focused on disengagement with a bit lesser gains than they thought while starting all this, the Indian Air Force is putting up a brave show of posturing by presenting its combat worthiness through all-weather, day-night combat flights in Ladhak. An assortment of frontline attack helicopters, fighter jets, multi-mission choppers are carrying out sorties to show their battle worthiness.
Now all the issues are melting into the boring and snaily talks of pulling back troops from the face-off friction points, a well verified retreat of both sides followed by withdrawing weapons and machinery to a consensual distance from the LAC, leading to the status quo. Chinese will be fools to have put us all this show (and further dent its international reputation) for nothing if the status quo was restored. They will have something as per their diehard principles of territorial revisionism. They remember the disastrous defeat suffered during Vietnam invasion in 1979 and hardly believe in an all out war to achieve their geographical ambitions. The goals that are conventionally taken to be achieved through outright fighting are achieved through trickery, disguise and clandestine surprise intrusions and justifying them through blank lies. For instance, they have literally changed the entire narrative in the South China Sea without using a single bullet. They have already got away with many illegalities even in the current situation. They ambushed an Indian patrol that had gone visiting the area to verify whether they had retreated as per a recent disengagement agreement. PM Modi may have used the Ladhak speech to create a hollow sense of jingoism and euphoria among the domestic audience to justify the disengagement process and portray it as something done from a position of strength. China will somehow salvage the revised status quo. At many friction points, the new buffer zones lie to the Indian side of border. Through long and protracted talks they will just play the irritating game of attrition, haggle, weigh down to finally keep sitting where they are according to the Chinese dictum “possession is nine-tenths of the law.” We should know, despite what went off in the Indian media, they have achieved what they wanted in Doklam plateau.