Homeland Security

BDCA – Another Self Inflicted Wound
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Issue | Date : 23 Oct , 2013

Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China Li Keqiang and the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

The brouhaha about India having signed the BDCA agreement with China actually is a self-inflicted wound though providing satisfaction to Prime Minister Manhohan Singh that he too inked a border agreement with China, after the Agreement between the two countries on  Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility Along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China  Border Areas signed on 7th September 1993, another Agreement on Confidence Building Measures in the Military Field Along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas, the Protocol on Modalities for the Implementation of Confidence Building Measures in the Military Field Along the Line of Actual Control in India-China Border Areas signed on 11th April 2005 and the Agreement on Establishment of a Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs signed on 17th January 2012.

it is yet another nail in the coffin of India’s territorial integrity master-crafted by China and acquiesced by our Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and the National Security Advisor.

A close analysis of the BDCA actually indicates, it is yet another nail in the coffin of India’s territorial integrity master-crafted by China and acquiesced by our Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and the National Security Advisor. It was amusing to see the spin masters bill-boarding media headlines “India talks Tough” even as Manmohan Singh was enroute to Russia, declaring India will continue building border infrastructure. Forget China blatantly violating earlier agreements, the nuances of this BDCA agreement will tie India in knots.

Article I of the Agreement says the two sides shall carry out border defence cooperation on the basis of their respective laws and relevant bilateral agreements. So has China respected the earlier agreements and why should it do so now? Then which laws are we talking about – Constitution, PMO, IPC,  NSA’s to not face up to any intrusion or the Foreign Minister’s law that a 30 kms deep intrusion is to be treated as acne on his face? Which then are the laws of China – that they can walk into Chumar any time and threaten the locals at will?

Article II of the BDCA Agreement requires exchanging information-including information about military exercises, aircrafts, demolition operations and unmarked mines etc without laying down any distances from the LAC. The LAC itself has different perceptions and China has not given any maps of her perception of the LAC. She would not like to either as not doing so facilitates expanding claims, example being claim to Tawang expanded to entire Arunachal Pradesh. So what does the wording of Article II imply?

That India should inform China every time you want to land an aircraft at DBO, do an exercise (up to what depth and from whose perception of LAC?), inform China we are doing blasting (using demolitions) to construct / improve a road

That India should inform China every time you want to land an aircraft at DBO, do an exercise (up to what depth and from whose perception of LAC?), inform China we are doing blasting (using demolitions) to construct / improve a road – so much so for “India Talks Tough on border infrastructure”! Has the smuggling of wild life articles been thrown in for humour knowing Chinese are obsessed with the Tiger’s teeth, bones, nails, testicles and what have you and the rhino horn as well? Do you expect China to stop such smuggling activity? But, what about the mafia at our end? Are you really going to stop the flooding of Indian markets by Chinese contraband particularly in the northeast knowing full well who constitutes the mafia and whose protection they have?

The cake of course goes to Article VI whose wordings say, “The two sides agree that they shall not follow or tail patrols of the other side in areas where there is no common understanding of the line of actual control in the India-China border areas. Doesn’t this effectively cover intrusions like that have happened in Depsang this summer. The PLA can sit in the intruded areas as long as they want to and construct defences like they did in Srijap earlier. There will be no opposition. This time the Indian public has no cause to get agitated because our wise men (read mice) men have signed this agreement in 1962 fashion good faith that we shall just ignore any Chinese patrol. Hey, but how come we are ignoring Chinese strategic calculations. Since they claim Arunachal as ‘south Tibet’ what stops them sending patrols all the way to Tezpur? Perhaps the Foreign Minister will then make an exception, take notice and host a meal for the Chinamen, this being their private visit.

Which alignment of the LAC are we talking about? Does it include the hundreds of square kilometers of territory that we have quietly ceded to China over the years, over and above Aksai Chin and Shaksgam?

