India has been beating China black and blue on all fronts, and now China is using its last possible option- Eastern Ladakh, to put up a brave face. As per latest reports, Sino-India military talks at the Indo-China border have hit new roadblocks in several areas with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) showing reluctance to disengage.
The biggest point of confrontation is, of course, the Pangong Tso lake. Pangong Tso is the origin of the ongoing military stand-off between India and China in Eastern Ladakh. The stand-off had started after a violent face-off between the two armies on May 5 at the banks of the Pangong Tso Lake. Presently, the Chinese PLA is occupying areas between Finger 5 and Finger 8, as well as the ridgeline in Finger 4 in the Pangong Tso area.
The PLA did move back from Finger 4 after an understanding was reached on disengagement, but since then satellite images have revealed a major Chinese mobilisation which includes permanent bunkers, huts, installation of artillery guns and stationing of boats.
According to Deccan Herald, the fifth Corps Commander-level talks between the Indian Army and the Chinese PLA has ended in a deadlock. While the Indian government hasn’t issued any formal statement, it has emerged that the PLA claims to have been always present in this area.
The Chinese deployment is said to be eight kilometres inside India’s perception of the Line of Actual Control (LAC)- the effective Sino-India border. While New Delhi believes that the LAC is coterminous to Finger 8, China claims that the LAC passes through Finger 4.
As per News18, the main friction points between India and China now are- the Green Top on Pangong Tso’s northern shore, Patrol Point 17A near Gorga and Patrol Point 13 near Depsang Plains. This means that practically that the Galwan Valley- the venue of a bloodbath between the Indian Army and the PLA on June 15 is the only point where the Chinese have disengaged in line with the agreement between the two militaries.
China is making some of the most absurd arguments to avoid disengagement in Eastern Ladakh. News18 has quoted an officer familiar with the military talks as saying, “Their argument is that India has also violated the status-quo in the Pangong area.” He added, “This claim has no basis, because all the works India has undertaken are clearly on our own side of the LAC.”
China is desperately trying to weaponize old events in order to avoid disengagement, especially in Pangong Tso. Till 1999, India had maintained a permanent position in Finger 7 in line with her claim of effective territorial sovereignty upto Finger 8.
However, during the Kargil war in the Summers of 1999, the Indian Army had to evacuate troops and deploy them in the conflict with Pakistan. This was when China backstabbed India and used the opportunity to build a road extending to Finger 4 in order to ensure that India couldn’t re-establish the permanent post at Finger 7. Now, China is citing this illegal road to claim sovereignty upto Finger 4.
Within China, there is growing insecurity which explains its reluctance to disengage from the friction points in Eastern Ladakh. Over the past three-four months, India has made a number of military and economic moves, all of which have hurt Beijing in a big way.
First, India restricted Chinese FDI to check predatory investments from the Middle Kingdom. Then, there were also reports about India imposing restrictions on Chinese Foreign Portfolio Investments (FPI) too. After the two countries got engaged in a military stand-off, a wave of anti-China sentiment took hold of India. Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), the apex body of trader’s union, declared plans to boycott Chinese goods worth more than 1 lakh crore rupees- 13 billion dollars approximately- by December 2021.
The tipping point however came after the Indian Army’s Bihar Regiment soldiers gave the PLA a bloody nose. India mourned its 20 brave-hearts, but till date China hasn’t been able to muster the courage of disclosing the massive casualties that it suffered. Post-Galwan, India has banned Chinese apps which has led to tremors across the world. Now, even the US is considering banning Chinese apps like TikTok and WeChat.
Till now, all China has been able to do is cry foul. It is in no position to take any firm action against India. By holding up disengagement in Eastern Ladakh, China wants to put up a brave face. According to The Print, sources have suggested that the Chinese might be looking at a “higher level” to resolve the situation mutually.
Beijing wants to make a big issue out of Eastern Ladakh, and this is why it might want to take the matter upto diplomatic levels as opposed to military talks. India has given the Chinese a bloody nose on every front, and Eastern Ladakh is Beijing’s last effort to save its face.