When Indian defense minister Rajnath Singh declared on record, in parliament, that China is illegally occupying 38,000 sq. kms of land in Ladakh  1 and eyeing further 90,000 sq. kms in Arunachal Pradesh, which China calls as South Tibet, India had made it clear to the world, about the expansionist designs of China and to which India is ready to fight it out.  It may be considered that only a day before Rajnath Singh address, it had come out that China was laying optic fiber cables to boost communications in Pangong Tso, Ladakh 2 ‘which would provide forward troops with secure lines of communications to bases in the rear’. This was yet again a provocation to India. Pangong Tso is the place where the latest flare-up happened on August 29, 2020. Ironically, all this had come only four days later to when foreign-ministers of both the countries had signed a joint-declaration in Moscow.

An immediate retort to all what Rajnath Singh had said, came in The Global Times 3 , which said ‘India hurts itself with border belligerence’. The tone of the article was with all war connotations ‘ If India were to wage massive armed clashes or even war with China and Pakistan simultaneously, no country would likely help India apart from conditionally providing some weaponry,’ in order to inferiortise the Indian side.  The article also makes sufficiently clear that China and Pakistan are raring to jointly-go ahead with India.  India, however, is clearly wary of China as Rajnath Singh, in another statement claimed that China is not honouring customary alignment of boundary with India. Rajnath also said that ‘the alignment has not only been defined by treaties, but has been maintained historically. However, China believes that the border is not defined, he added and warned that any serious situation on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is bound to impact bilateral ties’ 4. The Voice of America 5 however, had been skeptic as just after the joint-statement occurred, a report in it clearly pointed that despite the deal there were challenges ahead for India as voices emanating from China was exhorting for war-preparedness.

The joint-statement had surely added more woes to India which is already strained by what all has happened in Ladakh is the last five-months. A befitting article, by Praveen Sawhney, editor for Force Magazine in The Wire 6  has elaborated that the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is no more as such and from now onwards it would only be the border-area, as there hasn’t been any reference of LAC in the joint-statement which straightaway means that India has already acceded parts of Ladakh to China.   Sawhney has warned India for the coming days, ‘The existing heightened threat of ‘forces-in-being’ will continue to increase with time as the PLA brings in new disruptive warfare capabilities into the theatre. India should bear in mind that such formidable war-fighting capabilities with new concept of operations are not needed for a mere border war. Having won the Ladakh round from an ill-prepared India, without a fight, the PLA has further entrenched itself in an area which is going to be the likely site of a future bigger conflict’, he wrote in his article, as ‘China had said that it abides by the November 1959 LAC which was mentioned by Prime Minister Zhou Enlai to Jawaharlal Nehru’. Hence, after the Moscow meeting a loss-loss situation ( sic) is what tends to become the fate of the India side.  There are no more questions to be raised for April 2020 status quo ante, which was to abide by what had been decided between the two in 1993, but now the clock has been turned to 1959.

As a measure-up to what Rajnath Singh had said in parliament China has gone ahead to issue a ‘level two’ warning and alert, which is the second time to have happened since 1987, informs South China Morning Post on September 16, 2020 7 . The article tells that ‘PLA raised combat readiness after exchange of gunfire ( of August 29 2020) and that Chinese commanders increased alert level to second-highest possible for the first time in troubled region since 1987. The increase, to second level, meant more weapons and troops were deployed to the front line, and training exercises were ramped up for commanders, officers and soldiers, The last time such a high level was employed by troops in the restive region was in 1987, when a skirmish in the Sumdorong Chu valley pushed the two sides to the brink of war. The PLA  has four grades of combat readiness. The first level is used only when military leaders are convinced an armed conflict is inevitable. The PLA (has) mobilised more troops and weapons systems  to the Line of Actual Control [the formal name for the disputed China-India border] in preparation for the worst.  “The PLA’s JH-7 bombers at frontline airports are loaded with weapons, indicating they are ready for action, and one of the obvious signs the border air force is under second-level combat readiness. “I am afraid the confrontations might become a regular thing, and turn the LAC into another Kashmir,” said Andrei Chang, the magazine’s editor-in-chief. It is worthy to point that that Kashmir seems to have entered the lexicon of the Chinese expression.

As a mark of the preparation China has deployed its 10,000 troops of the south bank of Pangong Tso and 50 battalions in Ladakh LAC , the total troops being 52,000 and similar has been the mirror-deployment from the India side, informs The Economic Times on September 16, 2020 8 .  Each battalion has 1000-1200 soldiers.  The situation is now eyeball-to-eyeball is real action and it has now come to light that while Jaishankar and Wang Yi were sitting across the table as many as around 100 rounds ‘each’ were fired from both the sides at Pangong Tso 9 , which of course happened for the first time in 45 years  and the situation had to be cooled-down as meetings of the highest level were underway but now with the meetings all done, what is in store?

Rajnath Singh declaration is also for the nation to get prepared for the coming days and China took a serious note of it and raised its ‘alert level’ as there is a news that China has deployed one of its most dangerous JH-7 attack aircraft against India 10  tells a report from The Week on September 16, 2020. The JH-7 is one of the PLA Air Force’s main ground-attack aircraft, which is optimised for low-altitude missions.  What in actuality and reality has flared-up China is the strategy of India to make its ferocious Special Frontier Force comprising of Tibetan fighters answer the Chinese in the same coin, and this is precisely why Rajnath Singh has played-up the 90,000 sq. kms of Arunachal Pradesh, which is to play the Tibet card, as it is this SFF is which compatible to fight ‘equally’ in the mountainous terrain of Arunachal Pradesh or in Ladakh.  This is actually a double-edged weapon as Tibetans, whose forefathers had fled China in 1959, are now to fight those who scuttled them. Therefore, to blunt the Indian moves, China seems to be gearing up its momentum towards all the seven-sister states of the North East.

India and China seem equally poised for a ‘worsening situation’ as to world wait for it with bated breath, although there are still some inputs, that both the sides do not want war.

The writer is a former Uttar Pradesh State Information Commissioner. He writes on international politics.

References:

1-https://countercurrents.org/2020/09/indian-defence-minister-admits-in-parliament-that-china-has-occupied-38000-sq-kms-of-land-in-ladakh/

2-https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/china-laying-cables-to-boost-communications-at-ladakh-flashpoint-report-2295302#:~:text=Two%20Indian%20officials%20said%20Chinese,at%20resolving%20a%20standoff%20there.

3-https://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1200916.shtml

4-https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/china-not-honouring-customary-alignment-of-boundary-with-india-rajnath-singh/story-weDflNtNJrAnn5dp3n8DkO.html

5-https://www.voanews.com/south-central-asia/challenges-remain-despite-deal-india-china-border-spat

6-https://thewire.in/security/india-china-ladakh-pla-lac-border-areas

7-https://www.scmp.com/news/china/military/article/3101663/china-india-border-dispute-pla-raised-combat-readiness-after

8-https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/china-deploys-10k-on-south-
bank-of-pangong tso/articleshow/78137294.cms#:~:text=in%20Ladakh%20LAC-,China%20deploys%
2010k%20troops%20on%20south%20bank%20of%20Pangong%20Tso,battalions%20stationed%
20in%20Ladakh%20LAC

9-https://indianexpress.com/article/india/before-russia-pact-indian-chinese-troops-fired-100-200-rounds-on-pangong-north-bank-6597650/

10-https://www.theweek.in/news/world/2020/09/16/china-raised-alert-level-on-india-border-bombers-ready-for-action-report.html


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