Opinion DC Comment 04 Aug 2020 DC Edit | Restoring ...

DC Edit | Restoring status quo in Ladakh: Long haul ahead

Published Aug 4, 2020, 5:40 pm IST
Updated Aug 4, 2020, 5:40 pm IST
Beijing throws Mr Modi's words at us and tries to absorb territories to which it laid no formal claims before November 1959
(L) India's PM Narendra Modi with China's president XiJinping (AFP)
 (L) India's PM Narendra Modi with China's president XiJinping (AFP)

The border stalemate with China continues in eastern Ladakh. This is a sanitised way of putting things.

However, the bitter reality is that the military standoff is in areas that lie well to the west of the absurd claim line of China first propounded in November 1959 - as its westernmost region; in other words, many kilometers inside Indian territory, which India did not accept.


The threat is that even if China vacates some of this in order to appear reasonable in diplomatic or military negotiations, it will still be inside Indian territory or on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC). 

And the risk - on the basis of what appears to be in the minds of policy makers in Beijing behind the scenes - is that China may seek to compel India to accept the territories it may vacate as no man's land.

This means Indian patrols may not return to those areas. The Chinese ambassador in New Delhi was unambiguous in his public remarks less than a week ago that Chinese forces were within the "traditional" frontier of China.


This would appear preposterous not only to Indians but also to objective international observers of China's frontier regions, particularly in relation to its sovereignty claims on Tibet and Xinjiang and also China's ambitions in respect of its southern and south-eastern maritime frontiers that rub up against several countries of the Indo-Pacific.

The region China claims in Ladakh has been incorporated as part of its Xinjiang military district. This means China has pushed the Uighur country by thousands of square kilometers west of the Tarim river basin to which it is geographically, historically and culturally confined after gobbling up Aksai Chin in the 1950s.


Regrettably, China's present claims, no matter how outrageous, have been buttressed by the Prime Minister's June 19 remarks made in a conference with senior opposition leaders, leaving them aghast.

Now Beijing throws Mr Modi's words at us and tries to absorb territories to which it laid no formal claims before November 1959 (which India had not accepted in any case).

It is not likely to be easy correcting this Himalayan blunder, although our external affairs minister, our defence minister and top military leaders are working hard at it.


Four rounds of military negotiations and conversations between India's and China's foreign ministers, and our national security adviser with his counterpart on boundary negotiations, have been largely futile. 

A fifth round commenced Sunday and nothing is known about its outcome.

In light of the Chinese ambassador's recent observations, it is unrealistic to expect encouraging news. In response to Chinese moves all along the approximately 4,000-kilometre Himalayan frontier, India too has massed its forces.

But the job they have is to push back invaders. It looks like it will be a long haul through a bleak winter. Accompanying international political moves are an imperative.