At daggers drawn – PLA and Indian forces in eye ball to eye ball distance
The situation has become too explosive to brook any more delay. Astute diplomacy only can diffuse the situation from a dangerous escalation.
The talks between Indian Defence Minister, Rajnath Singh and his counterpart in Moscow on Friday yielded little towards resolution of the crisis. The two sides reiterated their well-known positions, but there was no sign of any headway towards diffusing the crisis. The statements issued by either side separately underscored the wide gulf between the stands of the two countries over the border row that has worsened considerably since May.
Rajnath Singh categorically asserted that attempts to alter the status quo along LAC through military means will be foiled by India even at great cost. He was referring to the incursion of a large contingent of PLA soldiers into Galwan that triggered the ongoing tensions. Resolution through talks is the only way forward, he confirmed.
The Chinese Defence Minister, General Wei Fenghe, shrugged off any Chinese role in the flare-up, and put the blame squarely on India for precipitating the crisis. Quite surprisingly, he said “the responsibility lies entirely with the Indian side”, while China “kept maximum restraint to prevent potential escalation”. He called on India to pull back its troops, while suggesting that both sides should stay committed to resolving the issue through dialogue and consultation and make joint efforts to meet each other halfway.
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has gone to great lengths to drive home the point that repetition of the Galwan-type incident will be catastrophic, and it’s imperative for the two sides to resort to diplomacy eschewing the military option. The problem arises because Beijing’s official assertion of the need for diplomatic resolution is in stark contrast to the way the PLA has so far acted on the border displaying alarming belligerence and aggressive intent. As a result, India has ceded about a thousand kilometers of its territory in Ladakh since May. Yet the Chinese don’t hesitate to put the blame on India.
China’s diplomats have time and again spoken of the need for the two countries to keep the ‘big picture’ in mind while shaping their bilateral ties. This implies that economic and strategic interests be the guiding principle for the two countries in deciding the way they conduct their relations. Quite surprisingly, the PLA troops have acted with exceptionable aggression eager to nibble away at Indian territory. Such dissonance between China’s stated support for diplomatic solution and the PLA’s tendency to grab Indian territory is really very puzzling.
Hopefully, China will reverse its belligerent stance towards India. Till that happens, India’s armed forces will have to be maximally alert to foil PLA’s forays to come in and squat on India’s territory. If necessary, Indian army will have to counter PLA’s aggression by counter-aggression as it did recently on August 29 in Chosul by quickly seizing some commanding heights in the area.
No doubt, the meeting between Rajnath Singh and his Chinese counterpart in Moscow was a wasted opportunity. Mr. Jayshankar’s forthcoming meeting in Moscow on September 10 with Mr. Wany Yi shouldn’t be a futile exercise. Military talks can proceed concurrently to supplement the gains of the meeting in Moscow. The stakes are very high, and no stones should be left unturned to restore the tranquility that existed in the border before May.
- This piece was written before the meeting between the two foreign ministers in Moscow on September 30.
- This is the paraphrase of an Editorial of Hindu.