India-China Logjam Continues
“2020 is different from 1962”
Even as frantic talks continue between India and China for a way out of the current confrontation on the strategically sensitive heights of Ladakh, there seems to be little for either side to report by way of progress. Reports suggest that top level military and government talks are on, as the world watches and every now and again turns its attention from the exigencies of the pandemic to warn the two powerful Asian neighbours to desist from war games. But so far, given from the public posturing by China in particular through its rather vocal official media, there is no visible let up.
The central government, under pressure from military veterans who usually become the voice of serving officers in situations such as this, announced that the Army will be given full freedom on the borders to carry arms and act as the situation demands at any given point of time. China, the authorities said, had been informed of this.
But clearly it has not accepted the shift in strategy with the Chinese mouthpiece Global Times carrying an article by the editor-in-chief of Global Times Hu Xijin quoting these reports in the Indian media to state that “If this is proved to be true, the latest development seriously violates the Agreement on Confidence Building Measures in the Military Field along the Line of Actual Control in the China-India Border Areas. Although border face-offs occasionally erupt between China and India, the troops of the two countries haven't opened fire on each other for decades. If Indian soldiers use firearms against Chinese soldiers in the future, there will be a different picture in the border areas. “
The rest of the article uses strong language to threaten India starting at one point, “I must warn Indian nationalists: If your soldiers cannot even defeat Chinese soldiers in unarmed clashes, then guns and other firearms will not help them. The reason: The military strength of China is much more advanced and stronger than that of India.”
This claim is of course, pooh poohed by the Indian military with veterans having made it clear that the option before India was to push the Chinese soldiers out of its territory with a clear message that these incursions and movement across the Line of Actual Control will not be accepted or tolerated.
The Global Times article using terms like “arrogant” maintains that the belief by some Indians that modernisation of the Indian army would make it superior to the People’s Liberation Army is erroneous. And interestingly goes on to state that while in 1962 the two militaries were at fairly equal levels, the gap had increased dramatically in favour of China. “ If India escalates the border dispute with China into skirmishes or even local wars, it would be like an egg dashing itself against a rock”, the article insists.
Another prominent article in the Global Times focuses on 1962 with the headline ‘New Delhi would be ‘more humiliated than 1962’ if it launches a new conflict’. This article goes on to insist that Delhi would suffer a crushing defeat if it opts for war. But then the writers Yang Sheng and Liu Xuanzun refer to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks “"Nobody has intruded into our border, neither is anybody there now, nor have our posts been captured” to maintain that he was “trying to respond to the nationalists and hardliners with tough talk.”
The article quotes Beijing-based military expert Wei Dongxu to state that “ Modi's assertion that Indian forces can take all necessary steps is a show of strength for domestic audiences to appease the Indian masses and boost the Indian troops' morale.
Modi is playing with words in order to avoid an escalation as he does not want to really unleash his army by encouraging them to actively start another clash. China's capability not only in terms of the military, but also overall and international influence, is superior to India's, Wei said”.
It further quotes Lin Minwang, a professor at Fudan University's Center for South Asian Studies in Shanghai as saying, "It is normal to see heated nationalism in India, but we don't need to worry whether nationalism will hijack the policymaking of India to further provoke China. When India is in conflict with Pakistan or other neighbors, nationalism might drive New Delhi to take actual operations, but when it comes to China, it is a different story," Lin said.
The tone and tenor of the articles is aggressive, threatening, and yet calling for restraint. Hu maintains as has been the refrain in all statements and articles on India, that China does not want war, wants de-escalation but that basically “ we have sufficient capacity to smash any provocations from the Indian troops”.
Significantly, Global Times has devoted several articles in the past and again now to the trolls and the anti-China campaign being carried out on social media. These refer to specific tweets with the most recent article also naming Indian Minister Ramdas Athawale who called for a boycott of Chinese food.
Pointing to what it says is an orchestrated anti-China campaign, the mouthpiece has divided China baiters into four categories. Quoting Xiao Jun, a Chinese observer who has lived in India for a few years, Global Times says that “ anti-China forces in India can normally be divided into four groups. The first are the "diehards" who see China as a hostile power.
They are often deeply affected by the Sino-Indian war of 1962, in which some of their loved ones were killed.
The second are the ultranationalists, who have lobbied against Chinese goods like Huawei's technology. These extreme nationalists are not only against China, but against any country they see as hurting their national pride.
The third are anti-China politicians, who use anti-China sentiment as a stepping stone for their career paths.
The fourth are India's intellectuals and middle class who are sometimes obsessed with and often blindly obey Western values, Xiao said.”
The propaganda war continues.
Meanwhile in response to the Chinese statement of June 19 the official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs said:
In response to queries seeking comments on the statement issued on 19 June by the Chinese Spokesperson on the events in the Galwan valley area, the Official Spokesperson, Mr. Anurag Srivastava said,
"The position with regard to the Galwan Valley area has been historically clear. Attempts by the Chinese side to now advance exaggerated and untenable claims with regard to Line of Actual Control (LAC) there are not acceptable. They are not in accordance with China’s own position in the past.
Indian troops are fully familiar with the alignment of the LAC in all sectors of the India-China border areas, including in the Galwan Valley. They abide by it scrupulously here, as they do elsewhere. The Indian side has never undertaken any actions across the LAC. In fact, they have been patrolling this area for a long time without any incident. All infrastructure built by the Indian side is naturally on its own side of the LAC.
Since early May 2020, the Chinese side has been hindering India's normal, traditional patrolling pattern in this area. This had resulted in a face-off which was addressed by the ground commanders as per the provisions of the bilateral agreements and protocols. We do not accept the contention that India was unilaterally changing the status quo. On the contrary, we were maintaining it.
Subsequently in mid-May, the Chinese side attempted to transgress the LAC in other areas of the Western Sector of the India-China border areas. These attempts were invariably met with an appropriate response from us. Thereafter, the two sides were engaged in discussions through established diplomatic and military channels to address the situation arising out of Chinese activities on the LAC.
The Senior Commanders met on 6 June 2020 and agreed on a process for de-escalation and disengagement along the LAC that involved reciprocal actions. Both sides had agreed to respect and abide by the LAC and not undertake any activity to alter the status quo. However, the Chinese side departed from these understandings in respect of the LAC in the Galwan Valley area and sought to erect structures just across the LAC. When this attempt was foiled, Chinese troops took violent actions on 15 June 2020 that directly resulted in casualties.
External Affairs Minister (EAM) and the Foreign Minister of China, H.E. Mr. Wang Yi, had a conversation on 17 June 2020 wherein EAM conveyed our protest in the strongest terms on the events leading up to and on the violent face-off on 15 June 2020. He firmly rejected the unfounded allegations made by the Chinese side and the misrepresentation of the understandings reached between the Senior Commanders. He also underlined that it was for China to reassess its actions and take corrective steps.
The two Ministers also agreed that the overall situation would be handled in a responsible manner, and that both sides would implement the disengagement understanding of 6 June sincerely. The two sides are in regular touch and early meetings of military and diplomatic mechanisms are currently being discussed.
We expect that the Chinese side will sincerely follow the understanding reached between the Foreign Ministers to ensure peace and tranquility in the border areas, which is so essential for the overall development of our bilateral relations."
Cover Photograph from Global Times