India should not anticipate a positive response from the Chinese government
Border imbroglio with the People’s Republic of China is a riddle the Indian regime will continue to face. Although, as a sequel to the February 20 talks between Indian and Chinese commanders, the process of disengagement was briskly pursued and troops had seemingly withdrawn from their frontline positions, but not to their barracks.
Among these activities, the significantly mollifying part was the withdrawal of tanks by both sides from the shores of Pangong Tso.
It seemed to convey a tapering down of the heat of the face-off. To support the scenario, statements at the political level from both sides are trying to sound positive. Army Chief General Naravane, however, assured the nation that no Indian territory has been lost to the PLA.
Till now India has gone by the Line of Actual Control, a notional demarcation line that separates the Indian-controlled territory from the Chinese-controlled territory. Such demarcations were undertaken on the mutually accepted basis by the two countries decades ago. Our patrolling destinations and points were based on these premises and were shared with the PLA and the Chinese government. Whilst at the same time, the Chinese regime, always with great sinister persuasion did not allow India to resolve the border issues.
It all changed in June 2020 with the PLA soldiers attacking our troops in the Galwan Valley when they were merely adhering to an established regimen of patrols. Nonetheless, in hindsight it is now quite evident that the Galwan incident was used as a trigger by China to advance the conflict.
We found the PLA occupying strategically important positions immediately thereafter, at Demchok and northwards at Pangong Tso, Ghogra , at places overlooking the recently completed Darbuk – Shyok – DBO road and eventually at Depsang Plains.
This phenomenon clearly indicated well-orchestrated designs including at great speed, building infrastructure again at Demchok, Pangong Tso, in the Galvan Valley and not to be ignored positioning of tanks at Pangong Tso and most importantly in Depsang Plains.
These hostile actions would not have ceased had India not occupied strategically crucial positions at heights, overlooking the panorama of PLA deployment at Pangong Tso and from where it would have been extremely difficult to dislodge Indian troops without substantially escalating the conflict.
I do not think they wanted a full-fledged war as they were mentally ill prepared for it. Let me present my point of view here: China had unleashed PLA soldiers on India for diverting the global attention from the Corona pandemic for which Beijing was purposefully and criminally held responsible as it abetted the spread of the virus across the US, Europe, India and elsewhere.
Point to ponder is that two nuclear armed powers confronting each other would necessarily evoke a heightened fear response globally. With the WHO investigation on the Chinese role petering out from the media gaze the Chinese regime had chosen to underplay the India- China conflict angle.
By promoting the withdrawal at Pangong Tso its purpose was served with the proviso that they are still sitting at Ghogra and Depsang and many places overlooking the Dabruk – Shyok – DBO road.
With the lovely summer smiling on them in the Tibetan Plateau, they have a good six months before they have any decisions that need to be taken to fall back on.
But democratic and pluralistic India, however, has to care for its people, its territory and ethos. It cannot lower its guard against an expansionist adversary who is eyeing the Indian base at Daulat Beg Oldi with its armour at a distance of 30-km in the Depsang Plains.
And that is a strategic overhang which will allow them access to the road being built under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and which traverses a territory ceded by Pakistan but claimed by India. That is the primary reason for India not joining the “One Belt One Road” scheme being pursued by China.
With such scenarios confronting the Indian armed forces, it would be logical for India to be cautious in its dealings with China and play the strategic card with alacrity and speed when a situation demands so.
The Chinese cannot be trusted as President Xi Jinping who is also the Chairman of the Chinese Military Commission was exhorting the PLA to gear up for war in October 2020. His leaders and specially members of the Communist Party of China are singing the same tune.
In China, one notices a very public denunciation of the joining of hands between the US, Japan, Australia and India with the formation of the Quadrilateral Strategic Grouping. That the navies of India and the US started a two-day exercise in the last week of March in the Indian Ocean region, immediately after the visit of the US Defence Minister is evoking a hostile Chinese response.
The kernel of the issue is that the Chinese regime must be told in categorical terms that its expansionist adventures will not be tolerated. The Indian government should not anticipate a positive response from the Chinese government and should not be hasty in demonstrating goodwill like in the past. Most of all, investigations into its role in the spread of Coronavirus must receive a major push.
The author is a war veteran and a strategic affairs commentator; views expressed are his personal