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The Ladakh Border with Tibet is tense where the Chinese had intruded in the Northern Bank of Pangong Tso and advanced far ahead in the plains of Depsang. The Depsang plains are strategically important for both India and China. To its west lies Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) and further north of it lies the Karakoram Pass – both held by India. Immediately to the north of the Pass is the Chinese territory of Xinjiang. To the west of the DBO lies the Siachen Glacier, held by India. To the north of Siachen Glacier lies the Shaksgam Valley – a stretch of 5200 Sq Kms given by Pakistan to China by the 1963 agreement. The latter wanted it to provide depth to Karakoram Highway, linking Kashghar to Gwadar. Notwithstanding the name of the Highway, it actually goes over the Khunjerab Pass. China, of late, has also constructed roads through Shaksgam Valley, enabling it to move troops to the north of Siachen. To the west of Siachen, lies the Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) area of POK. The triangle formed by Karakoram Pass, DBO and Siachen is a sensitive area, which is flanked by both China and Pakistan. This triangle forms the Northern flank of Ladakh and India holds this area in strength. India should not lose the western Part of Depsang Plains as it gives depth to DBO.

 

The Depsang Plains to the east of DBO are open, where limited movement of mechanised units is possible. For China, this plain is strategically important as it provides depth to its strategic Highway G-219 that links Tibet with Xinjiang. It is for this reason that China is sensitive and has advanced into the Depsang Plains. Under no circumstances China would yield this area unless we forcibly evict them by use of force. India is thus, left with limited options as to how to retrieve the situation.

 

Furthermore, coming to the Northern Bank of Pangong Tso, China has transgressed over 8 KMs from behind Finger 8 to Finger 4. After the first military discussion in June, it has gone back perfunctorily to Finger 5. It has then claimed that the status quo ante has been restored – typical tactics of moving two steps forward and one step back. However, in this case, it had moved five steps forward and one step back, thereby gaining four steps of territory with a net advance of 7 KMs into our territory. Thereafter, it announces that as per the understanding, they have restored the status quo ante. On plodding it to move back to the original place behind the Finger 8, China tells us to vacate Finger 3 and is amassing troops in front of it – possibly to attack and capture it!  So, while China bullies with blatant lies, India has to accept it meekly and then reconcile to the new status quo. That was the storyline visualised by China, prior to their current misadventure.

 

However, their script went awry with our occupation of Kailash Range from Pangong Tso to Rechin La. By occupation of the range, we have not violated the Line of Actual Control (LAC) as has been accused by China. It is within our perception of the LAC. It has no doubt bewildered China. Actually, with good intelligence, our field commanders pre-empted Chinese takeover of the Kailash Range to arbitrarily move the LAC forward. This ridge dominates the Spanggur Gap, and also dominates the Chinese Moldo base. It also gives depth to the Chushul Bowl. The claim line of India is only about 15 km to the east of our positions on Kailash Range. It is an excellent firm base in case we have to launch an offensive to reach the claim line. It will also give us a road link to connect with China’s strategic National HW G-219 that links Tibet with Xinjiang. Hence, under no circumstances, we should let go of our position on the Range. The moment we withdraw, let me assure that the PLA will dig down on the Ridge and it would be exorbitant in time and casualties to recover it from the enemy. It would involve launching Kargil-type assaults to uproot the enemy, who has fortified on the Range. All these heights range from 16,000 to 18,000 feet. Prudence dictates with an enemy like China – we should never give up these heights.  If the LAC becomes like LOC – so be it. The nation has to afford it and naïve politicians and ignorant bureaucrats have to understand the price of freedom.

 

China is quite used to treating India as a nation that pays its annual subsidy by yielding territory every year. It recalled how Manmohan Singh, in spite of his old age and weak knees, was supple enough to bend so deeply, almost striking a pose of the honoured one, when knighted by the Queen! One could debate whether his knees actually touched the ground or just short of it – these are, of course, finer points in observation. Why is Modi not paying such obeisance – not even once though he has met Xi more than 17 times in the last six years?  He does not even display any deferential gestures. After each such encounter, be it at Gandhinagar, Wuhan or Mamallapuram, he is coming out better. [From the Chinese perspective] “No, not done. He has to be taught a lesson; remember how we taught Nehru a lesson? The poor man died in less than a year and a half, after the humiliation that we wreaked on him.” I [author] can almost hear the mocking laughter of Mao and Zhou from the bowels of Tiananmen Square.

 

Now, Xi is on a warpath. He really cannot hold on to his image as a ‘core leader’ who is paramount for life. [The author attempts to read Xi Jinping’s mind] Xi recounts, “Nehru’s India trying to challenge China? Ever heard of it? Manmohan Singh, like Imran Khan, was such a great leader and he did exactly what we wanted him to do? Just look at Sonia Gandhi, a visionary in her own right! She, no doubt, took money from us for her private trust but gave 640 Sq Kms of border areas to us without a whimper. Look at her insightful son – he signed an agreement with the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) to cooperate and has affirmed that his party would always work in tandem with the CPC. The trio would never have gone against our national interests. Remember, how he came and met our Ambassador during the height of Doklam Crisis? All the three of them believed in world peace and would not waste a second to second their national interest to the glory and well-being of China. Such people are real international leaders! What a lineage! The family enabled us to annex Tibet, enfeebled their armed forces by demoralising them, ensured our victory in 1962, gave us Aksai Chin, and gradually has given us substantial border areas, thereby facilitating our creeping invasion – all this without a murmur of protests and by blatantly telling lies to its lawmakers and obfuscating their people.  We should do all in our powers to get them back at the helm in India. We will now try to work against Trump in the US elections. It will give us hands-on experience to do likewise to India in 2024. With Imran Khan in Pakistan and Rahul Gandhi in India, we will have the whole of Asia marching to the beat of our drums! Come on, Li! We will work on it.”