As regards Article VII that in  case a doubtful situation with reference to any activity by either side in border areas where there is no common understanding of the line of actual control, either side has the right to seek a clarification from the other side, do we really need to get a clarification from China? After all that India has gone through, might as well accept the standard response that they have not crossed the LAC and Chinese patrols are very much in their own area. Again, Article IX says that the two sides shall implement this Agreement without prejudice to their respective positions on the alignment of the line of actual control as well as on the boundary question. Which alignment of the LAC are we talking about? Does it include the hundreds of square kilometers of territory that we have quietly ceded to China over the years, over and above Aksai Chin and Shaksgam? Does this include the over 400 square kms of territory ceded in Ladakh alone as has been revealed by Ambassador P Stopden? Does the government have any answer to disclosures by Mr RN Ravi, former Special Director, IB in the Assam Tribune that since 2009 Government of India, for reasons best known to it, has been misleading its own citizens about it territory ceded to China:

  • By denying the reports of Chinese transgressions along the border, India is only helping the cause of the Chinese.
  • India has stopped patrolling by the security forces to the India-China-Myanmar tri-juncture to avoid confrontation with the Chinese and by doing so, India has already lost hold over a substantial portion of land.
  • China is trying to stake claim over the Tatu Bowl, the place where the Dicho river, which originates in Myanmar, meets the Lohit river, by sending out patrol parties well inside India.
  • China has already started constructing a new road along the Dicho river and if the Chinese plan succeeds, the tri-juncture would come down to eight kms south of the original point.
  • Earlier, the Indian Army patrols used to go along the Dicho river to the tri-juncture, but the Government of India stopped such patrols to avoid any confrontation.
  • If the Chinese manage to take over the Tatu Bowl area, they would be able to come to the plains within a short time.
  • In 2009, the Chinese asked the militants of the North East to come to a common platform to receive help from that country, following which, the chief of the NSCN (K), SS Khaplang has virtually turned the Taga area into a common headquarter of the major militant groups of the region.
  • As Xinjiang area is close to the Karakoram range, China started coming well inside Indian territory and in recent times, China came 20 to 30 kilometers inside India in that area; there is every possibility of the Chinese cutting off the supply lines from Leh to the Karakoram pass.

The fact of the matter is that as expected Li Keqiang has dealt Manmohan Singh a googly (in connivance our Foreign Minister and NSA) and the Manmohan has swallowed it hook, line and sinker.

The above needs to be viewed in conjunction what China has been doing in eastern Ladakh including intrusions in Depsang, Chumar, constructed a 10 kms road in Pangong Tso area etc. There is little doubt left that India has stopped patrolling the Karakoranm Pass for there is no squeak from the government or the venerable Home Minister. The Defnce Minister appears to have no role left in the contentious areas like Ladakh at least.

The emphasis on recognizing the importance of materializing the spirit of the earlier agreements for maintaining peace and tranquility is a joke considering the ease with which China has desecrated them on numerous occasions. The fact of the matter is that as expected Li Keqiang has dealt Manmohan Singh a googly (in connivance our Foreign Minister and NSA) and the Manmohan has swallowed it hook, line and sinker. Even veteran diplomats are shaking their heads in disbelief – another massive foreign policy failure that will go down in black letters to the credit of this government.

How soon China will kick them again is a matter of conjecture. We can then perhaps start thinking about a future BDSCEPT (Border Defence Strategic Cooperation for Enhanced Peace and Tranquility) Agreement. A deeper analysis of the BDCA Agreement in backdrop of disclosures by former Ambassador P Stopden and Mr RN Ravi, former Special Director IB would indicate, it is no less than treason. What we needed was a discussion on why China did not respect the earlier agreements and protocols.

