Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the nation on the issue of coronavirus | Screengrab
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The situation along the Line of Actual Control took a dramatic turn after the rather disappointing and inconclusive Lieutenant General-level talks as indicated by the Ministry of External Affairs, held at Chushul on 6 June. At 4:52pm on 9 June, news wire ANI, which is almost always the first one to put out news citing government sources, tweeted: “India and China disengage at multiple points in Eastern Ladakh. Troops and infantry combat vehicles moved back by 2.5 km by People’s Liberation Army in Galwan area, Patrolling Point 15 and Hot Springs area. India has also moved some of its troops back: Top Govt sources to ANI.”

In sharp contrast to the press release put out by the MEA Monday, ANI attributes the disengagement to the Lieutenant General-level talks. On 7 June, the MEA sources had said, “This will be a long haul and small steps need to be taken to resolve the situation.”


Also read: India’s Fingers have come under Chinese boots. Denial won’t help us


Briefing by “top Indian Army sources”

Apparently, “top Army sources” briefed journalists or gave a handout Tuesday based on the outcomes of the Corps Commander’s level meeting. Grapevine says that the “top source” is one of the military commanders at the very top in Delhi. Since, it appears to be the first government/military brief, albeit unofficial and deniable, on the situation, it is pertinent to highlight the details:

  • After the Corps Commanders’-level meeting on Saturday, both sides have “retreated a bit”  – a rather unusual way of describing a military disengagement.
  • Five areas of conflict have been identified – Patrolling Points 14,15 (Galwan River) and 17 (Hot Springs), north bank of Pangong Tso and Chushul. Chushul had so far not been mentioned in public domain.
  • Within the next 10 days, a number of meetings of lower commanders are planned at four points. All hot lines are active.
  • Corps Commander-level meetings might become an annual/ biannual feature.
  • There has been no intelligence failure as demonstrated by the quick and strong response of the Army.
  • Army Headquarters is fully satisfied with the performance of the Army and Corps Commander.
  • PLA was matched in terms of men and machines and Indian Army is prepared for “long and permanent deployment”, if China does not retreat.
  • The core issue is the undecided LAC. Until that is resolved these episodic issues will continue.
  • The sources emphasised that the major issue currently is not just the frontline retreating but the build up that has taken place in the rear. China has deployed fighter bombers, rocket forces, air defence radars, jammers etc. at the LAC and a few km from the LAC. India will continue to carry out major build-up until China withdraws its own.

On Wednesday, the Chinese foreign minister spokesperson Hu Chunying said, “Recently, the diplomatic and military channels of China and India held effective communication on the situation along the border and reached positive consensus.”

In a sharp contrast, other reports give an exactly opposite view and indicate that the Chinese approach was belligerent and uncompromising.

The initial disengagement is certainly a success for the Narendra Modi government’s military and diplomatic approach and may pave the way to restoration of status quo ante April 2020. However, it also raises disturbing questions about the handling of the national security crisis by the government and the military. Has India been reduced to handling its national security and border incidents through stories peddled by “unknown official sources” leading to unnecessary speculation? Given the Modi government’s deafening silence of the past 6-8 weeks, has this disengagement come at a price? Given that China had seized the initiative, and had the upper-hand, what concessions have been given in terms of territory, deployment of troops and development of border infrastructure?

In my view, the confrontation on the LAC is far from resolved.


Also read: China believes India wants Aksai Chin back. PLA has likely secured 40-60 sq km in Ladakh


Govt’s handling of national security crisis

Despite the initial ‘denial’ and attempts at political obfuscation, the issue of China’s intrusions and related military actions along the LAC is now in public domain. The government always seems to get carried away by the fear of domestic political fallout, not realising the pitfalls of such an approach. Since despite a host of border management agreements and continuous diplomatic engagement, China has refused to demarcate the LAC, the lame excuse of “differing perceptions” failed to withstand scrutiny. In three areas–Galwan River, Hot Springs and Pangong Tso–China has deployed regular troops across the LAC and physically prevented us from patrolling up to the LAC.

