More than a year has passed since border tensions between India and China spiked after the worst clash in almost five decades in Ladakh's Galwan Valley, which is in the Aksai Chin-Ladakh area, controlled by China but claimed by both countries. But, even as talks to resolve border disputes have continued, the Chinese are yet to 'go back'.
In a latest development, senior Indian government officials have informed that the 'so-called Chinese civilians' have erected tents on the Indian side of the Charding Nala in Demchok in eastern Ladakh, The Indian Express reported.
Earlier in July, Chinese People's Liberation Army troops and civilians had come on the other side of the Sindhu river in the Demchok region to protest against the celebrations of Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama’s birthday.
On the same day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had publicly wished Dalai Lama, sending a message to China ahead of the 12th border dispute talks.
The Quint spoke to defence experts to understand the current situation in Demchok – and India's forward strategy to counter China's incursions.
Lieutenant General Kamal Davar (retd), who served as the first director general of the Defence Intelligence Agency, told The Quint, “The Chinese are using ‘salami-slicing’ tactics to slowly gobble up Indian territory. They have not moved back an inch since last year.”
“Going forward, we should be firm in our attitude and ask them to go back to how the situation was back in April 2020. We are only being fair. The Chinese are indulging in machinations and being grossly assertive wanting to capture our territory.”
In a significant development in late June, at least 50,000 additional Indian troops were redirected to the Indo-China border. The redeployment, being a shift from a defensive posture to an offensive one, will allow Indian commanders more options to attack and seize territory, if necessary, in a strategy known as “offensive defense,” Bloomberg reported.
The report added that Indian military personnel as well as fighter jet squadrons have been shifted to three separate areas along the Chinese border, adding up to a strength of around 200,000 troops in the area.
Indian government officials said that even though they have asked the Chinese who are the occupying the tents set up in Demchok to go back, 'their presence remains', The Indian Express reported.
China Cannot Move Forward
While speaking to The Quint, Major General Harsha Kakar (retd) asserted that “China cannot move forward. Its options are either to stay or retreat. Both are a loss of face.”
He explained that since China cannot retreat in a hurry, “it will cause delays prior to moving back, which will ultimately happen.”
“The current situation is stable”, said Kakar and added that, “India should not change its current stance.”
He emphasised that India should “continue holding its position, maintain requisite force levels, display it will not bend, while insisting on dialogue as the way forward.”
The setting up of tents also comes just two weeks after External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar held an hour-long bilateral meeting with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi to discuss the outstanding issues along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh.
'India Made a Mistake By Striking a Partial Deal With China'
Meanwhile, Major General Ashok K Mehta (retd) said, “The tents have been set up in reaction to what Prime Minister Narendra Modi did by wishing the Dalai Lama on his birthday."
"India has no leverage to take a position or dictate the course of events. Though India has been advocating for dialogue, the Chinese are going the way they want to go, to make you beg and crawl. They will talk when they want. The Chinese are showing India the eye."Major General Ashok K Mehta (retd)
Earlier this month, Chief of Army Staff Gen MM Naravane had said, "The situation along the LAC is normal ever since the disengagement took place in February this year from the northern and southern banks of Pangong lake as well as the Kailash ranges."
However, considering the disengagement a mistake, Major General Mehta (retd) said, “We made a mistake in February by taking a partial deal of withdrawing from Kailash Heights, instead of taking a package deal to disengage from all friction points. Once they got India off the heights, they were happy, as operationally it’s easier for them to strategise.”
China Has No Intention To Negotiate on Aksai Chin
India and China have been engaged in diplomatic and military talks after tensions began rising along the high-altitude border in April 2020.
Even after 11 core-commander-level talks for disengagement and de-escalation at the LAC, the relation between the two countries is still at a crossroads.
Last month, an Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson had blamed China’s actions of stationing a large number of troops in border areas and last year’s offensive along the LAC as the reason for the ongoing tensions.
Referring to February's disengagement, Lieutenant General (retd) AK Singh said, "China got us to vacate the Kailash heights, giving us an impression that other friction points will also be resolved, but that hasn’t happened. They will not give up their advantage in these areas so easily. By all accounts, China has no intention to negotiate on Aksai Chin."
Singh further said, "Though the current situation is stable, but tense, chances of a physical clash are low. When troops are in such close proximity things could get out of hand, hence there is a need to de-escalate."
On being asked about the military talks, Singh said, "The military talks have reached a saturation point, though still useful for coordinating confidence-building measures. The government should reopen discussions at the politico-diplomatic level."