No War, No Peace

The legacy of 1962 Himalayan war continues to haunt both India and China. Despite so many high level bilateral mechanisms at military level to maintain peace at border, skirmishes between China's PLA—People's Liberation Army—and Indian border guards seem to be occurring almost at regular interval. In 2013 troops from the two countries clashed at Daulat Beg Oldi and perhaps at the intervention of Chinese President the situation returned to normal. This time the face off is in Sikkim section where the boundary is more or less well defined and demarcated. The clash took place at the trijunction of India-China-Bhutan, on the Doklam plateau which overlooks the strategic Chumbi valley. China accused Indian security forces of trespassing into Chinese territory while damaging a bridge under construction. But Indian side made the same allegations that PLA was frequently crossing the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and they recently destroyed a number of Indian bunkers of 1967 vintage.

The net result of this stand off between two forces is cancellation of annual pilgrimage to Manas Sarovar and Kailash. In truth Indian pilgrims who were on their way to holy shrines in Tibet, were sent back by the Chinese authorities. They are now languishing in Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim.

This yearly pilgrimage to Manas Sarovar and Kailash by Indians, mostly elderly people, has been a unique platform to improve people to people relations and creating a cordial atmosphere for enhancing bilateral ties between India and China. And the Chinese have long been providing all sorts of convenience to the pilgrims. The incident on Doklam plateau occurred in the first week of June, threatening peace and tranquillity along the Sikkim border as well. The standoff with PLA for almost a month now in what has been the longest such impasse between the two armies since 1962.

LAC is a tricky business. Like, shifting sands, it changes according to perception of persons in authority. As a result controversy arises frequently over claims and counter-claims. Unless the boundary dispute is resolved amicably normalisation of relations with China will never take off, notwithstanding liberal investments by Chinese companies in India. Unlike Pakistan, China has shown some flexibility in improving bilateral trade ties while shelving the border question for the time being. But the pace of border negotiations is so slow that both India and China have so far failed to utilise their full business potentials.

India cannot get back what it has lost historically—political and military advantage in Tibet despite the prolonged presence of the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala. The hard reality is that the Dalai himself is a mellowed person today. He is all set to have a deal with Beijing by giving up the idea of independent Tibet once and for all. He will be satisfied if Tibetans are allowed to live in a Tibet with more autonomy and a little bit of manoeuvrability. He fought for freedom and finally got unfreedom. Whether his government in exile is in agreement with him is altogether a different matter but Tibetans in exile have virtually been abandoned by the so-called international community. No country is willing to officially endorse the Tibetan cause. Unlike the Palestine question the Tibetan issue is not raised in any international forum though the new generation Tibetans living as refugees in different countries, mainly in India, are fiercely independent minded. For the Tibetans differing with the Chinese on their status, the main issue is no longer Tibet, it is the world. What they need is to change the world which prevented change in Tibet.

Border clashes are avoidable and these should be avoided with all sincerity to pave the way for better understanding between Indian and Chinese officials, manning the volatile border. Having been motivated ideologically and politically, PLA personnel some time show over-enthusiasm by painting a few rock boulders red on Indian side of LAC, provoking tensions and military stand off. The fact is that Indian troops are not ideologically motivated. It doesn't matter whether they are guarding Indo–Pak border or India-China border. They are doing their duty as servicemen. These days frustration among Indian troops and para-military forces is very high leading to suicides in some cases.

No doubt in a country of huge unemployment young jobseekers in their twenties are rushing to every recruiting centre of army and para-military. But after some time they get disillusioned and try to escape harsh life. So there is a growing tendency among security personnel to opt for voluntary retirement and resignation.

There is a surge—a 450% increase in personnel seeking voluntary retirement from different paramilitary units—BSF, CRPF, ITBP, CISF, and Assam Rifles in 2016-17.ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police) is actually guarding India-China border and it was specifically created for that purpose. Over the last three years around 9,070 personnel have reportedly gone back to civilian life. The 10-lakh strong paramilitary is seized with attrition. Apart from VRS, there had been 1187 resignation in 2016-17,1840 in 2015-16 and 1989 in 2014-15.

Stressful conditions prevail when deployed in Jammu and Kashmir, the North East and the so-called Maoist corridor in central India where basic creative comforts are in short supply. The 'enemy within' in India's paramilitary establishment is fast becoming as lethal from discontent as the external adversaries.


Vol. 50, No.1, Jul 9 - 15, 2017