• By Haider Abbas
All the news of de-escalation between China and India, has turned out to be farce, as the heat which began in May 2020, and which reached its height on June 15, 2020, in which India lost 20 soldiers in Galwan valley, in Ladakh, has refused to cease, despite India having sat with China over ‘rounds-of-talks’. All this has yet again proved to have failed as fresh clashes have occurred between Indian and Chinese troops on August 31, 2020. It is learnt that “On the Night of 29/30 August 2020, PLA troops violated the previous consensus arrived at during military and diplomatic engagements during the ongoing standoff in Eastern Ladakh and carried out provocative military movements to change the status quo. Indian troops pre-empted this PLA activity on the Southern Bank of Pangong Tso Lake, undertook measures to strengthen our positions and thwart Chinese intentions to unilaterally change facts on ground,” said India Army spokesperson Col Aman Anand 1 . The Chinese have accused India for having trespassed into its territory. ‘ PLA Western Theater Command, which is responsible for the entire Sino-Indian border, accused India of “illegally crossing the line” on August 31 at two points – the south bank of Pangong Lake and near Rezang La. The statement said India had “blatantly provoked and caused tension on the border” and had “undermined the consensus reached” at the diplomatic and military talks. Stating that “This move by the Indian side seriously violated China’s territorial sovereignty,” the PLA said it, is “taking necessary countermeasures, will pay close attention to developments and resolutely safeguard China’s territorial sovereignty and peace and stability in border areas.” 2 There are about 1000 Indian soldiers at Finger-4, the site of the conflict. There are altogether 8 fingers which are various heights inside the mountains ( conflicts) between India and China.
China, in its traditional way has come forward to deny that it entered into Indian territory. ‘ Chinese border troops “never cross the line of actual control”, the Chinese foreign ministry said 3 , this has been the seasoned viewpoint from Chinese side, that it never crossed into Indian side, ( as it considers it its own side) and Indian hawkish BJP politician Subramanian Swamy has exhorted on his twitter on August 31, 2020 ‘It sad that the Govt does not realise the Chinese have made a decision about India. We must make a decision about China. Get tough, I repeat, get tough and not sit at a table. After sitting with Xi Jinping 18 times in 5 years Chinese could not care less for Indian leaders’ 4 , The present situation has led to an immediate ‘brigade commander-level flag meeting is in progress in Chushul to resolve the issues’5 . This Chushul lake has been the venue of the talks between the two sides and ironically this location too has entered into a place under conflict. China, India and Pakistan have put their air-forces into an alert mode and going by what is happening it is sure that an uneasy winters is awaiting India. It may be reiterated that India had irked China and Pakistan with the same brush on August 5, 2019, as PM Modi had annulled the special status under Article 370 of JK& L. This move has led to China, a permanent member of UN security-council back the issue of Kashmir, raised by Pakistan, since then, for thrice in the last one year 6.
The latest clashes in which around 1000 Indian soldiers were attacked by China, has forced to make Ladakh LG RK Mathur rush to New Delhi to meet MoS Home GK Reddy to discuss development in UT in which Reddy has informed “ We had an elaborated discussion on matters pertaining to the development of the UT. ” 7 But, owing to Chinese preparedness it seem that the latest clashes have been much severe to the previous Galwan valley clash, as it has come to light, that China had redeployed its J-20 stealth fighter jets days before this provocative-action was to be performed . ‘The Chinese Air Force (had) redeployed its J-20 fifth-generation fighters close to the Indian territory, days before the Chinese troops attempted to carry out fresh transgressions near the southern bank of Pangong Tso lake in Ladakh. “The J-20 fighter jets have been operating close to the Indian territory in the last few days and the move was taken by the Chinese Air Force just a few days before their Army attempted to do incursions into newer areas in Ladakh,” top government sources informed. As per sources, fighter aircraft are still carrying out extensive flying near the LAC’ 8. This was in clear anticipation that if there was to be an attack from Indian side, China was well prepared with its jets which are beyond to be captured on radar-system.
