India must move beyond talkathon and start questioning Chinese claims on Tibet, Hong Kong and Xinjiang


The 13th round of corps commander-level talks have failed because China is not sincere about ending the military standoff with India.

The 13the a series of corps commander-level talks between India and China ending on an awkward note came as no surprise to anyone analyzing Chinese activities ahead of the talks. The talks took place against the backdrop of recent incidents of Chinese troop intrusions in the Barahiti sector in Uttarakhand and the Tawang sector in Arunachal Pradesh. It also coincided with a large build-up of troops and a modern arsenal along the Real Line of Control (LAC), and the construction of permanent structures in areas where China had encroached in April 2020, the holidays of which were the main objective of the talks. So it was quite obvious that China was in no mood to concede anything and started talks for the optics. After the disengagement of troops in eastern Ladakh from the north and south of Pangong Tso and some disengagement in Gogra, no disengagement in other areas such as the plains of Depsang and Hot Spring, Demchok, and therefore no de-escalation, was A fatality.

China’s intention to force India to resume operations as usual, putting the border / LAC issue aside and not insisting on a further withdrawal was refuted by India earlier when it disclosed this disengagement at all points of friction leading to de-escalation, peace and tranquility at the borders are prerequisites for the development of harmonious bilateral relations. This legitimate position of India to revert to the pre-April 2020 positions is affected by the heinous Chinese claims that “India is pushing for unreasonable and unrealistic demands, which creates difficulties in the negotiations”.

In recent times, nearly 80% of top Chinese leaders, including President Xi Jinping, have visited Tibet / Xinjiang. The massive infrastructure development in terms of airstrips, railroad, road network to border towns like Nyngchi, accommodation and other activities deserves to be watched for India to develop a strategy of reply.

Objectives and strategies

Beijing’s political goal has been the creation of a China-centric Asia which it believes is only possible through India’s subordination. This goal could not be achieved despite the prolonged stalemate in Ladakh so far. The Chinese strategic objective to control eastern Ladakh was to provide strategic depth to its G-219 national road and the Karakoram Pass, in addition to redesigning the LAC according to its perception (1959-60) and negotiating the border. on its terms thereafter. China can claim to have partially achieved it, with a continued presence for a few more kilometers in the Depsang plains, hot springs and Demchok regions, where disengagement has not taken place.

Having developed its infrastructure in areas consistent with its perception of LAC, China’s goal of denying India the same has not been successful as India continues to develop its infrastructure at unprecedented speed to catch up with the Dragon.

The Indian objective has been to bring China back to the pre-deadlock position at all points of friction, not to concede unilateral changes to the LAC, and to continue talks for its demarcation, in the hope of achieving a resolution of the borders. With the current disengagement, the status quo is achieved in the regions north and south of Pangong Tso, although at the cost of losing the crucial leverage effect of abandoning the occupation of certain heights on the Kailash chain and north of Pangong Tso, before the Chinese holidays of ‘other areas’. Further disengagement and de-escalation in the remaining areas will be a daunting task due to the lack of levers, given the Chinese track record and recent activities.

China marched into areas where it was not meant to be, destroying all CBMs, as part of the “incremental encroachment strategy”, exploiting the first-mover advantage. He quickly found himself crippled by the strong Indian response, resistance and determination, with proactive actions resulting in newly created vulnerabilities for Maldo Garrison and his launch pad, south of Pangong Tso. Despite the disengagement in the Pangong Tso region, the Chinese malaise over Indian arrangements in the northern sub-sector, including DBO, infrastructure development, including the DSDBO road, as a threat to crucial Tibet-Xinjiang connectivity -Pakistan, remains.

Indian planners will have a hard time explaining why the disengagement was not sequenced on a ‘first in and first out’ basis, meaning India should not have left the heights of the Kailash Range until after China left all areas including Depsang Plains, Gogra, Hot Spring and Demchok regions. It is reasonable to believe that he left India at a disadvantage due to a lack of levers and no attractive savings in terms of financial and human costs, as no real de-escalation has taken place. Despite political debates over the legacy of the Depsang issue, it remains strategically important and a threat to DBO and DS-DBO Road; hence a concern for India.

Go beyond the talkathon

Unlike all the great powers, India does not have a National Security Strategy (SSN) in the open domain to guide capacity building to address China’s challenge in a synergistic manner. The classified part of the NSS is kept secret by all countries, and rightly so. India’s reactive actions over several decades indicate that diplomacy is motivated by the ‘do not bore China’ approach, which has failed miserably as Beijing has made no concessions on the display of accommodation. until now.

Failure to challenge Xinjiang or Hong Kong by India did not prevent China from dragging India to the UN Security Council on the Kashmir issue, or from advancing CPEC on sovereign territory. Indian. Without even spelling out our challenges, expecting different agencies to synergize in building capacity to address challenges on two fronts seems far-fetched. India needs to formulate its NSS and prioritize its challenges and tasks required by agencies to develop their capacities. A shift in mindset is needed, from reactive to proactive with additional offensive capability to demonstrate the ability to encroach on Chinese hotspots, in the absence of which China has assumed no threat from India , with the freedom to encroach anywhere at will.

Over time, the respective positions of China and India on their declared border positions have hardened. The resolution has become extremely complex due to the rise of sentiment / nationalism in the respective countries, increasing the political cost of any compromise on either side. Given the lack of a major breakthrough at the 22sd round of the talks on the Sino-Indian border, no interesting development on the delimitation, delimitation and demarcation of the LAC area is expected, which is otherwise necessary to avoid repeated deadlocks.

India’s strategic goal should be to continue to insist on a formal delineation and demarcation of the LAC, which is difficult but not impossible. A temporary solution / sidelining of the main problem is a recipe for the next dead end, leading to the LoC-ization of LAC further. The Chinese will like to keep the border unstable until the political cost of not settling it becomes greater than it does. In the absence of de-escalation on the part of China, India is – and will continue to be – ready to face any eventuality with a similar deployment along the LAC, including creating additional levers. if the situation requires it.

India must prepare for a “war on two fronts” in the worst-case scenario, and continue the capacity-building exercise in all areas, including maritime, where China’s vulnerable maritime lines of communication may be. threatened. In addition to the continued development of infrastructure along the borders, it is recommended that States / TUs along the LAC allocate concessional land to security forces such as regional SCOUTS, ITBP, SSB and families originating from this region (on the concept of soil wires) ready to settle. villages according to their own perception of CLA. This will improve inclusive growth, integration, in addition to proof of our border claims, to ward off the Chinese conception of developing hundreds of new villages along the LAC. The best way to avoid a war on two fronts is to convince both adversaries that India can fight, backed by appropriate capacity building and the intention to use all instruments of power.

Strategic partnerships with like-minded democracies and a collective naval posture to create a multi-front situation for China are efforts in the right direction. There is a need for an alternative supply chain, business and technology ecosystem independent of China, for which some initial steps taken by Quad countries need to be continued. India needs to develop its strategic culture with professional strategists, as diplomacy-focused patches and talkathons have not worked so far. The overall strategic approach must be proactive at the tactical, operational and strategic levels.

The author is a strategic and security analyst, a veteran infantry general with 40 years of experience in national and international fields and at the UN. He has been awarded twice by the President of India, the United Nations, the former Moldovan Prime Minister and the Governor of Haryana. He is currently Chief Instructor at USI India.