LAC Logjam

As expected the 16th round of Corps Commander—level talks between India and China, held on July 17, to resolve the military stand-off in eastern Ladakh ended without producing any meaningful results. They agreed not to disagree on continuing the dialogue. The purpose of the marathon discussion, lasting for more than 12 hours, from 9.30 am to 10 pm, on the Indian side of the Chushul Moldo Meeting point, was to execute disengagement from friction points along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). India demanded withdrawal of Chinese army units from Depsang and Demchock but no agreement was reached. It is unlikely that the Chinese would vacate the area. This is the region where a violent clash took place in May 2020, leading to death of soldiers. Since then both India and China have been busy to strengthen military build-up on their sides. While the Chinese have built a bridge to make the passage clear for their tanks, Indians have replied with installation of an air defence system, including a radar facility. The two armies have around 60,000 troops each in Ladakh. Strangely, Indian activities are hardly reported in the media though China’s every military step gets extra-ordinary coverage. The last round of talks was held on 11 March. The stand-off remains despite Modi’s side-line diplomacy with Xi here and there. De-escalation is the prerequisite for normalisation of relations between the two countries; hand-shaking gesture won’t do.

Meanwhile, relations between India and China have deteriorated significantly in recent months. Despite 16 round of talks an agreement on the pull-out of troops from the most contested friction points of Hot Springs, Demchock and Depsang plains, remains elusive. India’s foreign minister S Jayshankar met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Bali recently and pressed the need to sustain the momentum to complete disengagement from all the contested areas to restore peace and tranquillity along the LAC. But this kind of diplomacy has very little impact on the ground reality. The only positive development since 2020 bloody clash seems to be restraint shown by both sides not to use fire arms, notwithstanding provocation round the year.

The very idea of LAC—Line of Actual Control—not LoC—Line of Control—as it is the case with Pakistan, suggests among other things that it is temporary. Both sides try to push the LINE to their strategic advantage.

For one thing China has not changed its perception of northern border from what it spelled out in 1962 and many a time. And they are unlikely to accept India’s version of border under any circumstances. The Chinese Communist Party is a nationalist party having no obligation to proletarian internationalism. And it can go to any length for real estate. No border dispute can be resolved without a give and take formula. Here lies the crux of the crisis. In truth their internationalism even during the days of Mao was sham. Looking back to the great debate era it can now be concluded that the ideological conflict between CPC and CPSU in the ‘60s was the result of clash of two dominant nationalisms in the international communist movement—Soviet Nationalism and Chinese Nationalism.

No doubt India’s diabolical approach to Tibet issue has compounded India-China relations. India accepts China’s suzerainty over Tibet and yet harbours the grand illusion that one day Tibetans will liberate Tibet from Chinese occupation. Of late the Dalai Lama has abandoned the idea of independent Tibet. Instead what he preaches is autonomy with full cultural and religious freedom within China. Tragically enough, the so-called international community didn’t react positively to the agony of Tibetans, Palestinians drew all the attention. The Mandarins in Beijing are not ready to grant even limited autonomy to Tibetans. Hundreds of thousands of Tibetans languish in refugee camps in India and elsewhere. What is not highlighted in Tibetan discourse is that a long history of semi-independent status of Tibet has been completely wiped out. Despite a kind of dependence on China Tibet had all along maintained a semi-independent status with full cultural and religious freedom throughout its troubled history. With the Dalai Lama aging, it is now a matter of time that the Tibetan Government in exile based in Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh, will lose its relevance. Under the heavy boots of PLA they have lost whatever independence they used to enjoy before 1950.

After the so-called liberation of Tibet what the central government of China did was to change the demography of Tibet. Now the Han people dominate Tibet, they are said to be dominating every aspect of Tibetan life, demographically and economically. Tibetans are a minority community in their own homeland as it has happened in India’s north-eastern state of Tripura where Bengalis outnumber the indigenous tribal people.



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Vol 55, No. 5, Jul 31 - Aug 6, 2022