As India and China are working to resolve the current border standoff along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), experts have questioned why conflicts at the LOC between India and Pakistan are handled differently than the ones at the LAC?
The India-China border dispute has been intensified in the last few weeks. Tensions have been flaring up with frequent skirmishes between soldiers of both the nuclear-armed nations. This led to a fierce military standoff resulting in the deployment of a large number of troops and heavy artillery being moved at the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Now, both India and China are engaging in a diplomatic dialogue with the objective of restoring the status quo at the Indo-Sino border.
Meanwhile, it has become a common sight at the Line of Control (LOC) to see arch-rivals, India and Pakistan contending actively with firing at each other. Experts have questioned why India’s response to China along the LAC is strikingly opposite to the Indian response to Pakistan along the LOC?
According to Former Indian Army Chief General Bikram Singh, in the case of China, the PMO and the Ministry of Defense decide the variability of response because of the possibility of an increased confrontation.
We need to be very cautious about what we do and what we have the ability to do. We know that there are many areas where you can answer the Chinese in a language they understand. If we take any step, then we should also think about its far-reaching consequences, told General Singh reportedly told BBC.
Talking to BBC about the Indian army’s response to tensions on the border with Pakistan, General Singh said that the attitude of the army is completely different. “Firing is common here. When it comes to any major action like Balakot, then the army has to take approval from the government, otherwise, the army decides the action itself here. But the matter with China is more delicate,” he stated.
India’s Unwillingness or Inability?
Many experts have pointed out that China’s mischief and adventurism on the LAC are countered by the Indian troops either shows reluctance to act or its inability. However, General Singh said that it depends on what India wants.
“If China does not call back its troops and months pass, then we will need a big decision. Maybe we have to answer in the same language. But our initial step cannot be on the lines of ‘Jaise Ko Taise’ (Tit for Tat),” he said. “If we want to do this also, we will need infrastructure. We will meet this need soon but we have not been able to reach that position yet,” he added.
According to Singh, China is far ahead of in terms of infrastructure along the border. “Until a few years ago, China could gather 22 divisions of its army in a very short time. As of today, it can amass 32 divisions.
There are up to 10 thousand soldiers in a division. They can take immediate positions. We also need to match them. We have completed 75% of the required infrastructure and the rest also needs to be done soon,” he explains.
The root cause of all conflicts is the unresolved boundary dispute. Such clashes will continue to happen in the future without resolving the border dispute, he said. Singh also praised the work that the Indian army is doing at the LAC and explained that LAC is different from LOC since there’s a lot of “open area” there.
India and China have signed various peace treaties to resolve its border tensions over the years but experts opine that that border tensions keep flaring up due to the contentious LAC. China’s version of the line is very different from India’s.
“The Border Security Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) was signed in 2013. Everything from 1993 till then was included. I have seen on the ground that this agreement has been effective,” said General Singh. He added that although China agreed to many things, they did not execute them. “China had to make a hotline on its side but did not. There are many other things like this. If this agreement is fully implemented then it will be more effective,” he stated.
Media Coverage: LOC vs LAC
It is common to see the dissemination of information to the press through official sources of the Indian army on conflicts like occurrences of ceasefire violations by Pakistan on the LOC while there’s hardly any information received officially when there are tensions on the Indo-Sino border.
General Singh explained how such a precaution is necessary. “When I was the army chief, a stalemate was born in Depsang. Its coverage in the media was very exaggerated. There was a race to increase TRP.
On the other hand, Chinese officials complained that the coverage of Indian media is provoking and this will worsen the situation. He said that when both the parties are busy solving things, then why is a mole of a mountain being made in the media?”, he added.
While there is no doubt that the state-controlled Chinese media has inflammatory coverage, he concluded saying that the information is shared according to the need so that there’s no confusion at the top level.