Galwan incident: A Paradigm shift in Indo-Chinese relations
There has been an Indo-Chinese standoff at the Line of Actual Controls (LAC) at various places of which the Ladakh border has been in precarious condition since May 2020 following several scuffles. Attempts has been going on to resolve it through discussions. On 06 Jun 2020, a Lieutenant General level talk between India and China on the boarder standoff in Galwan valley for an ‘status quo ante’ of the two armies’ positions of April 2020 had lot of expectations. There was no immediate communique after the talk but the endorsement of a part-de-escalation came on 10 Jun after a careful analysis at the Army HQs. There was supposed to be an immediate de-escalation from the ‘eyeball to eyeball’ confrontation to fall back by 1.5-2 Km,followed by military level talks for further reduction of the tension. On 11 Jun 20, the Indian side stepped back and some of the Chinese too apparently moved back. On 15 Jun however, suspicious movements were noticed at PP14 where the Chinese posts were re-established that was supposed to have been removed earlier. This is the time when Col Babu had gone on patrol to confirm it along with 30 odd personnel. They first abused the Indian team and refused to move out. It is not fully known how the violence started at their first camp and how it went on to their second camp where Babu lost his life. This violence was against the spirits of the de-escalation as well as previous bilateral agreements.
Here is a Counterviews question which has never been raised atany forum...”When the patrol party of Col Babu noticed the presence of the first camp of the Chinese supposed to have been vacated, why did he not go back to report it to the higher authorities instead of getting in to brawl?” That would also have been in accordance with the earlier bilateral accords of resolving issues by dialogue. The higher authorities of both sides who earlier negotiated the de-escalation, might have met again to work out a peaceful means of verifying the withdrawal. However,did the Chinese army adhere to the agreements? Surely not. Very fact that they attacked barbed-wire wrapped attacking weapons, they too violated the agreement. Did someone made error of not being more tactful so as to avoid everything that happened subsequently thatnight...and both nations came to the brink of a possible conflagration/war? It may not be appropriate to question the acts of Col Babu at this stage who made the supreme sacrifice because of the back-stabbing by the Chinese. Raising this questionwill surely not be in the national interest too. But such questions must be answered in the future to avoid the recurrence of the situation that we are in.
The Chinesehave always been untrustworthy and back-stabbing. It is in their DNA. It is nothing new. We saw itin the early 1950s, their duplicity in their talks and acts. They did with India, Tibet, east Turkmenistan, Mongolia, Vietnam and some smaller provinces. At Indian borders, they have dual ambitions of land grabbing and appeasing their ally of Pakistan. Pakistan also serves Chinese purpose by continuing terrorist infiltration and other distractions in India. We knew it all along, yet we went for the negotiations at different levels.Some progress was evident in the discussion.
Indian Defence strategies of the Past.Till the recent years had been ‘defensive by denial’ though the non-existent roads, have failed miserably. On the other side, the Chinese have upgraded their infrastructures and their forces have amassed plenty of men and materials across the LACwith rapid redeployment capabilities. That is the reason they are able to pick and choose the theatres of operations all along 3500 odd kilometres length of the LAC where they can continuously prick the Indian forces at will. These factors haveespeciallythreatened the DBO-Depsang and Demchok-Chumur sectors of Ladakh although PLA is presently on their side of the LAC. Indian Govt has somewhat neglected to fortify in these areas to prevent their ingress. It was only in late 2013 that the UPA govt agreed tothe long stand military demands of developing some roads in those remote area of some part of the LAC. The present Govt made it a priority task in 2014 to make the entire LAC approachable by good roads capable of fast transportation of the troops and their equipment. This was a departure of the Indian govt from the past approach that made the Chinese uncomfortable.
