Have we found all answers to the military standoff in eastern Ladakh since it began April 2020? Definitely not. The situation at the Line of Actual Control is more tense than it was 20 months ago.
It is now a bigger issue than demarcation of the LAC to the mutual satisfaction. Of Delhi and Beijing. The issue now is that how long will it take to settle the problem and what would be the give and take in the final bargain.
Even if the problem is not discussed as vociferously as it should have been, and debated publicly, it doesn’t mean that it has become non-existent. This issue if left unresolved will create greater problems in future, as it may impact the psyche of the sections watching it from close quarters. China is a big country, and it has now greater control and influence in geo-politics of South Asia than it had when it first started making attempts to alter the status of the LAC in eastern Ladakh.
Today, China’s footprints are quite heavy in Afghanistan. It is using its leverage in the territory, by courting Taliban. There is a promise of financial aid to Taliban. And its influence has grown too much in Pakistan – beyond the much-touted phrase of “all-weather friendship”; that Islamabad cannot make any choice of its own. It stayed away from the democracy summit hosted by the United States of America, simply because China didn’t want it. China was not invited to the summit, so, Pakistan, more as a protest did not join the summit.
Complexities of tension-ridden situation have become more troublesome than the border issue. This is evidenced by the fact that more than a dozen round of talks at the military commanders level, and through the diplomatic channels, have resulted only in addition to the tensions. These are visible in the mobilization of troops and war machinery at borders. This is just one theatre, there are more theatres along the LAC - Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand have witnessed incursions and settlement.
In the eastern Ladakh, where temperatures dip to minus 40 degree Celsius, maintaining troops round the year has its own costs. These are not mere physical, but also psychological. First, there was Siachen, then post-Kargil war, there was round the year deployment of troops in high Himalayas in Kargil and now the things have been stretched to eastern Ladakh.
The nation will have to find ways to avert such situations. This is potentially dangerous situation, as it borders two neighbouring countries. The two countries, Pakistan and China, are friends and both are hostile to India. No-war, no-peace situation cannot be allowed forever. It needs to be resolved as early as possible, because this also holds out the threat of the recurrence of what happened at Galwan Valley in June last year, when India lost 20 soldiers in a stone-age era clash with the PLA troops. That deadly clash, first in 45 years at the LAC, after skirmishes at LAC in 1975, bloodied the picturesque Valley in the mountains. That brought to an end the era in which India and China had managed their differences without bloodshed.
The tense standoff has also triggered another narrative, especially in Kashmir, where the leaders are questioning, why Delhi is talking to Beijing, despite the Chinese troops, having intruded into the Indian territory, while it is saying no to talks with Pakistan. The Kashmiri leadership is drawing a sadistic pleasure out of it, because the fact is that Delhi and Beijing are talking, while there is stony silence on talks with Pakistan. Perhaps, the leaders questioning Delhi are ignorant or pretending to be so, as Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has said , “no to dialogue with India as long as BJP government rules from Delhi”. This is a sheer mischief. Pakistan, captive to high-grade extremism, is questioning the mandate of the people of the country. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is leading the government, voted to power by a huge mandate in its favour in the elections in 2014 and 2019. Kashmiri leaders are also avoiding references to Imran Khan’s obstinacy and mischief, for the reasons known to them.
That, however, should not take our eyes off the problem staring the country at eastern Ladakh. There is something more to be taken into account, that what message does it send to the rest of the nation, as also to the region of South Asia. Ladakh is an important region in geo-strategic terms, and anything happening there on the borders or internally is portentous. The attempt should be made to address the issue with all seriousness.