Following Indian Army’s firm response to the Peoples’ Liberation Army (PLA) of China upping the ante at Nathu La and Cho La in Sikkim in 1967, which resulted in about four hundred PLA soldiers killed and a Chinese convoy of vehicles and many bunkers destroyed, the Chinese decided to settle all breaches of the perception-based and disputed Sino-Indian border termed as the Line of Actual Control (LAC), through discussion only.
The Chinese very smartly got this clause of not using firearms included in the 1993 agreement on “Peace and Tranquillity” along the LAC and renewed in 1996, 2005, 2012 and 2014. Except for ambushing and killing four riflemen of Assam Rifles at Tulung La in 1975, PLA steadfastly continued its intrusions/ incursions/transgressions/ “straying” across the LAC, for almost 53 years till May-June 2020, including large scale ones at Sumdorong Chu in 1986-87 and Dolkam in 2017, all of which were resolved through talks.
If at all there was any confrontation or heated exchanges between Indian Army and Peoples’ Liberation Army soldiers, they were confined to grappling/wrestling, or at the most, fisticuffs.
Crossing the thin line
On May 05 and 09, 2020, PLA troops crossed the limit of unarmed combat by using sundry weapons like rods and stones, resulting in about a hundred personnel sustaining injuries. On the night of June 15-16, 2020, at Galwan, Peoples’ Liberation Army crossed another limit by using deadly medieval barbaric weapons and killing one Indian Army colonel and nineteen other ranks. This was soon followed by a reprisal by Indian troops as a result of which over 40 PLA soldiers were killed. While still no firearms had been used, by killing Indian soldiers, Peoples’ Liberation Army had violated all the past peace agreements.
While the June 15 barbaric attack was because of Indian Army overseeing/verifying PLA’s disengagement, which was not being adhered to as agreed upon in the first Corps Commander level meeting at Moldo on June 06, 2020. What also emerged was PLA’s massive staging forward in many locations along the LAC and Indian Army’s mirror deployment. Undoubtedly, this was part of the Chinese Communist Party-Peoples’ Liberation Army combo’s plan to be implemented taking advantage of the impact of China released pandemic in India and indeed, all across the globe. This plan includes grabbing many tracts of territory including commanding heights and tri-junctions on the Indian side of the LAC.
After many meetings and discussions between military commanders and diplomats, a process of PLA disengaging has reportedly begun but with over five decades of trust having become a serious casualty and knowing the history of the CCP-PLA combo’s hegemonic compulsions/ perception of the Chinese destined to dominate the world, even if a full-fledged withdrawal is effected by PLA, there is no guarantee that the same forward deployment will not be tried again. If so, with all the strategic infrastructure developed on the Chinese side and the terrain, the time required for Peoples’ Liberation Army to stage forward will be much less than that for Indian Army.
In view of both the Army and the government being tight-lipped and much ‘kite-flying’ in the media, this writer is not getting into mentioning many details/locations. India’s stand is very clear – status quo ante as in April 2010. Two main reasons for PLA to do so, are Indian Army’s response at Galwan on June 15-16, 2020 and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s interactions, visiting recently injured soldiers and some categoric statements during his surprise visit to Ladakh on July 03, 2020.
While no firearms had been used, by killing Indian soldiers, Peoples’ Liberation Army had violated all the past peace agreements.
While PLA needs to be watched hawk-like, the Army’s task of doing so will be much more effective if Central strategic intelligence, including National Technical Research Organisation’s satellite intelligence is shared with it. Incidents like losing twenty braves on June 15 can be avoided. Also, Indo-Tibetan Border Police on the LAC must be placed under the operational command of the Army.