Building capacity at LAC to counter an aggressive Beijing


New Delhi: The spot along the Line of Actual Control may be new, but the provocation isn’t. Chinese incursions across the LAC have become a fact of life for over a decade now and could only witness an increase as Delhi is in no mood to refrain from infrastructure building in that area. And rightly so.

From aggressive behaviour — as a tool to hit back at USA and other powers since pandemic — to economic slowdown at home, to rise in nationalism, to Delhi reasserting claims over Aksai Chin, the reasons for recent incursions by PLA in Ladakh could be multiple. But what is important is Beijing trying to convey that it will not accept India’s rightful claim along LAC even as it tries to avoid early demarcation of LAC.

What cannot be missed is the nature of the Sino-Pak axis that exists today in the region, and that China views India as the biggest obstacle to CPEC.

The current standoff will be resolved in all likelihood even though it may take longer than earlier expected as Delhi wants to remain firm on the ground as China as a power respects power. While there have been efforts to avoid the issue getting escalated militarily, a Doklam-like approach would be maintained to resolve the crisis. In the Doklam crisis on the Sikkim-Bhutan boundary in 2017, India maintained a steady ground presence of troops, while diplomatic talks were undertaken at the top level to ensure that a tipping point was not reached.

India’s former envoy to China and an experienced China hand Gautam Bambawale expressed similar views. “A strong military posture on the ground along with quiet diplomacy on the border as well as between Delhi and Beijing, will help de-escalate the situation in eastern Ladakh,” suggested Bambawale who had also served in Pakistan and Bhutan as envoy.

China’s strategy of aggression in parts of Ladakh is an attempt to create leverage in future negotiations with India on LAC clarification and boundary disputes. The region is part of the disputed territory between India and China and part of dialogue between Special Representatives – National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and China’s State Councillor Yang Jiechi.

China has been creating dual-use civil-military infrastructure in parts of Ladakh as part of attempts to take advantage of the penultimate phase of the Special Representative talks with India on the vexed boundary issue.

It has also been building dual civil-military networks in the whole region, including in Gilgit and Baltistan and Ladakh, according to JNU Professor Srikanth Kondapalli, India’s foremost expert on China.

In the last two decades, China’s military logistics build-up in these areas has been unprecedented, Kondapalli, who has studied the region minutely, said.

After India reacted to Chinese plans and started constructing strategic roads over the last decade, the area has become a flashpoint. China objects to any construction on the Indian side although it unilaterally changes the status quo in the border regions.

India under British rule had feared Tsarist Russia’s expansion and accommodated the Chinese in the Aksai Chin region, even though Xinjiang provincial maps of 1893 do not include this region as part of China, Kondapalli said, adding, “On July 5, 1962, India sent troops to the Galwan valley only to discover that the Chinese were present in the vicinity since 1959 taking advantage of the roads they built in Aksai Chin. This led to border skirmishes and the Indian rout at Galwan, Chip Chap valley and other places. For a long time, these areas were left untouched by both sides.”

But it is not just bilateral diplomacy that matters. While no foreign intervention is required, the role of the United States and Russia are important. US President Donald Trump’s phone call to Indian PM showcased support to India. So did his support to include India into G-10/G-11. Simultaneously, Russia is reportedly not satisfied with Chinese intransigence and has backed India on established bilateral mechanisms to resolve the issue. Erstwhile Soviet Union’s support was critical for India to balance for decades.

“The international reaction to the growing aggressiveness of China in its peripheral region is increasing. While Russia is worried over the incidents at the Sino-Indian border, the US is concerned over it. In the South China Sea, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia have approached the UN over the Chinese claims and the Philippines has suspended the termination of the agreement with the US. China is getting marginalised,” according to former Deputy National Security Adviser S D Pradhan.

Increasing India’s capacity is key to thwart Chinese ambitions as an aggressive Beijing will be the order of the day.

Source link


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.