The trajectory of Chinese actions suggest that there could be more Doklam-like incidents in the future and the Indian Army needs to build infrastructure in vulnerable border areas to prepare for it, two former top military commanders said Friday. Lt Gen (retd) Praveeen Bakshi, who was heading the Army’s eastern command when India and China were involved in standoff in Doklam, said he was grateful to the government as it gave him a free hand to take action as he deemed appropriate to stop the Chinese.
Talking about Doklam, Chumar and Demchok standoffs between the Indian and Chinese troops over the last few years, Lt Gen DS Hooda (retd), who is a former Northern Army Commander, said the three incidents were different and the motivations behind them may also be probably different, but there was some common pattern emerging.
While both countries have been carrying out patrolling in these areas to show their claims, what is increasingly being seen in these incidents are the Chinese attempts at use of force to reinforce their claims, he said at a panel discussion at the India International Centre titled ‘Doklam revisited’.
“The trajectory that we are seeing, we will see more of these incidents. It happens now, one month, two months, three months (that is not known)…we certainly haven’t seen the last of it,” Hooda said. “To me the big worry is, if it happens where infrastructure is not as well built up as in Ladakh and even in Sikkim…Arunachal Pradesh is a huge worry,” he said.
Bakshi concured with Hooda’s opinion saying, “We will see more of it perhaps…we should be prepared for more such (incidents).”Troops of India and China were locked in a 73-day standoff in Doklam in the Sikkim sector from June 16 last year after the Indian side stopped construction of a road in the disputed tri-junction by the Chinese army.
Bhutan and China have a dispute over Doklam and both the countries have been holding talks to resolve the issue. Former Indian Ambassador to China Ashok K Kantha said Doklam should not be looked upon as an isolated incident but part of a large pattern of behaviour on the part of China.
“Chinese did not seem to anticipate forceful action taken by us,” he said. Hooda said there was a definite upping of the ante on the part of China and the peace protocols that have been agreed to by them with India, have been completely ignored by them.
He said there was preplanning for the Chinese incursions and it was not as if they did just stumbled into some situation that escalated. Bakshi said in the Doklam incident, military action lasted about 100 hours and nothing changed on ground till August 28.
He said the Indian Army leveraged the absence of Indian media’s reporting at the start of the Doklam incident to its advantage. “We were confident it was not going to break into an all-out war..we were prepared for a long haul,” he said.
Bakshi said the lessons that need to be learnt from the incident are that the network of roads in border areas needs to be strengthened and better coordination is needed between the Army and the border guarding forces. He also called for more synergy between the three forces. V P Haran, former Indian Ambassador to Bhutan, said it was important to ensure that Bhutanse students get into good Indian educational institutions so that their special bond with the country continues.