Once again just before a high level bilateral visit, the Chinese intruded into India. Last year it was in Depsang before the visit of Chinese PM to India. Earlier they provoked India by issuing stapled visas to people from Jammu and Kashmir which mean it didn't recognize the state as integral part of India and they do the same with Arunachal Pradesh. China has made it a point to provoke India every time there is bilateral visit.
Last year the Chinese withdrew from Depsang after nearly three weeks and not before demanding India destroy bunkers and listening posts in Chumar. India obliged. The UPA government of the time termed the incident as an acne on an other beautiful face of Sino Indian relations. The usual excuse about the LAC not being demarcated and difference of perception was also offered.
This time the Chinese by some reports intruded 4-5 kms inside India's side of LAC. The number of troops that intruded were nearly 1000. That is a lot of troops into Indian territory which can stay put and control a lot of territory which would require a larger mobilization from India to dislodge if it came with that intention. India did send in about 1500 troops and from an account I read, the Chinese withdrew back 2 kms. The MoD said the Chinese were still entrenched in good positions but India was better placed in terms of supplies.
What is to note that the Chinese started this latest incursion while India's National Security Adviser Ajit Doval was in Beijing laying the ground work for President Xi Jinping's visit. Doval said that "ties between the two nations were poised for an “orbital jump.” But the Chinese as usual plan their own agenda devoid of sentiments when it comes to what they describe as their core interests.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman after the Presidential visit said that "effective communication has led to getting the situation under control". This begs the question, who authorized this latest intrusion? The Chinese foreign ministry statement gives a sense that it was the PLA or its local commander who acted on its own without the permission at the highest level. Many analysts in India have said that the PLA has got increasingly powerful and is pushing its way in China against the Communist Party. I would like to say that the PLA is an arm of the Communist Party of China and its loyalty lies towards the party and not the Chinese nation. PLA apart from external security is also responsible for maintaining and sustaining Communist Party control over China. The events of Tienanmen Square being the best example of it.
The CPC has being cracking down on the PLA for its large-scale corruption. Just this year in June it said it would court-martial General Xu Caihou, who retired in 2013 as vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, the top military decision-making body, for taking bribes. Earlier authorities charged one of his proteges, Lieutenant-General Gu Junshan, with corruption. Gu was the deputy head of the PLA Logistics Department until he was sacked in 2012. There has been no backlash by the army brass against the CPC indicating that the CPC is firmly under control of the PLA.
What should also be taken into account that even last year it was projected that the local commanders were responsible for the Depsang intrusion without any authorization. The question then arises as to was the commander who issued the order found and punished for starting a provocation with India? This points to the fact that the incursions are carefully orchestrated with the permission at the highest level. What should also be considered is that China has been aggressive with all its neighbors and refuses to give up or negotiate on any of its claims. It established ADIZ in East China Sea. Recently it sent an oil rig in the waters claimed by Vietnam. It also undertook dangerous aerial maneuvers with US reconnaissance planes in South China Sea.
India's response from the new BJP led government has been nothing new but a continuation of the UPA policy that China has gotten used to. While Modi did tell President Xi that peace at the border is imperative for stronger bilateral ties, it does not go far enough to send a firm message across to China nor does India's tactical response in the situation forceful enough to deter more Chinese aggression in the future.
WHAT INDIA CAN DO?
Frankly, learn from the past! India and its leaders seem to have forgotten that after 1962 war, India gave China a bloody nose in 1967 in Nathu La. Indian troops killed over 400 Chinese troops in what basically involved the control of a boulder!
Again in 1986-87 the Chinese did something it has been doing in Ladakh in the Eastern Sector in Sumdorong Chu. Gen Sundarji landed a brigade level force in the region using Mi 26 helicopters and continued to reinforce and refused to back down. There was a war like situation. The Chinese blinked in the end and backed down. The Chinese didn't provoke India in that manner for 25 years. after that.
India has to show aggressive intent to protect its territory and clearly show that it wont back down even if it means another war with its larger neighbor. Chinese troops have not been to war since they got a bloody nose by Vietnam in 1979. It may be modernizing its armed forces,but still has many equipment which is essentially Soviet Era copied material. India has fought a war/skirmish every 15 years and has been fighting insurgencies for six decades.
The reason why China does what it is doing is clear. It does not want to demarcate the LAC let alone resolve the boundary issue.. Its continuous incursions under the garb of undemarcated LAC suits its policy of grabbing more land without going to war. By continuously intruding into India and nibbling away at the LAC, it is trying to alter the line so that if at all it decides to formally have talks on border resolution, it can show that it controls more territory on the ground than shown on any map going back to the 60s. Baiscally it is China's Forward Policy.
India has to adopt a modern version of Nehru's Forward Policy which analysts say led to the 1962 war with China. Unless China knows that India has the will to counter forcefully, it will continue with its aggression. India is also constitutionally bound to reclaim the large swathes of territory of Aksai Chin that China occupies. India is within its rights and within international law to seek that territory back, by any means. India for decades has done nothing diplomatically or militarily to show any intent to reclaim its territory and this applies to PoK as well.
While I don't advocate going to war with China right now given the economic costs, its imperative we show the Chinese we are prepared for war. In my opinion, China doesn't want to fight a war with India or anyone right now. China knows it cannot win a war with India outright and that will lead to severe loss of face for it in the world for it and dent its claims to be a superpower. Also if it gets into a stalemate with India, it risks going to similar wars with its other neighbors who certainly will be emboldened by China not being able win a war with India. Japan being the most serious adversary which is well armed and with a renewed zeal under PM Abe to protect its territory against Chinese expansionist tendencies.
If India does respond forcefully against Chinese provocations, it will push the other Asian countries who have a problem with China to react in similar manner. This would deter further aggression from China.