‘China Can Rename Whatever It Wants, Arunachalis Firmly With India’

Arun Jyoti Bora, an Itanagar-based journalist, says it is business as usual for Arunachal citizens as they are largely unaware of Chinese renaming spree. His observations:

Whenever a leader from New Delhi or anywhere else in India comes to Arunachal Pradesh, China, compulsively, raises much hue and cry. This is a ritualistic and repetitive reaction from Beijing. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Arunachal Pradesh when Congress was ruling in Delhi – they opposed the visit. Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the border state two times – they, yet again, opposed it. Recently, Union Home Minister Amit Shah visited the state – they have once again opposed it strongly. However, this time they have gone a bit too far.

China has always maintained that Arunachal Pradesh is a part of Tibet and hence a part of Chinese territory. India has always contested this position emphatically while reinstating that the state is an integral part of India, that it was, it is and it will always be an inseparable part of India. This has been yet again stated by all concerned, including the current chief minister of the state.

However, what has come as a new surprise is the sudden Chinese assertion that it has renamed around 11places in Arunachal with its own names, and it claims that these are the original names of these locations. This is a totally new development.

Ironically, the people who live in these places have had no clue of these developments. Newspapers don’t come to these remote areas. There are TV channels and through social media, people get news. Once the media reports trickled in about the Chinese claims of new names, the people were really surprised and taken aback. They said that they have never heard of these names before!

Besides, people who live in these 11 places in Arunachal Pradesh are all committed patriots, who believe totally in Indian democracy, and who are fully integrated with India as citizens. They have no desire to be identified at all with China. Undoubtedly, this is a social and political phenomenon across the entire state, including in the border areas.

People in the state have no fear of the Chinese army. There is no tension or fear here at this moment. After the skirmish among the two armies in the border last year, there was a bit of tension, but it passed away soon after. People feel secure with the Indian army in the border, they feel protected, and they believe in the Indian army. They are committed citizens of India and believe in their rights as Indian citizens and in the sovereignty of the country.

Indeed, even now, people remember and pay homage to the martyrs of the India-China war of 1962, when China waged war and invaded India through Arunachal Pradesh. That memory remains etched till this day.

(The narrator works as a special correspondent for Dainik Purvoday, a leading Hindi Daily published from Guwahati, Assam)

As told to Amit Sengupta

China Will Continue To Make Covert Advances In Buffer Zones

Nalini Ranjan Mohanty, a political commentator, says both China and India will remain hostile to one another but a full-scale war is unlikely in the foreseeable future

Chinese incursions in the Indian territory, in both Ladakh and Arunachal, constitute a serious threat to India’s security. China under Xi Jinping — especially since his second term — seems to have prioritised its geo-strategic concerns over its aspirations for economic development.

Xi Jinping fancies himself today as the leader of a superpower — both in terms of economic and military strength. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was a vacuum; the world had become unipolar. Xi wanted China to step into the shoes of the Soviet Union. It was very well placed, in fact better-placed, to do so. The Soviet Union had emerged as a powerful nation militarily; it was never an economic powerhouse that China is today.

China has territorial disputes with several of its neighbours (it shares borders with 14 countries) and it has been quite assertive to ensure that it takes back the areas which were supposedly under its control at some point of history. That is why China has been flexing its muscles.

It has territorial claims, both in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh. But it does not want — at least not so far —to wage a full-scale war since that would have enormous economic implications which it can ill-afford at this stage. The West is increasingly becoming wary about its Chinese engagement— both in terms of trade and investment. The US has openly positioned itself against China. China’s trademark policy, therefore, has been to make incremental push: to make incursions by two steps, then retreat by one step, and, negotiate. This is evident in both Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh.

It goes like this: Indian and Chinese forces are within their command area — the area falling within the Line of Actual Control. A buffer zone separates both the armies— an expanse of land which neither party should intrude into. Whenever Indian forces are lulled into complacency due to a prolonged clash-free period, the People’s Liberation Army pushes many miles into the buffer zone, the so-called No Man’s Land.

India sees this as a betrayal. That is what happened in the Galwan conflict. Indian launched a counter attack. Both sides then decided to disengage and step back. However, it has been established beyond doubt that the complete status quo ante could not be restored; China managed to keep in possession some areas that earlier came under the buffer zone.

Those areas were earlier not directly under India’s possession. To that extent, it is technically right that no Indian territory has been occupied by China in recent years. But that does not take away the fact that our big neighbour has intruded into the buffer zone at our expense!

