China Links Ladakh To Doklam: First Steps to a 2 Front War?
THE CITIZEN BUREAU
NEW DELHI: For media consumption the Ladakh incident between India and China was projected as little more than the hurling of abuse, and stone pelting by the armies of the two sides. But at the end of the two or more hours in which a few soldiers (no official confirmation of this source based information though) sustained injuries, tight lipped mandarins at South Block have de-coded China’s message: Ladakh has been opened as the second front for hostilities.
The incident drew world attention, as it was prolonged, more intense, and seen as part of the Doklam stand off. The incident took place at the Pangong lake in Ladakh, and according to the Indian army, followed an incursion by the Chinese into Indian territory.
And if there are still some mistaken notions, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson made it clear immediately after the incident that , “Chinese border troops are always committed to maintaining peace on the China-India border and always patrol along the Chinese line of control."
And linked this to Doklam by demanding that India withdraw immediately and unconditionally all troops and equipment that have “encroached intoChinese territory in the Dong Lang (Doklam) area.” And added, "’this is the foundation and prerequisite to the solution of the incident.”
An accompanying commentary in the Chinese official media again reasserted that Doklam is not disputed territory. That “In 1890, China and the UK signed the Convention Between Great Britain and China Relating to Sikkim and Tibet, which delimited the boundary between the Tibet region of China and Sikkim. According to the Convention, Dong Lang is Chinese territory. Chinese troops patrol the area and Chinese herdsmen graze livestock there.”
If the Indian official assessment is---and remains so even as the Doklam face off approaches its second month---that China will not resort to a war, China is equally adamant that it will not back off until India withdraws all its troops from Doklam. Its position has been stated almost on a daily basis in the official media with the latest commentary again highlighting, “China is building roads on its own territory, did not cross the boundary and notified India in advance. India did not raise any objection at that time, or any other, until its troops suddenly invaded Dong Lang. "India intentionally started this standoff to test China," said Li Qingyan of the China Institute of International Studies. China's bottom line is the border line, as shown in the 1962 incident with India.”
But that China will take all steps to protect its sovereignty and will not enter into any talks with India until it unconditionally withdraws its troops. All articles and editorials in the Chinese official end with a “China of course has no desire to enter into a war with its neighbor” with retired army generals not seeing this necessarily as a palliative, but more in the nature of absolving China of blame in case of a military escalation. Retired diplomats,however, seem to be more in line with the official assessment that China will not resort to war.
The question, thus, is whether China will blink first. Significantly experts in New Delhi are convinced that it will not. In which case it has effectively tossed the ball into a silent India’s court with its repeated, “remove all your troops,” warnings India has brought down the 400 soldiers to 40 so far. But this has not been sufficient to appease the Dragon, that is unblinking in its demand that all Indian troops leave Doklam immediately before it will even resume any kind of dialogue.
The opening of the new front with stone pelting in Ladakh makes the nightmarish two front war a reality, with China very deliberately bringing 1962 back into play. The escalation, is being noted by the Indian Army, with sources seeing China just stages away from some kind of a military conflict. The mandarins, however, continue to insist as does the political leadership that Beijing will not dare.