India-China Poised On A Razor’s Edge

The situation between China-India and with India-Pakistan is now into an extremely sensitive zone as there is a report for the first time from the Indian army, though through a retired Brigadier, that ‘Indian army fully geared to fight full-fledged war in eastern Ladakh even in winters’, in Times of India on September 16, 20201 , (Retd) Brig Hemant Mahajan has said that the ‘altitudes in Ladakh range from high to super high altitude and there is a lot of snowfall-up to 40 feet after November , coupled with this temperature dipping down to minus 30 to 40 degrees Celsius.

But despite this the most encouraging part for India is that the Indian soldiers have a experience of winter warfare’.

In this scenario a news has arrived which may seem to be only a spark but might turn out to be fire, in this already volatile situation, as it is learnt that one Indian soldier has been killed and two were injured as Pakistan troops opened fire at Kashmir border. The report from SputnikNews 2 on September 16, 2020, tells that, ‘India continues to face a two-front threat on its border, with tensions intensifying with China on the Line of Actual Control and with Pakistan at the Line of Control in contested Jammu and Kashmir. This year has seen the highest number of Pakistani ceasefire violations in 17 years, India alleges, claiming there have been 3,186 such incidents. An Indian army soldier was killed and two others were injured after Pakistani troops fired upon Indian forces along the Line of Control (LoC) in the Rajouri district of Jammu and Kashmir’.

In what may be called as a part of psych warfare, China has started to play Punjabi songs by putting up loud-speakers at Ladakh borders, which of course it had done during the 1962-war with India too. The Hindustan Times on September 17, 2020 report says, ‘While the Indian Army was not amused by Chinese military tactics, the military commanders rolled up in mirth after PLA troops on Finger 4 ( in Ladakh) starting belting out Punjabi numbers, and also chaste Hindi statements, to soften up the adversary into lowering their guard on the fiercely contested mountainous spur. If the north bank of Pangong Tso ( in Ladakh) was jiving to Punjabi songs on PLA loudspeakers, a battery of loudspeakers were deployed by the Red Army at their Moldo Garrison in Chushul sector to remind the Indian troops of, what they claim, is the folly of their political masters. On the southern banks of Pangong Tso, the Chinese loudspeakers told Indian troops in chaste Hindi about the futility of being deployed at these heights in winter season on the whims and fancies of Indian politicians back in Delhi. The whole idea of PLA is to pull down the morale of Indian troops and create dissatisfaction among the soldiers that they do not always get hot steaming meals and logistics. A snowy winter also lies ahead’. The Indian army surely would not be cowed down by such tactics but the Chinese effort to kindle the Khalistan sentiment amongst the Sikhs inside the Indian army may not be ruled-out.

It would be alarming to know that now there is a growing trend in the incidents of firing between the Indian and Chinese sides as Times of India 4 on September 16, 2020 has informed that India and China had at least three firing incidents in the last 20 days over the ongoing territorial dispute. The first happened on August 29/30, 2020 at Pangong Tso, the second on September 7, 2020 at Mukhpuri, and the third happened on September 8, 2020 in which 100 rounds of fire ‘each’ 5 were exchanged . India too, as a way to meet the Chinese have started to put into for the long winters ahead as WIONews.Com 6 on September 16, 2020 has reported that ‘Meanwhile, the Indian army is (also) ready with its operational logistics readiness for a prolonged standoff as winters set in. The Indian army has already stocked special fuel and lubricants for tanks and armoured personnel carriers, including spares for their maintenance’. Interestingly, if not that predictably this action from India has come after the Jaishankar-Wang Yi’ joint-statement’ 7 was drawn after Moscow talks on September 10, 2020.