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About the Author

Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

Prakash Katoch is a former Lt Gen Special Forces, Indian Army

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6 thoughts on “BDCA – Another Self Inflicted Wound

  1. The Chinese always say that they will resolve the Sino-Indian border dispute when ready. Reading in between the lines this means that they will resolve the issue when politically, economically and militarily strong. While I would like to believe the same to be true about our leaders…there is very scanty evidence to validate my premise entirely based on a belief. A Professor of Political Science once said to me that when China announces its intention to conduct an ICBM test overflying India, we have two choices – protest or pray for its success!! It seems we rely too much on Divine Intervention: conveniently forgetting that God helps those who help themselves! Though the Chinese do not believe in God (officially), God certainly does!!

  2. Sir, this is a very comprehensive article explaining how our foreign policy agreement with China may not serve any purpose as it is vague and self contradicting. However I most respectfully disagree with the general tone of the article which seems to suggest that it is one sided and favors only China. Most of the arguments put forward by the author in support of the above views can also be considered that it favors India. It depends on who takes the initiative and then sticks to his position. Yes, the point regarding info to be provided to China on DBO landings is very unfortunate inclusion in this agreement and only time will tell what price we will pay for this.

    Going by the past experience of China as regards our agreements with them , it is high time Govt gives due weightage to the opinions expressed by the people who have been entrusted the task of maintaining the integrity and sovereignty of our country, as they are the ones who know what actually is going on in disputed areas and what all is required to safe guard our national interest.

  3. Impressed with the in-depth analysis of the agreement. It is ironical how our leaders, starting from Nehru downwards, have been taken for a ride by China. Signing this agreement makes a mockery of the previous such agreements which have been flagrantly violated by China. Surely, this step will, in future, turn out to be another foreign policy failure in pursuit of peace. Rightly said by the author, the weak kneed PM was only itching to just ink the agreement without correctly understanding its implications.

  4. The whole whole criticism of BDCA can be reduced to a single allegation : ‘China never keeps its promises!’ In my view, it is imperative for a democracy like India to keep working at and find solutions to the border security issues through the diplomatic level and not through armed confrontations with its neighbors – especially the mighty ones like the People’s Republic of China. None of the clauses of BDCA can reasonably be termed as a ‘self-inflicted wound’. At the best, India may find China keeping the promises made in the agreement and at the worst, China will continue with its nefarious activities as before. Nothing in BDCA can aggravate the situations along the border more than they already are. Article VI does look deleterious to India’s interest, but only when read in isolation. It needs to be read with Article VII to get a proper perspective. I find it logical that neither of the parties shall follow or tail patrols of the other side in areas where there is no common understanding of LAC, as it may result in confrontations and unpleasantness. But to keep a check on their schemes, article VII makes provision that one party be informed of the activities of the other. Further, the demarcation of LAC is indeed a contentious issue and one which may not get resolved anytime soon. That’s why the agreement does not assume any precision regarding LAC and uses the phrases like ‘where there is no common understanding of the Line of Actual Control’. The criticism seeking to define the border first will result in indefinite delaying of any meaningful border and security agreements between India and China. To my mind, BDCA is a welcome step towards attaining peace in the region.

  5. The fault lies with the higher ranks of the armed forces particularly the army to not voice its concerns strongly and let the nation know that the general does not advocate the treaty…many generals in the past have done this and a few have meekly signed in….
    The firing along the LOC in the west coincided with this meeting so as to make India -China talks from Indian side be Paki/ terrorist centric which china will showcase as having a keen ear whilst chanelising India to sign what it wants.

    Who from the MoD, IAS ,IFS, have an iota of the border and the region. The Supreme commander of India’s armed forces is ignorant of any military strategy, warfare, legality even in the Indian context…
    The present higher echelons of the armed forces should decide if they want to to be mere postmen, passing on the dictates of the ignorant MoD,IAS and political class downwards or have and command Generalmanship and do what is required to put a stop to the nonsense and try and chanelise the MoD and powers to be in the right direction.
    Many generals in the past have corrected the powers to be and a few have meekly signed in….
    It now depends where the present ones wants their name etched besides.

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