With the hell-like winters of the Himalayas setting in along Eastern Ladakh, India could be preparing to teach China lesson, if the need arises. While many would believe that such an offensive would be limited to the Indian armed forces pushing China into its own side of the Line of Actual Control, it is highly possible that the Indian establishment authorises the very physical integration of Aksai Chin, currently under illegal Chinese occupation, with India. For the same, the Modi government is leaving no stone unturned and has mounted a huge logistics support exercise, transporting essentials for the Indian Army to brave the winters this year.
Whether it be winter clothes and military gear, ammunition or food and oil, the Indian side is stocking up as though an all-out war with China is imminent. The same makes much sense too, as the ‘quiet’ along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh, or for that matter, along the entire de facto border with China is momentary, and one does not know when the tensions between both the sides will spiral out of control. When they do, it would make complete sense for India to take back what has been lost from it, and integrate Aksai Chin with Ladakh once and for all.
During the 1950s, the People’s Republic of China built a 1,200 km (750 mi) road connecting Xinjiang and western Tibet, of which 179 km (112 mi) ran south of the Johnson Line through the Aksai Chin region claimed by India, thereby proving how China had undertaken construction activity in sovereign Indian territory. Post the 1962-war, which India lost due to a dilapidated political leadership, the region has been under the firm yet illegal occupation of China.
India to this day claims Aksai Chin as a part of its own territory. To the same effect, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, while addressing the Rajya Sabha on Thursday, stated, “China continues to be in illegal occupation of approximately 38,000 sq. kms in the Union Territory of Ladakh.” “In addition, under the so-called Sino-Pakistan ‘Boundary Agreement’ of 1963, Pakistan illegally ceded 5,180 sq. km of Indian territory in PoK to China. China also claims approximately 90,000 sq. kms of Indian territory in the Eastern Sector of the India-China boundary in Arunachal Pradesh,” he added.
Last year, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had made an aggressive pitch in the country’s parliament for the reclamation of territories like Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir and Aksai Chin, which were under illegal occupation by Pakistan and China respectively, as he went on to say that he and the government are willing to lay down their lives for the said territories.
The Indian military has already moved more than 150,000 tonnes of materials into Ladakh which includes vast quantities of ammunition, equipment, fuel, winter supplies and food. This shows how India is digging its heels deep into the snow and ice of Ladakh, as it prepares to brave the Winters, and perhaps even free Aksai Chin from the clutches of the Chinese if it gets the go-ahead from New Delhi.
China is visibly shocked, and their silence for the past one week in Eastern Ladakh is more of a sign of confusion than that of surrender. Ever since the Indian Army, SFF and ITBP turned the tables on the PLA by occupying a number of strategic heights along the Pangong Tso lake, the Chinese are scratching their heads and wondering as to what hit them. Further, they realise that the Indian side has a far greater advantage over them in Pangong Tso lake now, which is also the greatest friction point between the two countries.
Caught in an unbearably disadvantageous position, and knowing that an all-out Indian offensive for any Chinese mischief was now imminent, Xi Jinping deputed his Defence Minister to beg for a meeting with his Indian counterpart, Rajnath Singh, who on the sidelines of the SCO summit no less than straightened the Chinese Defence Minister for his country’s trespasses in Eastern Ladakh.
Dr S. Jaishankar, India’s Foreign Minister also conveyed to Wang Yi, his counterpart from China that India was willing to disengage, but the onus around the same would lie solely with China, which is rather infamous for walking back on its commitments. With no visible change in the ground situation yet, and an uneasy calm prevailing along the LAC for the past one week, it is highly likely that China is willing to surrender. It is also likely that they are strategizing their next offences against India, in which case they will have to part ways with Aksai Chin.
The Chinese PLA is in no position to fight a winter war with India. While Indian troops are battle-hardened and seamlessly brave each winter being acclimatised to the region, the bulk of Chinese forces have been pulled into the region only very recently, with none of them having experienced, leave alone survived the Himalayan winters ever before. Fighting a war in such conditions is a no brainer for them. If matters escalate hereon, China will lose what it calls Aksai Chin forever. India is both irritated with the red-rogue country and also frustrated with it. If China does not revert to status quo ante prior to May 2020, India might just force a new status quo down their throats forcibly, which will have them crying for the remainder of their lives.