India-China Face-off: India secured eastern stretch of border

There is yet another military escalation between India and China. On 29th Aug at night, Indian soldiers thwarted an attempt by Chinese troops to occupy some heights near the southern bank of Pangong Tso. As per the Indian side, “provocative military movements” by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) aimed at seizing the heights in the Chushul sector, broadly between Pangong Tso and Spanggur Gap, were physically blocked by the swift deployment of Indian troops. 

India-China Faceoff

It is interesting to note that this skirmish took place in the region that is at an altitude of around 15,000-feet. As per an India senior officer, “The pre-emptive action taken by our troops from the nearby Thakung and other posts foreclosed the PLA’s options to change the status quo (existing arrangement where perceptions of the Line of Actual Control overlap) in the area,” After the successful defensive move, India has undertaken an offensive too and has occupied previously unmanned positions which are claimed by both countries. 

The de-facto border between China and India is the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Both countries have a difference in perception of their actual alignment at nearly 14 different points. This has emerged as an issue between the two nuclear-armed nations. On 15th June these two militaries engaged in conflict in eastern Ladakh's Galwan Valley. It resulted in significant casualties. The Indian Army stated that 20 Army personnel, including Commanding Officer Colonel Santosh Babu, lost their lives. 

Though China didn’t revel the casualties suffered by it, Indian as well as American intelligence indicated that it lost 35 to 45 personnel. It is important to note that firearms were not used by any side as per an accord signed earlier. The two countries have held discussions at different levels, but tensions have simmered since then. The latest flare-up indicates that the situation hasn’t defused. It is important to note that China has tried to change the territorial status quo gradually, post by post, island-by-island instead of trying to capture in one go. For example, China first occupied the Paracel Islands in 1974 and then slowly expanded its presence southward by attacking Vietnam’s islands in the Spratly chain in the 1980s. 

This strategy known as 'Salami Slicing', aims for the slow accumulation of small changes. China seems to be trying to use the same tactics against India. Pangong Tso or Pangong Lake is an endorheic lake in the Himalayas situated at an elevation of 4,225 m (13,862 ft). It is 134 km or 83 mi long and extends from Ladakh, India to the Tibetan Autonomous Region, China. Approximately 60% of the length of the lake lies within the Tibetan Autonomous Region. The lake is 5 km or 3.1 mi wide at its broadest point. During winter the lake freezes completely, despite being saline water. It is strategically important. China made a tactical move to obtain a foothold on the Southern bank of Pangong Tso lake opposite Chushul. It involved 400 to 500 Chinese troops An alert Indian Army detected the movement of “a large column” of Chinese troops and blocked it. Some sources said there were physical scuffles between the opposing forces. 

The PLA was repealed after a 3 hr hand to hand combat. The next morning India made a tactical move. The Indian Army has captured an important point in the surrounding hills of the Pangong Tso lake. Sources indicate that the Indian troops have now opened a new front capturing territory near Chushul. This gives massive advantage as India can now control certain passes in the hills under the Chushul sector. As per reports, specialized elements of the Indian Army have taken positions in at least four locations including Rezang La, near the southern bank of the Pangong Tso in eastern Ladakh. The operation was undertaken by a special operations battalion that was recently inducted into the area. 

In another move , Indian Army has climbed up the heights on the Northern Banks of Pangong Tso and have established posts opposite the Chinese ones Viewers may note that this comes days after India’s Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Bipin Rawat spoke about India’s “military options” in the stand-off against China. Sources stated domination of hilltops and passes in areas, claimed by both sides but where the Indians had the upper hand, was always part of India’s “military options” The Chinese foreign ministry had said that India “grossly violated” China’s territorial integrity and “illegally trespassed” the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on Monday. 

With regard to the recent China-India border dispute, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang said that China has always been committed to maintaining stability along the China-India border and will not be the first to complicate or escalate the situation. He added, "The boundary between China and India has not yet been demarcated, so there have been problems. China will firmly safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and "we are ready to manage all kinds of issues through dialogue with the Indian side,” Chinese Communist Party's unofficial mouthpiece - Global Times opined that China must resolutely counterattack India’s opportunist move. 

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs asked Beijing to “discipline and control” its frontline troops. MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said in a statement on Tuesday, “Yesterday, on 31st August, even as the ground commanders of the two sides were in discussions to de-escalate the situation, the Chinese troops again engaged in provocative action. Due to the timely defensive action, the Indian side was able to prevent these attempts to unilaterally alter the status quo.” 

This clearly points to China’s deceitful behavior. India’s External Affairs Minister Dr. S Jaishankar issued a veiled threat to China on Monday. "India will match or respond to China's capabilities in the same measure if Beijing continues to assert herself and influence areas or geographies," Readers may note that the June clash was the first time the India and China were involved in a fierce confrontation since the deadly clashes between the two armies that took place in Nathu La in 1967 which resulted in the death of 88 soldiers of the Indian Army and about 300 soldiers the PLA. 

The intelligence report by the USA regarding that clash states that China’s plan to attack India in order to “punish” it for allying with the USA clearly backfired and failed to pressure India. The report states that the attack by China against India “does the very opposite of what it wanted”, and “This is not a victory for China’s military.” It observes that the attack by China has inspired widespread outrage in India and actually, pushed India closer to the USA in its economic policies. 

U.S intelligence had nailed Chinese lies that the June conflict was a spontaneous result of the escalation of tensions at the LAC. The latest clash confirms the same and points to premeditated Chinese misadventure. China has bid its time, laid low but has risen economically and militarily. In the last decade or so it has changed its stance and has been very aggressive in its posturing. This clash is a result of China's expansionist policy with the intention of land grab. But India is not a small country like some of the Chinese neighbors whom it has been bullying for a long time. It is important to note that both the countries possess nuclear weapons and an escalation could lead to massive destruction. 

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