China is learning the limitations of its will to power

New Delhi, Delhi, IndiaWritten By: Gautam MukherjeeUpdated: Jun 13, 2020, 04:26 PM IST


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India has, most reasonably, pointed out the considerable infrastructure on the Chinese side at various points along the LaC, without any objections raised from India.

China’s worst fears are materialising on the banks of the Pangong Lake. As they try to brazen it out between fingers 4 and 8 alongside top brass negotiations with India, the de facto situation is already lost.  

The Chinese cannot get what they came for. Not even with an ill-advised fight. They did divert 5,000 soldiers from a military exercise in the high altitude plateaux of Tibet in a surprise move. But the more enduring surprise and loss of face is now going to their own account.

China’s intrusion with heavy equipment, armoured vehicles and troops behind their border patrol is reprehensible, but fairly typical of their land-grabbing ways. But this one is provoked by an existential fear about the fate of their CPEC project and India’s knife at its jugular.  

The Peoples Liberation Army (PLA), occupied a sliver of Indian land between fingers 4 to 8, and a few other places as decoys. If they could have kept this land it would push India away from its own borders. But now, it is militarily threatened by the Indians from higher ground, in this terrain of mountain spurs and valleys.  

India found a new patrolling route to finger 8 and beyond from its own positions at finger 4 and quickly fortified it. This outflanks the Chinese encamped below, and exposes them to a clear line of Indian fire. India has also effected several intrusions of its own into Chinese territory.

The PLA can see the Indians working on the last part of the over 250 km of roads to the Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) airstrip at 16,700 feet. It is being relentlessly black-topped, even as the two sides are dug in facing each other.  Over 30 bridges along this road have been built to make it an all-weather artery.  Subsidiary roads to supply points in the region are also being given their finishing touches.  

India has, most reasonably, pointed out the considerable infrastructure on the Chinese side at various points along the LaC, without any objections raised from India.    

To underline its determination, there is a strong military build-up of Indian armed forces and weaponry, designed to more than match the Chinese troops.  

The problem for the Chinese ultimately, is that Ladakh, and indeed all parts of the LaC, are a very long way from Beijing. And Tibet is a vast province. The Chinese compensate for this with a slew of roads, airports, but over 500 km apart, railway routes. But Tibet is high altitude, cold, inaccessible for part of the year, sparsely populated, with the local Tibetans not at all happy with Han Chinese treatment.

Ladakh more properly borders the “autonomous” region of Tibet, once called the Roof of the World. The thinking now is that Tibet should be restored to its independence over the centuries. The US is also veering around to the same conclusion.  

Ladakh is not very far, particularly by air, from the Indian armed forces based at the plains of Chandigarh.

 India will henceforth overlook the Karakoram Pass with greater ease than ever before. It too is Indian territory, encroached upon by China. The Karakoram Pass led, in the days of the ancient Silk Route, from Leh to Yarkand.  

The Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) airstrip is a mere 10 km away from the Karakoram Pass. The other side of the pass now leads to Xinjiang. The Khunjerab Pass, used by the Karakoram Highway to enter Indian occupied Gilgit-Baltistan from Xinjiang, is about 259 km away.  

Still, it is easy to see why China feels challenged, given that both passes are seconds away by air or missile from DBO.

DBO and Ladakh, a Union Territory now, is also well poised to attend to Chinese occupied Akshai Chin and the strategic Siachen glacier.  

India is also upgrading a road into an airstrip in South Kashmir simultaneously. The preparations for any future operations in PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan are clearly underway.  

Intimidation, a long-used Chinese tactic against several other countries near and far, is no longer working with India. It may, in fact, have provoked greater resentment against China internationally, particularly in the wake of the economic and human costs imposed by the spread of the Wuhan Virus. There is no reason why India should not benefit from this.

Other roads, bridges, tunnels and railways, at points along the LaC such as near Munshiyari in Uttarakhand, are also going on full tilt. This will assist in preventing future Chinese intrusions in Himachal and Uttarakhand. This is in addition to considerable upgradation of access and facilities in Arunachal Pradesh.  

Indian armed forces have, in addition, taken up defensive positions all along the long LaC to match and better the Chinese build-up on their side.

Throughout history, those who have built empires via conquest have come to a point when their reach finally exceeds their grasp. The prime movers of ambition themselves start to falter and make mistakes. That they do so when all is not well with their internal hold on power, is not surprising. And without these prime movers in fine fettle, the great leaders that win constantly, such enterprises cannot endure. They never have. There is no easy succession plan to would-be world dominion.  

China needs to re-examine its penchant to insult all and sundry and ride rough-shod over international norms and treaties. Otherwise, it may be headed for a rude awakening. Even the Nazi admired philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s “Superman” in Thus Spake Zarathustra, came up against the limitations of his “Will to Power”.  

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)