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When India consolidated its position in the Ladakh sector, China secretively moved the theatre of action to the eastern sector. India was somewhat unprepared for this assault, though it effectively countered the Chinese move. It is most likely that China would find it difficult to make further incursions in the near future, given the large-scale mobilisation on the Indian side.

Besides, the only way for China to make more territorial gains is by waging a full-scale war which is unlikely. China has superior capability compared to India in all aspects of conventional and digital warfare but India is no easy pushover. China is currently going through a severe economic churning —prolonged lockdowns, daily deaths, and street protests — and it will not risk a full-blown war.

Moreover, in geo-strategic terms, Taiwan is of much greater significance than Arunachal and slices of Ladakh for China. If China ever decides to wage a full-fledged war, then its first priority would be to take control of Taiwan. But that would bring China in direct conflict with the US which has enormous business interests in Taiwan.

So no one expects China to begin a Third World War. That would spell disaster for the world; but it would be ruinous for China.

However, it is quite evident that China would making covert advances to realise its territorial dreams. India must remain constantly on the alert mode, failing which China will acquire another slice of India’s territory through the well-rehearsed advance-retreat-disengage mode.

India is officially tight-lipped about the LAC violations by China because the central government in Delhi thinks that would show it in poor light. The ruling BJP believes in muscular nationalism. But it is aware of the fact that they are unequal to the challenge of rebutting China’s incursion with ‘en eye for an eye’ principle. That is why they have gone by the maxim: “Discretion is the better part of valour.” Their standard response is somewhat like this: “China intends to occupy our land but we have successfully rebuffed them.”

This explanation suits China as well. It is secretly and incrementally changing the LAC. China justifies its massive deployment of forces and infrastructure-building on India’s border keeping in view the threat emanating from the joint military exercises between India, the US and other members of the Quad countries. That is a lame excuse, but that is the geopolitical reality today. Undoubtedly, therefore, India and China will remain at the loggerheads in the foreseeable future.

(The narrator is Director, Jagran Institute of Management and Mass Communication, Noida)

As told to Amit Sengupta

Return To Status Quo Ante On Tibet Govt In Exile

A few weeks ago, in a sober and low-key ceremony on account of the pervasive and raging Wuhan Virus, Penpa Tsering was sworn in as the democratically elected Sikyong or the President of the Dharamshala based Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), the Tibetan government in exile.

From the time results of the elections were declared in mid-April 2021 to the swearing-in ceremony on May 27 and even thereafter, messages of felicitations have poured in from parliamentarians across the world, Tibet support groups, international bodies and institutions. Notably, the US State Department, parliamentarians from EU countries, Canada and from Japan and Australia – 3 of the 4 Quad member countries- and Taiwan’s Foreign Minister sent congratulatory messages to the new Sikyong.

However, there was no official media reportage on the election, the swearing-in ceremony, or message of felicitation to the new democratically elected Sikyong from political leaders, officials or organizations affiliated to the Indian government.

The conspicuous silence is evidently in line with the classified directive issued by GOI in a letter dated Feb 22, 2018 that was circulated to all offices in the Central and State governments. The letter imposed restrictions in the form of an “advisory” to all Ministries/Departments of the Government of India as well as State Governments not to accept any invitation or participate in any function organized or hosted by the CTA. It was issued on the eve of the then Foreign Secretary’s visit to China citing the reason to be a “very sensitive time in India-China relations”.

Speculations on the underlying reasons for the issue of the referred letter made by a stunned CTA, Tibetan community in exile and many China/Tibet experts varied.

Some believed that it was a condition to pave the way for Prime Minister Narendra Modi – President Xi Summit in Wuhan that followed in April 2018.

Some said that it was to persuade the Chinese to change their position on Masood Azhar being listed as a terrorist by the UN.

A few opined that it was to get China’s nod on India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

One assessment suggested that it could have been a mere pique at the undisclosed visit of a senior representative from the Dalai Lama set up to China ostensibly as part of their back-channel negotiations for the resumption of dialogue between the two sides.

Whatever the considerations at that time were, the revised policy guidelines were in line with India’s genuine desire to continue to build on the goodwill generated during Xi’s parleys with PM Modi in Ahmedabad. It was a significant step taken by India to bridge the “trust deficit” coming in the way of improvement in bilateral relations.

However, India’s efforts to build mutual trust were brutally undermined in May 2020 by the pre-meditated and brazen display of deceit and deception when an aggressive and expansionist China diverted troops to occupy territory previously not under its control in Eastern Ladakh.

