SINO-INDIA BORDER ISSUES AND RELATED DEVELOPMENTS : [ GS II, International Relations ]

CONTEXT:  In the last 10 months, the Chinese Western Theatre Command has seen four commanders, two of them — Generals Zhang Xudong and Xu Qiling, both ‘rising stars’ of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) — moved out for serious health issues.  Still Indian and Chinese soldiers will remain deployed against each other in the icy cold deserts of Ladakh, without any respite.

An aggressive focus on India

The obstinate Chinese stance in recent weeks shows that the PLA is not interested in ending the prolonged deployment.

 Apart from the verbal attacks , China has also made massive infrastructure construction, induction of a large quantity of modern equipment, and a sharp increase in the number of military exercises directed towards India in Ladakh, and in the middle and eastern sectors of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) i.e.3,488 km.

  1. The PLA incursion into Barahoti in Uttarakhand in August (a demilitarised zone)

  2. The  increment  in frequency and the duration of Chinese patrolling in Arunachal Pradesh 

  3. Earlier this month 200 PLA soldiers were stopped by an Indian patrol in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tawang area. 

Western scholars with Chinese connections point to two major drivers for the PLA’s aggressive approach against India:-

  1. China’s institutional interest.

China has the boundary issue only with India, it emphasises India’s importance to China. 

  1. PLA’s view that the Indian military is increasing its presence on “Chinese territory” in the border areas in the last 10-12 years.

OTHER FACTORS-

  •  After the UPA government’s decision to build infrastructure and raise additional forces for the China border, Indian army’s patrolling increased there.

  •  The Doklam stand-off of 2017, when Indian soldiers walked onto Chinese claimed territory of Bhutan, was a turning point.

 Western scholars say that there is a strong constituency in the PLA that wants to put India in its place, evoking an eerie parallel to the discourse in Mao’s China after 1959.

New Delhi’s response w.r.t. PLA’s actions on the LAC –

  • Indian Army has also inducted more modern military platforms, equipments and systems on the Chinese border, backed by infrastructure construction and the deployment of new troops.

  • The Indian military always maintained a defensive deterrence against the PLA which worked for nearly three decades before breaking down completely in 2020.

  • India’s advantage in dissuading a major military conflict with China is that as a lesser power, it has to only deny an outright military victory to the PLA for the top Chinese leadership to lose face.

DEVELOPMENTAL IMPACTS –

  •  Sharp decline in the Indian economy after demonetisation, further battered by the Government’s poor handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

  • Inability of New Delhi to generate enough resources for military modernisation.

According to Ashley Tellis’s calculations (2016) → Indian Air Force (IAF) would need about 60 fighter jet squadrons by 2020 (currently 30) for a serious two-front threat from China and Pakistan. 

DEVELOPMENTS THAT FAILED IN THE DIRECTION OF RESOLVING THE ISSUES :

  1. The technological asymmetry with the PLA is rapidly increasing, that in a few years it is feared that India and China will be fighting two different generations of war.

  2. The divisive majoritarian politics practised by the ruling NDA party has left India vulnerable. The ruling ideology has also held captive the country’s foreign policy in the neighbourhood, adversely affecting Indian interests. 

  3. The U.A.E-brokered backchannel deal with Pakistan failed due to New Delhi’s Kashmir policies, adding to one more military threat.

  4. There is hardly any ceasefire on the L.O.C.

  5. Pakistani infiltration is hardly checked, they are still able to include local Kashmiri youth willing to pick up the gun, thus opening another half-front for the military. 

  6. The recent disturbance with Bangladesh on the treatment of religious minorities or the ongoing turmoil over the influx of Myanmar refugees in Mizoram has left India, internally unbalanced, weaker in the region to deal with China.  

  7. The geopolitics arising out of the great power competition in the Indo-Pacific.

Both the AUKUS and the QUAD, leave the questions of actual support during a Sino-India military crisis unanswered.

NO POLITICAL ACCOUNTABILITY ?

  • In the Ladakh border crisis, the Government and its supporters were in denial about the Chinese ingress into Indian territory for months, including the Prime Minister’s statement that no one had entered Indian territory.

  •  Use of euphemisms like ‘friction points’ for places of Chinese ingress or the removal of an official report about Chinese presence across the LAC from the Defence Ministry’s website

  •  Non-acknowledgement of Indian soldiers in Chinese captivity after the Galwan clash have been done to evade political accountability. 

  • Parliament has not been allowed to ask questions or seek clarifications; nor has the parliamentary standing committee deliberated upon the issue.

  •  Large sections of Indian media have been complicit in this cover up, keeping the public in the dark and blocking the feedback loop that keeps democratic governments honest and responsive.

TO CONCLUDE-

New Delhi’s take on the Sino-India border crisis in the last 20 months has oscillated between denial and bluster. New Delhi’s avowed aim is to restore the status quo on the LAC in Ladakh that existed before May 2020. In areas of disengagement, a new status quo has been created which curtails Indian patrolling rights while the PLA remains ensconced on Indian territory in Depsang, Hot Springs and Demchok. India now has no choice but to be prepared for all the happenings on the Sino-India border. India need to get prepared for all this and has to focus on financial resources with respect to the required expenditure on army and its preparedness.

BY, 

RAJEEV YADAV

FACULTY OF G.S. AND HISTORY OPTIONAL

PLUTUS IAS

plutus ias daily current affairs 22 Oct 2021