“The alleged reports of firing warning shots at the Ladakh border are alarming, to say the least. This could get out of control,” opine experts.
China continues with its belligerence, even though on Friday (Sept 6, 2020) both sides had decided to resolve the growing tensions along the Line of Actual Control amicably through dialogue. “The alleged reports of firing warning shots at the Ladakh border are alarming, to say the least. This could get out of control,” opine experts. The contending armies did not fire shots even in the wake of a deadly brawl on June 15. This has raised the simmering tension several notches up. And, as the winter sets in, this is going to be a long haul as the Chinese will keep trying to push in.
Sharing his views on Sept 7, 2020 incident, Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia (retd), Former DGMO, says, “The pre-emptive occupation of operationally critical and dominating heights on South Bank Pangong Tso on 30 Aug have created decision dilemma for China. Indian army has taken up defensive positions dominating the all-important Spangur gap, which is not only an ingress route to strategically located Chushul town and ALG on the Indian side, but also directly dominates and threatens the Moldo garrison of PLA. Though the positions occupied are on own side of the LAC, China claims that these are 4 km inside China’s perception of LAC.”
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“China is now under pressure and hence has possibly been carrying out probing patrols to find gaps and occupy heights. They have resorted to firing in the air, as part of their psychological operations. The employment of Vikas Battalion which comprises of Tibetian troops has shaken PLA. China anticipating the possibility of some sort of local uprising will have to earmark part of their combat power for Rear Area Security also. The talks at diplomatic- military have reached a stalemate with hardened positions by both sides,” Lt Gen Bhatia, Director, Centre for Joint Warfare Studies (CENJOWS) opines.
“India now talks from a position of relative strengthen on account of the operational advantages on South Bank Pangong Tso. The likely meeting between external affairs minister Jai Shankar, and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Moscow on Sept 10th will determine the way forward. India has demonstrated a resolute response in the face of Chinese aggressive much to China’s surprise. The economic war on Chinese apps and products too is a good pressure point on China. India seeks peace and tranquillity along the LAC with a Status Quo Ante. The challenge for India will be to deter China’s aggressive behaviour along the LAC. China respects strength and India has demonstrated strength and an unmatched resolve,” the former DGMO observes.
Prof Rajan Kumar, School of Internal Studies, JNU says, “The fall out of this event is that it marks a departure from an established norm, followed through decades, the absence of firing between the two armies. There is a fear that this could be used as a pretext for justifying acts of firings in retaliation in future. The 1996 agreement on Confidence- Building Measures on India-China borders prohibits the two armies from opening fire or using explosives within a range of two kilometres from the LAC. This provision was re-endorsed by the agreement of 2005- “neither side shall use or threaten to use force against the other by any means”. The 2013 agreement on Border Defence Cooperation also prohibits the use of military capability against each other.”
“These agreements are falling apart. All the norms and practices which evolved over time as part of working mechanisms on the border are being violated. Longer the standoff, more likely are the chances of these norms being infringed upon,” he says.
The contending armies have swerved towards the edge of the precipice and the situation is apparently dangerous at the border. India’s Minister of External Affairs, S Jaishankar, in an interview described the condition as unprecedented and most serious after 1962. Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane described the condition along the border, a few days ago, as “slightly tense” adding that deployments of troops have taken place as precautionary measures.
In conclusion, Prof Rajan says, “The situation along the border is deteriorating fast. Any settlement is possible only through political negotiations. A few high-level political meetings are scheduled in the coming weeks. One hopes that the two countries would come to an agreement in the coming days.”
According to Lt Col Manoj K Channan (Retd), “The Chinese have lost their face and are now desperate to intimidate the Indian Army. The statements in their local media are more childish and do not resonate the comment of a Nation wanting to become the world’s Superpower by 2035. In fact, it reflects a Nation that is “smarting” having been outwitted and outmanoeuvred by a professional Indian Army.”
What can be assessed is that the PLA has attempted to dominate the LAC by doing reconnaissance in force in an attempt to gauge the morale and the deployment of its own troops.
“The spokesperson of the Western Theatre Command has blamed the Indian Army for violating all norms, wherein the PLA has been the offender and blatantly breaking the peace and tranquillity at the LAC. While restraint is the order of the day, it in no manner implies that an attempt to change the current deployment will not be challenged on an escalatory matrix, starting from warning shots to firing illuminating rounds to expose the PLA on a barren featureless terrain and showing them their vulnerability,” Lt Col Channan says.
In his opinion, “These are power plays and the PLA, though a professional army doesn’t match up to the Indian Army which is battle-hardened and troops have combat experience.
The situation on the ground would be tense and while the troops remain alert to respond to any situation, it’s assessed that some aggravations will take place, before the Foreign Minister’s meet, by the PLA for obvious reasons.
This is the new normal on the LAC and it’s likely to stay this way. The defences would have to be strengthened each day to sustain direct/indirect fire.”