Over the last one month, we have been witnessing China’s continuous attempts to cross Line of Actual Control (LAC). There has been constant scuffles from both India and China sides. While the whole nation is battling with Corona virus, China seems to have some big plans. The recent stand-off between the two armies has raised the eyebrows of many because there is a larger picture behind this.
What actually happened?
Things started boiling up in late April but it was on May 5th. It happened when soldiers from both sides came face to face at Pangong Tso in Ladakh. Similar news came from Galwan valley and Demchuk which are the other places along LAC in Ladakh. The fourth incident was reported at Nakula in North Sikkim where soldiers collided and succumbed to injuries and big blows. When the country was busy counting the increasing number of COVID hotspots, Ladakh and Sikkim emerged as the hotspots of hostility and aggression across the border.
Although tensions along Indo-China border are not new yet many experts have remarked it as the highest tension erupted since the Doklam episode of 2017. To understand the possible reasons behind this recent stand-off between the two nations we first have to dig in the picture behind LAC.
The classic case of Line of Actual Control
The LAC is the bone of contention between India and China border issues. The 3500 km (approx.) long LAC was never fully demarcated which ended up creating room for two different perceptions from two nations. As a matter of fact, soldiers from both the sides guard and patrol the area up to their perceptions. This at times results in transgressions and face-offs.
The term LAC was legally recognized in the agreements signed between the two countries in 1996. It clearly stated that the militaries of both sides must keep their activities behind this line. It covers the most disputed western sector that includes the newly formed Union Territory Ladakh, middle sector covering Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim along with Arunachal Pradesh falls in the eastern sector. So the recent clash of our forces was reported in parts of Ladakh and Sikkim. And, even after a month, the atmosphere is grim.
Rationale behind the recent face-off
The Sino-India relationship has gone through many ups and downs. How can we forget the war of 1962! The Chinese troops overpowered Indian forces and captured the strategic points along the LAC. The Nathu La and Chola skirmishes of 1967 further plagued the Indo-China ties. But gradually the situation improved. When things start rolling through diplomatic and economic channels, though the disputed LAC still remains to create tumult and war-like situations at times.
On excavating the script of the recent confrontation between the armies of the world’s top two populated nations, we found out that the protagonist again is the LAC.
India’s rising border activities raising concerns for China
- India has been increasing the construction and building up its infrastructure along the LAC. This has set the spark of the recent stand-off. Not only this, India has also reactivated some of the landing grounds. It paved the way for strengthening the borders by quickly sending the troops and essential military supplies.
- The completion of Dubruk-Shyok-Daulet Beg Olidi (DSDBO) road which runs parallel to LAC. It reduces the distance towards Aksai Chin which both nations consider the part of their country. Such activities have given a big jolt to the dragon army. Moreover, the construction of road-building near the Galwan Valley and Pangong lake across the LAC has added insult to their injury. The Chinese troops moved in large numbers to obstruct the road construction.
- It seems like China is finding it difficult to digest the way India is enhancing its militant capabilities along the border. On the other hand, India have clearly stated time and again that the territory of Gilgit-Baltistan as a unified part of Jammu Kashmir and India will take over the territory which is currently under Pakistan.
- So when India revoked Article 370 last year, it not only upset Pakistan but more importantly China as India’s attempt to take over Gilgit-Baltistan would hamper China’s ongoing work on China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which is a dream project of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
- India’s growing ties with the United States under the banner of Indo-Pacific doctrine is again something for China not to cheer about.
- Some observers are of the view that China is spiking the border tensions. It is doing so to divert the attention of its people and thus boost nationalism when the entire world is criticizing China of its role in allowing Coronavirus to run out of its control and letting it become pandemic.
The situation needs a permanent solution
Whatever might be the reasons behind this intrusion and military building up near the LAC by China. But, the question is how to end this or rather will these kinds of situations ever end? The two countries always end up re-establishing their diplomatic relations after any border rifts. Like other times, there had been flag meetings between brigade commanders of both sides. And, somehow the officials are trying to find a way for peace and tranquility along the border through mutual dialogue and consultation. According to veteran militants, the current situation has reiterated the LAC issue. This raises the question on the existing mechanisms that fail to curb the rising border issues.
Wuhan Meet: A failure?
We must not forget the meeting of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping at Wuhan in April 2008. In this meeting, an agreement was signed. It stated that the mutual trust and understanding between both militaries would dwell. Certain confidence-building measures would be taken to enhance predictability and effectiveness in the management of border affairs.
After 2 years the spirit of Wuhan vanished to dust when both the armies clashed against each other. Things will remain the same in future as well. Moreover, such stand-offs like this are bound to occur if we keep looking it through the lens of diplomatic agreements. Drastic times call for drastic measures. So it is high time when both nations should understand the root cause of the situation. They should establish some procedures to resolve the contentious LAC scenario through mutual analysis and clarification. Even the Army chief Gen. M.M. Naravane holds the same view, “Maintaining peace and tranquility on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China can set the stage for an eventual solution to the border issue“.
The beautiful valley of Ladakh and serenity of mountains does not want to echo out the sound of firing across the borders. Everybody needs peace and brotherhood on both sides. As Defence Minister Rajnath Singh rightly said, “It’s not in India’s character to hurt another country’s self-respect nor can it tolerate any attack on its dignity“.
Thus I would like to conclude that this time a concrete solution to the long time awaited issue of LAC must come to reality. Otherwise, differences will continue to develop and therefore tensions will prevail. But again what is going on in China’s mind remains a mystery as they have their own axe to grind.