By Ashok B Sharma
The likely face off between Indian and Chinese troops at the line of actual control (LAC) in Ladakh has been averted. Thanks to efforts of the Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her counterpart Wang Yi at the margins of the UN General Assembly. The Chinese troops have begun withdrawing from Chumar in Ladakh following the flag meeting between two sides. The Indian side agreed to dismantle its observation posts in the area, while the Chinese agreed to discontinue the construction of road there. About 750 Chinese troops began incursions into Indian territory about a fortnight ago and remained there even the Chinese President Xi Jinping was on a visit to India.
In last year’s Depsang plain standoff, the Chinese had demanded that India dismantle its positions at Chumar. The Chinese game plan for repeated incursions and the rhetoric of “regional war” coming out of Beijing just after the Chinese President Xi Jinping returned after a receiving a warm reception in India and signing of over 16 agreements relating to cooperation between the two countries and MoUs between Indian and Chinese companies MoUs for 24 contracts worth $ 3.43 billion in a range of sectors such as aircraft leasing and financing, telecom, chemicals, wind power components, cotton yarn and fabric, synthetic fibre and seafood..
But the Chinese behaviour at the border was no surprise, it was expected. Similar thing happened when Vice President Hamid Ansari was on a visit to Beijing in June and three agreements on cooperation was signed. China then released a map claiming large chunks of Indian territory. One should not forget Chinese policies and its ambition to dominate the entire Indo-Pacific region, if not the world. The Indian Prime Minister Narendrabhai Damodardass Modi rightly mentioned about this 18th century mind set without directly mentioning China during his recent trip to Japan.
During Xi Jinping visit China pledged to invest $20 billion in industrial and infrastructure projects in India within a span of five years and $10 billion to other countries in South Asia. But Japan has promised more – an investment of $35 billion for building smart cities and next generation infrastructure in the same period. In addition Japan has pledged ODA loan of 50 billion yen to India Infrastructure Finance Company Ltd for a public-private partnership infrastructure projects in India.
Japan’s attitude towards India and China’s relationship with India are absolutely on a different footing. China considers India more as a rival than a friendly neighbour. India has a longstanding unresolved border dispute with China which Xi Jinping terms as “a leftover of history.” The Chinese President has demanded that India sponsor China’s membership of SAARC in return for India’s membership in Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). This reveals China’s ambition to play a dominant role in South Asia in which it is not geographically a part. Xi Jinping also fell short of supporting India’s candidature for a permanent seat in the expanded UN Security Council.
However certain agreements signed between the two countries are worth mentioning like setting up of industrial parks near Pune in Maharashtra and in Gujarat, cooperation between Gujarat and Guangdong province, cooperation between Mumbai and Shanghai and between Ahmedabad and Guangzhou, MoU for increasing the speed on existing railway line from Chennai to Mysore via Bangalore, providing training in heavy haul system to 100 railway officials, redevelopment of existing railway stations and setting up of a railway university in India and cooperation on high seep rail project. China agreed to construct an alternate route for Indian pilgrims to Kailash Mansarovar lake through Nathula pass in Sikkim, co-production of films, cooperation on exploration of outer space for peaceful purposes, cooperation in culture and specific measures to enhance market access to Indian agro and pharma products in China
But the longstanding issues of border dispute, Chinese insistence on issuing staple visas and water management of trans-boundary rivers still remained unresolved.
While India’s boundary with then independent Tibet was fixed by the erstwhile British colonial rulers by drawing the Johnson Line in the western sector and McMahon Line in the eastern sector, China is not inclined accept this part of the history.
China has forcibly occupied thousands of kilometers of Indian territory in the western and eastern sectors, including 5,800 sq km of Gilgit-Baltistan illegally ceded by Pakistan. In total China occupies more than 20,000 sq km of Gilgit-Baltistan covering Shaksgam, Raskam and Aghil valleys, apart from a large chunk in Ladakh. Even after illegal occupation China has disputed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between the two countries.
The Border Development Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) signed during the last visit of then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Beijing was the last nail in the coffin of Indian diplomacy. First, the agreement admits there is no common understanding of the LAC. In face of this blatant admission of differing perceptions of the LAC how can there be border cooperation between the two sides? This exposes the hollowness of the agreement.
The agreement says that the two sides shall carry out border defence cooperation on the basis of their respective laws and relevant bilateral agreements. India had earlier signed a number of agreements with China on border issues, but China has violated these agreements on many occasions by repeated incursions. Further the BDCA says that the two sides agreed that they shall not follow or trail patrols of the other side in areas where there is no common understanding of the LAC. Chinese have always been of the view that they can walk into Indian territory as they had recently done in Chumar, Depsang in Daulat Beg Oldi sector.
In such “a doubtful situation” of perception of LAC, the BDCA says that either side has the right to seek a clarification from the other side and clarifications and replies should be exchanged through established mechanisms.
India has not yet understood the Chinese ploy of Sun Tzu – the supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting. China has been playing this game ever since 1962 and India has not been able to give a fitting reply, despite having the military potential. (IPA Service)