Fast developing Infrastructures at LAC.Chinese know that our infrastructures all along the Line of Actual Controls (LAC) is fast developing and it will not be long before their repeated transgression become checked or history. It is for this reason that they are trying to apply maximum pressure through military build-up and a long list of frequent border skirmishes are the pointer toit. On theother hand, the present Indian Govt too is firm of not yielding any further ground on the LAC. Till recent years Indian forces were handicapped with very poor infrastructures all across LAC as well as the lack of will to fight back. In the lastfew years there have been rapid progress in roads. Now there is presence of Indian troops at most places along the LAC. However, we are still long way short of matching the Chinese opponent. India must build enough roads, rail, permanent bunkers, many garrisons / cantonments having flawless logistics & supplies. These cantonments must be set-up at suitable locations from where rapid deployment could be effected. There must be enough of troops and fighting machines at these garrisons. Presently we have veryfew of such camps. There must be adequate civilian inhabitations or some tourist sites too in the vicinities so as to make the infrastructures commercially viable with the means of self-sustenance.
the pointer toit. On theother hand, the present Indian Govt too is firm of not yielding any further ground on the LAC. Till recent years Indian forces were handicapped with very poor infrastructures all across LAC as well as the lack of will to fight back. In the lastfew years there have been rapid progress in roads. Now there is presence of Indian troops at most places along the LAC. However, we are still long way short of matching the Chinese opponent. India must build enough roads, rail, permanent bunkers, many garrisons / cantonments having flawless logistics & supplies. These cantonments must be set-up at suitable locations from where rapid deployment could be effected. There must be enough of troops and fighting machines at these garrisons. Presently we have veryfew of such camps. There must be adequate civilian inhabitations or some tourist sites too in the vicinities so as to make the infrastructures commercially viable with the means of self-sustenance.
The present size of Chinais due to their land-grabbingof the erstwhile neighbours whether Tibet, East Turkestan, Mongolia, Manchuria, Hongkong, Vietnam and several other smaller provinces. It has been Chinese hegemony at the UNSC by virtue of it being a permanent member that no penal action has been initiated against them. Astheir expansionist intents continue, it is time to initiate suitable action. It has been very long for “Tibetan Govt in Exile’ waiting their land to be freed. The international communities and the UNSC must take cognizance of it.
The Chinese policies ofaggressive border encroachments continue. Their troops’ repeated incursions and build-up in Ladakh and all along LAC, in to the Indian territories at places have of late being check-mated. No longer they can intrude in India without being noticed. Of latethey find Indian troops preventing them a free ingress unlike in past. This is why scuffles break out between the two troops since the past bilateral agreements prevent the use of firearms on the LAC. Some of these scuffles have been violent, leading to injuries on both sides. In Galwan valley the scuffles were so violent that resulted in deaths. This has shattered the relative >40 yrs peace at the LAC and PM Modi’s words of “the martyrdom of our braves will not go in vain” sets a very new agenda of the ‘New India’. It has made a paradigm shift in the whole lot of the Indo-Chinese relations and the Indian approach in the times ahead. The Armed Forces are in Combat deployment. The immense anger among the nationals have taken pledge to boycott Chinese goods, something that will surely hurt the Chinese. China has taken a diplomatic beating on international platform for being seen as aggressor. Hereafter the paradigm shift in Indian policies towards China will include the followings: -
a.There is no dilemma in Indian minds not to trust the Chinese as to what they say and do.
b.India has freed its forces of any obligation of not opening fire (in self-defence though).
c.Indian stand is clear on Galwan valley, “threat-free road” to the Daulat Beg Oldie airfield.
d.Thereis no doubt that the Chinese have transgressed to finder 4 of the Pangong Tso.
e.That the Chinese army’s expansionism behaviour continues across the entire LAC.
f.That ‘defence by denial’ was a very wrong policy of Indian Govt for >40 yrs.