What however, has come as a shock and not as a surprise to Indian military, are the satellite images from India-Bhutan-China border in which a building of a heliport by China s shown, a report published in The Hindustan Times on August 31, 2020 elaborates on it. ‘The suspected heliport is located almost equidistant from the two sites at which the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is developing surface-to-air missile facilities, according to imagery tweeted earlier by @detresfa. Both the missile facilities are near what have been described as “suspected early warning radar sites” opposite Sikkim state . With the addition of a heliport along with area denial systems within 100 km from Doka La [and] Naku La, China would be able to sustain all weather operations in the disputed areas regardless of the harsh terrain [and] conditions, according to the graphic. The new missile facilities are located roughly 50 km from Naku La (Naku pass), where troops from the two countries had clashed on May 9( 2020), and Doka La (Doka pass), close to the Doklam plateau that was the scene of a 73-day military standoff between India and China in 2017’ 9 . There has already been reports that Chinese air-defense systems and military-weaponry has now deployed on the borders of Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Uttarakhand 10.
The latest information percolating from the borders is that China has put into force an extremely advanced military weaponry alongside borders with India. A very informative article by Col. Vinayak Bhat (Retd) published in India Today on August 31, 2020 expresses concern over the way China is into its preparedness with Russian help. ‘Amid fresh clashes between Indian and People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers in Ladakh, there has been a sudden increase in China’s deployment of surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) at new locations in Tibet along the India frontier, Chinese missile sites have come in areas bordering Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh Uttarakhand and Ladakh. Until the Doklam faceoff in 2017 at the India-China-Bhutan tri-junction bordering Sikkim, there were only two locations of Chinese SAM deployment. That has changed this time, and several new sites with this class of weapons are now an indicator of China’s aggressive posture. It’s clear that after the Doklam faceoff Chinese military began to ramp up their missile facilities to guard borders against India. The new sites are typical indigenous SAMs HongQi-9 (HQ-9) with six support radars for target acquisition and engagement. China had started covering the airborne threats by deploying HongQi-2 (HQ-2) surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) based on Russian systems S-75 Dvina (SA-2 Guideline). As of now China has covered most of the mainland with maximum deployment towards the eastern coast. The missile systems are a combination of indigenous like HQ-9, HQ-16, etc, and some Russian systems like S-400. China has made great advances in radar manufacturing and has complete surveillance coverage of her own areas’ 11.
The confrontation of India-China had to be brewing as China was very skeptical about Indian moves to recognise Taiwan where India tended to support two-countries-two-systems as that was perceived by China to be an effort into altering-one-China policy. There were reports ‘Calls for India to play the Taiwan card grow louder 12 ’ published in The Diplomat and it also got broken that India had sent its naval-warships to South China Sea secretly once after the Glawan valley clashes had broken out, of course, this could happen on the direction of US, which is involved head-to-head with China along with its allies, in order to choke China in straits of Malacca. ‘During the deployment of the warships in the South China Sea, the Indian warship was in constant contact with their American counterparts over secure communication systems. As part of the routine drills, the Indian warship was constantly updated about the status of the military vessels of other countries’, informs the report published in The Logical India 13 published on August 31, 2020.
India is also in its preparation as it has been announced that there would be no premature-retirement 14 , as obviously a war is on head and CDS Bipin Rawat had also declared on August 24, 2020 that ‘India has military options with China is border talks fail’ 15 which India’s leading defense analyst Praveen Sawhney has called as ‘misplaced’ 16 , but what in actuality led to China redeploying its J-20 stealth fighters. The surprise which Indian military must have been readying is from Pakistan, which has interestingly, maintained a stoic-silence, as no sabre-rattling is heard from there, but it has come to light that Pakistan too has deployed its ‘fighter jets in Skardu near Ladakh, which India is watching closely’ as reported in LiveMint 17 on August 12, 2020. Is India all that prepared for a two-front war?
The writer is a former UP State Information Commissioner. He is also a lawyer based in Lucknow.