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Challenges have multiplied for India along LAC in Ladakh

16/05/2022 at 12:36 PM

Arun Joshi

The new Army Chief Gen. Manoj Pande concluded his three-day-long visit to Ladakh last weekend only to find that the challenges for the Indian troops virtually in an eyeball to eyeball mode with the Chinese army along the Line of Actual Control have not diminished despite the tense standoff having entered its third year since early last month. It is an unprecedented situation where there is no declared war nor is there complete peace. This standoff has many implications, the gravest of which is that more than 60,000 Indian troops are deployed in the high Himalayas, where summer is also like a severe winter.

Gen. Pande knew that the challenges are multiplying in Ladakh, that’s why he made it a point to visit this sector where there are borders with China, Pakistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir, to understand in greater measure the complexity of the situation and how to overcome without going in for any extreme measures and at the same time not conceding to the aggressive designs of Chinese who want to effect a unilateral change at the LAC. He, indeed, will be sharing his ideas and strategies to be adopted to accomplish the status quo ante of April 2020, when the Chinese had advanced on to the edges of the LAC with a clear intent to change the status of the loosely defined borderline. The problem with LAC is that there is no clearly demarcated boundary because of the rocks, rivers, and the mountains which make it difficult to bring physical features on the maps, thus the reliance is on mutually agreed perceptions, which have the tendency to change with the change in the course of the rivers and rolling of big rocks over a period of time.

It’s an ironic situation, where the way forward is rooted in the past. Unless or until the boundary question is settled with the Chinese, there can be no change in the existing situation along the LAC, it is of little consequence where the two sides are having their respective advantages. The two sides will have to go down to the history and geography of the place, the claims, and counterclaims. The historic perspective is very important, and that alone can lay the basis for an amenable agreement on the future course of action.

At the moment, the biggest challenge before the  Indian army is how to keep the movements of the Chinese troops in check. It has to guard against any aggressive moves by the Chinese against the Indian side. This has a cost of its own- thousands of troops are deployed in the high Himalayas where temperatures dip to minus 40 degree Celsius, and these troops have to keep a round-the-clock vigil on the Chinese movements. As Gen. Pande had observed recently that China wants to keep the boundary issue alive. Though there was no further elaboration, two things are quite obvious – Beijing wants to keep the domestic attention away from the Covid-19 miseries, and tap a hyper-nationalistic narrative, accusing India of tampering with its territorial integrity and sovereignty, secondly, it is putting pressure on India to relent and agree to what it wants. India, it is clear, will not succumb to any such blackmail. That’s why it has chosen to be in strength in the cold desert.

And, the bigger challenge for India is that it cannot be a forever situation of the standoff in Ladakh. This has military costs and also impacts the psyche of the nation. China is not off the mind of the people, no matter how much Pakistan is targeted. Pakistan is a small country and it has suffered defeats at the hands of India in all the wars that it fought since 1947, but with China, the military history is dotted with a humiliating defeat in 1962. It is perhaps to put off the shadows of 1962 that India has put up stiff resistance in the Himalayas for the third year in a row without blinking an eyelid. But again this brings to the question, of how long, because there is no timeframe available, nor it is conceivable, given the adamancy of the Chinese on the boundary issue. This is a situation that India cannot live with it forever, nor it can give up. There is no middle path available. In short, challenges are more in the current situation than in the times when the crisis began.

About the Author:

Arun Joshi is a senior journalist based in J&K. He has worked with Hindustan Times, Times of India, Indian Express, and The Tribune. He has authored “ Eyewitness Kashmir: Teetering on Nuclear War” and three other books.

DISCLAIMER

This is the personal opinion of the author. The views expressed in this write up have nothing to do with those of prameyanews.com.

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