Flared up by India’s strategic move to ramp up infrastructure along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, Sino-India border tensions have risen high in Ladakh as over 20 Indian soldiers, including a Colonel, were killed in the Galwan Valley deadly clash, the first in last 45 years. The two countries fought a war in 1962 when India suffered a humiliating defeat. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said India had crossed the border twice “provoking and attacking Chinese personnel, resulting in a serious physical confrontation between border forces on the two sides”. According to AFP, “No shots were fired” in this latest skirmish and there are reports that it was fought with rocks and clubs; the Indian soldiers were “beaten to death”. Last month, both sides exchanged physical blows on the Sikkim border, too. Inside India, the Modi government is facing criticism over “great embarrassment and humiliation”.
India wrongfully disputes China’s 38,000 square kilometer territory and 3,440 km long LAC, and Pakistan’s 140,000 sq km territory with a 740 km long LoC. Several rounds of talks have so far failed to resolve the boundary disputes; instead, India has started building roads network to boost its capability to move men and material rapidly in case of a conflict with China and Pakistan. Security analysts believe that the Indian maneuverability is aimed at blocking China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) under which China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is being built. Already, India is struggling to contain a surge of Covid-19 infections and revive an economy that looks headed for recession.
Hu Xijin, the Editor-in-Chief of Global Times, tweeted that his understanding is that the Chinese side also suffered casualties in the Galwan Valley clash. “Based on what I know, the Chinese side also suffered casualties in the Galwan Valley physical clash. I want to tell the Indian side, don’t be arrogant and misread China’s restraint as being weak.” The Sino-Indian conflict on the LAC in Eastern Ladakh gradually generated enough heat to become international news and grew in intensity by this June. Making bold headlines, the conflict is now flaring up in which the Indian government and military turn out to be the losers. India has not only lost the territory, but also its credibility. The silence of Indian PM, who like President Trump is obsessed with tweeting and making ridiculous claims, shows that he has nothing left to tweet. The claim that the Indian Army some days ago had conducted a surgical strike and regained territory from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), just as he had done falsely in Kashmir, has earned Narendra Modi a strong criticism from within and outside India. The image of Chinese soldiers pushing the Indian soldiers on the ground and tying their hands was the most humiliating sight flooding the social media platforms and very upsetting and demoralizing for the Indian people.
It all started with both sides digging defences and Chinese trucks moving equipment in to the area, raising concerns of a long faceoff. But interviews with former Indian military officials and diplomats suggest the trigger for the flare-up is India’s construction of roads and airstrips. One of these roads is near the Galwan valley that connects to Daulat Beg Oldi airbase, which was inaugurated last October. The early March aggressive posturing by India gradually fizzled out and was replaced by reconciliatory gestures of peace after the Chinese simply walked into Indian territory and scared the Indian army to retreat and take refuge in their bunkers. The PLA in an early morning walk was able to push back the stone-throwing Indians by 2.5 km along the LAC and reclaimed miles of their territory which is part of the Chinese Tibet. China has yet to regain 90,000 sq km of its territory from Indian occupation, including Arunachal Pradesh or South Tibet.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which is far superior in strength and equipment organized a large-scale military operation featuring thousands of paratroopers plus armored vehicles to the Indian border in Ladakh. This move shattered the confidence and morale of the Indian army forcing them to retreat. Prime Minister Narendra Modi simply miscalculated the determination of Chinese leaders, back from beating the monstrous Covid-19, successfully calming Taiwan’s desire to rebel the Chinese were in no mode to tolerate Modi’s foreign policy of hugging and betraying.
Flirting with Trump and agreeing to kowtow to US foreign policy Modi abused the Chinese policy of tolerance and nonviolence – no bullet has been fired after the Chinese army defeated the Indian Northern Command in 1962, so Modi decided to test the Chinese resolve by building solid military structures on Chinese Territory. The Chinese government has never accepted the British demarcation of the Tibet area and has rejected treatise which the British forced on the Chinese Qing dynasty.
The Indian expansionist and belligerent policy of annexing territories of its neighbors has backfired in the Ladakh region. According to a newspaper editorial, “China is not Nepal or Bhutan and the Indian policy of eating away land will not succeed. The Indian army stands a zero chance of countering a Chinese advance. The Chinese military has grown manifolds and so has its economy since 1962. The Chinese GDP is five times larger than India. The Indians know that rhetoric and gung-ho attitude can only work on the Indian media not on the ground with the PLA”. Although President Trump has offered to mediate but his remarks about Hong Kong and Taiwan, further irritated China. Therefore, it is unlikely that the tainted US mediation offer will work.
Under the circumstances, Islamabad’s concerns are genuine that the Modi’s BJP-RSS-led government “is becoming a threat to neighbours. Bangladesh through Citizenship Act, border disputes with Nepal and China, and Pakistan threatened with false flag operation.” Pakistan has been forewarning the international community about this worrying pattern for quite a while now, yet, India’s large market has blinded the world to the policies it employs at the state level, especially in Occupied Kashmir.
It is now the eleventh month that India revoked IOJ&K’s special status, massive human right violations are going on inside the occupied valley under 11-month-long curfew. And the noise Pakistan has been making about India’s aggressive, xenophobic policies, it must now make a lot more sense to the world. The truth is that Islamabad has been offering negotiations on all outstanding issues since Musharraf’s times; he had offered a four-point solution, and the successive governments have been calling upon India to come to a negotiable table. The world knows that it is only India that has always bulldozed every effort for peace.
Modi has falsely made Indians believe that India is an invisible regional power. Indian Army Generals know the ground realities in Ladakh and even in Kashmir. After disappointing his nation on Ladakh and last February in Balakot, India may try to reignite tension on the Line of Control to boost his public approval ratings which have gone down due to the Covid-19 disaster and massive unemployment and economic meltdown. He is doomed to fail.
(The writer is a freelance columnist from Rawalpindi)