Foreign ministers leave it to army commanders

The diplomatese in the joint statement issued after the meeting of the Indian and Chinese Foreign Ministers in Moscow on Friday, September 11, does not mask the continuing state of red-hot confrontation between the two armies at the Ladakh border. The five-point approach to resolve the crisis, which S. Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi set out, actually leaves it to the area commanders of the two militaries to try and chalk out de-escalation. As of now, there is no knowing when the two commanders will meet, but even if they do in the next few days we have reason not to be too optimistic. Because instead of getting any better, the actual situation on the Line of Actual Control has become further tense.

The Chinese have rolled in further heavy-duty militaryware, including tanks and armoured vehicles, on the LAC, forcing India to match their deployment. More than 20,000 troops each are amassed in an eyeball-to-eyeball position on the LAC, and more are on the standby. In one word, the situation is fraught. The Chinese are very angry ever since Indians occupied the Black Top Helmet and the Reqin Heights in a pre-emptive action on the night of August 29-30. They made a vain attempt to dislodge Indians from their advantageous perch providing them an overview of the Chinese post and helping keep a hawk-eye on the Chushul-Demchok Road. Since then, the Chinese have occupied a few other positions already under their control.

But the Indian occupation of heights has sent a strong message that it is determined to vacate the aggression before it would consider any disengagement. Therefore, the five-point approach to de-escalation will be effective only when the PLA restores the status quo ante as in early April. The Chinese have practised the salami tactics in their dealings with almost all their neigbhours. The way they have usurped the South China Sea waters belonging to the Philippines and refuse to leave them despite an adverse ruling by an international tribunal, underscores their expansionist policy towards all their neighbours. But against India they may have miscalculated.

After the initial lapse, the Indian security forces have fortified their positions, well-prepared for any eventuality should military and diplomatic talks fail to yield a positive outcome. Of course, it will be a long drawn-out process and can stretch over months into the harsh winter that lies ahead. It is more than likely that in the coming days China will try and test the resolve of our troops. It is this eventuality that the Indian troops are now fully prepared to guard against. Only intervention by the top political leaderships of the two countries would eventually result in a meaningful resolution of the crisis. Of that, as of now, there is no likelihood. It may take a couple of more meetings of the two foreign ministers to prepare ground for such a summit meeting.

Meanwhile, it will help if Rahul Gandhi stopped asking “what about our land taken by China”. Such impudence only reveals his lack of maturity. He ought to heed what Sharad Pawar said at the beginning of the current crisis in April-May. The Opposition does not drag the sensitive security matters to the level of the street, leaving it best to the government to handle it, in close conjunction with military experts. Then again, this is not the first time the Chinese have occupied Indian territory. They have been at it since the early 80s.

All through the UPA decade, one did not hear the then Congress President inquire childishly about the territory which China had illegally occupied --- a good 40,000 kilometres of it after the 1962 war. Therefore, politicising the border situation does not serve national interest. Instead, the nation as a whole, led by the entire political class, including the Opposition, nay, particularly the Opposition, should present a united front against China and commit itself to recover the couple of hundred square kilometres that China occupied by stealth when our security forces had lowered their guard.

Incidentally, Rahul is mistaken if he believes that when all else has failed to dislodge Modi from the high popularity perch he occupies, the Chinese might come to his rescue and win him the election. Whether he likes it or not, the border trouble with China has actually further increased the Prime Minister’s popularity, with the people believing that if there is any one leader who can meet the Chinese threat, it is Modi.

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