China's Chumbi Valley Shenanigans India Must Act Tough
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 04 Jul , 2017

Against China’s objections when India  allowed Dalai Lama to visit Arunachal Pradesh a few months back, China was all balloons and blunderbuss, shouting and ranting but did not go beyond that. However when India repeated this slight to China by not participating in Chinese summit in the month of May this year on the issue of sovereignty  in Chinese most ambitious project of One Belt One Road (OBOR), it was expected that China will do something to cut India to size. This China has done now by its shenanigans in Chumbi Valley commencing on 16 Jun, ostensibly against Bhutan, well knowing that it is India’s protectorate and this valley is just 50 Kms from India’s Achilles heel the Siliguri corridor, which connects Indian North Eastern States with rest of India.

Chumbi Valley of Tibet (China) is a narrow valley projecting towards the tri junction point of Sikkim (India), Bhutan and Tibet borders pointed like a dagger towards this tri junction point. Chumbi Valley is a narrow corridor difficult for large scale military manuvre. From this Tri Junction point the Siliguri Corridor, connecting India with the NE States is just 50 kms away. This corridor is extremely important to India strategically, a fact that China knows.

On 16 Jun China started constructing a class 40 road that can take light tanks, artillery guns and heavy vehicles from Doklam plain, a 269 sq km plateau on Tibet-Bhutan border, towards this Tri Junction point where Bhutan has its Army post of Zomplri.

Chinese intentions are very clear; they want to broaden this Chumbi Valley corridor basically to be a constant threat to Siliguri corridor. It needs to be remembered that Bhutan and China has no demarcated border because Chinese refuse to recognise McMahon line. However treaty exist between Bhutan and China that they will maintain status quo of the boundary as recognised before 1959. China has been pressurising Bhutan for the last decade or so that they should accept Chinese claim on Doklam plateau for China giving up its claim on Bhutan’s 495 kms Northern Border at two places of Jakarlung and Pasamlung. This is Chinese old tactics of first start claiming a territory and then start off setting with other territory.

Needless to say that India cannot allow this road to be built in a disputed territory of Bhutan when India holds the protection rights of Bhutan vide India-Bhutan Friendship Treaty of 1949. So Indian troops stopped Chinese construction of this road. This resulted in scuffle between the troops of two armies and Chinese destroyed two makeshift bunkers of Indian Army on Sikkim Border.

As is the nature of Chinese, they are blaming Indian Army of having entered in the Chinese area and stopped construction of this road. While India has told China that India will not allow China to build this road in the disputed Bhutanese area of Doklam Plateau being guarantor of Bhutan. Bhutan has issued a demarche to China. It must be understood that even though China has been doing mischief in Chumbi Valley for decades this time the confrontation is much more serious. China cannot afford to back up because for last few years whether South China Sea or Sino-Indian border it has been following a proactive expansionist policy unchallenged. This is first time that India has directly challenged it in favour of a client country whose security is India guaranteed. India also cannot afford to back up.

Indian Army Chief has already rushed to the area and has given a statement that Indian Army is fully capable of keeping China-Pakistan nexus at bay. India has deployed additional troops on the ground. China also has rushed its troops to the area.

Meanwhile China has reminded India that India should learn from its defeat in the hands of China in 1962 Indo-China conflict. What china does not understand that lot of water has flown in Ganges from 1962 till now. If China dares escalate this conflict it will get it in neck and will be very sorry that it started it. The current day Indian Army is professionally well honed machine which apart from Kargil Victory, only war fought in high altitude in 1999, has been constantly in skirmish with Pakistan sponsored jehadis and Pakistani Army. Compare this with Chinese Army which has last fought any war in 1976 against Vietnam where it was badly bloodied. Some points as to why China dares not raise this issue to a war conflict because then it will lose which it knows are as follows

We lost the 1962 war because Nehru had shown aggression in deploying Indian soldiers at advanced borders in disputed areas to test China’s patience. This was a period when there was an uprising going on in Tibet and India had lent support to Tibet against China. Also, the Dalai Lama was given asylum by India, which further irked China. On October 20, 1962, China started its offensive against India with provocative army deployment. The Indian Army had to retreat because Nehru had deployed them in advance areas but didn’t arrange a backup support system. Thus, without getting support, the Indian soldiers suffered a lot of causalities and China advanced almost unopposed, capturing vast areas of India, both in the Northeast and Ladakh regions.

