The two world largest armies and unarguably the Asian largest economy and the third largest economy China and India seem determined to undermine each other in this seemingly uneasy scenario which tends to build around these two countries.  There is an uneasy chill in the mountains as both the nations are into building their ‘military-build-ups’ to outdo each other, and latest to add to the already heated-up’ situation is the clash over the claim from India on the number of casualties from the Chinese side when the Galwan valley clash took place on June 15, 2020, as since then perhaps, instead of any slowdown there is an ‘upping the ante’ in the air.

The India’s external affairs minister Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi meeting on the sidelines of SCO, Moscow on September 10, 2020 had released a ‘joint-statement’  1 which had kindled hopes of de-escalation but it was instead ascribed by The Global Times, China’s state affiliated newspaper  as  ‘paper-talk’  2  , is now clearly turning out to be so, as instead of any de-escalation on the China-India border standoff, which has begun since May 2020, and which has seen three flashpoint as yet, i.e. June 15, August 29 and September 7, 2020, in which India lost 20 of its soldiers , both sides having fired 100 rounds each 3 , there does not seem to be any moment which may suggest the situation to have mellowed down even if that by bits. On the contrary another war of words seem to have got broken over the number of casualties from the Chinese side, on June 15, 2020 as claimed by the Indian side.

The Chinese newspaper The Global Times, which is considered as mouthpiece of the Chinese government in an article India lies about casualties in border clash with China on September 17, 2020, has taken an exception to India’s defence minister Rajnath Singh statement in parliament that Indian army inflicted heavy casualties on the Chinese army during the June 15, 2020 clash. ‘ Such rhetoric is aimed at inspiring Indian nationalist forces ( it is obviously done why get irked over it) as ‘according to the information from people familiar with the situation from the Chinese side, the number of Chinese soldiers who sacrificed their lives ( not life, which means more than one) during the conflict was far less than the number of India’s’.

The article by Editor-in-Chief gives details of the two flashpoints as such. ‘Based on what I know, a few officers and soldiers of the Chinese army went to the border area (with) the Indian troops for negotiation( June 15, 2020) , but the Indian army attacked them without any warning, leading to the clash. At the start of the skirmish, the Chinese soldiers were outnumbered, but some of them fought to their last breath, and no one was captured by the Indian army. After the Chinese army began to counterattack, (it had) some (Indian soldiers) rolling down the mountains and some falling into the river. Quite a number of Indian soldiers surrendered to the PLA, and were captured’.  The article further tells that ‘in the latest conflict near the Pangong Tso Lake (August 29,2020), Indian troops “preempted” PLA’s activity (meaning they illegally trespassed the border), and showcased that they had gained an advantage by occupying highlands and throwing stones at the PLA. But based on what I know, PLA soldiers disregarded the Indian threats and drove away the Indian troops from the highlands. The Chinese army has gained advantageous positions at many points in the standoff. The article now turns to warning ‘The PLA can launch a heavy counterattack at the Indian army’s new provocation at any time, and Chinese people believe that the PLA will never be gentle to the provocative Indian troops in the future’.  Going by the stated Chinese position in this article is there as counterattack coming on India as China has been instigated by Rajnath Singh claim of heavy-Chinese casualties? The stated position in India, dished out through various media outlets, however,  is  that China lost between 45-50 soldiers on June 15, 2020. In China there is no tradition of declaring the number of casualties.

Things are now reaching to a new low and much to the disadvantage of India as India’s very respectable defence analyst Pravin Sawhney has put it, on his twitter 6  on September 18, 2020, that China is not to relent on Ladakh anymore as it has set it eyes on Arunachal Pradesh now.  India has already acceded to the previous 1959 position, as China has disregarded the agreed-upon 1993 LAC, which had been elaborated well by Pravin Sawhney in his article published in The Wire 7 in which it was debated that Chinese consider the LAC as what had been decided between JL Nehru and Zhau Enlai in 1959, and which ironically, was also agreed upon in the joint-statement on September 10, 2020 as there is no reference of LAC. Hence, the clock has been (already) turned to 1959 is what I wrote in CounterCurrents 8  on September 17, 2020.  Another article almost on the same lines, from The Wire on September 18, 2020 9, has been very critical of Rajnath Singh which says that the minister held-back in his speech in parliament that Chinese army has blocked the 900 sq. kms. access of India access to Depsang in Ladakh!

