Geopolitics

Deescalating Eastern Ladakh – China may not abide
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 26 Jun , 2020

It was heartening to know that after the marathon 12-hours India-China talks at Moldo on June 22, both sides have agreed to deescalate from the confrontation in Eastern Ladakh. The Indian delegation for the talks was led by Lt Gen Harinder Singh, the Leh-based Corps Commander while the Chinese side was led by Major General Lin Liu, commander of the South Xinjiang Military District.

The talks were reportedly held in cordial, positive and constructive atmosphere.There was a mutual consensus to disengage. Modalities for disengagement from all friction areas in Eastern Ladakh were reportedly discussed and are to be taken forward by both sides.

The issue of “premeditated and planned action” by the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) was the biggest talking point that Lt Gen Singh was to raise. The action by the Chinese had caused deaths of the 20 Indian soldiers and severe injuries to many others in the Indian camp in one of the deadly attacks in the Galwan Valley last week. The PLA too had reportedly 43 killed.

According to sources the de-escalation plan included the withdrawal of troops in a phased manner from various locations along the LAC and plans for future patrols. Diplomatic talks between India and China are continuing at joint secretary level to on the Eastern Ladakh confrontation. Chief of Army Staff General MM Naravane visited Ladakh on June 23 to take stock of the situation. He also interacted with injured soldiers in Military Hospital, Leh who had fought with the PLA.

According to US media, US intelligence assessment is that General Zhao Zongqi heading PLA’s Western Theatre Command (WTC) had passed orders to attack Indian troops in the Galwan River valley resulting in the brutal skirmish that killed dozens and dramatically escalated tensions between India and China. The basis of this assessment reportedly is that Zhao who had overseen prior standoffs with India, had previously expressed concerns that China must not appear weak to avoid exploitation by the US and allies, and wanted to teach India a lesson.

However, this assessment may not be correct because no PLA commander, whichever rank or level would dare to give such an order without the express sanction of Xi Jinping who wears the triple hats of President of PRC, Chairman of Central Military Commission (CMC) and C-in-C of PLA. Zhao is member of the 18th Central Committee of Communist Party of China and was commanding WTC since February 1, 2016. Why Lt Gen Xu Quiling was appointed the new Commander of WTC to replace Zhao Zongqi is possibly because Zhao had probably completed his tenure as Commander of WTC or made scapegoat to deflect the blame from Xi Jinping.

Earlier intelligence reports had indicated that this whole operation in Eastern Ladakh was planned and was to be executed last year after India had published the new map of Union Territory of Ladakh in October 2019 drawing adverse reaction from China. Such an operation too would have been approved by Xi Jinping. The operation was delayed because of the China Virus outbreak but the development of roads to move the forces to Galwan as also the buildup would have been closely monitored by the Central Military Commission.

The disturbing news of June 24 is of satellite images showing the PLA has redeployed at the place where their tent had been removed by our troops. Apparently, PLA were doing this while the Corp Commander-level talks were on. New camps and fresh buildup can be seen opposite Depsang and Demchok. This indicates that China will may not abide by the consensus to deescalate. It may not remove its structures at Finger 4 in Pangong Tso area.

In a his recent article ‘Resetting India’s Ties With China’, General NC Vij, former Army Chief wrote that China views India an obstacle in its ambition to be number one power in the world, because of which India must be done down. China’s nexus with Pakistan serves their purpose and further enhances the threat to India. He attributes the recent intrusions in Ladakh region at a number of places as a result of: increased number and gravity of standoffs in last 6-7 years; India’s desire to deepen strategic ties with the US, Japan, Australia etc, and; Indian intent to attract manufacturing from other countries.

General Vij further says, “The Galwan incident has unfolded the long-term Chinese ambitions in this area. The fact that the Chinese foreign minister has now claimed that the Galwan valley always belonged to them, makes it obvious there is more than meets the eye. Their long-term strategy could be to try to capture DBO-Karakoram Pass and join up with Shaksgam Valley (Indian Territory ceded to them by Pakistan) and then help Pakistan capture Siachen Glaier. The capture of northeastern ladakh will provide depth to the aksai chin road and security and security to the CPEC on which they spent $62 billion. We need to look at the gravity of the impending threat with all seriousness and stand united as a nation.

