Twenty two months of the ongoing Ladakh Standoff have been completed, that is since 5 May 2020 with the war like situation created by the PLA on the more than 4000 kilometers Line of Actual Control. This includes those places of the border where there is no dispute. During this military confrontation many things have happened which are relevant and are hard lessons for the future of how a strategic communication is badly needed from the side of the Government of India (GOI).
From the very outset of India’s military standoff with China, the GOI has come under criticism for a lack of public clarity over the India-China Border Areas (ICBA) situation in Eastern Ladakh. At the all party meeting on 19 June 2020, PM Modi said nobody has entered Indian Territory, while in the Parliament Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said China has amassed forces in inner areas. What are these inner areas? Is it the territory claimed by India?
To the Parliament the Home Ministry said in September 2020 that there has been no infiltration along the ICBA during the last six months. Again this appears to contradict the government’s earlier position. For example in August 2020, a GOI note belonging to Defence Ministry was removed from the website which said China has transgressed in three areas during 17-18 May 2020.
Further fuelling the perception of conflicting narratives the MEA when asked by Parliament, if there has been a worsening of our relations with China? The MEA said there has been no deterioration in our relations with China. Given the kind of warmongering, escalatory rhetoric used by the Chinese, things said are like India must stop the provocation (Chinese Envoy to India), India has crossed the LAC (PLA spokesperson), India is to be blamed for this standoff (Chinese Defense Minister).
At that time in 2020 while all this happened in the Indian Parliament, a significant size of Indian Army was deployed to counter the Chinese ingression, shots had been fired. So in such a situation if anybody projected normalcy then it would be completely wrong.
Normally if the Prime Minister makes a categorical statement then it is very difficult for others who follow to make statements that would be in conflict with the Prime Minister’s statement, so that’s a given. The Defense Minister in the Parliament said that nobody can stop our soldiers from patrolling. At the same place that is Rajya Sabha the Defense Minister said that China is blocking our troops from patrolling.
Normally in such kind of a military standoff one ministry takes the responsibility of articulating India’s position but here there were many like MHA, PMO, MoD, and MEA. It would have been good if only one ministry was chosen by the GOI.
So this would have ensured clarity in communication, which is very convincing. Till date the
messaging has been confusing, there is no doubt that there were a lot of source reports in all newspaper quoting highly placed military sources. Security analysts like me were looking for an authoritative statement on the part of the GOI to explicitly say what the position is?
Rajnath Singh in the Parliament said that the Chinese have created friction points, some of
which he did mention but he did not mention Depsang!
One of the reasons that might have fuelled this kind of GOI’s communication approach is the Modi-Xi meetings that the two leaders had in the past several years for eighteen times.
That is Prime Minister Modi invested a lot of his energy, time in trying to have a good India China relations.
In order to solve the geopolitical fault lines between India and China, these have to be
addressed in the old fashion of traditional diplomacy that is piece by piece way. So all this
traditional diplomacy was the one crafted from 1993 to 2016. One must remember that informal summits only work where there is trust, which is if it is a friendly relationship.
In fact Foreign Minister Jaishankar blamed China very indirectly for the Ladakh Standoff and as a corollary said, unlike the earlier MEA statement that Sino-Indian ties have been damaged. But later on December 11, 2020 the MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said indirectly that there was no plan to not have celebrations of the 70 years diplomatic relations between India and China.
This itself speaks volumes of the confusion, means how can anybody even think of celebrating the 70th year when China had proved to be India’s enemy number one (a lot bigger threat than Pakistan in terms of military, economy, cyberspace).
Means Anurag’s statement does not reflect what his head Dr. Jaishankar said as the center of gravity that the ties are damaged and so no such celebration will be entertained!
Name : Jay Desai
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