Off late, India has been vehemently asserting that Aksai China and Pak-controlled-Kashmir are Indian territories. Experts claim that Home Minister Amit Shah’s statement in the parliament last year declaring Aksai Chin as an integral and inseparable part of Jammu and Kashmir irked China more than ever.
According to China Expert – M. Taylor Fravel, India’s decision to make Ladakh a Union Territory and gain direct control over Aksai Chin had a “strong impact” on how Beijing viewed India’s resolve in the dispute and may have culminated in the Ladakh stand-off.
Last year in August, a constitutional amendment was passed which removed the special autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir and divided the state into two union territories, directly governed by the Central government.
During the parliament session, Amit Shah said that “whenever I talk about Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Aksai Chin come under it and I can die for it”. This was in response to an opposition leader who said that the government hasn’t thought about PoK and has violated “all rules and converted a state into a Union Territory overnight”.
Fravel, the Arthur and Ruth Sloan Professor of Political Science and Director of Security Studies Program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in an interview with The Print, said that although the claim made by Amit Shah on Aksai Chin was not new, however, the subsequent moves taken by India by publishing a new political map had upset Beijing.
He also said that China never planned the border clash that took place on June 15 resulting in 20 Indian casualties and an unknown number on the Chinese side.
“I don’t think the (15 June) clash (in Galwan Valley) is something that China sought because if one looks at Chinese diplomacy today, they are much clearly trying to put the genie back to the bottle, restore China-India relations to a place they were before the clash … China hasn’t released its own casualty numbers and so forth,” he said.
However, Fravel believes that what happened this time was unprecedented in terms of “scope, scale and posture” of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
“In at least three locations, and now probably more — including the Depsang plain — China has moved up in what it views to be the LAC (Line of Actual Control). This is unprecedented that China moves in these disputed areas simultaneously with a large number of forces,” he added.
The author predicted that such kinds of India-China standoff are bound to increase in the future due to the disputed LAC.
“So it will easily have a spiralling effect, gradually increasing tensions on the border or to a much higher level of tensions that we’ve seen in the past. I suspect India will want to prevent any of the recurrences of Chinese incursions in the future. India too will reconsider how to deploy forces in the border. China will, of course, respond to those. So I think, incidents on the border will certainly increase in the months and years to come,” he added.
Since 1993, India and China have signed five comprehensive agreements to maintain peace at the LAC. “These agreements didn’t really anticipate in which way the border would change in the following 25-30 years.
So I think the time is right for the two countries to try to consider hammering out a new agreement that would take into account that they can patrol much more easily all the way up to the LAC,” he said.
He concluded by saying that China’s “willingness to assert itself” has increased under the eight-year rule of President Xi Jinping. China’s foreign policy will reveal itself in the next six months as there is increased pressure on Beijing with allegations of mishandling of the Covid-19. “Next six months will tell us a lot about the future of the Chinese foreign policy under Xi Jinping,” he said.