At the recent special Russia-India-China foreign ministers meeting through video conferencing to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the conclusion of World War II and founding of United Nations, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said amongst other things, “The leading voices of the world must be exemplars in every way. Respecting international law, recognizing the legitimate interests of partners, supporting multilateralism and promoting common good are the only way of building a durable world order.”

But the problem is that China has no respect either for international law or recognizing legitimate interests of others. China and Pakistan only respect power and so do other countries. We have an extradition treaty with Britain but they have not extradited even one individual of the list of 40 handed over to them some years back. Let us hope for the best that better sense prevails but indications are not very good.

China has history of backstabbing repeatedly. Despite the Corps Commander-level meeting, the Chinese media continues to brand India the aggressor. We must also understand that the developments in Nepal perhaps are being orchestrated and synchronized personally by Xi Jinping. Apparently, China will continue to test our redlines with each passing day.

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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

Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

is a former Lt Gen Special Forces, Indian Army

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5 thoughts on “Deescalating Eastern Ladakh – China may not abide

  1. According to news reports on 26 June , 2020 , US Secretary of State , Mike Pompeo has said that the U.S. is reviewing to deploy about 9500 troops to counter the military threat of Chinese Army to India and Southeast Asia . The countries sought to be covered in the support are India , Malaysia , Indonesia and Philippines. The US has already some troops in Guam or elsewhere to look after its strategic interests in Japan and South Korea. India is reported to be closely examining implications of the statement made by Mike Pompeo.
    On the aforesaid new development of strategic nature , it may be apt to refer readers to this Vedic astrology writer’s prediction of 11 November , 2019 in article about the U.S. – “ Astrological probable alerts for 2020” – published at wisdom-magazine.com/Article.aspx/5176/ on 1 January , 2020. The related text of the prediction reads like this in the article :-
    “ Predictive Conclusions.
    4. The months of April to June , particularly May-June in 2020 look to be trending into the scene some serious worrisome landscapes. There could be some war or war-like conditions across the globe , which the US may be called upon to address”. So , reading between the lines of the statement said to have been made on 26 June by the US Secretary of State , Michael Pompeo , it can be said that in the view of the US , war-like conditions somewhere across the globe in Asia have come up , calling upon the US to address. That seems to be suggesting precise amazing accuracy of the prediction made by this writer last year 2019 on 11 November.

  2. Sir, by observing Chinese behaviour over last so many years, it is very much clear that they are not going to abide by any agreement what so ever until and unless the result of such agreement is as per their master plan to strengthen their position. Chine is trying to confront India from all sides by using Pak, Nepal and also by sneaking into IOR. Their unilateral occupation at finger 4, strengthening their hold around Galway around PP 14 etc. are part of their plan. Most likely more such intrusions shall be there around DBO to weaken our position. They are adamanant to force their way through.

  3. Having lived in Hong Kong for about 18 odd years, having read parts of Mao’s Red Book, especially “POWER GROWS OUT OF THE BARREL OF A GUN”, India should take appropriate steps to mitigate and destroy the so called obstacles and plan to take on PoK and close entry for CPEC with close co-operation from friendly countries.

  4. Good as usual Gen Katoch. INdia has no choice but to recapture POK, C O K and GB ultimately. This is Chinas attaempt to distract India from doing so.
    CPEC, Daimer Pasha Dam must be destroyed no matter what. There should be no free Lunch and fun at Indias expense.
    India has to keep arming itself with the most effective and deadly weapons it can get its hands on.
    What use is Economic progress if someone breaks in and kill, rapes and loots India?
    Finally, India must always be ready to strike China and Pakistan first and with overwhelming force, so they do not get up again.
    No first Use must be discarded.
    There is NO WAY India will be subjugated or conquered again.
    Better to die like Lions than cowards anyday.

    • Genuine question.
      You are recommending removal of NFU and are also suggesting that we must strike china and pakistan first and hard enough to break them. This suggests to me that you are not talking about just a limited but a full scale conventional+nuclear war.

      Are you suggesting that there are ways to strike first with nuclear weapons and be able to win full scale military wars in today’s age(nuclear age) ?
      I had always assumed that M.A.D. prevented nuclear powers from going ahead with full scale wars.

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