It blatantly violated painstakingly negotiated bilateral agreements, confidence-building measures, protocols and understandings. The “trust deficit” which India sought to bridge actually widened due to Chinese duplicity.

Meanwhile, the international situation has also undergone significant changes. The Biden Administration has signalled its inclination to abide by the Tibet Policy and Support Act.

It made an unprecedented gesture in publicly extending greetings to the CTA on the occasion of the Tibetan New Year. It has indicated a steady and firm resolve to reconfigure its relations with China to one of “strategic competition”.

China is viewed as being bent on disrupting and defying the rules-based international order and threatening peace and stability. The Quad has galvanized. The EU has frozen a massive investment agreement with China.

Internal repression in China is getting more focus than ever in the recent past. Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Hong Kong and Taiwan are gradually gaining renewed global attention for a variety of political and strategic reasons.

Under these circumstances, an urgent need is felt for a substantive reappraisal of India’s relations with China across the board and with Tibet in particular.

Many ideas have been mooted in the strategic community as a befitting political riposte. These range from India abandoning the One China policy, to awarding the Dalai Lama with the highest civilian honour, to the Indian government expressing support for all the decisions taken by the Dalai Lama in the matter of his reincarnation, to welcoming the 15th Dalai Lama as an honoured guest of India.

While all such suggestions can be discussed on their merit and efficacy, the lowest hanging fruit is the quiet unpublicized burial of the February 22, 2018 directive and return to status quo ante in relation to interaction with the CTA as it prevailed since 2011.

At that time, in an astute and far-sighted move, the Dalai Lama approved the devolution of all the administrative and political powers vested in him to democratically elected Tibetan leaders.

The Government of India viewed this in a positive light. The former Sikyong, Lobsang Sangay, was invited to attend PM Modi’s oath-taking ceremony in May 2014 along with other Heads of Government.

Contacts and interaction with the Dalai Lama and Sikyong at the highest political levels, albeit unofficial, continued. This was despite China conveying her objections to India for permitting the CTA to carry out their legitimate functions and pursuit of religious activities.

A return to the pre-February 22, 2018 policy will send the right signal about India’s determination to shun any notion of appeasement in its relations with China as the latter continues to play hardball on border negotiations.

It will be a small but significant step to bring the Tibet issue back on the table. It will have the desired effect in the Tibetan community in exile and within Tibet in the form of tacit support to the CTA’s international advocacy efforts to resume Sino-Tibet negotiations. It will also indicate India’s willingness to join the call from the wider comity of democratic countries in this respect.

The time to shed any perceived ambivalence on the Tibet issue is now. The time to restore the status quo ante on India’s policy towards the CTA, and the Tibetan community is here.

(The author is former Special Secretary, Government of India, Cabinet Secretariat – ANI)

A Bengaluru-Based Commercial Space Designer

‘It Cost Me To End Ties With China, But I Don’t Regret It’

Anantha VR (38), a Bengaluru-based commercial space designer, says his business was heavily dependent on quality Chinese imports but Wuhan virus and Galwan clashes made him snap the trade link

As an owner of an architecture firm, how could I let the opportunity of rebuilding the country pass? As country after country is left ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic, it is upon us, especially business owners, to lead the way and to let people know that the world is going to be all right again.

Some tough decisions need to be made in the wake of changed strategic environment and a belligerent neighbour on our eastern border. I stopped all my business with China, even though my business was heavily dependent on it! In fact, the Indo- China standoff that started around May 2020 helped me crystallise my decision. I made this choice on my free will and I am not regretting it.

Our Bengaluru-based firm Hidecor is into designing new office/commercial spaces as well as renovating already existing ones and we have clients ranging from Titan to Big Basket to Furlenco to Decathlon etc. Before Work-From-Home or WFH became the new normal, office spaces, especially with regards to ergonomics, were constantly evolving to help people become more comfortable and efficient at the workplace. The WFH is going to come back in a big way because they help provide structure to business.

I used to import all items for designing office spaces from China, be they then furniture, carpets, flooring materials, or lighting fixtures etc. I visited the country too around 5-6 times in the past three years.

Anantha VR during one his business trips to China

So while most people were just responding to what was going on in China as the news of pandemic started trickling in around January, I had been aware of it around November 2019 that China was trying to suppress news regarding the deadly virus.

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Every year Chinese people suffer from seasonal cold between November-February and China faces a public health crisis, but in 2019 it was different. Moreover, the way China was suppressing the news I knew it was serious. When they started side-lining whistle-blowers warning of an impending pandemic, I first started thinking about ending business ties with China.

