India’s strategy on LAC has gone from being reactive to pro-active while China’s response is that of surprise and frustration which has been evident in their media meltdown and 3am press releases and the road ahead ideally should have a well-defined border.
Starting with India’s strategy, for many decades India’s strategy was don’t ask, don’t tell, that is – don’t confront China, don’t tell how much land China is grabbing, piecemeal, so that things do not come to a head but in 2017, India and China witnessed a major standoff.
China tried constructing a road in Doklam and India stopped it and that’s when Beijing got the first taste of India’s new approach. In the years since India has ramped up its border construction. China tried to oppose it but India has stood its ground.
On June 15, when the PLA provoked Indian soldiers with nail-studded clubs in Galwan, they were paid back in the same coin and then weeks of talks followed but India did not cede ground, instead, India took vantage points, like Rezang La.
Indian soldiers are dominating the heights spread over 50 kilometres and now talking to China from a position of strength. The Indian troops did not wait for China’s next move, they went ahead and secured better positions.
China is not used to such posturing by India. Beijing is surprised, and rattled, so much so, that it broke the 45-year record of no shot after its soldiers fired at the LAC for the first time since 1975 and all this happened around 7pm.
China issued 3am press statements and the tone was of urgency and victimhood. There were two things – first, India’s dominance of the heights in Ladakh and second, the public funeral of a Tibetan soldier. A Tibetan trooper who died in Ladakh, he was fighting for India against China. His story rallied Tibetans in India’s favour.
However, Beijing wanted to change the narrative but firing shots did not help, so within hours, it changed tack, and started playing the victim. It said Indian soldiers crossed the Line of Actual Control, entered Chinese territory and fired at Chinese troops.
China also deployed its propaganda machine to amplify the pitch and on cue, Chinese state media went into a collective meltdown.
The Global Times has been tweeting restlessly all day saying “India could be lifting rocks to drop on its own feet”.
#India’s firing of shots at #border is an attempt to push for talks with China on border issues with force, but in the end, it could be lifting rocks only to drop them on its own feet: experts https://t.co/BtkOYH90Y2
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) September 8, 2020
The Global Times editorial claims India’s bravado will backfire. There are many more in this vein with hollow, shrill bluster exposing China’s desperation. India’s tactical moves are delivering. Its proactive approach means that it is speaking to China in the only language that it understands – the language of strength and power.
The meeting of the two foreign ministers in Moscow should yield something, a breakthrough would be too much to hope for but talking is the best option. The ball is in China’s court. It can do three things – first, it can go back, which would be the best for everyone, second, it can escalate the situation which would be the worst-case scenario and third, it can continue with the status quo with India breathing down its neck which China ideally wouldn’t like because militarily and diplomatically it is at a disadvantage.
So talking and de-escalating is China’s best bet with several rounds of border talks in the last couple of decades which have all been inconclusive.
What we see today is a manifestation of the unresolved issues of the past the baggage of 1962. The only way to fix this is for China to agree to define a border, demarcate the Line of Actual Control- the undefined border – coupled with China’s endless appetite for land is the root cause of all problems.