On Monday, India and China completed six rounds of border talks. Predictably, like the five earlier, it did not yield results. The Chinese are clear that they will not vacate Indian territory which they usurped in April-May 2020. The common ground in the sixth round of talks, that lasted 14 hours, was that the two sides agreed to hold two more rounds of talks.
The sixth round of talks were different from the earlier ones because the two teams had military and diplomatic officials. Over the last few months, Indian politicians at the highest levels have expressed the desire to talk and eliminate the war cries. However, the Chinese have not shown any such inclination despite being the aggravators. All through the time that China was talking 'disengagement and de-escalation' with a hopeful India, it kept pumping in more troops and more weapons on the border.
Col Anil Bhat (retd), who has served in the infantry and the armored corps, says: "Talking to the Chinese is a tedious process. We held heads of state level talks between Modi and Xi in Sabarmati and Delhi, Beijing and Wuhan, and last year in Mamallapuram. Earlier, from 1993 there were five rounds of "peace and tranquility talks" and also innumerable talks between field commanders for over 50 years. Nothing was achieved through those talks except that the PLA intruded on an almost daily basis. Also, it was very smart to insist on “no force or firing” at each other. The Chinese Communist Party-PLA combo has been adept at lying, deception, propaganda and projecting power with its numbers of troops and arsenal."<img class="wp-image-14730 size-full" src="https://indianarrative.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/RajnathIAF.jpg" alt="" width="1000" height="471" /> Defence Minister Rajnath Singh urges IAF to be ready for any eventuality on China border (Photo: Sumit Kumar Singh/IANS)
China watchers and experts know that India has to bide its time with China. The best way to see results is to play the talking and waiting game. Though the sixth round of talks did not result in any affirmative outcome, as was expected, the talks had the ‘five-point agenda’, firmed up between External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Moscow, as their base. The Defence Ministers of the two countries too had met around the same time to discuss diffusing border tensions, with no results of course.
Col Bhat, who has also served as spokesperson for the Indian Army, adds that the Chinese are feeling frustrated after the August 30 incident in which the Indian Army took over some commanding heights on the south bank of Pangong Tso. "What we did is unprecedented in seven decades. Our soldiers advised the Chinese not to approach the positions. The Chinese have seen our bravery in Galwan Valley and our assertiveness now. They are most annoyed," he says.
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Making light of the Chinese men and machines lined up in Ladakh, Col Bhat says: "The Chinese might have displayed a great array of weapons on the border but they have never used them for decades except in parades and exercises."
This lack of experience in actual combat haunts the Chinese.
The intrusion into Indian territory happened in April 2020 at Pangong Tso lake, which was detected soon after, resulting in the stand-off and subsequent talks since May 2020. Emboldened by capturing territory at the lake, the Chinese launched a barbaric kind of assault on Indian troops on June 15 which resulted in the death of 20 Indian Army personnel at Galwan. “In Indian Army's quick response assault, they lost many more men than ours and they were howling with fear," says Col Bhat.
He recites another incident, which has faded from Indian memory, which the Chinese do not talk about because it does not suit them. “In 1967, they lost 400 soldiers, 25 vehicles and hundreds of bunkers in Sikkim. After that they said, 'let us not fire at each other. Let us resolve our discussions through talks.' They may not have fired a bullet in 53 years since the skirmishes of 1967, except once in 1975, when they killed four Assam Rifles troops at Tulung La, but now on June 15, 2020, they broke every agreement signed till date,” adds Col Bhat.
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For India the writing is on the wall. It has to realize that it is at an advantage after the August 30 capture of high ground. Delhi should tell Beijing firmly that it has to withdraw to the April 2020 positions as the PLA does not hold the same advantage which it enjoyed earlier. For a change, Indian troops are in an advantageous position on the border and the country has better bargaining cards.
Even as Delhi indulges in Beijing's penchant for talks, it has to act on ground as well. Col Bhat warns: “We should capture more heights. We should also remember what was the India-Tibet border once is now the India-China border and the Chinese are trying to change even this border."
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The Chinese will play serious games on the border and indulge in deceptive diplomacy, even as tens of thousands of battle-hardened, prepared-for-war Indian troops face the aggressive Chinese on the border and inside Indian territory.
For India, history has been a good teacher, but the point is—will India be a good student? This is time for India to pay attention to lessons and understand the Chinese mind. It is time that India calls the Chinese bluff and plays the game patiently—in diplomacy and in military manoeuvres. Currently we hold advantage in both..