 

[Continuation of the author’s perceptions of Xi’s thinking] Xi continues: “However, there is a hitch; how do we solve the present border standoff with India? Trump is busy with the elections and would not take a major decision to go to war during the run up to the election. Abe, fortunately, has resigned and the new PM will take some time to grasp the situation and to oppose us meaningfully. Abe actually is an interim PM now; and he has signed a defence pact with India that would last for the next ten years. It has given an edge to India in the Western Pacific and to Japan in the Indian Ocean. The recent trilateral among India, Australia and France is also not in our interest. The Quad was always a military alliance and India was a laggard in joining the grouping wholeheartedly but now India has become an active participant. Already, a naval exercise of the four nations took place on either side of the Malacca straits. India is also hosting a Quad conference later this year. There are signs of India inviting Australia for the Malabar exercises to be held in a few months. All these developments are not in our national interest. We have managed to subdue Russia and it has still not taken a stand for its dear friend India as we have diplomatically managed it to stay neutral. If that was not enough, the Maldives has signed a Defence Cooperation Agreement with the US depriving us a very strategic inroad into the Indian Ocean. Pakistan is already our province and will support us in all contingencies as they are starting to avenge their defeat by India in several wars. With the strategic scene nebulous, it is most unlikely that any of India’s friends will actively support it during a war? Hopefully, the world is forgetting the origin of COVID-19. We have now a fair chance to launch a limited offensive on India and retake the heights on Kailash Range and then unilaterally declare a ceasefire and proclaim victory.  It will give us an opportunity to extricate from this imbroglio without loss of face, especially in view of the plenary session of the CPC, next month.”   

 

[Continuation of the author’s perceptions of Xi’s thinking] Xi further elucidates: “Both Gen Wei Fenghe and Wang Yi can swear untruths with such sincerity that they have often deceived a polygraph test. I have no doubts their Indian counterparts have been fooled right royally. All we want is for the military commanders to keep discussing and simultaneously prepare and launch surprise offensive to retake the Kailash range. We still have nearly a month to lull the Indians into complacency.”

 

[The author’s own comments] The just-concluded meeting between the two foreign ministers in Moscow on the side-lines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) was not warranted. By stating that we do not want war, we accepted the Chinese intrusion into Depsang and enabled them to consolidate their positions. The concept of LAC has not been mentioned and now we only talk of border areas. The starting sentence of the Joint Statement itself is conciliatory. It says that Jaishankar met Wang Yi. It should have been the other way as the Chinese were keener to meet than the Indians. Both sides agreed that differences should not become disputes. It is a shibboleth verbiage garbage that has been used for ages and looked like that India contributed to converting the difference into a dispute; notwithstanding, it was China that started the aggression.  Both agreed that the current situation was not in the interest of both the nations and both border troops should continue with their dialogue, disengagement, maintenance of distance and easing of tensions. 

 

Who created such a situation? Why was this not addressed by Jaishankar? First, China creates an untenable situation on the border and then when India reacts, they find themselves in a sticky situation and now they come with the proposal to de-escalate. As per the wordings of the agreement, it puts equal blame – if not all, on India for the current imbroglio. In the next clause, we say that both sides abide by the existing agreements, maintain peace and tranquillity on the border areas, and avoid actions that could escalate. If China had abided by the border agreements in the first place, such a situation would never have arisen! Now, you see how coolly Jaishankar jettisoned the LAC and accepted a new nomenclature of Border Areas! What advantage have we gained out of it? The LAC was formed in 1962, though undefined as a defeated India did not insist on its delineation on the map. Now, with their creeping invasion, they want to legitimise their illegal acquisitions. They have given it another name “Border Area” and dispensed with the mention of the LAC. So, whatever the sanctity, however, little the LAC had, has been thrown to the winds that would permit the PLA to hold on to their present acquisitions. The next two clauses are irrelevant and superfluous as it continues to stress on dialogue and confidence-building measures, behind whose façade war is waged.   

 

Who gave Jaishankar the right to sign the agreement without military advice? However, is it still better than Manmohan who owned up the responsibility for terrorism in Balochistan? Whose advice did the MEA seek before inking the one-sided agreement where we have legitimised the Chinese acquisitions and taken equal blame for the escalation of the situation to the current tempo?

 

Once again, at the cost of repetition, it does not require any investigative spying to know who started the current transgressions. Just compare the imageries of the areas as on 25 April 2020 and 10 May 2020. It is the PLA – there is no scope for any doubts as the imageries give irrefutable photographic evidence. Notwithstanding, still we swear that we will not allow the differences to become disputes. There were differences on the perception of the LAC – fine! Who then advanced and occupied the patrolling buffer zone, and escalated the difference into a dispute? Shouldn’t Jaishankar take these two imageries and confront Wang Yi and insist unequivocally that the PLA was the aggressor? No, our MEA will not do it. Does it need infinite divine wisdom to join the dots? Hence, the best option to the vexing question is to accept the blame mutually!

 

[Tailpiece] When the armed forces are making immense sacrifices and have occupied the icy heights with the high possibility of war or having to spend their winters there, the CGDA in close cooperation with the MOD has delayed the OROP due in 2019. It is believed that both are working seamlessly in making a case to scrap it altogether! Kudos to Mother India!

 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are personal.