Why China’s Belligerent ‘Five Finger’ Strategy Is A ‘Herculean Challenge’ For India & Its Army?

As the China-India face-off intensified after the June 15, 2020 clash, India lost 20 of its soldiers fighting the heavily armed Chinese. When India approached the US for help it looked the other way, and throughout this period of political wrangling post the Ladakh incident, all Donald Trump offered the country was ‘mediation’.

Satellite Image Reveals How China Is Expanding Its Key Airbase, Just 160 KM From Arunachal Border

Trump’s third such offer came on September 25 when he almost forced India to finally succumb to the US demands of signing the BECA agreement with it by the end of October 2020. On the other hand, China engaged officially in roundtable talks with India and slowly and steadily built its military infrastructure, not only in Ladakh but alongside Arunachal Pradesh (AP) too, which China calls its ‘South Tibet’.

Notwithstanding the peace talks, China’s belligerence continues, and it unabashedly continues to build more infrastructure on the border with India. Once again it has come to light, from a report on NDTV on December 6, that ‘China has constructed at least 3 villages, approximately 5 km from the Bum La pass which lies close to the tri-junction between India, China, and Bhutan in western Arunachal Pradesh.’

Indian Army & Peoples’ Liberation Army during a meeting at Bumla Pass in Tawang (File photo, sourced from Indian Army)

It is a well-known fact that Beijing disputes the boundary with India in this region and the new constructions here could be a significant step towards reinforcing its territorial claims along the Arunachal Pradesh frontier.

According to Indian defense expert Brahma Chellaney, “China has been using a strategy of settling Han Chinese and Tibetan members of the Communist Party along the India border to strengthen its territorial claims and escalate border intrusions. Like it used fishermen in the South China Sea, China uses civilian resources – herders and grazers – as the tip of the spear to intrude into Indian-patrolled Himalayan areas.”

Only a week ago, high-resolution satellite images showed, what it appeared to be another Chinese misadventure, in the Bhutanese territory where it is also building villages, which is just 7 km from the Doklam face-off site between Indian and Chinese forces in 2017. Indian and Chinese troops confronted each other face-to-face for 70 days in Doklam until the face-off ended.

The visuals released by NDTV are a stark reality that shows Chinese village/enclave construction between February 2020 and November 2020. The villages lie within the Chinese territory and were being constructed at the same time when Indian and Chinese soldiers faced off in Eastern Ladakh.

This shows that all this time when the farce of ‘roundtable talks’ was conducted, the Chinese were busy building enclaves with red roofs, and thereby trying to populate the place with its citizens with the sole purpose to change its demography.

The images sourced by the NDTV from Planet Labs, show a village having been constructed in the area by February 17, 2020. More than 20 structures, thought to be chalets, easily distinguishable through their red roofs., could be seen in those visuals. The constructions appear to be well-connected with tarred, all-weather roads. The new houses have water, electricity and internet access.

It may be mentioned here that China disputes the legal status of the boundary with India in Arunachal Pradesh, with its maps continuing to show 65,000 sq km of territory south of the line as being a part of Beijing’s South Tibet Region. India has constantly rejected China’s claim for many years, saying the historic McMohan line proposed by the British administrator Sir Henry McMohan at the 1914 Simla Convention defines the boundary here.

It would be naïve to assume that China’s intentions are limited to ensuing only demographic change, in fact, the country is eyeing India’s Siliguri Corridor, or rather the ‘Chicken Neck’ corridor, a narrow stretch of 22 km in width, through which it aims to target India’s Northeast.

Obviously, the people chosen to populate these villages will mainly be Chinese soldiers, then there is this diabolical fear that China could engineer flash-floods in Arunachal Pradesh too, or even, through its extremely advanced technology of the weather-modification system, it can bring incessant rainfall and create artificial events like electronic thunder.

Does it not warrant the attention that China had in the first week of September 2020 abducted five Indians from inside Arunachal Pradesh and released them after ‘questioning’?

China’s ambitions go beyond just Arunachal to Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. It has made clear that if India goes ahead with playing the Taiwan-card, then China would play the Khalistan card. Every now and then China is caught patrolling ‘close to’ Ladakh with J-11 fighter jets towards which India is keeping a close eye.

India is also arming itself with Rafale fighter jets to meet the two-front security challenges, not only from China but from Pakistan too. China seems to be surging ahead towards a dream state, which its founder Mao Zedong had called the ‘Five-Fingers of Tibet’ – the basis of China’s foreign policy – which envisions Tibet to be the right hand of Mao with its five fingers as Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, and Arunachal Pradesh. Certainly, India has a herculean task ahead.

The writer is a former State Information Commissioner, India. He is a media analyst and writes on international politics.