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China-India Violent Face off in Eastern Ladakh may 2020:

Paper No. 6611     Dated 3-July-2020

By Dr Subhash Kapila.

(These were the views expressed at the International Seminar at Allahabad University)

Allahabad University organised an International Webinar on “Recent Violent Faceoff with China on LAC: Solutions & Prospects” on June 27-28 2020. Key Speakers included Professor Harsh V Pant ORF, Professor Swaran Singh JNU. Mr JigmeyTsultrin Coordinator India Tibet Coordination Forum and Dr Subhash Kapila.

Views expressed by me were on the higher plane of China-India Military Confrontation: Overall Views on 21st Century Perspectives and India’s Options. Major views expressed by me both on the opening day speech and responses to Q&A sessions on two days of Webinar stand combined and encapulasated and are reflected briefly in the succeeding paragraphs

China-India Military Confrontation in 21st Century No Longer Confined to Boundary Dispute But an Asian Geopolitical Tussle.

In the 21st Century, the violent face-offs between Indian Army and Chinese Army in mid-May 2020 at multiple points in Eastern Ladakh have arisen because China attempted to change the existing status quo on the LAC in Eastern Ladakh bordering Aksai Chin—the Indian Territory under illegal occupation of China alongside China Occupied Tibet.

In 21st Century, the China-India Military Confrontation is no longer confined to a mere boundary dispute which commenced with China’s military occupation of Tibet in the middle of the20th Century.

In the 21st Century, the China-India Military Confrontation stands magnified as Asia’s and more pointedly the Indo Pacific’s most significant geopolitical power rivalry.

With Indo Pacific deeply polarised by China’s wild rampage reminiscent of Hitler’s rampage in Europe on the eve of World War II the China-India Military Confrontation imposed on India by China’s imperialistic impulses has emerged as a significant combustible flashpoint in Indo Pacific Region.

Geopolitical rivalries unlike mere boundary disputes will invariably draw in Major Powers who also have stakes in security and stability of the Indo Pacific in the power tussle. Unlike the 1962 Sino-Indian Conflict when even India’s Non-Aligned fraternity also stood aside, there is all likelihood that should China start even a Limited War with India Indo Pacific support would be forthcoming.

Present indicators of China’s strategic blueprint of a ‘Great China’ Dream pursued by Chinese President Xi Jinping portends that India has to be prepared for a long-drawn out military confrontation with China further magnified by Pakistan emerging as a Chinese ‘force multiplier’ as part of the China-Pakistan Axis.

Tibet is as much a “Core Issue for India” as China Claims it is China’s “Core Issue”

Tibet is a far more significant ‘Core Issue’ for India even though over the decades India has officially not articulated as such. India’s ties with Tibet over the centuries were civilsational, spiritual and always peaceful unlike China that was always historically exploitationist and imperialistic

China changed the status quo in 1950 by forcible and brutal military occupation of Tibet. In one stroke China militarily obliterated the ‘vital buffer state’ in India’s North. China Occupied Tibet was subjected to an ethnic and religious genocide by China including demographic changes.

China’s military occupation of Tibet brought Communist China’s borders to rest on the Himalayan Heights separating India from what is now China Occupied Tibet.

India’s then PM Nehru was “strategically insensitive” and ‘strategic culture deficit’ to loss of Tibet as a ‘buffer state’ and its ensuing military implications whose consequences India is facing today.

Emphasised forcefully was that if Tibet was not “China Occupied Tibet” today there would have been “NO” China-India Military Confrontation compounding India’s national security challenges.

Tibet is therefore a Core Issue for India today because China Occupied Tibet bristles with massive Chinese military deployments, missiles and nuclear weapons aimed at India.

Tibet is a Core Issue for China only in that its military hold on Tibet coupled with brutal suppression in Xinjiang provides strategic depth to Mainland China from its historically most feared Western Approaches.

“China Threat” to India Should NOT be Under-played or De-Emphasised in India’s Official Articulations

Lamentable was the fact that in the last seven decades India’s political leaders and policy establishment studiously avoided referring to the China Threat or consciously under-played and de-emphasised it.

India vainly hoped that with passage of time China may emerge as a more responsible State amenable to peaceful dialogues and negotiations to resolve boundary dispute.

Regrettably, India’s peaceful narratives bordering on ‘China Appeasement’ by past Governments were in utter contradiction to China’s narratives of ‘revisionist expansionism’ of its territories.

India’s record of Chia Threat Analysis and China Threat assessments till lately were pathetic as far as India’s political leadership was concerned. Attention was drawn to the complete Chapter devoted to this aspect in my first Book: ‘India’s Defence Policies & Strategic Thought-A Comparative Analysis (2004).

