China's sensitive movements

One hopes that deliberations will be held during Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's trip to New Delhi.

War-mongering is definitely not good diplomacy. So we must be happy that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops camping in Depsang Valley in the Western Sector of the Sino-Indian border pulled out without, possibly, not a shot being fired. Contrary to India’s perception of making minor territorial adjustments to define a common boundary, China seems to persist in its claim in Arunachal Pradesh, including Tawang in particular.

 Our bland diplomacy may indicate that concession of a few square kilometres to China or Pakistan is negligible, to maintain status quo. Take the instance of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK) part of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. Way back in 1963 Pakistan ceded to China the Trans Karakoram Tract, comprising Shaksgam from Baltistan and Raskam from Gilgit, which is as good as lost to us.

Our military establishment knows that the recent incursion is just one among quite a few such incidents happening since the 1980s. According to former ambassador to China, P Stobdan –– a distinguished academician, diplomat, author and national security expert— more than 400 sq km of prime pasture land has been conceded by India to the aggressive neighbour in Ladakh region only, while the ulterior aim of China is to push India to the west of the Indus river. Stobdan says that from 1980s till 2008, India lost 45x9 sq km of land in Ladakh to China. Areas within India’s patrolling ambit in the 1980s effectively are now out of bounds today. According to Stobdan, the External Affairs ministry (MEA) and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) are well aware of “the slow and steady land grab” by China.  Considerable trading Perhaps our concerned establishments are aware that for the Pakistani ‘munificence’ in 1963, China promised to assist Pakistan in building the Karakoram Highway as a payoff offering considerable trading opportunities for both countries and serving as a route to transfer arms and ammunition –– not to speak of fissile nuclear and missile material –– from China to Pakistan. China made substantial investments in POK, especially after the earthquake of 2005 and offering $300 million for development projects in Muzaffarabad, Rawalkot and Bagh early in 2009. 

China has indulged in mindless acts of provocation by deliberately violating status quo in mobilising infrastructure in disputed areas, while it is loath to see India in doing even a modicum of that in territories it considers ‘disputed.’ China is long developing infrastructure projects including Qinghai-Tibet railway line with proposed extension upto Xigaze and Nyingchi and development of road and airport facilities, in the border regions opposite India in Tibet and Xinjiang Autonomous Regions. Compared with China’s rapid expansion and modernisation of transport infrastructure across the border, India’s response has been sluggish and woefully tentative.

In contrast to China bulldozing India’s sensitivities (its unilateral decision to build a dam on the Brahmaputra) remember China strongly objecting to Country Partnership Strategy for India (2009-2012) adopted by Asia Development Bank (ADB), involving ‘disputed’ areas between China and India, notably including Arunachal Pradesh which, according to a commentator of the People’s Daily an area which India regards as its 24th state, but actually much of it being part of China’s Tibet Autonomous Region.

As we are getting to read reports about the ‘terms’ of the Chinese pullout, we hear that Chinese incursion in the Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) sector of eastern Ladakh was aimed at pressuring India into agreeing to some of its demands –– that India dismantle its bunkers and other infrastructure, such as sophisticated surveillance equipment and posts and also freeze some of the constructions –– in the sensitive Chumar sector of south-eastern Ladakh that China regards as part of its territory. We are informed  that the Chinese are extremely ‘sensitive’ about any improvement of Indian infrastructure at Chumar since it is very close to the LAC and not far from Chinese border infrastructure.
 It calls for a monumental preparedness on the part of India to effectively counter China’s territorial ambitions. One hopes that deliberations will be held during Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s trip to New Delhi later this month, consequent upon China’s eighth white paper on defence released recently. In the   paper, the PLA envisages, as one of its objectives, preparation to fight and win “local wars under informationised conditions,” and expanding and intensifying military preparedness while preventing “changes to the current borderlines” by its adversaries. It says that in addition to establishing border surveillance systems and installing infrastructure developments in Tibet in roads, railways, air field construction –– things exactly China does not want India to do. 

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