g.That infrastructure along with troops & garrison build-up with logistics along LAC, is vital.h.That Chinese need to be confronted aggressively on all three fronts of diplomatic offensive, Economic reprisals and Military counter-action (The Counterviews, issue 2:12, page-19 refers).PLA Incursions in to India.The Chinese military has been playing cat & mouse game for long now. Every year there have been PLA transgression in to our territories for long that often went unnoticed. This happened hundreds of times in a year. They could venture several kilometers within. In the past, it used to mostly go unnoticed but after the recent years’ border roads constructions in many parts of the LAC taken-up on highest priority, they are increasingly being detected, reported and countered too. A Times of Indiareport quoted Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju, to have informed the Rajya Sabha in Sep/Oct 2014 of the number of transgressions by the Chinese Army into the Indian territories. This figure had slight decline in the year 2016-18 as reported by Minister of State for Defence Shripad Naik to Lok Sabha in Nov 2019. The new road constructions are increasingly making the Chinese jittery as they are no longer able to venture in our territories at will. They are checked in their attempts as evident by the standoffs at Chumar (2014), Docklam (2017), Naku La, Pangong Tso or Galwan (2020).
Past major PLA incursions In Ladakh.Out of the 857 km long border in Ladakh only 368 km is the International Border and the rest of the 489 km is the LAC. The two traditional disputed points included Trig Heights and Demchok. At eight points, the two sides have differing perceptions of LAC as shown in the box opposite (The Ind Exp, May 26, 2020). But lately, China has raised two fresh dispute points of 83 sq km at Pangong Tso and 80 sq km at Chumur. Their increasing claims on Ladakh and other regions across LAC, is mentioned in the box opposite. They have been making repeated forays in our territories at their will with very little of Indian reaction till the Sep 2014 stand-off at Chumar sector when our troops confronted them for several weeks during their President’s visit to India. They had to finally retreat back.
It is just beyond comprehension as to why the Indian Govt remained spineless in the preceding 10 yrsto the repeated Chinese intrusions. Did the Chinese have some understanding with the Congress party of India to whom they made cash donations through their Rajiv Gandhi Foundation? We don’t know. However, those weak postures of the govt did significantly weaken the Indian side of the border posts. Thanks to the present govt who nullified the previous govts policies of “Defence by denial” and started an ominous task of the border road development even if to the annoyance of the PLA. They have mercifully acted on the Military’s long pending demands of additional Mountain Division and a Rapidly Deployable Mountain Strike Force that can mount offensive across the LAC. With these, some sort of parity has been restored. It is no longer the India of 1962, with sick mindset of the political leaders. It is a new India which has first acquired the military capability and then looking at the Chinese eye to eye.
It cannot be understood why Indian govt was not proactive against the Chinese nefarious designs on the LAC during several decades. If we could defeat the Pakistanis in 1965 & 1971, we could have defended our LAC too. We tolerated their repeated provocations on both diplomatic and military fronts. God knows what made the Indian polity so spineless especially when Chinese leaders visited India. In most such instances, they blatantly abused Indian authorities as shown below: -Some major Chinese Forays in to Ladakh2008-Skakjung, Koyul, 20 km2009 -Demchok, 10 Km-Chumur, 5 Km-Raki Nalla, 5 Km 2011 –Yangse, 5 Km-Chumur 10 KmApr-May 13 –DBO Airstrip-Burtse (25 Km)Sep 14 –Chumur 15 KmYear ActualIncidents :-
•China’s claim to Arunachal came just before President Hu Jintao’s 2006 visit.
•Before Premier Wen Jiabao came calling in 2010, Beijing began questioning India’s sovereignty over Jammu and Kashmir through its stapled-visa policy.
•Before Chinese Premier Li Keqiang May 2013 visit PLA made a deep incursion in to Burtse, Depsang, DBO, Chip Chap regions of Ladakh and 20 Km deep in Chaglagam, Arunachal.
•Chinese President Xi Xinping Sep 2014 visit to India was marred by a bitter stand-off at Chumur.
