India-China border standoff: Why are Chinese interested in the Galwan region?

June 17, 2020 4:53 PM

If war is too serious a business to be left to the generals, it is also too serious a business to be left to ignorant politicians.

If war is too serious a business to be left to the generals, it is also too serious a business to be left to ignorant politicians.

By Lt Col Manoj K Channan

The date 16th June 2020, will remain etched in the history of India as a major clash took place during a de-escalation process; which has led to casualties on either side. Reportedly, both the armies are on their side of Line-of-Actual Control (LAC). This is the first time since 1962; there has been tension in this area. And that too when the LAC is clearly defined and accepted by both the Nations.

The political statements which were made on re-claiming the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir aimed at the Indian vote bank did not take into consideration the likely ramifications. The Chinese are sensitive to their Xinjiang-Tibet highway, also known as G219 highway. Towards this end, the Chinese occupied all the major mountain passes and Crestline. Ensuring that LAC passes through the highest Crestline, India does not control dominating heights. India could use the river valley to emerge on the Aksai Chin plateau and threaten Chinese positions there. Mountain passes are required to move across mountain ranges and by controlling them, Chinese wanted to prevent any major West to East movement by the Indian Army.

The LAC alignment turns sharply towards West, following the highest Crestline in the area. Hence, in this area, the LAC runs close to the Shyok River. This is a vital line of communication close to the LAC, for the Indian Army.

Only some time ago it was said that Armed Forces will have a lesser role to play and hence reduction in manpower and of procurement of military equipment. The Indian Leadership has been blindsided akin to the events pre 1962, wherein Nehru was caught off guard by Chou En Lai; this time Modi by Xi, the Political Hubris has been shot to bits.

Information that has been gleaned from various sources print, electronic and the “Old Boys Network”; quote “As a part of De-escalate both sides were to return to their earlier posts. A party of 16 BIHAR was sent to check. The PLA was still there wrapping up the tents. The Chinese saw our patrol, leading to a scuffle. The ridge is very narrow; hardly for two men to walk abreast”. How a large number of casualties took place is left to speculation.

Quoting Mr Mohan Guruswamy, a China watcher and a strategic thinker, “Modi regime should now seek to evolve an “in-country” consensus on how much we can ‘give and take’ to accept a common LAC? A commonly accepted LAC should be our immediate objective, leaving territorial claims for later. This can only be arrived at by the two militaries.

If war is too serious a business to be left to the generals, it is also too serious a business to be left to ignorant politicians. Another “hot war” between India and China will lead to a larger regional conflagration with untold and possibly unforeseen consequences. It will definitely become a two-front war for a start. In 1962 Pakistan resisted from attacking India, just as China desisted from attacking India in 1971 (despite US encouragement)”.

It’s time for Indians to stand united to this faceoff between the two nuclear powers. The Chinese propaganda machine has been all over the social media, electronic and print media to give it a twist to achieve their overall aims across. At the tactical level use of UAVs to verify the actual ground positions of the Chinese could have possibly avoided casualties. The Border Management talks can surely use much better methodologies. Going back to Stone Age to use brawns and brawls is not the best way to resolve the differences. It’s known that the Chinese methodology of surreptitiously altering the boundaries whether on land or sea is visible.

India has to decide its pros and cons and respond to the current standoff with a long term perspective. One of the foremost steps is to ensure that the National Power including Military Capabilities needs to be strengthened. Since 1947, having been more Pak centric, though aware of China’s meteoric growth we ignored the dragon as it grew in the backyard, assuming that it will remain under check; while we remain consumed by domestic politics.

(The author is Indian Army Veteran. Views expressed are personal.)

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