Ladakh: A new security concern

Kashmir has not stabilised till date. The fragility of the situation is well documented in the national and international media. Kashmir observers have written their diaries that are waiting to speak. This is one part of the story of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir – the other side, in another union territory of Ladakh is getting into the national media with un-palpable headings. The chest thumping media that has endless vocabulary, instigating phrases is silent, or just murmuring.

The reasons for this change are better known to the TV anchors and newspaper writers. They have retreated to the level of absurd comparisons between the number of the Nepalese troops and that of India. It is nothing short of ridiculousness, and it becomes more ridiculous when studied against the backdrop of Chinese intrusions deep inside the territory of Ladakh – part of the former state of J&K, an integral part of India.

Writing in Indian Express ( May 26, 2020), P. Stobdan, a renowned scholar with his keen eye on the developments in China and Central Asia, brought to light the dangerous extent of the Chinese incursions, stretching upto scores of miles, since 1980s and permanent since. Ladakh knows what it is losing, how and why. Stobdan has explained it all in his insightful article, titled, ” The Ladakh Warning.” This warning needs to be heeded and acted upon.

My own view is that India should respond to the Chinese intrusions. However, it will have to  address and dissect the problem before firming up its response. The 1962 Sino-India  war and its results  are there. But many in the country wish to tear that apart  as if nothing happened. The histories cannot be changed  by the whims and wishes.

Newer facts are that 58 years later India is a nuclear power. China recognises that. If despite this acknowledgement of the Indian power, China is doing all this, there must be some reason. And, what it could be. This question’s objective answer is needed.

To my mind, all those experts who believe that it is because China wants to divert its attention from its role of hiding the pandemic of novel corona virus from the world  is doing what it is doing close to LAC or inside of the Indian territory is nothing but a self-created  delusion. Realistically  speaking, that is a fight between the US and China. The America has performed very poorly in containing the virus. It has lost 100,000 plus lives. These were on  the pages of New York Times. That should be a greater embarrassment to Washington than accusing, rightly or wrongly, China of unleashing the virus. What has got this theory to do with  Chinese incursions into eastern Ladakh. It is incomprehensible.

In military terms, there is no role for America. Washington was told in very clear terms by China when it raised its concerns over the new security law for Hong Kong, that it doesn’t like any interference of any side. Whatever President Trump might be saying or planning , the barren fact is that China stays unmoved.

Its verbal duels with Taiwan, too, has no relation to the developments that concern us. If China wants to deflect attention from al these issues, why should China choose India and that too, Ladakh.

For argument sake, even if it is true, then what does it mean, that China can do all this to India without any  challenge  except from India itself. India is strong enough to stand to the challenge posed by PLA troops. India needs a strategy  as this is a matter of national security and integrity as well.

And, one thing is clear that  India  should avoid the temptation of picking up the military option that might be on the table. Given the kind of situation – economic – caused by the virus, military response beyond  strategically  suitable  extent, will yield nothing. The army guards frontiers. But there is something more to the  fight on borders – now the war is fought in markets, stock exchanges and elsewhere. China’s own economic condition is not what it used to be. It is confronted with  problems of huge magnitude. It is unable to  resist the mounting pressure  at the World Health Organisation to stop  the probe being demanded by more than 100 countries. But it has chosen an aggressive posturing  with a purpose. That has to be analysed first.

There is only one answer to the whole problem – smart diplomacy. It has to be reinvented in the Indian context. India is not without its strengths and capacity, and it has the unmatched intellect how to use the intellect to achieve the strategic goals. It has to move a little ahead of all  what forms the smart diplomacy. The immediate task is to open the  dialogue with China , not from a  position  of weakness, but that of equal power. Any talk of using the Himalayan ego against China or for that matter even a small country like Nepal is like souring relationship.  India should talk with all its strategic cards in hand . India cannot be pushed over by the mere military might of China. India is a grand market for Chinese goods. China knows it, and with its relations with America under severe strain, annoying India can pose a serious problem for Beijing not in South Asia but elsewhere too. China is not oblivious of this fact. This needs to be exploited and used with a smart power to tell Beijing to back off. Beijing cannot open too many fronts. Its dream of the world power cannot be attained by what it is doing at the LAC. India should take a strategic line, not that of pinpricks, to achieve its goal.