India of 2020 is same as India of 1962

The situation along the India-China border in Ladakh and other places is tense with huge deployments of troops and equipment on both sides.

According to a Times of India report, India has deployed “thousands of additional troops backed by tanks, infantry combat vehicles and howitzers in the region, and IAF fighters like Sukhoi-30 MKIs and MiG-29s are regularly patrolling the skies.”

“We are well-poised in the forward areas with a strong military posture, with more troops and weaponry positioned in the depth areas,” the news report stated quoting a govt source.

As things stand, the two-month-long standoff on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is expected to take a long time before it gets resolved. China is showing no signs of backing down and is unlikely to withdraw from the Indian side of LAC.

Multiple rounds of military and diplomatic level talks have resulted in no movement as far as India’s demand for restoration of status quo ante as of April is concerned. Chinese have stuck to their strategy of going round and round while its troops on the ground have been strengthening their encroached positions on the Indian side of the LAC.

On the LAC, the buffer zone averages 9 kms both sides across. There are points along the 3488 km long LAC where the buffer zone on either side stretches to 11 kms and 20 kms. Given that the LAC itself is heavily contested in the Western and Eastern sectors by both sides, incursions by both Indian and Chinese army patrols have been a regular affair as both sides try to maintain their territorial presence. However, since the 1990s the Chinese commenced their strategy of incremental advancement and land grab in an effort to fortify its side of the LAC and try to strategically close out the buffer zone on the Indian side of the LAC.

An interesting piece in The Quint reveals how China has stealthily and steadily grabbed territory along the LAC in Arunachal Pradesh over the past several decades. The report states:

Nobody is willing to hazard a guess on the total area occupied by the Chinese in Arunachal Pradesh. The common refrain on everybody’s lips is “a large chunk” that might been snatched by China. However, politicians and intelligence officials are on the same wavelength on certain aspects of the covert operations by the PLA into Arunachal Pradesh. First, there is a consensus that Upper Subansiri has witnessed the maximum seizure of territory. And secondly, the intrusion by the PLA has occurred mostly in areas devoid of villages and the army’s presence.

From The Quint. Click to read the full piece.

Successive governments have ignored this Chinese strategy of incremental land grab along the LAC and thereby strengthening its positions by building infrastructure. And what has been the Indian response as late as 2013.

Listen in to what then Defence Minister A K Antony had to say in the Parliament on this issue. While Antony was honest enough to admit this, the blame for this has to be taken by governments before it too, which includes United Front, NDA, UPA 1 and 2. The current government too has to own up to its failure of not reading China’s intent. Enough lessons were not learnt post Doklam and hence the current standoff, which came as a complete surprise.

Every Indian government since 1962 has found it incredibly difficult to communicate to Indian citizens its response and actions against Chinese incursions. All Governments have discouraged citizens questioning its China policy. The current government is no different. From maintaining complete radio silence on the developments along the LAC and almost denying them to details of violent clashes between Indian and Chinese soldiers to denying China has encroached Indian land, this government has a lot of answer to the people of India. The ‘josh’ completely vanished when it came to communicating the difficult developments to the people.

Coming back to the main issue of how did we get here. As is evident, decades of neglect and lack of clear strategy on how to deal with China among the decision makers (Political, Military, Bureaucratic, Intelligence) has resulted in this Himalayan mess. The only policy that successive governments followed was turning a blind eye towards China’s transgressions in Indian territory and keeping the Indian people in dark about it.

While a large number of retired officers turned experts wax eloquence about China’s motivations for the current standoff based on their political leanings, they are clearly mum about their role and responsibilities in pushing the government of the day for coming up with a clear plan to deal with China. After all, the latest land grab attempt is not the first and the pattern has been the same for decades now. Nobody heard anyone shouting from the roof that we don’t have a clear policy to deal with China. This is a collective national failure of everyone in the decision making process along with the governments of the day.

And we are not even going into the economic disparity part vis-a-vis China since we matter little on that front as of now. Read more about Chinese investments in India and its strategy here and here.

And amidst all this the two main political parties of the country are doing exactly what China wants. Both the parties should share most of the blame for India’s helplessness vis-a-vis China, and all they are doing is publishing photos of each other’s leaders with the Chinese. While rest of the political lot is content with the unconvincing response of the government that all is well.

What is needed at this critical juncture is that the Government of India must call a special session of the Parliament and discuss this long standing problem staring at us which has been willfully ignored by successive governments, and formulate a national response plan to stand up to China.

The jawans at the border will always defend the country against the Chinese like they did in 1962 and on many occasions thereafter and most recently during the June 15-16 clashes with the Chinese troops at Galwan Valley where India lost 20 soldiers who gave the supreme sacrifice while defending the country.

But the top echelons of the government now need to get their act together and come up with a response that will ensure more lives are not lost and we have a clear and implementable national plan to take on the Chinese on all fronts. If they don’t wake up even after this then India’s rise in the 21st Century is doomed.

More reading on the current crisis:

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