New Delhi: The lady doth protest too much. This is the case with India, China and the disputed Sino-Bhutanese territory called Doklam. Nirmala Sitaraman, the ineffectual defence minister of the strategically deficient Narendra Modi government, has been quoted in the press to say, “We’re alert in Doklam.” The Indian envoy to China, another ineffectual official, has spoken harshly ahead of a meeting between Modi and dictator Xi Jinping. India’s hard posturing has little to do with intrinsic strength and seems to flow from the looming US-China trade war which contains risks of armed clashes breaking out in the South China Sea and in the Taiwan Strait. The Narendra Modi government perhaps smells opportunities in US-China troubles where none may exist. China as India’s northern neighbour is a permanent feature of the country’s geopolitics. Donald Trump, under who the United States has returned to the muddled anti-China policies of the late-1940s and early Fifties, is a bird of passage. In addition to the Russian election meddling scandal, he is in deep water with the Stormy Daniels affair, and the threat to her little daughter to obtain her silence on the liaison with Trump could blow up the rest of his White House life.

The Narendra Modi government believes China lacks the intelligence to see through its tawdry tactics. In dealing with a robust power like China which has stood up to both the Soviet Union and the United States in its rise to become one of the world’s three prime movers, you have to act with great circumspection, wisdom, patience and perspicacity. Empty rhetoric must be buried, loose talk shunned, and enormous energies must be deployed in silence and single-mindedness to craft a grand strategy to address the question of China. Unless India invests time, effort and treasure to the understanding of China, it would daily blunder about, convince the other state that it is unserious, and invite more trouble. China values predictability in relations although it understands the tactical value of occasional unpredictability in overall strategy. Designed tactical unpredictability caters to flexibility required for day-to-day changes and special circumstances without compromising long-term interests. India, however, has institutionalized unpredictability under Narendra Modi with disastrous results. Days ago, the new Indian foreign secretary preached peace and goodwill with China while the government was selling out the Dalai Lama and the Tibet movement. Now all of a sudden, India is talking tough on Doklam. Has India overnight become a Great Power? Is it overwhelmingly superior to China in arms? Has Pakistan consented to gang up with India against China?

No, no, no.

So why blow hot and cold?

The more India obsesses with Doklam, the greater it will get pushed to the centre of China’s strategy to neutralize the country. Doklam is a disputed piece of land between China and Bhutan. As China wins over one South Asian state after another as India helplessly watches, it will not be long before Bhutan succumbs to Chinese blandishments and threats. A simple territorial swap would fetch Doklam for China and leave India stranded in its fixation. There are ways and means to square the threat from Doklam to India’s narrow corridor connecting the bulk of the country to the North East, but endless chatter about Doklam provides no solution. It scares the country, and it tells China India is scared when it needn’t be. The United States will not bail out India on Doklam or anyplace else. India has to build its own capacities to deter China. Capacity building cannot happen in a day and is intimately linked to nation building of which the present government does not have the smallest clue. Meanwhile, cross your fingers that India’s Doklam obsession is suitably mitigated by the time Xi and Modi meet. Obsessions are unhealthy and unproductive.