(These thoughts were tweeted before the official statement from the MEA was released)
You know what is the most significant statement about current state of the #ChinaIndiaFaceoff?
Well, it is the LACK of a statement thus far by GOI.
What this tells me is that the situation is still developing. It might go downhill still, or might get resolved. Wait & watch how it pans out.
On the other hand, the Chinese govt has gone public about the incident with their spokesperson, Lijian Zhao, as well as the Global Times and Hu Xijin.
Does it say something?
I can’t be sure, but in it might lie some messaging as well.
From what is known in public domain, it might merely be an unfortunate face-off where both sides came face to face in the night time. Mind you, this is NOT a routine thing, going by previous templates of such engagements which have thus far, only been reported in daytime.
It might just be an unfortunate incident.
After all, despite all safety protocols, at the end of the day it is one body of hundreds of INDIVIDUAL human being interacting with another such body. I did speculate about that in my previous blog – On the Ladakh Standoff Between Indian and China
Might it be a pre-meditated escalation?
Not very far fetched, I’d say.
In case it be so, which side might have triggered it might be a question which may never get answered, atleast for the foreseeable future.
That is why I am, for the time being, waiting for an official word from the GOI. This is what might give an insight into the current state of affairs and likely future courses that the GOI might be contemplating.
In any case, ‘quasi-official’ sources of various influencers on social media are already in the process of divulging details in bits and pieces. Whom to believe, and whom to dismiss is solely your prerogative.
Facts, atleast as far as the number of fatalities goes, WILL emerge, since the GOI does not hide those. Numbers of non-fatal casualties may or may not be known, though. However, in any case, even in current absence of absolute facts, one this is clear – THINGS AREN’T NORMAL ANYMORE.
Where we go from here, is anybody’s guess.
In any case, what has happened, was inevitable, in my opinion.
Of course, time and circumstances under which it has happened does tend to catch one unawares. However, keeping aside the flood of emotions and anger coursing through the veins, it should rather be taken as a blessing that of the dozens of times that hundreds of troops from both sides have engaged in physical scuffling on the LAC, lives haven’t been lost much earlier.
Small mercies, huh?
After all, which two armies fight each other this way – with fists and kicks?
We should just be thankful that it is only now that things have deteriorated to this extent.
However, coming back to what I said earlier – the inevitability of it all.
As India rises to reclaim its rightful place in the larger scheme of things, increasing friction with China is inevitable. I wrote a blog on it some years ago – China & India – Together Ahead?. Do read before moving ahead.
Bottomline – A clash / conflict with China is a matter of ‘When’, not ‘If’.
Are we seeing the beginning of it?
I’d say YES.
Like it or not, it is unavoidable. At best we may kick the can a few years down the line as we build our capacities. In fact, we’ve already been doing that for some years now. Whether or not we as a Nation want it, fact is that it is coming.
Or maybe a few years down the line.
Mind you, the NathuLa clash of 1967 too commenced with a Commanding Officer getting injured in firing by the PLA. Over here, it seems one Commanding Officer has actually died under circumstances that are still not very clear.
Seen in the larger scheme of things, it could also be China lashing out wherever it can, given the immense pressures they are under, thanks to their role in the possible creation and of course, the spread of the virus that resulted in the current COVID-19 pandemic.
However, that doesn’t give them a free pass to kill my soldiers.
At the cost of repetition, I’ll once again say that the GOI will simply HAVE to react aggressively, given their reputation from past years and consequent expectations from the Nation.
What form that takes, needs to be seen.
If played well, then hindsight will tell us that this incident was just the trigger needed to ‘formally’ reset our relationship with China from the current ‘accommodative’ stand to something more natural – Adversarial, or at best, neutral.
Remember, Balakot came nearly two weeks after Pulwama. Over here, time and tenor of retribution may take a bit longer. At the very least, I see a strike on Chinese economic interests in India.
At the other end of the spectrum lies a military escalation.
For some time, cast aside your emotions and see it in the light of the US-China spat and the upcoming US Presidential elections.
For all we know, it will end up strengthening our own hand against the Chinese in a much shorter timespan than otherwise possible.
China already has her hands full across all its borders – Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, SCS, Korea – you name it and there is something or the other going on.
And then there are reports of three US Aircraft Carriers in or near the South China Sea.
Of course, I see all this as pieces falling into place in one high stakes game of Wei Qi.
Coming back to the Himalayas, China may have relative advantage on the LAC till such time that things are kept below a boiling point – With weapons secured behind the backs, they needn’t worry about long lines of logistics, right?
Given the fact that PLA has its hands full in other theatres as well, it is really doubtful how they can prevail on the LAC except in a handful of areas in case of a larger conflict.
Herein lies an opportunity, today or maybe a few months down the line, to regain the moral and tactical upper hand on the LAC.
Let me conclude this chain of thoughts with a simple statement – the Indian Armed Forces will do whatever the GOI tells them to do, and they will do it perfectly.
If the GOI tells them to keep their rifles slung behind their backs, this is exactly what they will do.
On the other hand, if the GOI tells them to point them across the LAC, they WILL ensure that the PLA doesn’t know what hit them.
What we usually see are figures of a 2 million strong PLA, or three divisions of PLA entering Tibet. What we often overlook is how many troops the Indian Army can bring to the same battlefield.
Mind you, I am not even talking about the other two services – the IAF and the Indian Navy.
Food for thought, right?
In the end, all I’ll say is that it might be worth waiting for a day or two in order to see how things are likely to progress.
Remember, the Chinese can come in whenever and wherever they want to.
Escalation control thereafter lies with India as to how it reacts.
We’ve seen it in Doklam. Let us see what happens this time round.
A civilizational clash between India and China was written by fate the moment the first PLA soldier set his foot in Tibet in 1950. We might just be witnessing the unfolding of the endgame in the coming days, months and years.
Oh, btw, how many of your remember the Finance Ministry asking sometime in 2013 whether the threat from China will still remain five years down the line, when asked for funds for additional troops for the LAC?
I guess that question just got answered.