A Dangerous Concoction for India

Doklam–Malabar

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The 2017 trilateral Malabar naval exercise in the Bay of Bengal ended with RearAdmiral William D Byrne of the UnitedStates (US) navy promising India that in the event of an “international crisis in the Indian Ocean, US and Japan will come down to help.” For many Indian journalists reporting from USS Nimitz, the American admiral’s words were manna from heaven, especially in the wake of the ongoing Doklam crisis on the China–Bhutan border. Incidentally, during the 2015 Malabar naval exercises in the Bay of Bengal, the Indian army was playing the fifth version of the “hand-in-hand” joint operation with China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Kunming. Such drastic deterioration in India–China relations does not portend well for regional peace.

The admiral’s pronouncement offriendship and assistance reminded me of the Adventures of Tintin: Tintin in Tibet. The comic book narrates the story of Tintin’s commitment to friendship. He moves through the most torturous snow-clad mountains to save his friend Chang, an air-crash victim, marooned in the Himalayas. Tintin receives intelligence and material help from a Tibetan monastery in the mountains to locate Chang and bring him back to Nepal. It is hard not to see a correlation between Tintin in Tibet and the Dalai Lama’s flight from Lhasa. The comic book was produced in 1959, the same year in which the Dalai Lama was clandestinely brought to India. The comic series represents the typical use of popular culture or soft power to serve international power games. Admiral Byrne is no Tintin. He represents the American hard power. However, both—hard and soft power—convey the same message: the US will travel miles and go in harm’s way to save its friends from China.

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Updated On : 24th Aug, 2017

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