Global Times issued a direct threat of a two front war to India way back in November 2019. A careful scrutiny of the newspaper reveals that it is not just the development of infrastructure and construction of roads in border areas, the roots of China’s real grudge lie in India’s decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and creating two new union territories to be controlled directly by the central government, writes Ashutosh Bhatia
Global Times, an English language state backed media outlet of China, continues to issue threats to India through its editorials and opinion pieces. This even as military commanders of the Indian Army and People’s Liberation Army (PLA) engage at Chushul-Moldo Border Personnel Meeting (BPM) point through the established channels on June 7, 2020,to address the ongoing month long standoff in Eastern Ladakh. The talks between Lt Gen Harinder Singh and his Chinese counterpart Maj Gen Lin Liu have not been the first one to resolve the fresh border issue. Before the senior commander level talks, local unit commanders and Brigadier level delegations of both the armies met to find a mutually agreed solution to the impasse. However, the issue could not be resolved due to the seemingly obstinate approach of the PLA.
All through these military engagements, Global Times, considered to be the voice of Chinese President Xi Jinping, continued to issue direct threats to India. In one of the write-ups during the faceoff the newspaper brags about China’s military holding nighttime high altitude drills, practicing infiltrating behind enemy lines and launching an attack at night which can ‘effectively win a small scale conflict’ with only one battle!!
In another editorial titled “India should not be instigated by the US or media hyping” the newspaper says that “India has gradually formed an illusion of strategic superiority towards China”, and “China will not give up any inch of territory… Once India makes a strategic misjudgment and nibbles away ‘China’s territory’ China will never condone it and will be bound to make strong countermeasures.” Further, it writes “We believe India knows very well that China will not be at a disadvantage in any China-India military operations along the border areas… if the two countries face a showdown on the border issue, the entire Himalayan region and the subcontinent will face instability.”
The intimidating language and tone, bullying attitude and threats used in the editorials and opinion pieces published in Global Times especially for India reminds one of the handouts issued by outlawed Maoist outfits operating clandestinely in jungles. The media broadly believe and discuss that development of infrastructure in the border areas by India has not gone down well with China and served as a chief irritant for the country. However, a careful scrutiny of Global Times reveals that it is not just the development of infrastructure and construction of roads in border areas, but the roots of China’s real grudge also lie in India’s decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and creating two new union territories to be controlled directly by the central government.
One of its articles written in November 2019 by Lan Jianxue, expert on South Asia at the China Institute of International Studies, titled “India’s Border Move will Trigger New Dispute.” The newspaper amply reveals the mindset of the Chinese leadership. It shows that China was in great discomfort after India’s decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir last year.
Lan Jianxue writes: (Due to India’s move to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir) India-Pakistan ties have come to a very dangerous point due to their long held conflicts while “a new border dispute could be ignited between India and China.”
He further says: India’s unilateral move has infringed China’s sovereignty. According to Indian Home Ministry’s notification the “Union Territory of Ladakh” includes China’s Aksai Chin, which has undoubtedly been part of China’s territory. “India’s deliberate decision ‘will expand’ China-India territorial rows, create fresh frictions and complicate their border disputes.”
The article also issued direct threats of a two front war to India, something that India’s CDS Gen Bipin Rawat talked about when he was the Chief of Army Staff. This is what it writes: “Not recognizing legitimacy of the Union Territory of Ladakh China may reinforce its defense at borders with India, will firmly safeguard its sovereignty and territories and enhance communication with Pakistan and ‘jointly oppose’ India’s move that breaks the status quo”.
It should have sent alarm bells to South Block, the National Security Council Secretariat and the Ministry of Defence. It looks that the Indian government, military and foreign policy planners seem to have misjudged China’s real intent and remained complacent about it. India should have worked to secure the Ladakh sector soon after the government’s move to alter the status of Jammu and Kashmir and subsequent objections raised by China.
As per a report in South China Morning Post, China has now deployed at least nine combined arms brigades with specialties including mountain infantry, artillery, air defence and aviation, chemical, nuclear and electronic warfare to the Tibet Military Region. The massive deployment of PLA in the border region needs a mandatory go ahead by China’s Central Military Commission which is headed by none other than President Xi Jinping. India too has deployed adequate troops to counter the adversary.
After the six hour long commander level talks, there has been no official word at the time of writing this article, since the outcome is set to be first discussed internally. Sources, however, said that India remained firm on continuing construction activities on Indian side of the LAC and on the need to revert to the status of PLA troops as existing prior to April 2020, before the start of the recent faceoff. However, with China looking dictatorial and hostile in its approach, it will be too optimistic to believe that the June 7, 2020 talks alone will resolve the situation in Eastern Ladakh. There will be more meetings in near future and the process of disengagement will take time.
So one can understand that the ongoing situation in Eastern Ladakh is different from various other India China standoffs at the LAC in the past. The government, apparently, is also engaged on the foreign policy front to avoid escalation of the situation at the border. If it is difficult to read a Chinese mind, it is also not easy to read India’s mind under this changed dispensation. It has all the ability to throw surprises.