No formal statement has been made on the military situation on the LAC. We seem to have fallen into a familiar pattern: the Chinese actions catch us by surprise, both at the strategic and the tactical level; we react with a much higher force level; the exact place and the extent of the intrusion is never formally acknowledged; the outcomes of the military and diplomatic engagements and concessions meted out are not put out in public domain; and without learning any lesson, we repeat the entire process when the next crisis occurs. In the last seven years the same pattern was repeated at Depsang 2013, Chumar 2014, Doklam 2017 and also now in eastern Ladakh.

Doklam is a classic case. We proclaimed it as a victory. But, today the PLA is all over the Doklam Plateau  with the exception of the Jampheri Ridge. So much for the Wuhan spirit.

There is a need to delink national security from domestic politics.


Also read: India, China implementing positive consensus aimed at easing tensions, says Beijing


China’s political and military aims

In the recurring crisis on the LAC in Ladakh, it is pertinent to analyse China’s political and military aims.

China’s political aim is to exploit the unsettled border–undemarcated LAC–by triggering border incidents to exert its hegemony over India and prevent it from becoming a political, military and economic competitor in the international arena, particularly with respect to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), South China Sea and Indo Pacific. And in doing so, prevent India from developing its border infrastructure that threatens Aksai Chin and other vulnerable areas.

China’s military aim is to trigger border incidents and preemptively seize tactically important areas to cut off India’s strategic communications which threaten Aksai Chin and its other vulnerable areas. Depending on India’s reaction, China is likely to undertake short-duration limited operations to capture Sub Sector North, area upto north bank of Pangong Tso, Demochok and Chumar. These areas extend the LAC from Karakoram, along Shyok River, north bank of Pangong Tso, along Kailash Range to Demchok and Chumar. These gains would also threaten the Nubra Valley and Siachen glacier and ensure China’s collusion with Pakistan to prevent any threat to the CPEC at Gilgit.


Also read: The new reality of China-centric bipolar world order, and reasons behind Ladakh standoff


Take the nation into confidence

In my view, the crisis in Eastern Ladakh is far from over. The campaigning season in Ladakh lasts until end November and the stand-off is likely to continue. Indeed, initial steps seem to have been taken by “both sides retreating a bit”, which, at best will prevent “fist and club fights”.  I would advise the government to be prepared for a “long haul” and be clear about its political and military aims–sanctification of the LAC and restoration of  status quo ante April 2020. The last two bullets of the “top Indian Army sources” briefing only endorse this view.

In the current crisis, the Modi government and the military have lost credibility and the battle of perception, and have literally endorsed China’s stand. It has also sent wrong signals to the international community. In the era of open-source intelligence and “soldier journalists” armed with mobile phones, denial and obfuscation do not help.

Modi government should take Parliament and the nation into confidence within the limits of security. It may be prudent for the Prime Minister to address the nation and military spokespersons to give formal briefings, at least once or twice a week.

Lt Gen H S Panag PVSM, AVSM (R) served in the Indian Army for 40 years. He was GOC in C Northern Command and Central Command. Post-retirement, he was Member of Armed Forces Tribunal. Views are personal.

 

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34 Comments Share Your Views

34 COMMENTS

  1. It is a very sad commentary to read and listen to our most senior veteran generals disect the current situation and give varied opinions and comments on the media for our people and confuse hell out of them. I am sure you wouldn’t have liked it when you were in uniform and in your position as northern army commander. It is the responsibility of the senior officers to groom the young to uphold the future and safety of this great nation. Introspect. Did you all stand up against the Govt of the time and by conviction do what was required in the interest of the nation? Please stop this one upmanship after retirement and stand united to advise the Govt and forces to overcome the shortcomings you faced in your four decades of military career. Jaihind.

  2. Govt has poor view of mass wisdom .. it thinks the entire repository is IAS tribe who are experts in General and know every thing from handy crafts to space crafts … not realising most at top of pyramid have exhausted shelf life and needs to to be fossilized .. giving extension right and left Govt is creating impression we would be travelling by Bullock carts only

  3. China has gained enormous ground by keeping/ resorting to indecision on the border disputes. Every confrontation, China keep low key while India gets high which serves PLA well . Today they have occupied strategic posts with unyielding argument which cause too much psychological dente. They have prepared for long haul would be happy to continue long enough until it gets normalized.

