3. What are the factors leading to escalation of skirmishes to violent face offs between China and India at the borders? What are the strategic implications of the ongoing tension along the Indo-China borders? Comment.
चीन और भारत के बीच सीमाओं पर हिंसक झड़पों के बढ़ने के कारण कौन से कारक हैं? भारत–चीन सीमाओं पर चल रहे तनाव के रणनीतिक निहितार्थ क्या हैं? टिप्पणी करें।
Demand of the question:
It expects students to write about the factors which led to escalation of skirmishes to violent face offs between China and India at the borders along with strategic implications of the ongoing tensions.
The deadly clashes at Galwan and the ongoing standoff between India and China on the ridges or fingers around the Pangong Tso are a metaphor for the wider conflict between the two countries over all the areas that Chinese strategy refers to as the five fingers of the Tibetan palm naming Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and North East Frontier province- Arunachal Pradesh.
First time, after the 1962 War, soldiers have died in clashes on the India-China border in Ladakh. The last deaths on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) were an ambush of an Assam Rifles patrol in Arunachal Pradesh by the Chinese in 1975. But the last real military engagement between the two armies was at Nathu La in Sikkim in 1967. But all these incidents were prior to the two countries signing, starting from 1993, various agreements for maintaining peace and tranquility on the border.
As the border between two countries remains undefined, overlapping claims of Line of Actual Control often led to skirmishes, pushing and face to face standoffs for days. However escalation of skirmishes into violent face-off is almost once in half century incident.
Factors leading to violent face-off:
- Premeditated and planned: As Galwan valley was accepted Indian area of border and there was no dispute over it from Chinese, but Chinese incursion on Indian side of the LAC in early led to standoff situation on various frontiers of eastern Ladakh. It seems that PLAGF merely following the orders of higher echelons to carry out expansionist policy. Planning on the other side evident in the timing of Nepal’s cartographic adventure. Use of barbaric weapons like iron rods, steel spikes-embedded batons, cantina wire wrapped rods, etc. redolent of the medieval age. Similar skirmish took place on Pan Gong Tso Lake on May 5 was also seen use of improvised weapons by Chinese.
- Larger plan to push LAC: Chinese policy of creeping annexation that will surreptitiously realize for Beijing its territorial claims to the fullest extent. On other border fronts of China have sunken Vietnamese fishing vessel in South China Sea, threats to Philippines and Indonesia and violent face-off with India comes in series of events unfolding recently. It suits the Beijing dispensation to keep the border undefined and to string Delhi along with promises of dispute resolution in the Special Representatives forum.
- CPEC at stakes: Beijing, mindful of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, its gateway to the warm water port in Gwadar, being vulnerable to Indian military actions off the Karakorum Pass, moved to pre-empt India from utilizing its new road (Darbuk-shyok-Daulag beg oldie) for the purposes of interdicting CPEC traffic by all but annexing the Galwan Valley areas deep inside the Indian claim line and, in fact, acquiring the location and the means to counter potential Indian pressure on CPEC.
- Violent face-off to check Indian resolve: As India has limited option vis-e-vis china as both countries are nuclear armed and largest by population in the world. China might want limited war to revive nationalism among domestic audience which is already humiliated by the criticism from the global community for COVID-19 pandemic.
- Challenge to the XI Xinping’s leadership from PLA: It might be the Chinese military that wants to teach lesson to India rather than sanction from the highest authority as the popularity of XI in China has been on decline since the situation of pandemic.
- Situational misjudgement of border troupes on the clash sight: Violent face-off might be the situational misjudgement of border troupes during de-escalation execution. Chinese soldiers might have misread the agreements of de-escalation.
- Too much time given to military diplomacy: As the standoff continued for more than month, diplomacy at higher level should have come into picture. By various reports too much time was given to military diplomacy to resolve ongoing issue.
- Factors of terrain, climate: Violent face-off could have been reduced to physical injuries but the subzero temperature at the high altitudes up to 14000 feet, late night timing and delayed rescue might have aggravated the situation to the more violent level than it used to be.
Strategic implication of ongoing tension:
- Words at play: This is the first time India named china in direct criticism of its action since 1993. Statement from Indian foreign minister accused china as ‘directly responsible’ to the situation. India also threatened with serious impact on the bilateral relationship. However both sides have shown resolve to deescalate the situation and not commit itself to the ladder of escalation.
- India has already started increased scrutiny of Chinese investment, use of telecommunication equipments and contracts to Chinese firms in Indian infrastructure projects. India at the highest level could terminate trade with china as extreme strategic step to hurt China.
- At geo-strategic level Nepal has already raised ante with constitutionally changing map and Nepal Army chief visiting Kalapani area right after the day of violent face off in Galwan valley indicate actions in pattern. China might encourage Indian neighbours to look down at India.
- Expansionist China: Recent actions in Himalayas, expansionist and strong policies in Taiwanese strait, Hong Kong, South China sea are examples of China’s new foreign policy strategy of ‘Wolf warrior diplomacy’. It could further polarise frontiers of china in upcoming times.
- Economic recovery of India will be another challenge amid pandemic to protect foreign investment which demands lowering of ante on china border, which will be strategic challenge for India.
- Once again need of ‘two front war strategy’ will come in picture and modernisation of Air force, which over long time facing acute shortage of fighter jets will be strategic challenge.
- Importance of Quad might increase in Indo-Pacific theatre to respond Chinese expansionism in Indian Ocean along with Himalayas. India’s proximity with middle powers of European Union like Germany, France will be equally critical.
- Use of nationalism to push external policy objective: China’s stress on using nationalism to push external policy objective demand coordinated global opposition at both diplomatic and military level as it reminds fascist tendency of Second World War.
For time being, there is need to control domestic war horses and focus on tactical measures at border, Indian Ocean and international level. There is proof enough that now more than ever, as the government readies its hand on dealing with China; it must not lose sight of every finger in play with China.