When the pandemic exploded in Wuhan, our business was anyway stuck. There are so many things about the way China handled the pandemic that don’t add up. China might be efficient when it comes to large-scale production in little time but the way they suppress and divert information even about crucial issues wasn’t something I was comfortable with.

A few months passed by without any work because production of goods and materials had halted worldwide. While we were all waiting for the lockdown to end, China snuck up from behind and started creating tension at the LAC in Ladakh. Whatever little trust I had in China was gone after this. I felt the whole border skirmish and the continued standoff since May is a ploy to divert the mind of the Chinese public from the way the government has handled the coronavirus crisis.

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I have a close relative in the Army so I have an emotional connect with what’s going on at the border. You can call the Galwan Valley incident as the final nail in the coffin for my business links with China. That was the day I decided to cut off ties completely with China.

I am all in favour of Atmanirbhar Bharat even though our country has a long way to go in matters of end to end manufacturing and it will take us nearly 5 years to be truly self-reliant. Our supply chain is still dependent on various other markets in the world. But we need to start somewhere, right? I now buy products from Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and deal with Indian brands such as Feather Lite, Monarch, ISIT etc.

I wouldn’t say our business hasn’t been affected or that it has been an easy decision. Our profit margins have dropped from 10-15% but we ‘soldier’ on with fortitude. We recently opened a new branch in Hyderabad and are keen to do business with local manufacturers.

Slowly orders have started coming in and we hope the whole country works together in making our country atmanirbhar. We business owners alone cannot do it. The customer also has to be ‘vocal for local’. We hope the pandemic gets over soon and office spaces start buzzing with chatter, laughter and productivity.

While many businesses have shut shop, there are several others that are opening new branches and we are glad we are being chosen to design their spaces. The pandemic has meant that office/commercial spaces require complete overhaul, especially with regards to social distancing.


‘China Ban Is Short Term Hardship, Long Term Blessing’

Vivek Gadodia (48), a garment manufacturer in Noida, has been importing fabrics from China. His business suffered amid Indo-China standoff and Covid-19, but he calls it a boon in disguise

My family has been into garment manufacturing business for nearly eight decades now and I have been at the helm for the past 23 years. We specialize in men’s wedding wear, especially suits, sold under the brand name Zoop. We import fabrics for our suits from China, which is why I have been keeping a keen eye on the developments in India-China relations.

The past eight months have been the most unpredictable times of my work life. The India-China standoff might have begun in May but the pandemic had started raging in Wuhan, China around January. This meant that China took extreme measures to keep its people safe. These measures caused several restrictions and we couldn’t access the fabric for our merchandise.

Then in March, India announced the lockdown and for the following three months, nothing moved. As if these hardships were not enough, the India-China military clashes happened. The standoff continues.

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From one perspective, this long business slump could seem like a stroke of bad luck but I see things from a different perspective. After all, businesses are built on optimism; we take daily risks and a positive outlook gives us confidence.

Vivek sells his garment collection under the brand name Zoop

Most people don’t know the scale of imports from China across categories. It is huge! India imports everything from gadgets to toys to hardware to grocery items from China. We are heavily dependent on China for raw or finished products. And the current events have caused difficulties for businessmen who trade with China. But that is a short-term setback.

In the long run, I feel the current downward spiral in India-China relations have come as a stroke of luck. Of course, the loss of lives in Galwan valley clashes is a sad episode. But hereto Indian customer will look for locally produced goods, including garments. This will fuel the idea of Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India). But for that to materialise, we as businessmen and manufacturers, have to adapt quickly to the market demand. This also means a more tightly-knit country as the demand and the supply remain in the same country.

Yes, the business has suffered tremendously. Our whole summer wedding season was a total washout as most weddings were either postponed or altogether cancelled. Plus, no one knows when things will go back to normal. But it has suffered more because of the pandemic than because of the standoff. Things aren’t as bad as shown on news channels.

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The biggest problem that we are facing is: because of the tensions and uncertainty between the two countries, the Chinese sellers are not ready to give us any credit and are selling only against spot payment. This is causing serious liquidity problems for smaller business units.

We are restarting our business for the winter wedding season now and I hope the market sentiment picks up or, even better, rebound in a big manner. I hope people who have been weary of everything that 2020 brought in its wake, will celebrate weddings with a renewed vigour while maintaining social distancing and following all precautions in place. We are also taking proper measures to ensure everything is safe and hygienic in our business. The news of vaccines being in the market in a few months also gives us hope.

