Even after 17 long months have passed since the ignominious clash between the Indian and Chinese soldiers in the Galwan Valley, the impasse continues with no sign of thaw in the deadlock.
Around 20 Indian soldiers lost lives in the skirmish that took place in Galwan valley. Following that, it is alleged that the Chinese came and surreptitiously occupied Indian territory in Eastern Ladakh and are refusing to vacate. This has altered the LAC. This has the potential to completely ruin India’s image as a sovereign republic. This has turned out to be one of the most dangerous strategic challenge that the country is facing.
After this, there was a skirmish between the soldiers of India and China in Barahoti in Uttarakhand as the Chinese troops had intruded into Indian territory. Recently, there was a face-off between Indian and Chinese troops in Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh before the 13th Corps Commander level talks between the two sides. The LAC is becoming as hot as the LOC with regular verbal confrontation between the two armies in an eyeball-to-eyeball stand-off.
The 13th round of talks between India and China has ended in a stalemate with no further movement in the disengagement process after the short-lived euphoria resulting from Pangong Tso withdrawal. This behavior of China is very much in sync with Mao’s proclamation that Tibet is like the right palm of China and that Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh are the five fingers of this palm.
Xi Jinping is hell bent on translating this into ground reality. China has passed a new land border law which states that the “sovereignty and territorial integrity of People’s Republic of China are sacred and inviolable.” All these do not portend very well for India from a security perspective.
These series of incidents warrant a few questions to be asked of the government. Why are we as a country not taking the Chinese threat seriously? Why did the Indian Army vacate the advantageous positions of Kailash Range heights after occupying it? Why is the mainstream media resoundingly silent on this issue? Why is the government silent on the issue? Is something very amiss here?
Why is the trade deficit between India and China ballooning again in China’s favor even after the death of 20 Indian soldiers in the Galwan valley clash? Does their sacrifice have no value? Have we ceded territory to the Chinese as we ceded Aksai Chin to them? Why are there buffer zones being created along LAC, which were never created before? Why are the buffer zones on Indian territory?
All these questions need to be answered comprehensively and convincingly and the government needs to come out with the truth in these matters.
We should not forget that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping have met 18 times and yet this military skirmish took place. This skirmish can erupt into a full-blown military confrontation. The Chinese strategy is to test the opponent’s patience to the maximum and see who blinks first. But there have been glaring lapses on part of the Indian government as well. This calls for a closer scrutiny.
China is building permanent military bases along the border with India as well as deploying thousands of more troops. It is also building military-grade infrastructure with power supply, roads and miliatary stations. New nuclear missile silos are being constructed. China has been steadily beefing up its border deployment. While all this is going on, the Chinese state is talking peace with India while Xi Jinping is talking about cracking skulls of rivals and adversaries.
China is known to exhibit deceptive behavior in order to confound its enemies. China has been engaging in fresh provocations. More than a year after the Galwan incident, China is escalating the border standoff. Permanent deployments along the border are at their highest levels in decades. It has deployed more advanced weapons. It has positioned new batteries of SAM HQ-9 along the border. In the past few months the PLA has gradually increased its troop presence along the LAC taking the total of Chinese troops at the border to 50,000.
Last year, the troop deployment was around 35,000. The additional 15,000 troops have been stationed in Eastern Ladakh where the bulk of buildup has taken place. The PLA is building bases to station its soldiers permanently. China has built two military encampments in the town of Rudok in Tibet and Kangxiwar in Aksai Chin. These stations are being equipped with modern facilities and military fortifications.
It is speculated that Chinese forces have dug underground bunkers and tunnels here. Hutments have been built for troops. Helipads and field hospitals have been set up. As per reports, China has built small hydroelectric power stations in these areas to keep the troop stations supplied with uninterrupted electricity.
Alarmed by these developments and losing hope of an early rapprochment, India has also shifted its defence focus from Pakistan to China. India is preparing to match the Chinese deployments along the border. The unvarnished message that comes from all of this is that for China talks are only a formality-a tactic to buy more time. Even though India is sparing no effort in upgrading its own infrastructure along the LAC, it has definitely been caught off guard.
Beijing has been ramping up its weapons development program. It spends around 200 billion dollars annually on its defense, which is second only to United States. China is building more than 100 missile silos in the deserts of Yumen. These missiles are ICBMs with a range of 12,000 miles and can carry multiple warheads. With these missiles, nobody is safe—not even the United States. These missiles can hit America within 30 minutes of their launch. India is much too closer than that.
This should ring alarm bells across the power corridors of the world because nobody is safe from Chinese jingoism. Philippines, Japan, and Australia have been at the receiving end of Chinese aggression. Nobody should feel that they would be spared because they have good relationship with China. China looks at the world through the prism of comprehensive national power. Its approach to geopolitics is hierarchical in nature. There is no space for an equal partnership. They want to dominate the world any which way they can-economically, financially or militarily.
India should meticulously explore its options under such challenging geopolitical scenario. No wonder India has shed its past reluctance and is more readily joining alliances and groupings like QUAD and West Asian Quad. But at the end of the day, India has to fight its own battle. The million dollar question is—is India prepared?
Edited by Anupama Roy