UPA standstill over China


By Niticentral Staff on May 1, 2013

http://www.niticentral.com/2013/05/01/upa-standstill-over-china-72223.htmlThe face-off between India-China is expected to turn into a major diplomatic row, as the third and crucial flag meet between the two nations over Chinese incursion in Ladakh on Tuesday failed despite the efforts of resolving the issue through bilateral talks.

In fact, China has become more assertive and the visit of new Chinese Premier Li Keqiangin to India in late May is also doubted. The media reports also suggested this ongoing row can derail the positive initiatives taken in Durban during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s meeting with new Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Earlier on Saturday, the Prime Minister had termed the incursion as ‘localised’, but efforts to keep it contained received a major setback on Tuesday.

The flag meeting, which took place some 20 km from Chushul in Ladakh on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on April 30, was set up at the diplomatic level through the joint mechanism on boundary issues led by the MEA’s joint secretary (East Asia).

According to the Times of India report, the meeting was expected that both sides would agree to move back an agreed distance from their respective stand-off positions. The Indian side was to initiate the proposal and it was hoped that an agreement would be reached, setting the stage for further discussions during External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid’s visit to China on May 9.

The sources informed that learnt that the Chinese side was not only cold to the proposal but went on to re-emphasise its earlier demands as a pre-condition to even considering a withdrawal.

The Chinese side remained firm on its demand that India should dismantle its infrastructure developed in Eastern Ladakh and should stop construction activities at Daulat Beg Oldie and at Chumar where a helipad is being built. Also, the Chinese side wanted some tin sheds at Fukche to be dismantled, all of which are aimed at strengthening Indian defence on the LAC.

The mood at the talks was clearly one of upping the aggression with the Chinese side leaving little scope for any further negotiations at the local level, the sources said.

The Times of India report also stated that much of these demands reflected the problems that the new border management agreement, proposed by China, seeks to address. While the Indian side is not against negotiating a new agreement, the Army has problems with certain sections calling for freezing troop levels on the LAC among other operational aspects.

The Indian side feels that the incursion is a way to force its hand on the agreement. India is, however, clear that it will not accept the suggestion of freezing troop levels at a time when it is planning a major expansion effort.

However, in the meeting, India also made its stand clear that there should be an unconditional withdrawal of Chinese troops from the Indian territory as per the agreements signed between the two sides on earlier occasions, they said.

At the Unified Commanders’ Conference also, Defence Minister AK Antony took a tough stand on the issue saying that India was not to be blamed for the incursions as it was “not one of our creation”.

Unanswered questions on China’s Ladakh incursion

Thirteen days have passed but the Chinese troops incursion in Depsang Valley of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir remains in force and many questions are still unanswered. Parliament is yet to have an intensive discussion on the Chinese incursion in Indian side and the Government is yet to make a statement, though Parliament is in session.

What has transpired since Tuesday is something that makes the Chinese incursion far more dangerous than it was known till now – that the Chinese have pitched tents 19 kilometers inside the Line of Actual Control (LAC), not ten kilometers as was initially believed. Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma had informed Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence on April 26.

The fundamental questions that need to be addressed include:

» What is the exact number of Chinese troops who have transgressed into the Indian side?

» How many tents they have pitched and what kind of arms and ammunition are they equipped with?

» What kind of communication sets they are equipped with?

» The Indians know that the Chinese are in constant touch with their commanders across the LAC. Are the Indians tapping their communication? If yes, what are the details of these communications?

» Did the Indian Army have a Mandarin expert in the region? Has the Indian defence establishment rushed Mandarin-knowing persons to the Depsang region? If yes, how many?

» What do the wireless intercepts tell about (a) the Chinese plans, (b) the morale of the troops who are staying put in Depsang area and (c) the directions being given by their bosses from across the LAC?

» What is the exact number of Indian troops who are camping near the Chinese transgressors in Depsang? How close are the Indians to the Chinese? What kind of weapons the Indian troops are equipped with?

» Do the Indians know the quantum of food and other essential items that they brought with them on 15 April?

» Whether the Chinese have made any more incursions to maintain the current incursion by supplying food and other essentials to their troops in Depsang? If the Chinese have not replenished their troops’ supplies of essentials, it will be indicative of the fact that their incursion was well-planned and well-choreographed.

There is no indication from the Indian diplomatic establishment till Tuesday evening as to when the Ladakh incursion is going to be vacated by China. Official sources are tight lipped. The Government wants the media not to sensationalise the issue and give the Governments of India and China “time and space” to ensure that the problem is resolved.

More disturbing questions

Then there are some highly disturbing questions raised by Ambassador Phunchok Stobdan in his article published by the The Indian Express on April 26. The major point made by the retired diplomat is that China has been nibbling into Indian territory for decades. India has effectively lost considerable territory to China in the Ladakh sector alone since the 1980s, Stobdan has argued in his Op-Ed page article in The Indian Express, titled The Ladakh Drift.

Here are the relevant quotes from Stobdan’s article:

“ Since 1986, China has taken land in the Skakjung area in the Demchok-Kuyul sector in Eastern Ladakh. Now, it has moved to the Chip Chap area in Northeastern Ladakh. As in Kargil, India has been lax in patrolling.”

“The Chinese intention is to enter from the south of the Karakoram and cross the Shyok from the east. That would be disastrous for Indian defence, leaving the strategic Nubra vulnerable, possibly impacting supply lines and even India’s hold over Siachen.”

“Since 1993, the modus operandi of Chinese incursions has been to scare Indian herdsmen into abandoning grazing land and then to construct permanent structures.”

“Until the mid-1980s, the boundary lay at Kegu Naro — a day-long march from Dumchele, where India had maintained a forward post till 1962. In the absence of Indian activities, Chinese traders arrived in Dumchele in the early 1980s and China gradually constructed permanent roads, buildings and military posts here.

The prominent grazing spots lost to China include Nagtsang (1984), Nakung (1991) and Lungma-Serding (1992). The last bit of Skakjung was taken in December 2008. The PLA has also moved armoured troops into Charding Nalla since 2009. It could eventually threaten the Manali-Leh route.”

The UPA Government owes it to the nation to answer these questions and clear its stand over the Chinese incursion issue as soon as possible.

(With inputs from agencies)

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