LAC Standoff: De-escalation, Disengagement Or Status Quo Ante

The border standoff between India and China in Ladakh continues amidst calls from the international community to tone down the rhetoric and resolve the issue bilaterally. India and China, on their part have continued deliberations at both diplomatic and military levels. The nuances of negotiations, though, not available through the media to the general public indicate that the talks initially, were centred around de-escalation of the situation wherein violence had occurred on the night of 15th June in Galwan Valley and there were number of casualties on both sides. Gradually, the discussion moved towards the process of disengagement as both the parties had amassed a huge number of troops in the region.

The roots of the current standoff, however, go back to the months of April and May this year when the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China moved to the many patrolling points on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and built structures (permanent and temporary). The build-up of the Chinese troops along the LAC which is disputed at many places and substitutes for the international border, till one is finalized, was unprecedented and reminded of the Chinese tactics of occupation in the South China Sea. Boundary-making process is a very sophisticated technical exercise which involves primarily four stages of Definition, Delimitation, Demarcation and Administration.

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In the case of the LAC, even the first stage which involves defining the boundary on the map is not clear at many points and locations. The matter becomes more complicated with the Chinese ignoring continual Indian demands to share the maps with the Chinese perception of the LAC. Though the mechanisms to resolve the boundary disputes are in place since the year 2005, the Chinese have refused to share the maps in all the deliberations. This raises a lot of questions and problems and has been one of the major challenges for the Indian side. The Chinese perception which they have often invoked in the media through their spokesperson have never been displayed through maps.

Nevertheless, even during this difficult phase, the discussions between the two sides have continued: at the External Affairs Minister level and at the level of the National Security Advisors of both the countries. This is followed by the talks by Corps Commanders of India and China at the ground situation in Ladakh. Chinese focus, however, remains on the disengagement and de-escalation and they have made it a very protracted process with constant insistence on the perceptions of the LAC. It is noteworthy that progress has been made on the ground over the course of the last month and forces have been gradually moving back to their respective territories and away from the LAC.

Indian Analysts, on the other hand have argued that total disengagement will be a long haul, especially at the Pangong Tso and the Depsang Plains. These two spots are extremely critical from India’s military and strategic perspective and that is precisely the reason that the Chinese want to maintain a stranglehold over them. The Depsang Plains lie in close proximity to India’s Air Force Base at Daulat Beg Oldie which is advantageous to India in adverse conditions.

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At the Pangong Tso, the LAC is disputed and according to reports, Chinese have encroached more than 8 kms. inside the Indian version of the LAC which runs at Finger 8 (fingers are mountain features jutting out into the lake from the North Bank) and the Indian Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) used to patrol till this point. The Chinese have occupied area till Finger 4 and have built concrete structures effectively covering more than 60 square kms. of the area and therefore will be difficult to evacuate through negotiations. On the other hand, one of the parties can afford a conflict.

Indian stance, therefore, should be to press the negotiations towards the restoration of the status quo ante, or the situation which existed prior to the month of May 2020. Media reports in India indicate that during the last round of talks between the Corps Commanders on 14th-15th July, demand for status quo ante has been made by the Indian side to Chinese counterparts. Chinese media reports indicate little and only say that progress has been made on the disengagement of forces.

On the other hand, the pattern along this part of the LAC, due to altitude, difficult terrain and inclement weather conditions is that of withdrawal of forces from heights during the winter months and moving back to the permanent bases in the area. Given the situation this year this may not happen at Pangong Tso and Depsang Plains and the Indian side should be ready to face the vagaries of weather, terrain and altitude.

The experience of the Indian Army at the Siachen Glacier can be drawn to withstand the Chinese in the area. One way or the other, the strategic geography of the area of these crucial points will play an important role in the future of this picturesque militarized space.

Chinese In India

‘Most Chinese I Know Love India & Indian People’

Laila, a Chinese girl working in Bengaluru since 2018, says despite border tension and Covid-19 surge, she never felt unsafe in India. She finds Indian people warm and welcoming

As a Chinese staying in India, I get overwhelmed, even a bit annoyed, by the sudden concern I am getting every day from my family and friends, sometimes even strangers and media reporters, thanks to the military standoff and tensions at Ladakh border since May.

There were always inquiries from my family and friends in China about my wellbeing. But with the current Covid-19 surge coupled with India-China border tensions, the queries have grown manifold. Every time I post a picture of my travel in India on social media, a flurry of comments pops up: “Are you in India alone? Is it safe?”

Questions usually include Covid-19 situation, essential supplies, and anti-China sentiment in India. I was even approached by media reporters who kept asking whether I have experienced discrimination.

