English News


Reading tea leaves wrongly: China underestimates India on border

Reading tea leaves wrongly: China underestimates India on border

Reports from the Pangong Tso Lake area indicate that in the numerous intrusions by Chinese troops on the night of August 29 and over the next couple of days, they were effectively rebuffed by the Indian Army. Not only this, reports confirm that Indian soldiers have taken over positions that dominate Chinese troops in the Pangong Tso Lake area.

Even as the Brigade Commanders of the two countries were holding talks on August 31, the Chinese Army made another attempt at unilaterally changing the Line of Actual Control (LAC) by intruding once again. This attempt too was foiled.

Resorting to strong words, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) yesterday asked Beijing to "discipline and control" its troops. Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said: "Yesterday, on 31st August, even as the ground commanders of the two sides were in discussions to de-escalate the situation, the Chinese troops again engaged in provocative action. Due to the timely defensive action, the Indian side was able to prevent these attempts to unilaterally alter the status quo.”

<img class="wp-image-10463 size-large" src="https://indianarrative.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Chief-of-Defence-Staff-General-Bipin-Rawat-1024×770.jpg" alt="If talks fail with China, then military options on table: Gen Bipin Rawat" width="525" height="395" /> General Bipin Rawat had warned China just last week (IANS)

Barely a week back, the Indian Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS), General Bipin Rawat, had said that India has military options to deal with China over the incursions in Ladakh. He had told news agency ANI: "The military option to deal with transgressions by the Chinese Army in Ladakh is on, but it will be exercised only if talks at the military and the diplomatic level fail."

Is there a frustration creeping in Indian minds that is leading to terse statements by the civilian and military leadership? The CDS statement was a clear warning to China not to play games. Even the MEA statement on September 1, was meant to caution China on keeping its troops on its side of the LAC. Is India developing a more robust strategy regarding China, including military options?

Dr. Jabin T. Jacob, associate professor, Department of International Relations and Governance Studies, Shiv Nadar University, says: "Former generals are on record that the Indian Army was not without options and that it could also grab an area where it would be in a position to dominate the Chinese, or look into Chinese-held territory. This was always on the cards; the question was whether India would do it."

He adds caution with this strategy: "There is a good reason for hesitation on India's military option because once you start down this path, there is no turning back."

<img class="wp-image-5727 size-large" src="https://indianarrative.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Rajnath-1024×768.jpg" alt="" width="525" height="394" /> Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on his recent visit to Ladakh (IANS)

While indulging New Delhi with talks, Beijing boosted soldier numbers, built infrastructure along the LAC and brought in additional troops. India, on the other hand, while maintaining a high state of alert on the border and beefing up its forces, has opened up talks—diplomatic, military and also at the level of Special Representatives, with its northern neighbor.

However, a sense of frustration is setting in as the talks have not yield any positive results. The Chinese Army has not moved back either from Indian territory that it occupied or from the LAC despite many rounds of talks.

"The Indian side seems to have decided further talks to restore status quo ante were pointless since the Chinese were obviously negotiating in bad faith. I feel this is going to be a new normal in which both sides will increasingly come into physical conflict and that casualties should also be expected," Jacob adds.

This also raises another question. With the Indian forces on alert, did the Chinese underestimate the Indians before they launched the incursions in August? Should they not have expected retaliation from Indian forces considering that even at the Galwan Valley incident, the attacking Chinese lost more men than India?

<img class="wp-image-11066 size-large" src="https://indianarrative.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Chinese-Troop-1024×614.jpeg" alt="China threatens military mission against Taiwan" width="525" height="315" /> China threatens military action against Taiwan and most other neighbors (IANS)

Dr Jacob says that China’s actions are in line with the thinking the communist country holds for India—whether it sees India as acting assertively of its own volition, or they think the Indians are acting in connivance with the US.

"If they think it is the former, there might be an opportunity for things to still remain under control. If it is the latter, the Chinese might feel they are being wronged and they may decide to react strongly to the Indian action. My sense is that the Chinese sense of victimhood is strong and that sooner or later, they will feel it is the latter, and feel compelled to portray the situation as some sort of a conflict between China and the US and not as one between China and India."

With an aggressive neighbor in a permanent state of unease and showing no hesitation in attacking and intruding into Indian territory, India is coming to terms with the situation. Even as diplomatic channels work non-stop to give peace a chance, India has bolstered its entire China border with additional troops. Keeping Chinese unpredictability in mind and also the communist country's liberal will to use its military might, India is keeping all options open to confront China and keep its troops on their side of the LAC.

The 3,488 km border, most of it in pristine Himalayas, is under boots with men in their fighting machines, tanks, surveillance mechanisms and missiles. Just because a dictator for life runs a country that thinks of itself as a victim after unleashing a global virus that claimed 848,000 deaths and sent 25.3 million to the hospital, the world's most populous region remains on tenterhooks..