Threat Assessments have two components---namely, the Military Component and the Political Component. Indian Armed Forces’ China Threat Assessments in terms of China’s military capabilities, force deployments and operational doctrines were always objective and time-related realistic.

India’s Political Component of Threat Assessment centring on China’s intentions against India by Indian Prime Ministers were flawed and with illusionary overtones romanticising on China rather than discerning the nature and dimensions of the constantly enlarging China Threat to India.

India’s War Preparedness against the China Threat to India

Indian record on this vital aspect of India’s national security till lately especially under Congress Governments was pathetic. Defence expenditure was continuously kept low and Indian Armed Forces were expected to go to War with China with whatever limited resources the Government of the day sought to provide.

Defence infrastructure in India’s Border Regions was woefully neglected on specious grounds by the Congress Governments 2004-2014.

China in 2020 stood rattled by India’s ‘catch-up’ in War Preparedness initiated  by Modi Government to meet the China Threat and more pointedly the fast-track developments of strategic roads in Eastern Ladakh.

 Both these factors combined can be construed as reasons for China imposing the mid-May 2020 violent clashes in Eastern Ladakh. China perceived that its hold on the Aksai Chin Road and its CPEC Highway through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir would now be vulnerable to Indian military actions with the two developments stated above.

Indian Academia & Intelligentsia has to recognise that Communist China is Not a Civilizational Power but a Revisionist Power

This Indian prism needs correction as it distorts the entire Indian discourse on the China Threat. It distorts the contingency planning and War Preparedness initiatives required to effectively deal with the China Threat.

It also gives a political handle to some irresponsible elements in India’s major Opposition Parties to distort the China Threat debate within India by manufactured distortions or inspired by China.

China may be an ‘ancient civilisation’ but Communist China is not a Civilizational Power .That is my firm belief.  If Communist China was a Civilizational Power then it would have subscribed to civilised norms of international behaviour of sustainable dialogues and respect for international conventions and agreements. China’s record has been drastically otherwise.

China’s demonstrated record in the entire Indo Pacific expanse is one of propensity for armed conflict to settle territorial disputes and scant respect for international conventions and bilateral Agreements.

Concluding Comments on ‘Solutions Perspectives’

The following observations were made by me in this context:

  • China-India Military Confrontation would be long drawn-out with NO political solutions, simply, because China is NOT open to ‘Conflict Resolution’ processes or sustainable dialogues promotive of reconciliation and peace.
  • China-India Military Confrontation would intensify in coming decades as geopolitical pressures mount on China coupled with economic slowdown and internal political dissidence leading to domestic unrest. Chinese President Xi Jinping, who currently China’s ‘President for Life’ would be tempted to divert Chinese public attention to Border Turbulence with India imparting nationalistic overtones.
  • In the 21st Century the Indo Pacific is likely to be dominated by an intense Cold War II and between China and India also which will get subsumed in the latter.
  • China-India Military Confrontation would have an added Maritime Dimension in the Indian Ocean. This would be advantageous for India as the maritime flank in the South could be exploited by Indian Navy to offset China’s military power on the Northern Borders. The caveat would be India according fast-track expansion of Indian Navy battleships and submarines.
  • China may be Militarily Powerful today but China is Geopolitically Less Powerful than India. India must exploit its geopolitical advantages and China’s glaring strategic vulnerabilities as high-octane additives greater political outreaches to Major Powers already suspicious of Chia’s expansionist designs in Indo Pacific.

Finally, an exhortation/appeal to India’s younger generation researching on China-India Conflict to discard the prism of “Idealism” when researching and analysing this conflict imposed by China on India and view it from the prism of “Realism” principles of political theory

Attention was also drawn to the detailed analysis of my second Book: ’China-India Military Confrontation-21st Century Perspectives’(2015) for more additional amplified analysis of China’s paranoid aspirations to emerge as a Superpower which in my assessment China will flounder.The major ‘Takeaway Impression’ that I carry back from this Webinar was that there was a growing consensus that India now has to squarely face the China Threat militarily as the prime focus with geopolitical initiatives in tandem, notwithstanding academia who habitually articulated theories of peace and reconciliation with China

The Tibetan Official from the Central Tibet Office made a highly impressionistic expose on China’s brutal suppression of the Tibetan people and China’s reluctance to even concede the minimum demand of ‘self -autonomy’.

It may be recalled that my Book incorporates several SAAG Papers written by me on Tibet as Annexures.