Never Ceasing Face-Off between India & China

On 13 December, while addressing Parliament about the faceoff between Indian and Chinese troops in the Eastern Sector on 9 December 2022, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said that the “PLA tried to transgress the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Yangtse area of Tawang Sector and unilaterally change the status quo.”

The faceoff, according to the statement led to a physical scuffle, in which both sides suffered injuries. The transgression was thwarted and the Chinese side has been asked to refrain from such actions and maintain peace and tranquillity along the border.

The issue was also discussed in a flag meeting on 11 December in accordance with the existing mechanisms. When asked, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said, “the China-India border areas are generally stable”, albeit Colonel Long Shaohua, spokesperson for the Western Theatre Command of the PLA in a press release said that during a “routine patrol” on the Chinese side of the LAC in Dongzhang area, the PLA troops “encountered obstruction from the Indian troops, who illegally crossed the LAC”.

The Chinese also demanded that “the Indian side should strictly discipline and control its front-line troops and work with the Chinese side to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas”. From the above statements of the respective governments, it is the blame game as usual. If the video making rounds on the social media is indeed of 9 December 2022, the PLA has certainly climbed up to the Indian position and challenged them. This has been admitted by the Chinese that the PLA took initiative to dismantle military strongholds of the Indian Army. In various other videos, not necessarily of the Yangste area, the PLA soldiers have been shown dismantling similar stone walls, and being dissuaded or challenged by the Indian side. This is a major confrontation since the June 2020 Galwan clash that saw fatalities on both sides. Therefore, why such provocations time and again? On 9 December about 250 to 300 PLA troops went prepared to the mountain pass to demolish illegal structures, but encountered a large Indian patrol team.

Dongzhang in Yangtse area cannot be the last gateway of China to Arunachal, but 150 kilometers south of this place should be China’s border with India as depicted in the Chinese maps. Therefore, there is still a long way to go to recover the territory of the entire southern Tibet region.  It is precisely owing to the Chinese stand on the MacMahon Line in the Eastern Sector that China desires to change the status quo as it is doing in the Western Sector. China has long abandoned the swap deal for the resolution of the border, rather it believes that power has shifted in its favour, therefore, has no compulsions to maintain the kind of understanding it had reached with India on the border during the reform era.

There is a certain thinking in China that believes that India can ill afford to engage with China in both a low intensity and an all-out conflict, therefore, the so-called salami slicing is the best approach. Given this posturing by China, and India’s readiness to challenge the same, we will continue to witness similar face-offs along the entire India-China border. The conflict in Yangste area is not new; a little farther away from the 9 December faceoff location, at Tulung pass, India lost a few soldiers in 1975, after the exchange of fire at the border. The pattern of the face-offs, right from 1999 to 2021 and 2022, shows that as both India and China revamp their infrastructure along the LAC, such standoffs are bound to happen.

Added to this the worsening relations between China and the United States, and close partnership between India and the US in the Indo-Pacific have made China believe that both India and the US are hand in glove to contain its rise. In fact, many international commentators  have made statements reiterating that in place of Pakistan, now China has become the biggest catharsis for Indian nationalist sentiments– INAV



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Ashok Thakur

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