  4. Handling the Chinese needs cunning, ample preparation and economic might. Rajnath is too soft and indecisive to handle them. Amit Shah may be the right man in defence. India needs to be economically strong to take them on. The BJP has messed up the economy because of relying on generalists to handle ministries that required professionals. Covid came and screwed it up right royally. We may have to wait a while to recover and then do to them what they are doing to us. Probably now we need to mark time and mount a diplomatic offensive, hit them where it hurts – Tibet, Taiwan, South China Sea. Gang up with a few allies and mount a diplomatic offensive. Rub salt on their sensitive areas. Could help a lot.

  5. Toughness melts ; Discretion better part of valour; In the eyes of the Chinese President, India has shrunk and subsequent meetings between the two countries will not be on the same level but between Big brother and small Brother.

  6. I believe my Army more than politicians ,i believe we are safe in their hands…..if army chief says everything is in control so I believe them……🇮🇳🇮🇳

  7. I personally do not think that statement from pm us necassary .china planed this for some time so india needs some time to finalize its strategy .you can not play on the terms of China .they want us to make an error as an excuse & use current buildup to invade .military is preparing ,as per past record of this government they are not going to forgive nor forget the backstab from china. may be statement about asking chin in parliament by our home minister an error should have come after we were prepared well.but our army is analyzing ,checking weapon inventory & taking positions..it may take sometime import necassary weapons ammunition but I am sure this government will give a befitting reply to china sooner or later .pact with Australia, call to Israel may not be about covid but about some good gear to counter Chinese so called hothwizer and tanks.we must show confidence in our government.

    • India has no strategy apart from corrupt Gujjus having trade deals with India. Besides Modi has no choice apart from silence. The other alternative is war and he cannot go for that as the PLA will give India a thorough beating and the land will go. Having posed as a great Hindu nationalist, a beating in front will be against pride.

  8. With due respect to author ,may I ask one very simple question ? In every dispute or battle or war two parties are involved. In current dispute China is another contestant. China is having its own President—Xi Jinping , who heads the country and its only political party –communist party of china. China , too must have at least equal stakes in the ongoing or emerging dispute/confrontation. Have you or any Modi hater journalist had seen any statement from Xi Jinping statement in media ? Then why You ALWAYS expect Modi ji to give any statement to media ? Will it not jeopardize Indian position by hardening the postures ? The normal below -PM level channels are working and giving the information , which they deem fit to broadcast.

    Thanks to current technology of today, people are having more information about dispute, Dispute-Resolution process, ongoing amassing of troops and killing equipment by the both contestants than at any time in past. Keeping in views the current level of preparations by both countries, NO COUNTRY WILL HAVE ONE SIDED WIN IN ANY THEATER OF WAR, IF IT HAPPENS. COSTS IN TERMS OF MEN AND MATERIAL AND LOSS OF FACE WILL BE ENORMOUS FOR BOTH COUNTRIES.

  9. The simple reason is that we can only shout on Pakistan. We have “haanji boss” kind of Generals who are no good. Good soldiers never get promoted as IAF officers ensure they do not go above Colonel rank. so you have useless Generals leading brave men who can do nothing without orders and everything needs to go to the Defence Minister who can only talk and do nothing else. . That’s the main problem. sorry. to be blunt and yes I have a defence background and not speaking something which we already do not know.

    • Yes…..by occupying Indian land……………..That is very loud & bold statement that the whole world is hearing !!!!

  10. The General has accurate information about Ladakh from his sources. When there is no intelligence failure then it means the Chinese army has entered into Indian territory with a plan to capture some specific areas and in the future also China will repeat the same incursions. In this case, no one is on fault either army or political leadership. Now what options are left with Modi, first wait for a few months to settle border incursions, second, if border problem is nor solved through dialogue it means China has come with a long term plan and in this case military confrontation is possible. India should not shy away from military confrontation with China. India is a member of shanghai cooperation organization with Pakistan, China, and five other members. China is getting too much benefit from trade with India i.e., about 50-60 billion dollars per annum. India should get used to living without cheap Chinese goods.

  11. Its extremely sad situation for India. Feeling so depressed. How come we do not have desire to protect our motherland from foreign incursion.
    We now have a CDS. Im no military expert but I believe India has enough deterrent to make China withdraw.
    Our CDS message should have been direct – vacate our land else we are declaring war.