While troops are being amassed by both India and China, the Chinese foreign ministry has accused India to have violated agreements made to maintain tranquility on the borders, which is nothing but an effort by China to again engage in a blame-game against India. The Hindustan Times on September 16, 2020 8 , has reported that ‘China claimed on Wednesday that it has been honouring agreements signed with India and is committed to maintaining peace in border areas, a day after defence minister Rajnath Singh said Beijing is not respecting the customary alignment of the boundary. Responding to Singh’s statement, the Chinese foreign ministry again blamed New Delhi for the tensions, saying it is India which has breached agreements made to maintain tranquility along the disputed boundary.“For the Chinese side, we have been honouring the agreements signed between China and India. We are committed to peace and stability in the border area,” foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said when asked to comment on Singh’s statement. “We are committed to our sovereignty and territorial integrity. But China is not to blame for the current situation. It is the Indian side that has breached the agreements, first trespassed the territory first and fired shots to threaten the safety of the Chinese border troops first,” Wang said at the regular ministry briefing. India’s external affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava clearly (also) spelt out (that) the Indian government’s position on the disengagement process earlier, saying the LAC “must be strictly respected and observed as this is the basis for peace and tranquility in the border areas.”’. This posturing shows that China is just hunting for any other excuse to stay-put in Ladakh.

In this fast pace developing situations, one aspect which also deserves equal importance is the result of the virtual-meeting of national security advisors at SCO, Moscow where Pakistan Moeed Yusuf showed up a Pakistan map which included Kashmir, Junagarh etc, much to the consternation of Indian counterpart Ajit Doval 9 who chose to walk out of the meeting, as the move according to India was a blatant violation of the SCO charter. Russia, the host and chair, had tried hard to persuade Pakistan not to rake the issue but Pakistan went ahead with it. Here one question begs an answer. Did did any other nation also boycott in support of India?. The answer is no. At least Russia could have done it as India had always been with Russia in the last half a century. Why? For the simple fact that Russia now perceives India to be in complete proximity with US and Russia, perhaps, also had an immediate reason for it as India only almost a fortnight back had decided to pull-out of Kavkaz 2020 10 military exercises organised in Russia as China and Pakistan were to take part in it.

For the winter war ‘closing-in’ India is also into in its full preparatory gear, as The Hindustan Times on September 16, 2020 11 reports that India Borders Road Organisation ‘has decided to allowed Srinagar-Zoji La-Kargil Leh axis to be closed only for 45 days from past average 95 days due to snow this year and will strengthen all the bridges on Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) road to bear the load of tank plus truck trailer by next month. the Indian Army is rushing in supplies with the BRO ensuring that 17,580 feet high Chang La pass and 17,582 feet Khardung La on route to contested Pangong Tso is kept snow free throughout the year’ . Moreover, India has also increased the number of Bofors guns in Ladakh come from 12 . The Russian media sources Sputniknews 13 has reported that ‘ India ramps up stockpiles in Ladakh region for the long haul to address Chinese threat’ on September 16, 2020. China from its end, through its state affiliated media outlet The Global Times on September 16, 2020 14 , has told that India is also engaged in a psychological warfare ‘ by claiming that its army is preparing for winters, ( but) neither the transportation nor the supplies of the Indian army in the glacier-covered region is as good as India claims.’

India and China are thus equally poised on a razors edge, with Pakistan to the side of China. India is surely looking beyond November 2020 when US presidential elections are over as then US would be in a better position to help India, but what merits an attention here, according to The, on September 16, 2020 15 that ‘China’s THIRD aircraft carrier is pictured under construction in Shanghai’s ‘warship factory’ – a 1,000ft titan which threatens the US Navy’s supremacy in the South China Sea. (This ) comes as China looks to assert its dominance in the South China Sea where the US has sailed its warships and conducted drills with allies ( India , Japan, Australia, Taiwan etc) recently in a show of strength against Beijing’s claims on the disputed waters . The 1,000 ft vessel is expected to be completed by the end of the year, and local media claim it will be armed with a new type of electromagnetic catapult capable of launching heavy fighter jets and unmanned drones’.

The world is certainly heading for a major-showdown and this time India is likely to be a part of it.