Ominous Clouds On The Himalayan Border
General VP Malik, former Army Chief in a recent seminar expressed his apprehensions that China in future might forcibly occupy some of Indian territories in Ladhakh as well as Arunachal Pradesh and advised New Delhi to remain vigilant from the dragon’s evil designs.
There is no denying that the People’s Republic of China, having militarily occupied the Tibetan homeland across the Himalayan range is strategically in a much advantageous position vis-à-vis India, especially in the eventuality of border intrusions by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) turning into an armed conflict. A modernized and lethally armed PLA not only poses a definite security threat to the Indian heartland but also is well poised to overrun Indian border posts in a surprise offensive action in a repeat of 1962 attack.
It is difficult to comprehend why nearly 800 intrusions into the Indian Territory by PLA troops have taken place during the last two years. Strangely, New Delhi has done sweet nothing except express muted diplomatic murmurs on such brazen aggressive incursions which have taken place as deep as 7 kms into the India. New Delhi’s meek response has added an element of belligerence in Chinese approach to solution of long-pending border issue.
In the borders talks intermittently conducted by the designated senior officials in the span of last two decades, China has surprisingly yielded nothing to India so far. During the latest meeting between the Indian special interlocutor Shivshankar Menon and his Chinese counterpart Dai Bingguo, India and China have merely exchanged written frameworks for the settlement of the border dispute. If one goes by past precedents, such exchange of documents to facilitate ultimate drawing of boundary line on the Himalayan front is not likely produce any tangible result since border talks have been a ruse for Beijing to strengthen its iron grip on Tibet.
In 2009 when Indian army had decided to raise two additional divisions comprising nearly 60,000 troops for deployment in high mountainous terrain of Arunachal Pradesh to thwart the likely armed confrontation from the aggressive PLA frontline units from across the McMohan Line, Beijing considered it an unfriendly move and cautioned that India’s current course could only lead to a rivalry between the two countries. An editorial in the Global Times carried a tough warning, “India needs to consider whether or not it can afford the consequences of a potential confrontation with China.”
The newspaper, known for its hard line views, also countered Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement asserting Indian government’s intention not to make any concession to China on territorial disputes. In another editorial titled ‘India’s Unwise Military Moves’, it wrote that the ‘tough posture Singh’s new government has taken may win some applause among India’s domestic nationalists. But it is dangerous if it is based on a false anticipation that China will cave in.’ An expert in military affairs Dai Xun commented that India’s military moves could cast a shadow over bilateral relations, destroying the mutual trust between neighboring countries. On the other hand, Ming Pao, a Hongkong based newspaper, suggested that the present time was not favourable for China to resolve boundary issue with India. Moreover, Chinese military expert Long Tao commented that though the two parties want to focus on developing bilateral ties, China won’t sacrifice its sovereignty in exchange for friendship. He has cautioned India not to have any illusions with regards to border issue.
Is China building the public opinion for a possible military confrontation with India? An online poll conducted by huanqiu.com two years back showed that 90 per cent of the Chinese participants believed India posed a big threat to their country after New Delhi announced it would raise two new divisions for deployment on the northeastern border with China. About 74 per cent people believed China should not maintain the friendly relations with India anymore after its military provocation.
In this context, it is worth noting that China’s nearly 2.5 million strong military’s combat capabilities have grown manifold, giving it a larger say in foreign and defence policies. Military commanders make up about 18 per cent of the Central Committee and also enjoy disproportionately large representation in bodies such as the National People’s Congress and hence exert greater influence over decision-making. Since India is viewed as a rising economic and military power capable of challenging China’s dominance in the international affairs, the powerful military is possibly dragging the government into a more confrontational stance with India while the politicians outwardly display a friendly stance in view of growing trade relations between the two Asian giants.
James Clapper, director national intelligence in the US has stated that Beijing may take actions contrary to its repeated commitment to peaceful coexistence with neighbours, if it perceives that China’s sovereignty or national security is seriously being challenged. PRC is also chary of India getting closer to the US on global strategic matters. A recent headline in the Global Times-Nervous India contemplates shelter under extended wing of eager US indicates Beijing’s initiation of psychological war against India. Hence enhancement of defence spending by New Delhi for the next fiscal year by 17 per cent needed for reinforcement of troops and procurement of combat hardware on our northern mountainous borders is fully justified. In order to thwart China’s evil designs in the Himalayas, defence budget for 2012-13 totaling a little less than Rs 200,000 crore should be handy for belatedly woken up New Delhi to beef up armed forces’ deployment in Arunachal Pradesh, arrogantly dubbed by Chinese as Southern Tibet.
By NK Pant