Union Minister Rajnath Singh has told the Parliament that the government is “determined to do whatever it takes to protect Indian sovereignty” and that in the process it is “prepared for all outcomes.”
The union minister said that he met with Chinese counterpart in Moscow and put forward our concerns. Minister of External Affair S Jaishankar also had an agreement with his counterpart and that if China implements the agreement sincerely and fairly then the disengagement would happen peacefully, he said.
Rajnath Singh’s strong words are in line with government’s action. The government has been taking some pre-emptive measures lately to strengthen our position on the Indian side of Line of Actual Control (LAC). Last week, our armed forces secured the ranges of Kailash Range that include Helmet, Black Top and Gurung Hill. These areas were the intense battleground in the China-India war in 1962.
The action was a long-awaited riposte from Indian side to the repeated violations of Chinese troops since April at Pangong Lake and other areas of Ladakh.
Why face-off now?
According to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the face-off with China in parts of Eastern Ladakh is the direct result of the government building better infrastructure, including roads, in the region.
Modi told the Opposition leaders in the all-party meeting that it was not a sign of weakness on the part of the government or strained relations with China. It is China’s style of expressing resentment at what was going on in the Indian side of the LAC, he said. Most experts have said the government building roads and airfields to improve transport links and narrow the gap with China’s superior infrastructure on its side of the LAC was the provocation.
Despite Chinese objections, India completed a road leading to an airfield in October 2019 at Galwan. The government sources said that the Modi government cleared the way for the construction of 66 operationally critical Indo-China Border Roads.
India also tried to deepen its strategic relations with the US and Japan in a bid to attract manufacturing units that were moving away from China. “Tensions between China and the US are not an opportunity for India to attract relocating industrial chains because the South Asian country is not prepared to receive such manufacturing shift given its poor infrastructure, lack of skilled labour and stringent foreign investment restrictions, China’s official mouthpiece, the ‘Chinese Global Times’ wrote.”
China may have seen it as a threat as well. China was always a step ahead than India in the whole issue. Even after the Ladakh face-off, China was the first to move diplomatically. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui claimed that the Indian soldiers crossed the borderline for “illegal activities and provoked and attacked Chinese personnel.”
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called Jai Shankar and discussed the issue. After the call, China had put out an aggressive statement before India could release its media note. China Foreign Minister demanded the Indian side to “conduct a thorough investigation on this matter, severely punish those responsible for the incident and to strictly control the frontline troops.”
China used an aggressive language and pointed fingers at India. On other hand, India exercised caution and used sophisticated language. However, for the first time, India has taken some proactive measure at least to pre-emptively avert the activities of People’s Liberation Army in these areas.
What is LAC?
The border that came into being after the 1962 war between India and China ended is being called the Line of Actual Control (LAC). It is 3,488 km long stretch from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh.
As China grew into a big economic and military power surpassing India, the Indian leaders had reconciled to the fact that the land (about 43,000 square kilometres) under Chinese occupation could not be reclaimed through force. Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, in 1993, signed in Beijing a ‘Peace and Tranquility Agreement,’ which says that the border dispute could be negotiated while simultaneously improving bilateral relations in other areas.
There were four more agreements between the two countries, the last being the ‘Border Defence Cooperation Agreement’ signed in 2013. However, the trade relations immensely favoured China, putting India in a disadvantage position.