When the country is facing an external military threat we need national unity not sniping at the government by the political opposition, sundry military analysts and the media. To justify such criticism as a feature of any democratic polity and cite the liberal questioning of the US government's handling of wars abroad is to make false equivalences.
Unlike in the case of India, no foreign power is occupying or claiming US territory. The US is not being confronted with the bullying tactics of a stronger military power, or a ganging up against it of two hostile nuclear-armed neighbours. India is defending itself, not securing its defence perimeter far away from its shores.
Modi was earlier being pushed to make a statement on China's border aggression as if that would be enough to give us the upper hand and put China on the defensive. The underlying assumption was that the government was suppressing information about the loss of territory. The critics appeared more committed to India's territorial integrity than the Modi government. And now that Modi has addressed the nation and stated that there was no Chinese incursion into Indian territory, no territory had been lost and no Indian post had been overrun, opposition criticism has changed tack. The accusation now is that Modi has reconciled himself to the loss of Indian territory to Chinese encroachment. Those who hate Modi should realise that even as the enemy threat remains and the situation is fraught with uncertainty there is room for love for the nation.
Those who hate Modi should realise that even as the enemy threat remains and the situation is fraught with uncertainty there is room for love for the nation. (Photo: Reuters)
The LAC is not a fact established clearly on the ground. The Chinese have kept the LAC concept deliberately fluid and imprecise to give themselves room to keep India under pressure in the belief that this leverage could be used to exert some control over Indian foreign policy. China has never been explicit about the reasons why it refuses to clarify the LAC to which it is committed under the Confidence Building 1996 Agreement. If it wants to end recurrent tensions on the border, this should be the first step. A distracting side-debate with little substance has been opened up on whether in 1993 when the concept of the LAC was accepted India made a grave error in not insisting on the word "existing" before LAC, as if by the inclusion of that word the LAC issue would have been resolved for good.
The Chinese do not believe in the sanctity of international agreements if at any point they believe that these do not serve their interests and ambitions. When in 2002 they rejected the process of LAC clarification to which they were committed in 1996, whether or not the word "existing" figured in the text would not have mattered. They have repudiated the 2005 Agreement on Political Parameters and Guidelines for settling the border issue by insisting unrealistically that India at the very minimum cede Tawang to China. They have now violated the Hong Kong accord. Their actions in the South China Sea violate the Law of the Sea to which they are a signatory.
Beijing's LAC trope
The short point is that China is in the occupation of Indian territory in Ladakh. The concept of the LAC is by no means a recognition by India that the territory under Chinese occupation legally belongs to China. It is essentially a cease-fire line. India is naturally committed to exercise as much control as possible over territory that legally belongs to it. In certain areas, in terms of tactical advantage and securing its illegally occupied territory, China opposes Indian efforts to demonstrate control. These are the disputed areas.
To argue that any Chinese encroachment into these disputed tracts is "loss" of Indian territory implies that India has been dislodged physically from these areas, even though there is no permanent presence of Indian or Chinese posts in these areas. It is when either side puts up a structure in these disputed areas that the issue of "loss" of territory comes up. The potential response to such encroachment is a physical clash as has happened at the Galwan Valley when such structures are not removed through negotiations in order to restore the "buffer" between the established posts on either side. Modi's statement has to be understood in this light.
A new world view
In the Pangong Tso area, China has physically encroached into the areas patrolled by both sides. If China does not withdraw to its earlier positions and the buffer is reduced to India's disadvantage, a negotiated solution instead of a physical clash would be the preferred option. Alternatively, India would need to set up structures in some other disputed area as a balancing act. China's proxies are propagating the absurd proposition that a package deal on the border would include India remaining neutral on US-China issues. Timelines are important. India-US relations have notably improved only since 2005 and US-China relations have deteriorated seriously under Trump. The quality of India-US relations has had no relevance to China's unwillingness since 1996 to clarify the LAC and move concretely on the border issue despite the Special Representative mechanism set up in 2002.
(Courtesy of Mail Today)