But, what now Pravin Sawhney (on his twitter on September 18, 2020)  highlights is that China in a renewed attempt wants to rubbish the McMahon line too, which divided China and Arunachal Pradesh and which China refers  to as South Tibet.  What is this McMahon line? ‘The McMahon Line defines a clear boundary line between India and China. This line was determined by Sir Henry McMahon, then Foreign Secretary in the Government of British India (1914). The length of this line is 890 kilometers. But China does not accept this line. This is the apple of discord between India and China’ 10. So , accordingly, China has started to amass troops on Arunachal border as a report in IndiaToday shows on September 15, 2020, 11  ‘The Chinese Army is now building up its troops deployment at least four locations across the border in Arunachal Pradesh. Troops build-up has been noticed in the Chinese territory opposite Arunachal Pradesh, nearly 20 km from the Indian territory. It is possible that China may try to carry out more incursions in these areas and capture some dormant locations or height. The Indian troops are fully prepared to thwart such attempts and the forces have beefed up their strength accordingly’.

India signals to meet China on its terms in Arunachal Pradesh and if the article  from IndiaToday on September 18, 2020 12, is to be assuaged then it gives a lead that China through its postures of avoiding the conflict is actually buying time to secretly attack India . ‘Some Chinese strategists say the Chinese govt is either avoiding conflict, or it is secretly planning a counterattack’, it says.  This perceptible article  places it all very well as to how China has tried to intimidate India to be ‘wiped-out’ and towards which India ought to take counter measures.  Another Indian hawk and defense analyst Brahma Chellaney puts it in The Hindustan Times on September 18, 2020 13 that India needs to shake-off  its ‘hug, then repent’ policy as  now it is clear that China ‘has trashed all those agreements with its aggression. Yet India still plays into China’s hands by clinging to the accords by agreeing recently in Moscow. Why has India repeatedly cried betrayal, not by friends, but by adversaries in whom it reposed trust? Why has Indian diplomacy rushed to believe what it wanted to believe? What makes India keep repeating the cycle of bending over backward to court a foe and then failing to see aggression coming. Why does India stay at the receiving end of its foes’ machinations? Why has it never repaid China with its own “salami slicing”?’ The article postulates to Indian establishment that ‘Beijing is using talks to consolidate its territorial gains, force India to live with the new status quo’ and which India ought to dismantle on its own.

Going by the body posturing of the two warring sides it is becoming more than apparently clear that the situation between India and China has aggravated towards more.

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

References:

1-https://www.thehindu.com/news/resources/joint-press-statement-meeting-of-external-affairs-minister-s-jaishankar-with-his-chinese-counterpart-wang-yi/article32577890.ece

2-https://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1200588.shtml

3-https://www.livemint.com/news/india/three-firing-incidents-between-india-china-in-last-20-days-in-eastern-ladakh-11600251517811.html

4- https://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1201270.shtml

5- https://zeenews.india.com/india/over-40-chinese-troops-killed-in-galwan-valley-violent-clash-sources-2291138.html

6-https://twitter.com/PravinSawhney/status/1306819871179771904

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

8-https://countercurrents.org/2020/09/has-rajnath-singh-signalled-war-preparedness/

9- https://thewire.in/diplomacy/depsang-ladakh-india-china-rajnath-singh-parliament

10-https://www.jagranjosh.com/general-knowledge/what-is-mcmahon-line-1593666942-1

11- https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/india-china-border-lac-arunachal-pradesh-incursion-eastern-ladakh-1722067-2020-09-15#:~:text=Troops%20build%2Dup%20has%20been,sources%20told%20India%20Today%20TV.

12-https://www.indiatoday.in/news-analysis/story/china-avoid-conflict-secretly-
planning-counterattack-india-ladakh-standoff-1722957-2020-09-18#:~:text=Some%20Chinese%20strategists%20say%20the,is%20secretly%20
planning%20a%20counterattack.&text=Looking%20at%20the%20trend%2C%20
some,planning%20a%20counterattack%20against%20India.

13-https://www.hindustantimes.com/columns/on-china-india-is-making-a-mistake/story-QPxd0o3RJKhgzghOm7mX1I.html


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One Comment

  1. i fail to understand why we stick to some un tangible arguments about the borders. 1.Mc mahoan line was never accepted by china as border in the eastern sector and the whole world knows it, China only offered to concede it to india provided the western sector is decided in china’s favour on the base of actual control of the land. ..India rejected such a package. The china is almost constantly adhering to its claims as on 1959. Then how can we accuse them that they are freshly claiming for Arunachal pradesh. More over you write on china’s incursions.. I see that it cannot be named as incursion as there is no bilaterally agreed border. May be the same fact is echoed by Raj nath singh and Modi when they say ..no indian territory has been invaded. the stand off s occur in the areas both claim as their own. . just as we are claiming some parts and trying to establish our authority , they are also trying to to unequivocally establish their territory. This time it appears they are more stern. hence negotiated settlement has to be arrived with china
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