India ‘prepares’ to meet China in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim

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CHINA INDIA TROOPS

By Haider Abbas

India is now maintaining a strict vigil on its Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim front, as this is that the visit on January 23, of the Army Chief General Manoj Pande suggests, which came after six weeks of the Tawang clash between the Indian and the Chinese soldiers. The clash had taken place on December 9, 2022. The clash took an ugly turn when Chinese soldiers transgressed into the Indian territory, to set up an observation-post on Line of Actual Control (LAC), in violation to the ‘laid-down’ guidelines that no such post or similar structure could be set up close to LAC by either side. Soldiers from both the sides had sustained injuries. The clash had come after the two sides had come to blows in Galwan Valley ( Eastern Ladakh) , in June 2020, during which 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers had died.

The visit to the Eastern Army Command Headquarters, by the highest ranking military General, speaks about the seriousness and sensitivity of Indian position vis a vis China on its Line of Actual Control (LAC) as India foiled the Chinese bid to foil the status-quo.

The main emphasis, as can be understood, by General Manoj Pande, at LAC along with East, has been to oversee the war-preparedness, and make a review of it, in order to rejuvenate the army, against any new trigger-point from China in the future. A comprehensive review of the entire wherewithal of war preparedness along the LAC was done by the Chief of Army Staff, during which senior commanders of the Kolkata Headquartered Command briefed COAS about various operational matters including deployment of troops. This Eastern Command takes care of the LAC in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim sectors.

The visit assumes a lot of significance as the COAS presence on the forward posts where ‘Indian and Chinese troops (have been) locked in an over 32-month standoff in several areas along LAC and at the Rest of Arunachal Pradesh (RALP), as well as some other strategically key posts, reported TribuneIndia 1 on January 23, gave the much needed boost to the defence forward line.

What matters here is also to keep a track that the visit of COAS, in fact, has been a follow-up action of India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh who had said in Parliament on December 13 that the Chinese troops (had) tried to “unilaterally” change the status quo in the Yangtse area but the Indian Army compelled them to retreat by (their) firm and resolute response. ‘On January 12, General Pande said the situation along the frontier with China is “stable” but “unpredictable” and Indian troops are adequately deployed to deal with any contingencies. He also said that there was a slight increase in the number of Chinese troops in their areas across the eastern sector. “But we are keeping a close watch on the movements and activities there,” informed TribuneIndia.

The Galwan valley bloody-fallout and the latest Tawang clash, as a fresh spike, shows that there ‘everything is not so well on the Chinese front’ which has now made India to bludgeon and enhance its infrastructure along the LAC in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. India has been steady into significantly shoring-up ‘its operational capabilities along the LAC in the eastern theatre as well. ‘The Army (has) put into place an effective surveillance apparatus and there has been a substantial improvement in overall monitoring of the areas in the last two years. From the construction of roads, bridges and ammunition depots to bolstering its surveillance apparatus, the Army is ramping up military infrastructure at a rapid pace for quicker mobilisation of troops in the region.’

It has been also reported that at certain points both India and China have carried out ‘disengagement’, from certain areas in Eastern Ladakh, yet what General Pande has heralded, that the situation with China as ‘unpredictable’ ought to be put into a perspective that India this time is to be more vigilant and agile towards any future Chinese misadventure. Notwithstanding what China has been doing in the Himalayas and the Eastern sector, China has also been into upping the ante in the Indian Ocean too, as the latest move has exposed the Chinese bid to reduce the Indian influence from the Indian Ocean as well, has been reported by The Economic Times 2 , on January 23.

The report has detailed that the government papers, in a seminar held in New Delhi, have found that Xi Jinping, China’s President, real persistent effort is to keep India engaged, through it its expansionist agenda. A research paper submitted by Indian Police Service Officers has revealed how China is deeply engaged into proving financial help to India’s neighboring countries, in the name of loans and developmental works etc in Southeast Asia and South Asia. It has now come to the fore that China’s Belt and Road Initiative and China Pakistan Economic Corridor, has in fact been a part of the grand strategy of China, to use it as a tool against India!

The report claimed that, ‘the last two-and-a-half-decades have seen Chinese economic and military growth at a massive scale and Chinese activities and influence in India’s extended neighbourhood have grown proportionately. All this is being done with the aim to keep India constrained and occupied in facing the resultant challenges, force resolution of bilateral issues on its own terms, modulate India’s growth story, leaving it (China) free to achieve its aim of becoming not only Asia’s pre-eminent power, but a global superpower.” The papers on the subject “Chinese influence in the neighbourhood and implications for India” were written by some top IPS officers of the country.

There is no doubt that China is investing huge amounts of money in Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka in the name of infrastructure development and other financial assistance etc. ‘ ‘Without exception, India’s neighbouring countries have described China as a crucial development partner, either as a funder or in providing technological and logistical support. Additionally, it is the biggest trading partner in goods for Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, and the second-largest for Nepal and the Maldives. These developments demonstrate that China’s presence in Southeast and South Asia is no longer predominantly economic but involves a greater, multidimensional effort to enhance its posture and further its long-term strategic interests in the region.’ The summit, was attended by around 350 top police officers of the country. It was presided by PM Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah.

China has been a permanent ‘pain-in-the-neck for India and has aligned, without exception, with all the neighbours of India. Chinese belligerence in the Himalayas and now in the Indian Ocean has been put-to, for the Indian foreign affairs to navigate a path which would scuttle Chinese moves. It is here what India has found handy by having become an ally to the most powerful Chinese foe i.e. US. How US and India will fare with a conflict between China and US over Taiwan, is what is to be seen. Let’s see how India will contain its Chinese challenge.

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The writer is a former UP State Information Commissioner and writes on international politics.

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