Amid rising tensions between India and China over the border dispute, the most pertinent question right now is if this is going to be a repeat of 1962 India-China war? Experts explain the border standoff and the way forward.
According to latest news reports, India and China are talking to each other at military and diplomatic levels to settle the border dispute, Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said. His statement is the first from a topmost minister on the border dispute with China.
Rajnath Singh told an Indian news channel that both nations had made it clear that they wanted to resolve the problem. Singh also emphasised that there was no need for the US to meditate since the two countries already had a mechanism to resolve border disputes and it had been set in motion.
According to Lt Gen (Dr) Prakash Menon, who is a former military adviser in the National Security Council Secretariat, 1962-type wars now linger only in military imagination and tend to get confined largely to the dustbin of history.
“In reality, due to the shadow of nuclear weapons, the remote possibility of such ‘big fights’ tenant the deterrence space that keeps militaries armed with the state-of-the-art weapons system,” he said.
As earlier reported by the EurAsian Times, Chinese soldiers intensified control measures in the Galwan valley of Aksai Chin, a region controlled by China and claimed by India. The recent border conflicts involved the two sides clashing in an ‘arm-less’ scuffle at the Naku La pass in North Sikkim, injuring soldiers from both the sides.
The Chinese military helicopters were later seen flying close to the LAC. India also dispatched its troops along the volatile border after reports of China pitching tents and stationing soldiers near river Galwan, which was the flashpoint between Indi and China in 1962.
The confrontation in Galwan River valley, Pangong Tso, and Naku La in north Sikkim are sought to be justified as a defensive move by China due to India’s alleged aggressive acts.
As per the 1993 Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), “When necessary, the two sides shall jointly check and determine the segments of the (LAC) where they have different views as to its alignment”. However, the LAC is still disputed and thus the tensions around it keep flaring up.
In 2017, during the Doklam dispute, even though the disputed territory was between China and Bhutan, India was a party to the dispute because of the tri-junction area and friendly relations with its ally, Bhutan.
“The dispute resolution through an agreement that was restricted only to the stand-off site has emboldened China to occupy the rest of the disputed Doklam plateau with military assets, including the creation of permanent roads and military structures,” wrote Menon.
He blames the Modi government to call it a “victory” over the Doklam region however China managed to construct permanent roads and military structures around Doklam plateau except for the particular disputed region where the status quo is maintained.
This time China has been calling India the “aggressor” and is justifying its military fortifications as a defence against India’s aggression. “It is apparent that China has taken territorial interests in Ladakh, and did so with the claim that it was necessary because India was the aggressor here. Their modus operandi is now familiar. Territorial conquest short of war is evident,” observed Menon.
The ongoing war of words between the US and China over mishandling of the coronavirus and now the imposition of a new security law on Hong Kong has led to China being threatened about the US’s influence on India.
“Although a handful of Indian media outlets and social organizations echo the Trump administration’s views, the Indian government should keep a sober head to not be used as cannon ash by the US,” said Long Xingchun, who is a senior research fellow of Academy of Regional and Global Governance, Beijing Foreign Studies University, in a Global Times article.
Menon concludes by saying that China has crossed India’s Lakshman Rekha (border) because Beijing’s “moves are synonymous to military occupation, though its scale is limited”. “China is trying to influence India’s decision-making in the context of the US-China geopolitical competition. It’s assumption springs from its experience in Doklam that India can be pressured,” he added.