Both nations, according to these reports, now have between 50,000 to 60,000 troops deployed along the LAC in Ladakh
The last couple of years, in particular, has seen the world torn apart by both the Covid-19 catastrophe and the emergence of a new Cold War. Nations have been pursuing their own selfish agendas on the global stage unmindful of the uncalled-for destruction of weaker societies with misery and turmoil being inflicted on the hapless. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine eight months ago, a conflict which threatens to escalate into a nuclear dimension, the world is yet to see any signs of a resolution. India, which is located in easily one of the world’s most geopolitically stressed regions, has its own share of diverse challenges, threatening its security and well-being, largely attributable to the hegemonistic and an overly assertive China.
India had seen, once again, Chinese perfidy in its eastern Ladakh region in April 2020 onwards where serious Chinese transgressions had been engineered across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Depsang Plains, Hot Springs, Gogra, Pangong Tso and Demchok areas. In the Arunachal Pradesh region too, China has been busy establishing border villages and fortifications, provoking India, and also making some fresh deployments opposite India’s central sector. Sixteen rounds of talks between senior military commanders of both nations in Ladakh have resulted in some disengagement of troops in Galwan, Gogra, Hot Springs and Pangong Tso areas but there’s no progress in the Depsang Plains and Demchok friction points yet. However, the last round of talks held on September 8, 2022 did ensure both sides agreeing to disengage from Patrolling Point 15 in the Gogra-Hot Springs area which may result in creating “a buffer zone” and a “no-patrolling area”. This was perceived as “low-hanging fruit” by some strategic analysts, and it was speculated by many in the media that it would lead to a direct interaction between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi summit on the sidelines of the SCO summit in Samarkand in mid-September, but that did not happen.
Numerous reports in both the Indian and Western media indicate that the Chinese have largely been successful in their “salami-slicing tactics” by altering the decades-old buffer zones and patrolling points along the LAC. Both nations, according to these reports, now have between 50,000 to 60,000 troops deployed along the LAC in Ladakh. External affairs minister S. Jaishankar recently acknowledged that India-China relations are going through an “extremely difficult phase” due to Beijing’s actions at the LAC. Despite the assertion by the Chinese ambassador to New Delhi that the situation at the border is “overall stable”, the external affairs ministry’s spokesperson has unequivocally stated that much more needs to be done to “restore normalcy at the frontier”.
Overall, China’s precipitating the Doklam crisis in 2017, its aggressive gaze towards our strategically sensitive Siliguri Corridor and persistent encroachments and nibbling of Bhutanese territory only show its ever-growing and insatiable appetite for expansionism. China’s refusal to follow a rules-based international order and allow freedom of sea lanes is part of the overall Chinese DNA, which has culminated recently in its threats to gobble up Taiwan. India therefore has to be wary of China both independently and also, if the need arises, in concert with other nations. The much-heralded “Quad” group needs to be strengthened with some military muscle by the United States, Australia, Japan and India and its membership expanded to include other Asian and European nations who resent China’s domination of their economies and navigation in the high seas of the Indo-Pacific region.
Given China’s consistent aggressive stance towards India, many analysts were flabbergasted at India’s abstention at last week’s vote on a UN Human Rights Council resolution condemning Beijing for colossal human rights violations in Xinjiang province. The draft resolution on “holding a debate on the situation of human rights in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China” was rejected in the 47-member council after 17 members voted in favour, 19 voted against and 11 nations (including India, Brazil, Mexico and Ukraine) abstained. The draft was introduced, among others, by the US, Britain, Canada, Norway, Sweden and Turkey, and sought a discussion on Chinese atrocities in Xinjiang where, reportedly, it has committed genocide on its minorities.
China, amazingly, remained silent on the surprise Indian abstention at the UNHRC and contended that its crackdown in Xinjiang was aimed at countering “terrorism and separatism”. To clarify India’s position, the MEA had explained that the “vote is in line with our long-held position that country-specific resolutions are never helpful… India favours a dialogue to deal with such issues”. MEA spokesperson Arindam Baghchi also said that India had taken note of the human rights situation in Xinjiang and hoped China would address the situation “objectively and properly”. However, some sources felt that as China was a UNHRC member, India had abstained to avoid retaliation by China against India on a variety of issues.
On the whole, keeping China’s unfriendly attitude in mind, India needs to be more strident in its criticism of China on its human rights record against Uyghurs and even Tibetans. The world community and the otherwise indifferent Islamic “Ummah” should step up their activities to censure China on its human rights violations. And while India should retain its “strategic autonomy” in foreign policy, it must also display far more resolve in admonishing those nations who are repeated offenders in fostering terrorism, indulging in human rights violations and aggressive activities against their neighbours.