If the Line of Actual Control isn’t delineated soon, it will remain vulnerable to face-offs and India and China may end up deploying more troops there, just like it is on the LoC with Pakistan, said Gen (retd) V P Malik who was Chief of Army staff when the Kargil intrusion took place in 1999. Gen Malik, who led the Army in the successful eviction of Pak troops, said, in an interview to The Indian Express, that an aggressive China, besides nibbling at Ladakh, could also attempt to take control of Karakoram Pass and the area between it and Shaksgam Valley ceded to it by Pakistan. Excerpts:
Do you think the Chinese posturing along LAC is linked to the action on Article 370, creation of Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh, as also India’s current dispute with Nepal?
When India abrogated Article 370 and created Union Territories of J & K and Ladakh, China called it “unacceptable.” Development of infrastructure along the Northern border, including the road from Pithoragarh to Lipulekh Pass, indicates India’s strategic intent to provide greater security to its territories. These activities by India close to LAC/India-China border could be part of the reasons for the current aggressive posturing. Another reason could be Xi Jinping’s ‘China Dream’ losing credibility within and outside China post-Covid and his need to divert attention.
Infrastructure development in Eastern Ladakh has gained pace…Wouldn’t it have been strategically prudent to factor in the Chinese response?
PLA violations of LAC in Galwan Valley and north of Pangong Tso are at the tactical level. With long gaps existing between posts held by our troops and inability to keep every bit of area under 24/7 surveillance, such tactical intrusions are always possible. Our troops, if ordered, can also do that.
However, when these intrusions are viewed along with other recent incident at Naku La and Chinese strategic behaviour vis a vis India and nexus with Pakistan, these tactical incidents need to be viewed strategically.
Have the Chinese troops occupied Indian Territory in Ladakh?
Any intrusion across the LAC and then trying to defend the area involved would be “‘occupation.” My impression is that north of Pangong Tso, PLA troops have occupied “disputed area” between Finger 4 and 8 where both sides were patrolling till recently. In Galwan valley, they have taken up positions along the track from Shyok River to the LAC thus denying our patrols the ability to move up to the LAC.
What strategic implications does an aggressive Chinese posture in Eastern Ladakh have vis-a-vis any potential advantage that accrues to Pakistan?
An aggressive China, besides nibbling at Ladakh territory, could attempt to take control of Karakoram Pass and the area between Karakoram Pass and Shaksgam Valley ceded to it by Pakistan. That would (a) ensure greater security to Aksai Chin already under its occupation (b) link western Tibet with Shaksgam Valley, and (c) make Siachen Glacier vulnerable to Pakistan-China nexus.
Some argue that the ambiguity about the LAC is responsible for the present situation.
Three decades of talks, including 22 sessions at the level of Special Representatives, have not succeeded in making China agree to the delineation of LAC on maps pending final boundary solution.
There is not even an agreed perception of “disputed areas.” Until the LAC and disputed areas are delineated, we shall continue to see accidental or deliberate face-offs…Since 1993, India and China have signed five agreements and protocols on military-level confidence-building measures along the LAC. But the alarming number of recent incidents indicates that the mechanisms are no longer effective. If the LAC and “disputed areas” are not delineated soon, India and China may end up deploying much larger forces along the LAC — like what we have on the LoC with Pakistan.
Do you anticipate the Chinese will give up whatever advantage they may have seized along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh?
Resolution of this military engagement can only be return to status quo, pre- May 2020.
Do you see heightened hostility in the event of the talks breaking down…
As per reports, India and China are working to resolve the issue. Neither side seems interested in escalating the situation.