During this Chinese offensive, the two dominant super powers, USA and USSR were engaged with each other during the Cuban Missile Crisis; hence both weren’t available to intervene in this Sino-Indian war. On October 28, 1962 the Cuban Missile Crisis was resolved and the Chinese offensive against India also ended

On October 1, 1967, the Chinese army infiltrated into the ‘Kingdom of Sikkim’, a free monarchical state which was India’s protectorate as per the 1950 Indo-Sikkim’s Treaty. The Indian army retaliated and by October 10, 1967 cleared the infiltrated area by pushing back the Chinese army beyond the borders of Sikkim (Nathu la and Chol la). By the end of this war, while 88 Indian soldiers were killed and another 163 wounded, China lost 340 soldiers and 450 of their soldiers got wounded. India not only rescued the Kingdom of Sikkim from Chinese aggression but also merged Sikkim as a state into the Indian Union in 1975 despite China’s strong objection. China couldn’t dare to fight against India in the Sikkim sector. China didn’t recognise Sikkim as an Indian state until 2003. In 2003, China recognised Sikkim as an integral part of Indian Territory in return of India’s agreement that Tibet was an integral part of China.

In 1986, India accorded full statehood to Arunachal Pradesh to which China objected. According to China, Arunachal Pradesh belongs to it (as part of greater Tibet). Thus, in 1987 both India and China again stood face to face in a near possible war. But, somehow after some heated exchange of claims and counter claims the Chinese army withdrew their massive deployment, however, registering their objections in diplomatic circles which continue till now. Since then, there have been a number of confrontations between India and China on boundary disputes but never resulted in to a bloody conflict.

Although China and India share a very long boundary (4005 km
), nearly 80 per cent of the border between both countries is inhabitable and unfit for human survival. Thus, the corridor of confrontation between India and China is very small (only restricted to the Northeast and Ladakh). Thus, Chinese military’s size becomes irrelevant due to this narrow corridor.

India-China border runs mostly along the length of mighty Himalayas that can be crossed only at 62 passes. With the grace of God Indian Army holds 61 of the 62 passes. So the Chinese may have a large Army it cannot be simultaneously deployed against India. Biggest problem will be their logistics. In other words Mountain warfare is a different ball game where Chinese Army will have to get 10; 1 superiority against India to succeed, which they do not have.

It is necessary that we in India and our political leadership must develop faith in our own capabilities. We must understand that China understands only hard language accompanied by necessary action. Modi Government is doing well in calling Chinese bluff, we must continue on this path boldly. India should stop cooperation with china in world forum on all issues .To start with WTO, Climate change and OROB. We should only see our national interest and nothing else. To hell with China, India must take a hard stand in South China Sea dispute openly against China.

It must be seen taking sides with the ASEAN countries. India must go all out to cooperate with Japan and tell china thank you for its investment in India we do not need it. We must not allow Chinese companies dumping in India. As it is the 60000 corer bilateral trade with china is heavily skewed towards china, we must stop it. We should trade on equal terms .We must improve our ties with Taiwan; bring it to the same level as China-Pakistan ties. Tit for tat is the answer we must reinforce our grouping with US, Australia and Japan in Asia pacific region. We must also hurry up the formation of our Mountain Strike Corps of the Indian Army.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Brig Arun Bajpai

Defence and Strategic Analyst

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3 thoughts on “China’s Chumbi Valley Shenanigans India Must Act Tough

  1. India needs to recognise Tibet as a separate country as they have distinct culture and history and Tibetians are brutally oppressed by China again and again.We did a blunder in accepting Tibet as a of China by surrendering the rights of Tibetians by the Indo-China trade agreement of 1954 and brought our enemy knocking at our door.

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