India’s Silence on Chinese Incursions

China continues to convince the world about its ‘peaceful rise’, a claim which gets periodically belied by Chinese actions and strategic developments. The New Year was greeted by the first flight of China’s fifth-generation stealth fighter aircraft Chengdu J-20 on January 4, 2011. The Chinese have regularly asserted that it is upgrading its military weapons for self-protection, which is normal for every country. Such assertions do not always seem to be realistic considering the massive military modernisation of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

Additionally, on January 5, 2011, Kyodo News reported that the Chinese military’s newly released policy papers aver that the military would consider a pre-emptive nuclear strikes if faced with a critical situation in a war with another nuclear state. More specifically, the report highlighted that the Second Artillery Corps (Chinese military’s strategic missile forces) would ‘adjust’ its policy if another nuclear state undertakes air strikes against Chinese targets ‘with absolutely superior conventional weapons.’ Expectedly, the very next day, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei strongly denied the reports and termed them as “totally false” and “made with ulterior motives.”

Other issues of concern that best exemplify Chinese assertiveness is its offer to export one-Gigawatt (GW) nuclear plant along with the construction of two 300 MW reactors to Pakistan. Another example of China’s belligerence was the flare-up in the South China Sea in September 2010 due to a pair of Japanese Coast Guard vessels in disputed waters. While these developments are alarming, there are minimum traces of strong opposition from the world or an agreement on the way forward.

While it may seem that the world lacks a consensus about how to deal with the rising China, the claim is more realistic in case of India. The recent reports of Chinese incursions into Indian Territory in the Demchok area of Leh district on July 31, 2010 should not be a shocking revelation. It is just a small part of the numerous Chinese incursions that take place periodically, which sometimes remain unreported or at times are downplayed by the government. Following the media reports, the Centre termed the reports as “baseless” citing that perceptional differences exist between India and China with regard to where exactly the Line of Actual Control (LAC) runs on the ground.

As per an official report, these Chinese troops including motor-cycle borne personnel of the PLA, entered Gombir area in Demchok region and threatened the civilian workers to stop building the shed, the plan for which was cleared by the state rural development department. It should also be noted that in November 2009, a road project under Centrally-sponsored National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), was stopped after objections were raised by the Chinese Army. Such an act should have alarmed the government but the claim was denied by Union Minister Farooq Abdullah who stated that the work may have been stropped due to severe cold. The continuous game of denial played by the Indian side is a point of serious concern.

Quoting Leh deputy commissioner T Angchuk, a media report had said, “The Chinese troops objected to the construction work last October. The matter was brought before both the ITBP and Army, manning the border, but they directed us to stop construction work.”

The rounds of Sino-India talks in territorial disputes can be traced back to almost thirty years but they have proved to be fruitless and futile. China periodically asserts its claim over Indian Territory through border violations, by issuing stapled visas to residents on Jammu and Kashmir and objecting to funding of projects in AP by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). As a result India dropped projects in AP to be funded by the ADB. While some view this move as an effort to reduce tensions between the India and China, one may also consider this as India’s reluctance to take on the Chinese. Even though India may try to pass strong messages by lobbying key members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to counter the Sino-Pak nuclear deals, it tends to nullify any such assertions by silencing itself in case of Sino intrusions in the Indian terrotory. India continues to appease Beijing fearing that any objection to their action may provoke an armed confrontation between the two sides.

Instead of articulating a strong policy towards China, the South Block remains unperturbed and practices the policy of denying any anomalies in the Sino-India border. If we go by history, in 1962, China brazenly flouted the Panchsheel principles and unleashed aggression on India. The history is something that does not seem to direct the Indian actions or concerns. While it is imprudent to ignore the inevitable need to formulate a policy for the rising China, India needs to first and foremost recognise the threat and shed off its reluctance to act against the same.

According to Sun Tzu, the Chinese military thinker, “…supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting”. Judging by india’s intaction, it would seem that the Chinese have succeeded. The need of the hour is to upgrade the military infrastructure and logistics on the border and direct efforts towards military preparedness, so that India can tackle any Chinese aggression (in any) and rightfully preserve the borders and its territory, the least we can do.

Aditi Malhotra, Associate Fellow at the Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS).

Source:Indian Defence Review

Posted by Aditi Malhotra

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