Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA)’ China’s Dangerous Trap

Writing on the brazen Chinese intrusions into Indian Territory, it has been brought out that China considers ‘minds of the hierarchy (political and bureaucratic)’ of the adversaries as the ‘centre of gravity’. The attack by China therefore is not about only physical intrusions and stoking the insurgencies within India, but also concerted attacks in the cognitive domain, targeting the political leadership and bureaucratic hierarchy that our armchair warriors sitting smug in South and North Block cannot comprehend. If it is not naiveté of these foreign policy Mandarins then the only other explanation can be submitting to the merchants of territory in the mother of all land scams hitherto unheard of in India.

The much-hyped Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) under discussion is a masterstroke by China that will bind India in perpetuity to remain on the back foot. This is an issue of national security and sovereignty of India that needs to be debated in public, and should be taken up vigorously by the media. There is no reason why the text of the drafts is not put in the public domain before our hierarchy afflicted with cognitive attacks by the Chinaman is lured into inking such an arrangement.

But the foremost question is where is the need of such a fresh arrangement and how do you trust China which cannot get over its chronic disease of breaking agreements and promises, and having indulged in such periodic acts, brazenly denies them as breach of any agreement. The 19-kilometre deep intrusion in Despang region of Ladakh this March was such an example. Not only did China shamelessly breach the previous 2005 agreement of maintaining peace and tranquility, she displayed the audacity of saying there has been no intrusion at all. This was one time where the MEA admitted that the intrusion was actually 19 kilometres deep inside Indian Territory and more significantly that it was “far beyond even the Chinese perception of their LAC”. Yet we had the Foreign Minister describing it as a “small acme on the face” and the Home Minister putting his foot in the mouth by saying “we have no jurisdiction in the area”. Not only this, our hierarchy has tried to pass of the incident as minor, accrediting it as a local-level PLA action to cover their own infirmities, and more importantly what their actions have done to the prestige of the country and the military. Then was the unwarranted prostrating action by our hierarchy in agreeing to dismantle the structures put up by the military at Chumar as a precondition for the Chinese intruders to uproot their tents from Despang and withdraw. But then we had this incident of Chinese again intruding into Chumar, threatening the locals to vacate and smashing the high resolution cameras put up there, parts of which were ostensibly returned on 3rd July during a flag meeting.

Again, the Chinese have issued a statement that their activities at Chumar was no intrusion. Understandably with the media furore, the political hierarchy made a statement through the army that this was a ‘minor’ incident, which is hardly surprising. If a 19-kilometre deep intrusion is a “small acme on the face” then Chumar is not worth talking about at all. But the question that does not appear to rankle the hierarchy, at the cost of repetition, is what about the prestige of the nation and the military? And, what about thumping tables
in Parliament that J&K is integral part of India?

So, where is the need for this so-called BDCA when China has historically broken all earlier agreements by overrunning Tibet, Aksai Chin, declaration by Zhou-en-Lai during his 1962 visit to India that China will not attack India, breach of 2005 agreement to maintain peace and tranquility through intrusions in Despang and Chumar, and brazenness of denial indicating many more will follow? China’s future course of action should be amply clear; keep India busy with fresh agreements keep breaking them and keep denying forcefully they ever breached any—symptoms of a habitual rogue liar.

But why is China pushing the BDCA down the throat of our gullible hierarchy? It is actually very simple to visualise. China has developed border infrastructure so intricately that its roads and tracks even in high mountainous regions look like fingers running down your spine. In some cases the roads are intruding into Indian Territory that our hierarchy is petrified to admit and should any report crop up, it is immediately blacked out, as happened in the case of recent reports of a five-kilometre road having been built by China into Indian Territory. China is using this communication infrastructure not only to maintain own troops but also to shower largesse (rations, kerosene, money) on the sparse population on the Indian side, who ironically are grossly ignored by our administration. Chinese are doing so for intimidation (as relevant), perception management, smuggling and developing contacts for infiltration and special operations. Indications of this have been available in Ladakh, East Sikkim and Arunachal but our system remains paralysed. Conversely, communication in our border areas continues to be in atrocious state because of lack of strategic sense, no operational priorities laid down by MoD, intransigence to roadblocks by states and ministries concerned and all-prevalent corruption.

On balance, why China is obviously pushing the BDCA is to ‘freeze’ the current situation. We will be denied patrolling even to our version of the LAC and total ban on developing communications in forward areas. Some analysts are saying that this would give China the upper hand while negotiating the border finally. But not only is that distant, it only half the story. The danger is that the Chinese python will gobble more of our territory without compunction, brazenly declare it is Chinese territory and our response will continue to be lethargic in absence of communications to mobilise speedily, even if the polity musters to courage to react in the first place. Moreover, China will coax or intimidate our border population with impunity and even indulge in mixing of blood as she has done in Myanmar.

The Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and the Special Representative need to take the above into account. China should be told there is no need for a BDCA when China is blatantly defying previous agreements. Signing blindly on a BCDA that restricts patrolling of our forces from patrolling up to our perception of the LAC and more importantly development of border communications will amount to treason against the country’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and the people of India. Let not vote-bank politics and the façade to show a border settlement before the next elections outweigh these critical essentials. Swami Vivekananda had said, “We are responsible for what we are, and whatever we wish ourselves to be, we have the power to make ourselves. If what we are now has been the result of our own past actions, it certainly follows that whatever we wish to be in future can be produced by our present actions; so we have to know how to act.” You cannot afford to undermine the India.

(Indian Defence Review)

By Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

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