India China LAC dispute Photograph:( Reuters )
India has revamped its military posture. The Rubicon has been crossed politically. By going up well behind the LAC, over 4 km deep, capturing the territory and features in between, India has turned the tables
The liberation of Tibet 2020 has claimed its first martyr, a 51-year-old Company Leader, Nyima Tenzin, of the Special Frontier Force (SFF). Founded in 1962, the SSF is a special commando group of Tibetans in exile, integrated with, and working alongside the Indian Army.
Tenzin, a father of three, died, some reports say, after stepping on a Chinese landmine planted under the snow, not now, but back in 1962. Other reports state he was shot in the neck by the Chinese. His funeral, with full military honours, will take place today on September 7. His body was draped in both the Indian flag and the flag of free Tibet.
This death, and the outflanking of the entire LAC issue it symbolises, is the new strategic landscape in Ladakh.
India has revamped its military posture. The Rubicon has been crossed politically. By going up well behind the LAC, over 4 km deep, capturing the territory and features in between, India has turned the tables. The Chinese now have to contend with a proactive India that has abandoned its defensive game.
India now controls as many as 39 of the high points along with the Pangong Tso. These give India oversight and military advantages all along the Pangong Tso, from South to North. There is a line of vision in other strategic directions as well.
These heights, connected valleys, roads, and passes, have not been captured in a token sense, but for the purposes of exerting pressure on the ongoing negotiations. They are designed to affect military domination of the theatre of confrontation and are to be seen as a signature to a new policy.
The initial capture of the heights began on August 29-30, after a Chinese attempt to unilaterally alter the status quo on the South Bank of the Pangong Tso. It was reinforced with heavily armoured vehicles, tanks and missiles, some of it in place within hours.
These took up position in the valley overlooking both Pangong Tso and Chushul.
This rapid deployment has taken away the initiative from the PLA and the Chinese leadership in the CCP back in Beijing. Four months after the latest Chinese intrusions began in May, the ground situation has been radically altered.
All Chinese positions after the intrusions, and even in the massed areas behind the front lines have been rendered vulnerable. In fact, the recapture of territory lost in 1962 has begun.
India is no longer acting for a restoration of the status quo as it was in April 2020. There will be no Indian pullback, no giving back of captured territory. The changed scenario has put the focus on the reclamation of over 1,000 sq.km in Ladakh encroached upon since the late 1950s.
By using the SSF as the spearhead, India is gaining from its legendary ferocity, prowess, its considerable knowledge of the terrain, and ability to fight at elevated heights in extreme conditions.
Underlining the new thrust which has cut through the stalled talks, is a bid to free Tibet and undo a historical wrong from the 1950s.
India has always had a peaceful Indo-Tibetan border for centuries. And the disruption, destruction, murder and humiliation wrought by Chairman Mao’s China will have to be obliterated if India is to see peace along its northern borders once more.
India has begun a process that apparently has the full diplomatic backing of the United States. This, given the bellicose stand taken by President Xi Jinping with multiple countries simultaneously, in the region, and the world. Both The NATO allies and the EU are now clear they will have to resist Chinese imperialism.
Meanwhile, President Xi Jinping has unleashed a new wave of repression in Tibet as China fears a groundswell of rebellion.
India will have to free the occupied territories in Siachen, Akshai Chin and Ladakh first. And this is the face of hysterical threats from the Chinese.
But India’s priorities have changed beyond going back and forth on an undefined LAC. China is fond of citing obscure historical and cultural precedents, even as it refuses to honour treaties or recognise any of the older or colonial-era protocols.
India has now moved on. It has decided not to engage with ever-changing Chinese maps of the LAC region, all 4,000 km or so of it.
The Chinese, on their part, think the LAC is only 2,500 km. long, because they claim Arunachal Pradesh as theirs, calling it South Tibet.
China has also advanced unsustainable claims in Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, and the Sikkim/Bhutan areas. These have become ever more aggressive over the years and made a mockery of negotiations at all levels of interaction. In addition, China is playing a predatory role in PoK, Gilgit-Baltistan directly, and via Pakistan as well.
India has no choice but to outflank existing Chinese strategies and tactics. To place China on the mat the best course is to put Tibet, captured by Red China as recently as the 1950s, back into contention.
This will no doubt see India foraying across the LAC regularly, and at various points along with it, to create military advantages and pursue the broader objective. Every excursion will hopefully result in a gain of territory that will not be returned to China.
All this cannot happen without a fight or perhaps many skirmishes to come. But China is already aware, judging by its agitation at its Defence Minister level, that it is a battle ignited out on the fringes of its empire that it will find hard to sustain and win. The hostile Tibetans, armed and trained by India and its allies, will do everything to help themselves.
It could turn into a debacle for China going forward, no less humiliating than the defeat of the USSR in Afghanistan. Certainly, the dragon is not likely to see a day’s rest from now onwards.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)