Why Is There a Flare up at the Border?

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The world is reeling under an unprecedented pandemic, deaths are unparalleled since World War 2, the economy has gone head over heels but some things never change. India’s capricious neighbor China, is sitting unyielding on the Ladakh and Sikkim sectors, bringing tanks and building tents triggering another military stand-off between the two Asian giants.
As per the news reports, there is a mobilization of a significant number of Chinese soldiers and military equipment in some areas on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in western-Ladakh. The situation is most serious in the area of Pangong Tso Lake, where Chinese soldiers have moved up to very near and - in a few places - even inside the Indian Territory.
In the Hot Spring area, Chinese soldiers have bunkered into three regions of PP14, PP15, and Gogra, backed by large troops and heavy equipment on their side. There are similar reports of a massive Chinese formation in the Galwan region which has not been a point of contention for the last 15-20 years.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, while breaking the ice from the Indian side acknowledged the sizeable deployment of troops and disagreements about the territory. The governments on both sides are playing down the situation to find a diplomatic solution and preclude any unwarranted escalation.

No Border but a LAC
Indian and Chinese soldiers have been involved in at least four incidents in the last month along the undetermined LAC. The skirmishes and fisticuffs have been reported on May 5 near the Pangong Tso Lake and in Naku La, Sikkim on May 9 leading to heavy injuries on both sides. The troops have since disengaged in these points and talks among the security forces have started.
This is not the first time when border soldiers have been involved in face-offs. Owing to century-old disputes and overlapping claims over certain territories, India doesn’t enjoy a mutually-agreed border with China. To add to that, all the previous border-agreements between the countries have taken the LAC as its basis but the LAC in itself has never been defined or demarcated.
There are around two-dozen areas where the perceptions of the LAC differ, allowing new and surreptitious advances on the ground. Face-offs routinely occur in summer months when the patrolling soldiers from both sides encounter each-other over these contested zones. 
These disputes, if not resolved immediately result into standoffs on both sides. Adhering to dispute resolution protocols, talks between military commanders of the two sides have been on-going daily, in addition to other communication channels. These deliberations have so far failed to defuse the situation, with both sides digging in and adding to their deployments.

Infrastructure Development
Another, widely accepted reason for the standoff iis the changing dynamic around the LAC. China has long enjoyed an advantage over India in border infrastructure like roads and airfields along with a more favorable terrain on its side.
Now, when India is playing catch-up with construction activities along the LAC, this seems to upset the Chinese side which has unexpectedly moved their troops and equipment to stop the same in the Galwan-valley. India’s infrastructure upgrades have allowed greater depth in patrolling for the army and diminished the open-space between the troops thereby increasing the encounters.

Belt and Road
What distinguishes this particular fray of incidents is the well-preparedness of Chinese troops and a burgeoning hostility from the Chinese alluding to a broader pattern of aggression in the South-China Sea and other commercially and politically significant regions.
China’s core interests lie in India dissuading from the reunification of Gilgit-Baltistan regions of PoK and Chinese-regulated Aksai Chin (which links Xinjiang and Tibet) both of which are salient to the aspired Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) of its President, Xi Jinping.
Till July 2019 China even started showing interest in easing tensions between India and Pakistan considering India’s huge market base of RBI. The abrogation of Article 370 in August, the subsequent release of new political maps, and Home Minister Amit Shah’s audacious claims over Aksai Chin and PoK have seen a strategic shift in China’s policies towards India. Reactivation of many airfields in Ladakh and 255-Km DSDBO road has augmented India’s connectivity and thus, the pressure to Aksai-Chin.
By putting military pressure on Ladakh, China might be trying to hit many birds with a single stone. India since the last many years is trying to emerge as an Asian power to reengineer diplomatic as well military balance in South-Asia where China remains the sole contender. With a military venture, China is showcasing its commercial and military pre-eminence to India and its neighbors and also in a way, exhorting New Delhi to refrain from tilting towards Washington. Even if a military solution was to be found in the coming days, the message of an ever-looming “Chinese threat” would be loud and clear for New Delhi.

Déjà VU From 62’ – A Quest to Integrate
By 1961, at least 17 million people had died as a result of Mao Zedong’s policies which had caused a famine rather than any rapid industrialization. Some observers say that the discredited leader had declared war on India in 1962 because he saw it as an innocuous target and thought the way to regain his control over China could be unifying it against an outside enemy.
This time, the internal problems are bigger for the Chinese president and so the ploys to suffuse nationalism and integrate the mainland are also greater in extent. The economy is plummeting, trade differences with the US are on a surge while frustration and animosity among the Communist Party cadres and the student community are also on the rise. This could be a reason why China has been tightening its grip over a protesting Hong Kong and an aloof Taiwan.
Increasing navy presence is the South China Sea and now and an out of the blue dispute with India could strike a pattern. Even during the 1962 war with India, China’s rapid intrusions were strategically planned. The Chinese army claimed huge chunks of Indian Territory in the Eastern and Western sectors while the helpless Indian leaders showed their apprehensions and naturally asked for a return to the status quo.
The Chinese counterparts reverted with an offer of both sides retreating 20 Kilometers from the new Line of Control thereby changing the border for the foreseeable future and maybe even permanently. India rejected the offer, the war ensued and the rest is history. India’s army and economy have come a long way from that time but India can’t affiord to be complacent because considering China’s internal situation and the patterns from history, we might be here for the long haul.

Written by - Rudransh Khurana
Edited by - Arnav Mehra

Why Is There a Flare up at the Border? Why Is There a Flare up at the Border? Reviewed by Arnav Mehra on June 20, 2020 Rating: 5

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