Troubled LAC

A new satellite image has shoed that China is building a bridge on its side of the Pangong lake in eastern Ladakh. Incidentally, the image emerged soon after Indian and Chinese soldiers exchanged sweets and greetings at 10 border posts along the LAC including in eastern Ladakh to mark the New Year. India also inaugurated the Chisumle-Demchok road at Umling La Pass at over 19,000 feet in Ladakh that is considered as a key stretch for military purposes. China has also massed around 60,000 troops opposite the Indian territory in Ladakh and continues to its build infrastructure to help the faster movement of its forces to the  LAC. This, despite the fact, that the Chinese Army has withdrawn all its summer training troops in the areas opposite Ladakh. In response, Indian Army has also moved ahead its counter-terrorism Rashtriya Rifles Uniform Force formation in the Ladakh theatre to bolster the 14 Corps there.

The Defence Ministry Rajnath Singh in its year-end review recently made it clear that the unilateral and provocative actions by the Chinese to change the status quo by force, in more than one area on the LAC, have been responded to in adequate measure. The militaries of the two countries have already been engaged in dialogue at various levels to resolve the lingering stand-off but so far they have only achieved a modest success.

So far, there have been thirteen rounds of dialogue between the two sides and there have been only small gains in the form of mutual withdrawal of forces from Pangong Tso lake. The stand-off thus seems set to continue. And this is not a good evolving security situation for India.  And the country’s security brass is aware of this.

India wants China to go back to status quo ante as it existed in April 2020 but Beijing is in no mood to do so. On the contrary, the People’s Liberation Army has enhanced its military profile on the border by deploying thousands of its soldiers and equipment. In recent years China has reportedly more than doubled its total number of airbases, air defense positions, and heliports near the Indian border. This has now become a high-stakes war of nerves between the two countries.

The problem in the negotiations so far has been that China has been loathe to go back to the status quo ante and has asked for mutual withdrawal. The incursions in the first place have been staged by China and the communist giant is not ready to vacate it unless India also withdraws from a portion of the border on its side of the LAC.  But New Delhi can hardly afford to do it, not least because it considers the area it’s own. Doing so will be politically costly for the BJP government at the centre which is already facing severe flak for vacating Kailash ranges as part of its Pangong Tso agreement. But through sustained negotiations, they certainly can find a way out. For a peaceful neighborhood, it’s important that India and China reach a modus-vivendi.

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