Indians can be forgiven for wondering what were Indian border guards doing while the Chinese intruders were dismantling and destroying the camera that were set up by the Indians to keep an eye on Chinese intrusions in the Depsang valley segment of the Daulat Beg Oldi area of Jammu and Kashmir.
It has long been a sector of contention and it was expected that the Indians would be alert to prevent any more Chinese intrusions or allow anyone to tamper with the security apparatus installed there. The Chinese came in and broke the camera. Just like that. It is not even relevant to ask, Gabbar-style, ”kitne Chinese thay, Kalia?”
How blatant has been the Indian carelessness can be gauged from the fact that the camera was set up to give early warning of someone approaching so that the Indian border guards-be they the Indo-Tibetan Border Police or the Indian Army-are alerted to someone’s presence in the area of our interest.
One should again be forgiven for expecting that the camera was connected to a monitor in the bunker of the Indian security forces so that they can monitor all movements within the area of focus of the camera without having to stand behind the camera all the time. It should also be expected that the type of camera installed to survey Chinese activity would be what is known as the long range observation and reconnaissance system (LORROS) bought with hard currency from Israel.
That someone could just walk up and knock down and destroy such a camera without pre-emptive action from the Indian side strains credibility. The nation is now fully aware that the Chinese do not want any structures even in areas as deep as 19 km away from the Line of Actual Control (the fact that the Chinese insisted that they were standing on Chinese territory should have sent a clear message of the meaning and intent of their intrusion).
There can be nothing more obvious than these series of events that we were totally unprepared to even defend what we believe is our portion of territory along the very painfully amorphous nature of the so-called Line of Actual Control.
The Chinese are making the point painfully clear that there is no line of actual control. There are no maps exchanged between the two countries to show where troops are posted and what territory they control.
India has trusted the Himalayan weather and the gods to ensure over the five decades that the Chinese will stick to what they themselves had stated before withdrawing from Indian territory after the 1962 invasion that they would respect a given line after withdrawal. That line has now become so blurred it just cannot be seen. So wherever a Chinese stands, that is China. Thanks to India.
Why they have chosen the desolate salt flats of the Aksai Chin plains to make this point needs to be analysed for its intent and purpose.
China has been demanding that India must cease and desist from creating new infrastructure like roads, bridges, airfields and surveillance and reconnaissance posts. It has been stated in a tone and tenor that none of this should happen anywhere along the Line of Actual Control in the Himalayan region which means anywhere from Arunachal Pradesh to Jammu and Kashmir.
Apart from the very obvious objective of dictating terms to India, China is making it appear (with a lot of Indian help) that Indians are cowering in fear at the implied threat and thereby showing to the rest of the world that India is just a paper tiger and of no value as a strategic ally.
The latest event involving the camera is a blatant disregard of the norms of international behaviour and all the so-called “confidence building measures” that have been signed and reiterated since Rajiv Gandhi made his opening to China and visited Beijing.
The Chinese proposal of a new border management agreement has no meaning in the face of Chinese bellicosity. India has, finally, shown some spine by announcing that the Cabinet Committee on Defence had approved the creation of more mountain strike corps to be able to deal with the Chinese problem.
There were reports some time ago that there was someone in the Finance Ministry who had made out a case that there was no imminent threat from China. He should be handed over to the Chinese for some “re-education”.
Playing around with national sovereignty and territorial integrity has become a big joke in South Block. It could be argued that there is no “imminent” threat but can the gist and substance of the Chinese demands on India be ignored without leaving the country open to a “second lesson” for any imagined transgression by India?
There is a possibility that India’s efforts to raise the level of the infrastructure on the Himalayan border could be made an excuse by China to beat it down before the Indian preparedness becomes strong enough to prevent any intrusions and coercive manoeuvres along the Himalayas.
To prevent that from happening STRATEGIC AFFAIRS has suggested a course of action that will be positioned well within our own territory but yet be able to dominate large sections of territory that China is trying to grab. The pre-positioning of heavy artillery at points will help India to dominate likely areas of ingress.
India has done it before and can do it again given a dedicated leadership - the dismantling of heavy artillery and carrying it to points where required and assembling it to give the Indian Army the wherewithal to react more forcefully to any Chinese attempt at coercion. This will obviate the need for an obtrusive road system which is already three years behind schedule and give no excuse to the Chinese because it will happen well within our own territory and hopefully out of sight of the Chinese.
So far as the intent and purpose of the Chinese belligerence is concerned there is nothing of great value that it will gain by military activity in the desolation in the Ladakh sector.
Further south it could seek ingress into Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand where it has, by its own admission, no territorial claims so an attack here would produce no long term political dividends.
Nonetheless India must be able to destroy as close to the border as possible any Chinese intrusion in strength. This could be a holding action against Beijing’s deception plan intended to concentrate its politico-military gains in the north-east through the Chumbi valley.
India has no politico-military objective in the Tibetan Autonomous Region except to destroy the People’s Liberation Army’s means of communications and logistics to prevent the Chinese to bring enough forces to bear en mass at any point along the Himalayas most particularly in Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and West Bengal where a thrust is seen to be possible.
As far as India is concerned holding China at all points along the Himalayas would be its greatest victory. It would show up the Hans to be nothing but ineffective bullies and the seismic effect of that in other parts of the Asia-Pacific region would be enough to keep this generation of Chinese quiescent.