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I came here in 2018 to work with a Chinese company based in Bangalore, and I fell in love with this country as soon as I landed: I still remember when the cab took me from the airport to my hotel, the driver didn’t take the expressway but took me through interior roads. That made me see colourful houses along the bumpy road, and my heart was singing.

Since then I have made so many good friends in India — across the country — who made my life anything but lonely here. They are funny, brilliant and much braver than I had imagined before I came here. As far as I know, most of Chinese love India and Indian people, as it has such a rich culture and beautiful landscapes.

In the last two years, Bangalore has become a home away from home. It is a beautiful, relaxing and a friendly place compared to Beijing where I used to work before 2018. Even amid this pandemic and border tension, I don’t actually feel concerned or unsafe.

I have heard once in a store that people say the word Corona while seeing me. Also, one of my friends was not allowed to check-in to a hotel while he was travelling. Besides these two isolated incidents, our experiences here are beyond wonderful. We consider these incidents were triggered by ignorance rather than with an intention to create a hostile environment for Chinese.

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That said, there are some people who might be hating Chinese in India. We were lucky to not be consumed by their hatred. I would consider most of Indian people as friendly and welcoming.

Like all my Indian friends who are in their late 20s and 30s, I am actually more troubled by Covid-19 curbs than border tension. Only because of this issue, I once thought of going back when I had a chance to board the flights back to China in June. If only I can roam around in India freely in the present scenario, then I would never think of going back.

I also know I will start to miss India as soon as I go back. All I wish is the pandemic gets over and the tension between two countries gets sorted soon. And I know there are thousands of Chinese wishing the same as me. 

China Threat: Raise Defence Budget To 3% Of GDP

The robust and brave faceoff given to China at Galwan will send a strong message that India is able to stand up to China. However, as in 1962, this engagement with China is a wake-up call too and should herald deeper thinking about the current capabilities of India, its defence spending and the need to restart some projects that were suspended.

China’s incursion may have many reasons, but the fact is that the threat remains real. China’s words of peaceful coexistence cannot be taken at face value. India needs to increase its defence budget from 1.8% GDP to 3%. More importantly, the matter can no longer be left exclusively to the diplomats. This is a Defence Ministry issue now.

Despite the media columns and statements by some politicians, the powerful  challenge given by India to what amounts to almost an ambush, showed courage, determination and the ability to see off China.

The current ongoing Sino-Indian standoff since the last five weeks peaked in the bloody violent action in the Galwan Sector on night 15/16 June 20 at Patrol Point 14 resulting in death of a Commanding Officer and 19 soldiers on Indian side and around 40 soldiers on the Chinese side. The scuffle took place and continued till mid night in around three phases, when the Indian commander approached the Chinese troops around dusk time to exhort them to pull back their troops in conformation to the decisions taken at the Corps Commander level meeting on 06 June 20.

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This may be the tip of the iceberg as far as Chinese strategic goals along the Line of Control (LAC) are concerned. The escalation has also thrown the Peace and Tranquility Agreement of 1993 between China and India to the winds. Chinese soldiers had come physically prepared to up the ante – short of opening fire by small arms.

The June 6 meeting was headed from the Indian side by Lt Gen Harinder Singh, 14 Corps Commander, an outstanding suave officer who has effectively handled sensitive situations in United Nations peacekeeping as a Brigade Commander. The Chinese delegation was headed by Maj Gen Liu Lin. A series of talks at various levels are on, after the violent incident of 15 June resulting in death of around 60 soldiers on both sides. The Foreign Minister S Jaishankar has also spoken to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on 17 June 20. It is in the interest of both China and India to de-escalate the situation and resort to high level peace talks. These fatal casualties have taken place on the LAC after a gap of 45 years.

However, the standoff this time has been different from the previous ones including the Doklam standoff in 2017 in terms of force levels used and the areas addressed. The Chinese in a diversionary action, probably to test the waters, crossed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in North Sikkim at Naku La on 05 May 20 and Fingers 4 West of Pangong Tso Lake. There were violent actions between the two sides but there were no fatal casualties.

One week later they came into Eastern Ladakh at four carefully selected sectors in Galwan, Hot Springs, Demchok and Fingers Area. India built an axis from Darbuk to Daulat Beg Oldie via Galwan, Gobra Post and Demchok to support the Sub Sector North last year. This axis enables the Indians to cover a distance that was being covered in two days, just in six hours. The axis was very close to the Karokaram Pass and touched the sensitivities of the Chinese as it is part of the BRI and China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). As the road axis passes through the Shyok and Galwan Valleys, the Chinese have crossed the LAC from the North and North East and occupied higher reaches along the axis in order to be able to interdict any movement along the axis. China has also stoked trouble for India by enticing Pakistan and Nepal in their favour.

