Dr Sudershan Kumar
For the past seven decades now, India has been enmeshed in various intricacies with its hostile neighbour China and time and again, incidents have recurred indicating strenuous relations with China and her nefarious designs. Presently too, a logjam between India and China is undergoing which started on May 5, 2020 , when Indian security agencies detected that in Eastern Ladakh Chinese People Liberation army made an endeavor to alter LAC unilaterally by intruding in to the areas of Pangong Tso Lake, Hot springs and Depsang plains. But post this incident, amidst the brewing tensions, for more than five months now, there have been several rounds of inconclusive talks between the two giants through military and diplomatic channels including the meeting between two Foreign Ministers in Moscow on September 11, 2020 at the side line of SCO summit and end to the logjam seems difficult.
Moreover, with the approaching of winters which are harsh making it non congenial for the forces further accentuated by the inhospitable terrain of Ladakh, both the Indian Army and PLA is gearing up for a long haul. Moreover, the statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs of China not recognizing the newly created Union Territory of Ladakh formed by bifurcation of erstwhile princely State of Jammu and Kashmir Territory certainly has been viewed by the Indian Government as an interference in the internal affairs of India. This statement from the Chinese side comes under the guard of their well promulgated strategy to gain upper hand by putting psychological pressure and forcing the Indian leadership to come to an agreement toeing to their terms and conditions. But unlike in the past, equally firm, strong posture adopted by Indian military at LAC at the behest of strong central leadership has not only baffled the Chinese Communist Party leadership but also put them in to catch 22 situation. They are perplexed and confused and looking for a midway path to come out of this self created mesh. The end seems to be nowhere near. With both sides taking a firm stance and being adamant, the road for settlement of this border row seems to be bumpy. So the pertinent question is, who will blink first? Moreover, the solution to this precarious situation needs to be sorted out but seems to be eluding. This further augments the risk as at certain locations, Armies from both sides are facing each other at eye ball to eye ball distance and a slight glitch can fuel a full scale war.
There fore to understand the origin and cause of this logjam between the armies of two giant nations of South Asia one needs to scrutinize the pages of history. The reason for origin of this dispute is an un demarcated border between India and Tibet (now forcefully and ill legally occupied by China) and Chinese leadership not adhering to earlier signed treaties.
The history resonates that China started illegal building of road between Tibet and Xinjiang Province of China passing through the unhabited area of Ladakh province of erst while Princely State of Jammu & Kashmir State (now bifurcated into two Union Territories viz : Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh) in the year 1951 which was completed in the year 1957. This was done secretly and the Indian authorities got to know of it only in the year 1957 when it was discovered that China had occupied large part of Aksai Chin. Prior to this, the Indian patrol parties used to go for patrolling up to the extreme eastern edge of Akasi Chin. But subsequent to their illegal encroachment, Chinese started moving gradually towards west and adopted a “creeping forward tactics” to lay claim on a Territory which traditionally was a part of Ladakh province of Jammu & Kashmir State. Their unilateral proposal of 1959 for LAC perception was rejected by the then Indian Government authorities. But ironically, the then Indian authorities turned a blind eye to the advice of the military commanders over suspicious activities of Chinese along the border and more so got swayed by the disguise of Chinese sweet talks.
Even Indian army’s British Commander in Chief General Robert Lockhartz’s suggestion regarding formation of Strategy Defence policy was rubbished by the then top leadership of the country. He was vehemently told “Rubbish, Total Rubbish. We do not believe in Defence Plan. Our policy is Ahinsa (Non Violence) We foresee no military threats.Scrap the army.The police is good enough to meet our security needs”. On further suggestions concerning defence related matters , he was told that those who do not implement the policies laid down by civilian Government has no place in Indian Army. Similar treatment was meted out to General Kodandera Subayya Thimayya, the then chief of army staff by the top leadership of the country.
Time and again, history is a witness to the fact that, whosoever has ignored the advice of military commanders especially on national security matters have all ways faced humiliation at the hands of adversaries. The debacle in 1962 war with China can be seen as a disastrous repercussion of the above incidents. Therefore it is imperative for the Government to give proper weightage to the advice of the military commanders. To deal with any kind of menace from the adversaries, the problem has to be hammered at its genesis. The present situation at LAC in Eastern Ladakh is equally grim. Various attributes leading to this precarious situation may be the following: Firstly, Xi Jinping after getting elected as the life time President of people Republic of China has become euphoric believing that his country has now become militarily and economically much stronger to take on the whole world. He believes himself to be the messenger of God destined to rule the world as an emperor thus flexing its muscle against India. Secondly, COVID -19 virus having its origin from Wuhan city of China created havoc around the whole world has certainly altered the world dimensions. As per the available reports, Chinese authorities did not show any transparency in sharing the details with other countries thus antagonizing all against China.
The fear of isolation and revolt within CPC has forced XI to adopt aggressive posture against the whole world especially the neighbouring countries and forcing them to dance to his tune. Thirdly, the bold and historic decision by Modi Government concerning abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of State into two Union Territories has not gone down well with Chinese.
Furthermore, the statement made by the Home Minister in the Indian Parliament reverberating their commitment to take back Askai Chin from China has further sent shivers across Chinese Government making them apprehensive regarding the safety of their Karakorom Highway. Fourth the massive connectivity infrastructure in terms of roads, bridges, tunnels, and buildings built across Ladakh region by India during the past six years has rattled Chinese to some extent. Fifthly and significantly, despite Chinese tall claims about their military superiority, the fact remains that in seven decades, PLA has not fought any war except in 1962. So even though their mouth piece Global times boasts off of highly technology oriented and professional PLA, but ironically in mountain war fare their technology has neither been tested nor proven. Furthermore, one child policy adopted by Communist Party of China (CPC) has made their youth most pampered making them vulnerable to the harsh surroundings. Therefore PLA is neither sure about their capability and nor about their fighting spirit in the wake of war. Therefore looking in to Chinese assertiveness and their toeing the old 1959 perception of LAC which has out rightly been rejected by India, it is unlikely that in near future any solution will emerge out of any discussion. Both sides will not blink so easily.
There is a possibility that both sides will adopt a wait and watch posture and their Armies will gear up to embrace the harsh winter along LAC. No one will lower their guards on disputed sites. There is a possibility of more bloody and intense skirmishes and even a localized war between the two. For that Indian forces will have to be fully prepared to teach China a lesson. So that they forget their 1962 win and remember Dogra General Zorawar Singh indomitable might who with just 5000 battle hardened Dogra soldiers had entered 539 miles deep inside in Tibet. Parallelly India will have to adopt a hard diplomacy against China to bring them to knees.The soft diplomacy may not work.This may lead to disaster.By now Chinese authorities have understood that Government at centre is led by a strong and great visionary leader Narandera Modi, whose mission is to make India militarily and economically strong to meet future challenges.Their pressure tactics will not work any more.They will have to agree to mutually acceptable reasonable solution.