If go by the transgressions and subsequent claims on the Indian territories, Chinese agenda of premeditated occupation goes back to the 2009 and 2013 when they showed their intent of expansionism. It seems they have very clear objective of occupying Ladakh through 3 axes: -
a.Transgression through Raki Nala, Depsang, DBO, Chip-Chap plans & river to arrive at the Karakoram Pass and meet with Pakistan to cut-off India fully. By virtue of their threatening presence in Galwan valley and the adjoining peaks, they are threatening the only road access to the DBO. They must be pushed back from here at the earliest.
b.Push through the Trig Heights, Pangong Tso (finger 4-8) to attack Indian posts at finger 3 or 4 on one side and the Pangong Lake or on the other side of the lake to cut-off Indian access to Chushul on the lake road and get access to Tsaka La high-way leading to Tangse.
c.Push through Demchok-Koyul and Chumar axis towards Chushul and Leh highway. They have large back-up Army and their Air Force at Ngeri-Kunsha here.
The above plans look reasonably strong from the Chinese point of view if the Indian forces were of 1962, but that is not the case anymore. Their forces are sitting ducks for the IAF on the Pangong lake if hostility breaks out. They will surely be neutralised in no time. Their plans in Galwan valley may be strong on papers. However, if they have to invadeIndia fromthat axis, through its narrow valleys and roads, they will again be sitting ducks, exposed to both ground and aerial attacks. If they misadventure, Galwan valley may become their graveyard...and worse, the narrow roads may not permit them to retreat. Thus, the only area where they can try to invade with some rate of success is the Demchok-Chumur axis if having numerical superiority. This area is however, widely accessible to IAF counterattacks from Leh, Punjab and Haryana bases with air superiority. It will not be easy at all for the Chinese to invade. They will have to take enumerable body-bags of their soldiers. Although they dream of threatening our Manali-Leh roads deep within our territories, it will remain their dreams only. After the Indian Army initiative of deployment on 29/30 Aug 20 over the ridges on Back Top, Helmet Top, Resang La, Recking La, Gurung Hill and so on, Indian fortification in those areas are credible enough to defeat any evil designs of PLA incursions in to Indian territories. Pangong, Spanggur gap and Chumur will be their graveyards.
Successive Indian govts in past decades have been docile to the Chinese aggressions on diplomatic and military frontiers against us. The Chinese forces have far too long been intruding our territories and some partisan and selfish polity in India esp the Congress & Communists, have been indifferent to it. Our decades old policy of national ‘Defence by denial’ against the Chinese have not only failed us but even encouraged the Chinese with unchecked transgression in to our land.
In the recent years, Chinese were brought closure to India in all three spheres of diplomacy, economy and the military in the hope of peaceful co-existence and mutual benefits. Diplomacy has been at the highestlevels of ‘Wuhan spirits and Chennai connect’. Economic cooperation was the best in Chinese investments, make in India and bilateral trades. However, trade deficit was high when we imported lot of raw materials and consumer goods from them. Efforts were on in the last 2 yrs to narrow the trade-deficit too. On military front too, the relations had normalised to the extent that the two nations had held joint exercises in 2016 which otherwise was unimaginable. However, despite all these, the Chinese continuedwith theirexpansionist ambitions. Docklam in 2017 and repeated standoffs this year have vitiated the atmosphere. There was a hope that diplomatic approach will be possible. But despite decision to de-escalate, they kept their troops on Indian territories. The worstwas their premeditated brutal attack on to the Indian troops at Galwan PP14 area resulting in deaths after several decades of comparative peace. Whether CO of 16 Bihar Regt should have countered the Chinese physically getting drawn in violent confrontation or just reported their presence to the higher-ups despite de-escalation, is a matter of past. Indian side feels the Chinese have back-stabbed again. India has rightly activated the entire LAC and now at least, there is no looking back. India has met its intention absolutely clear that attacks on Indian soldiers or PLA transgression in to our territory is unacceptable and will be met with serious consequences. On the side lines however, the diplomatic channel is also active for any reasonable peaceful solution.