A large number of reasons can be attributed to the ongoing standoff. There are voices of dissent within China pointing at the manner in which the COVID- 19 was handled by President Xi Jinping. Some writers even stuck their neck out to suggest that he takes the responsibility of mass scale deaths and steps down. It is felt that the recent intrusions in Ladakh and Sikkim were undertaken to divert the attention and galvanise the domestic public opinion against India.

Another reason speculated is that since US has asked WHO to carry out an honest investigation on the origin of Corona virus and India has just taken up the leadership of WHO for the next two years, China wanted to pressurise India to play ball and not go too Thoroughly into the issue to blame China for the spread of COVI-19.

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Abrogation of Article 370 and converting Ladakh into a Union territory by the Indian Government has also been objected by the Chinese as they feel New Delhi will now control this contested region directly.

Where does the violent action of 15/16 June lead to the already building tension in the sub-continent? India has political, diplomatic, economic and military options which can be grouped into the long and short term options. It is accepted fact that Indian Army has stood its ground and has challenged and checked the ongoing incursions from the Chinese side.

The protocols and methods of patrolling and domination of the LAC are very unconventional and un-military like. The Peace and Tranquility Agreement of 1993 states that neither sides will fire, cause explosions or bio-degrade the area along the LAC. The deployment of regular troops will remain in deeper territories of each but patrols can be sent from both sides to dominate their side of the LAC. There are varying perceptions of the LAC on both sides and at times the difference may be upto ten to fifteen kilometres. Whereas these protocols were sufficient to diffuse the situation in the past; use of caveman like sharp tools as weapons, to cause fatal casualties, has been resorted to for the first time.

First at the diplomatic and military levels, the rules of engagement need to be refined. Two nuclear powered professional armies cannot continue to use cave man tactics to enforce their will on each other. During peacetime, border management is the responsibility of ITBP under the Ministry of Home (MHA) and the regular troops only do periodic patrolling at the LAC. During hot war, the Army formations are tasked to move to the forward defences and the operations are controlled by the Ministry of Defence (MOD). The peace talks are generally steered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This complex and multi ministry control needs to go; and operations must be controlled by MOD. The MOD needs to be in control of the situation now.

The short term Military options include staying put at the forward positions and creating habitat, infrastructure and logistic bases for the forward troops prior to setting in of winters.

Importantly the raising of the Mountain Strike Corps that was to be completed in eight years, but was put on the back burner by the present Govt, must be completed within two financial years.

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The Armed Forces need to deploy drones, long range radars and aerial reconnaissance to dominate the LAC. We cannot patrol a threat simply with binoculars

For the long term measures, Defence Budget needs to be enhance from 1.8 percent of the GDP to 3.0 percent for the next two five year plans. As in 1962, India needs to wake up to the threat. It is real and could escalate over the years as China tries to assert its power.

Procurements as per the Joint Long Term Perspective Plan for all three services needs to be stepped up for capacity building. While indigenous production should be encouraged, Transfer Of Technology (TOT) must be included in all big ticket acquisitions of aircrafts, ships, guns and anti-aircraft systems.

The infantry has been neglected for a long time as the infantry acquisitions are not considered big ticket procurements. It is high time to equip the ground soldier with a lighter and more effective weapon system and equipment.

Resource integration must be ensured in utilisation of all intelligence resources of the country as was practised during the Surgical Strikes after Uri incident and at Balakot after the Pulwama incident.

Diplomatically, we need to steer international opinion against China as the aggressor. The Quad including US,Japan, Australia and India, must carryout greater number of Joint Exercise and enhance interoperability of their armed forces. Armed forces of Taiwan and South Korea should also be included in these exercise to isolate China regionally and internationally.

India needs to revisit it’s No First Use (NFU) Nuclear Policy and make it clear like its adversaries that it retains the right of first use of tactical nuclear weapons on the lines of its adversaries and we must stabilise our Triad capability of delivering these weapons by air, sea and land.

Our successful missile technology should be further enhanced for over 95 percent accuracy at long ranges. The bottom line is that any emerging economy can only prosper when its defence forces are strong and they have adequate dissuasive and deterrent capabilities to check mate its adversaries.

