For the first time since the Chinese aggression attempting to unilaterally alter the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh, the political leadership here has assured the nation that it is determined to protect the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity against China.

The onus finally came on Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to undo the damaging stand taken by the Prime Minister on June 19 of no Chinese intrusion.Rajnath Singh not only eulogised the sacrifices made by our soldiers on the night of June 15/16 at the Galwan Valley, but also expressed willingness to take political parties into confidence on the prevailing border situation.

In two separate statements made in Parliament on September 15 and 17, Rajnath Singh assured the nation that India would not allow any change in the “traditional and well-defined” patrolling pattern along the LAC and will not back down from taking “any big and tough step” for the same. His statements have laid bare the seriousness of the situation on the ground.

There are various estimates about the extent to which the Chinese have intruded into what India believed to be its territory for decades. According to some estimates, the Chinese have made about 1000 sq km area inaccessible to India, where India used to send patrols earlier. This is what India would like China to clear. But China having gobbled up the territory is just refusing to even talk about it and is rather threatening India to vacate the areas now occupied by Indian troops that lie completely on the Indian side of the LAC.

India’s effort to resolve the potentially dangerous situation by dialogue has not borne fruit so far. The issue was taken up at the political level by the defence and foreign ministers of India with their Chinese counterparts on the side-lines of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in the Russian capital Moscow recently, but without success. Earlier, five rounds of talks were held by military commanders of both sides with a similar fate.

What comes out clear from the deliberations held between the two countries is that there is no trust left and both sides are deeply suspicious about each other. The military situation on the ground is potentially dangerous for peace in the region. It is becoming increasingly clear that the Chinese have moved into these new areas as part of a strategic move and have no intention of vacating.

Unfortunately for India, there has been no international condemnation of Chinese aggression. Russia simply hosted leaders from both countries providing a platform for dialogue, but it is difficult to judge which side of the fence it is on? In the emerging Russia–China axis in the region, which Pakistan is hoping to join, India has been left out due to its perceived closeness with the US.

That exactly has become the biggest liability for India. On the Indo-China confrontation, US president Donald Trump merely offered mediation rather than an outright condemnation of Chinese aggression and a thundering support for India’s position. The question every Indian would then be asking is as to why the US is not coming forward to help when India’s territorial integrity is under threat? Did India not go out of the way to please Washington by signing strategic cooperation agreements at the cost of annoying China? Why then did we organise huge public events supporting Trump at the cost of taxpayers money?

Better late than never. A realisation must sink in our polity that aligning with super powers will only land us into more trouble. India rightly did not take up Trump’s offer of mediation. It was also a good move to refresh our age-old ties with Iran by the two high level visits of defence and foreign ministers in quick succession.

India needs an independent foreign policy, strategic planning and economic programme for the larger good for its people. India should also be aiming at reducing rising income disparities, support its economic backbone, agriculture, and discard all divisive agenda.

Meanwhile, keeping in mind that war is not an option, India should explore all possibilities of resolving the issue peacefully. Continue briefing the international community about Chinese aggressive designs and how China is discarding all Indian moves for peace. The war of perception has to be won at the international level. India, being a democracy, certainly has an advantage over Communist party-controlled China.

At the same time the nation should be ready for any eventuality, if it has to safeguard its territorial integrity.

Avinash Mohananey is a former Intelligence Bureau official and former Director General of Police in Sikkim.

Cover Photograph: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in Iran recently.