M. M. Khajooria Defence Minister Rajnath Singh confirmed on Tuesday that a “sizeable number” of Chinese troops have moved into eastern Ladakh and India too has taken all necessary steps to deal with the situation.” He was referring to the nearly month-long high-altitude standoff between the two armies. Singh said “a meeting between senior Indian and Chinese military leaders has been scheduled for June 6”. Earlier talks including those at the Major General level had proved “inconclusive”. He asserted that India is not going to back off from its position. He further confirmed that”Chinese have come up to what they claim is their territory while Indians believed it is theirs”. This particular military confrontation (one of the many) over the interpretation of the vague and confusing LAC should be viewed in the context of long term Chinese expansionist designs which dictate all its moves on the Indo-Chinese borders. Decades back Mao Tse Tung postulated that Tibet, which he claimed was and is an integral part of China had five fingers like those of his open palm, which he demonstrated and he put his open palm for all to see. And then counted and named the fingers one by one -Ladakh, Nepal, Bhutan’ NEFA (erstwhile) and Sikkim. It would therefore be a grave folly to treat these intrusions as mere isolated irritants. There have been reports of multiple incidents of transgressions by Chinese troops in several areas in eastern Ladakh. To cover up their aggression, China alleged that Indian troops entered their territory. Soldiers from the two sides were involved in scuffles on at least two occasions. While the disengagement took place in eastern Ladakh after troops came to blows on May 5 and were involved in a faceoff till the morning of May 6 when troops from both sides clashed leaving several injured. Chinese and Indian troops appeared heading for a long haul in the disputed areas of Pangong Tso and Galwan Valley along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh. Their tense standoff showed no signs of abating. In the meanwhile, both the armies continued to bolster their positions in disputed areas of Pangong Tso and Galwan Valley and Demchok. Reports suggest that the Chinese have particularly strengthened their position in the Galwan Valley, erecting around 100 tents in the last two weeks or so. They have also brought in heavy equipment for construction of bunkers. The Indian side has conveyed its strong objection to China pitching tents and bringing in heavy equipment during the meetings between local commanders of the two armies. A close watch is being maintained in Pangong Tso and the Galwan Valley region where the Chinese have enhanced deployment and have been involved in aggressive posturing. The faceoffs were said to have been triggered by road construction activities and infrastructure development by India on its own side, to which the Chinese-side objected. The track in question connected to the Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie Road built last year. This was critical from Defence point of view. Historically, China’s territorial conquests fall in the ‘fait accompli’ category. Sparsely populated/ unpopulated and undefended territories have been the prime targets. Chinese moves in East Asia, South China Sea and Sino-Indian border provide ample evidence thereof. Grabbing such territories based on claim lines that were historically fluctuating, and often expanding, has been China’s signature mode. Also, the practice has gained momentum with the growth of China’s power and concurrent internalising of a self-image of surging strength.The current situation in Ladakh and Sikkim is a case in point. The confrontation in Galwan River Valley, Pangong Tso, and Naku La in north Sikkim is sought to be justified as a defensive move by China due to India’s alleged aggressive acts. The official statement of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on May 19, reads, “The Indian Army has crossed the line across the western section of the Sino-Indian border and the Sikkim section to enter Chinese territory”. The fact is that disputed areas exit and have been patrolled by both sides. This was recognised and agreements signed to avoid confrontations such as the current one. The 1993 Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) states: “When necessary, the two sides shall jointly check and determine the segments of the (LAC) where they have different views as to its alignment”. However, even after 27 years, China has avoided reconciling the differing perception of the LAC. The ambiguity provides opening for China to claim an imagined LAC alignment, which can be exploited to buttress the argument that India is the aggressor. There is a method in madness in the Chinese PLA adventurist pranks on the LAC. It spawns periodical apparently unrelated incidents of intrusion across the LAC in violation of solemn agreements between the two countries. Two steps forward thrice and two steps backward twice gained them territory in the bargain to Indian disadvantage. Over several decades, China’s success in limited territorial grabs has been glossed over by successive Indian governments, “in the interests of peace and tranquility”. Take, for instance the 2017 Doklam stand-off. True the territory in question was a matter of dispute between China and Bhutan but India was a necessary party because it involved the tri-junction. The dispute was resolved through an agreement that was restricted only to the stand-off site. It emboldened PLA to occupy the rest of the disputed Doklam plateau with military assets, including the creation of permanent roads and military structures. Even though China successfully carried out a blatant aggression of a manifestly disputed territory the fiction of ‘victory’ at Doklam was peddled for obvious reasons. The constructions in the area of the Doklam plateau before the confrontation in 2017 and now are revealing. More over the handling of the dispute pushed friendly Bhuan into a position of ” neutrality”, to great Chinese advantage. Nepal, another finger of Maos’ Tibet Palm has been sucked into Chinese sphere of influence. A long term and traditional friend, the only Hindu Kingdom in the world is at least for now lost to India. Even though no more a major player in Nagaland, China still retains clout as supplier of weapons and provision of military training facilities to a section of Naga insurgents and controls at least one of many “Naga armies”. The insurgents in North East are armed and trained in Bangladesh and Chinese territories. The Chinese mischief potential in North eastern states is by no measure insignificant. This times the Chinese aggression has provoked powerful reaction in Ladakh which has begun to find echo in Delhi. The demand for boycott of Chinese goods appears to have taken off with cancelation of supply orders to Chinese firms. This should serve a notice and perhaps make Chinese rethink aggressive acts at least for the time being. Total boycott of Chinese goods has, however to be meticulously thought through, all its implications addressed and attainable alternatives identified. Its very size and pricing structure is daunting. However, if confrontations persist or give birth to little wars, we cannot afford to enrich China with profits that go into purchase of bullets to be fired at our boys defending our borders, the difficulties in the path of total boycott of Chinese goods not with standing.
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