India must take a leaf from China’s book to enhance its comprehensive national power in a peaceful manner without any fanfare. China kept on growing peacefully for nearly forty years before taking an aggressive posture in the South China Sea, Indian Ocean and land borders with India and Bhutan two years back. Hopefully, China has learnt from the stiff resistance given at Galwan and understood that India is no push over and is a regional power to coexist with rather than mess with.

Will Chinese Attacks Attract International Attention?

Tensions between India and China at the Line of Actual Control have reached a height not seen for 43 years.  Both have been engaged in a military standoff at multiple locations, for over a month now at India’s northern border with a sudden escalation in the Galwan Valley region on 16th June 2020 resulting in death of some 20 Indian soldiers.

The situation has reached this level as a result of Chinese incursions across the Line of Actual (LAC), which is how the border is known pending resolution of boundary and territorial disputes between the two countries. The situation also is a result of a complicated and mistrustful relationship as they have not been able to agree on the definition and delimitation of the boundary over the last 60 years or so.

The demarcation of the boundary on the ground and its administration are subsequent stages in the boundary making process. Chinese incursions into India’s territory or into territory which India deems extremely strategic to control have become more frequent over the last decade or so. The Chinese military activity has been mounted at a time when in India the CoVID19 virus infections are reaching peak numbers.

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Such incursions leading to military constructions and installations are reminiscent of similar Chinese tactics of gradual expansion of the Exclusive Economic Zone and territorial annexation in the South China Sea (SCS). The international community has responded to the Chinese maneuvers in SCS with statements of support for the affected parties. United States (US), the foremost military power in the world and present in the region since WW II has responded with increased reconnaissance and military cooperation to deter the Chinese.

In regard to Chinese attitude and belligerence over land boundaries, however, there have hardly been any voices of concern being raised by the international community. Donald Trump’s offer to PM Modi to mediate between the two sides should only be construed as only an offer of mediation, not anything more. This offer, however, does impact the geopolitical dynamics in the South Asian neighbourhood and larger Southern Asia, where China has important economic stakes and leverage.

At the same time, Trump’s offer will have zero effect on the current negotiations on the LAC between India and China. India has responded to the US President’s call with maturity and poise and signaled with intent to Beijing that the matter should be resolved bilaterally. Perhaps, this is one more of many hints to China that India is willing and able to withstand an aggressive China where its sovereign territoriality is threatened.

Such actions are consistent with India’s refusal to be a part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). India did not join the BRI because of its apprehensions over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passing through the disputed territory of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK). Aksai Chin where Indian and Chinese forces face each other in the current standoff has a boundary with PoK.

Further, the revocation of Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir and subsequent reorganization of the state into two Union Territories has not gone down well with either Pakistan or China. The LAC forms a boundary between India and China in Ladakh, so the Chinese protested in August 2019, citing that India has unilaterally altered the status quo in an area which is disputed.

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Last week, the Chinese embassy in Pakistan issued a statement indicating that Chinese actions at the LAC are related to both the repeal of Article 370 as well as the creation of transport infrastructure by India and they impact the ground situation at the LAC. New Delhi’s response on revocation of Article 370 has been very categorical, that India can carry out any activity on Indian soil and does not expect its neighbours to meddle in its internal matters.

The international response, or approach to such Chinese ingress remains to be seen as the frequency of incursions into Indian territory increases and China gradually starts to claim thin slivers of territory which are otherwise disputed. Realistically any statements in support of the Indian standpoint, from the international community, however, will be determined by the simple fact of Chinese economic and financial clout in the international system.

But there is another reason on why the international community may be reluctant to throw its weight in the issue. The international community has been vocal about the issues in SCS because the disputing parties have approached the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) and have referred to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea III. In the case of territorial disputes India has consistently maintained the principle of bilateral negotiations and hence cannot expect overt support and help.

Direct support to Indian stance could have been expected from its smaller South Asian neighbours, but they too seem to have been weighed down by the impact of Chinese investments, trade and the generous lines of credit. Nepal has gone one step further as it has included hitherto disputed territory with India on its western expanse in its official map, through legislation in parliament. It is argued in policy circles, that this has been done with Chinese collusion.

Given all this therefore, it is not for the first time that the much touted ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy of PM Modi looks under strain. India, however, should persevere to deepen ties with its immediate neighbours and make most of the recent dip in Chinese reputation on account of the origin of CoVID19 and its aftermath. This can be achieved by astute diplomacy and apprising the international community of the Chinese belligerence in the region.

No doubt the experts at South Block will be engaging all their skills and intellect to  outmanoeuvre China and reclaim its premier status in the South Asian region as well as fend off Chinese adventures.