    How would Pakistan react if India moves into its territory? Obviously they will fight back and even use N option to free themselves.

    Our CDS /PM/ DM all are silent. They are silent as if nothing had happened. Our technocrat FM is not making any statement to the world complaining about China incursion.

    Sad very sad. Feeling ashamed that our rightful land is being grabbed and we are unable to push back enemy. What is the idea to spend so much on army if they cannot protect our honor?

  12. A crisis like this should be blown up. The government should shout at every forum internally and say that China has violated India’s territorial integrity. It must take Opposition leaders into confidence and dispatch them to various countries to interact with Indiana and Locals there and shame China. Our Ambassadors and envoys including UN must raise the issue of transgression and violation of LAC by China and raise stink. What we did with Pakistan should be done with China. But this govt only wants to fool people into believing that they are strong but they are actually very weak and insecure. BY that they have made India vulnerable

  13. With due respects to an Ex Army Commander…
    The Chinese Prime Minister exhorted his PLA to be ready for war – that was the statement made by the Head of Government of China.
    What statement should the PM of India make?
    Tail piece: Senior veterans should know that in matters of border scuffles, especially with China, the Nation is taken into confidence by reposing its faith in the Armed Forces and not by discussing tactics and strategies in the media.

    Regards

  14. This is my view.
    This is the standard tactics of China to keep threatening us but will not take any military action until the Modi government is prevailing.
    In the past China has already occupied some areas during the UPA regime which is only coming to picture now.
    The Modi government is going to take up this issue also with China.
    China may achieve its goals if some other weak government’s comes to power in future.
    Time only will answer this.
    Put the nation first.

  15. Thank you for highlighting the abject and repeated failure of intelligence, military and government. Only if you call a spade a spade, mistakes can be acknowledged and learnt from. Shoving mistakes under the carpet wont help. Let’s see if pain is high enough for India, to get some lessons learned for future, and act proactively.

  16. We have a prime minister whose personal interests supersede national interests. How can he ever admit to the nation that instead of glaring at the Chinese with “red eyes” he has got a bloody nose?

  17. We must stop china at any cost, as it is a real threat to India but we proved to be immature when we wasted our energy to counter the poor and weak nation like pakistan,our political agenda is based on hatred communal politics and thus we used Pakistan to spread hatred among muslims of India and now US waiting to sell weapons against china

  18. Gen .Pang ong and his daughter have opened front against the government ;it is a shame that our military intelligence couldn’t find about him and his affiliation in 40 years.
    But I am certain,in times to come,he will be thoroughly exposed,for running his Beijing agenda.

    • Open your eyes. This is repeat of 1962. In 2020. Then choose to either react to it, or shut your eyes back pretending there is nothing and go back to His excellency hai to Mumkin hai dreamland.

  19. Thank you for such detailed investigative story. Not surprised actually. The Indian Government can only torture and subdue it’s own people. It doesn’t have the spine to admit such incursions because of the tables being turned on them and coming under public scrutiny. Mindlessly selling a lethal dose of religion + nationalism has become a habit out of compulsions, even though they know it is just a show-off. As a citizen, I lament for those who suffer in the areas of Ladakh and Arunachal, those tribes bear the burden, while the ruling elite keep mum.

  20. Could this border dispute, be a ruse to cover up China from the investigation of it being responsible for COVID-19. It in a way acts as a screen to just cover up its play in Covid. There’s a lot of issues popping up due to the coronavirus and for them to suddenly bring back a demarcated area into light all of a sudden amidst the chaos seems suspicious, is it not?

    • How it is important here what is the intention of China to start this incursion..? They may have many reasons but for us sovereignty of our country is very essential.

  21. Thank you for such detailed investigative story. Not surprised actually. The Indian Government can only torture and subdue it’s own people. It doesn’t have the spine to admit such incursions because of the tables being turned on them and coming under public scrutiny. Mindlessly selling a lethal dose of religion + nationalism has become a habit out of compulsions, even though they know it is just a show-off. As a citizen, I lament for those who suffer in the areas of Ladakh and Arunachal, those tribes bear the burden, while the ruling elite keep mum.

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