The five-point agreement between foreign ministers of India and China reached at after their two-and-half hour-long meeting in Moscow on September 10 is a step forward in resolving the crisis at Ladakh borders. It will be known only after it translates on the ground where Indian and Chinese armies are locked in a ready-to go-to war with each other. No mistake should be made in drawing early conclusions as in the past, too, there have been several false starts after what was described as ways and means to de-escalate the situation on borders. The things moved from a standstill point to near-confrontation leading to firing of shots at Line of Actual Control in more than 45 years. Fortunately, so far, these clashes were not as lethal and deadly as the Galwan Valley skirmish which was fought with stone age tools on June 15, leaving 20 Indian soldiers dead, and unconfirmed casualties on the Chinese side.
Jammu and Kashmir has been separated from Ladakh under the J&K Reorganisation Act of August last year, but the situation on the LAC or Ladakh impacts the whole region. J&K, in particular, is in a strategic bind. Pakistan is along the LoC, the internal situation in Kashmir is far from satisfactory, the regional divisions are widening and the people are in a state where their search for hope is losing hope. When the borders are tense, such an internal situation complicates matters. The evolving situation at the LAC and LoC cannot be read in separate columns, disconnected from each other. The inter-connected geography cannot be separated nor the developments that take place there.
None would be more interested in peace at the LAC than the people of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir. Their stakes are the highest. It should be clear to the mandarins who are dealing with the situation. They are looking at macro picture without taking into calculation the micro points which are no less important. The micro and macro views and strategies hold importance, and by now it is clear that social media and TV channels cannot change the situation on the ground. And it is quite tense at LAC.
Delhi should understand the nuances of the situation, public mood, and of course, the strategies that it is devising to deal with tense stand-off, if at all this stand-off thing is relevant as of today also, because the situation is much more serious than the two armies facing each other in eastern Ladakh. The mountains reveal less, hide more. It is the cardinal principle of the mountain warfare. Whoever controls heights is in a better position to see it all. Pakistan had done this in Kargil in 1999 and could see the whole of Srinagar-Leh highway. The occupation of the heights, though by deceit, offered Pakistan a bird’s eye view over all the military activities of India. The Indian troops fought back and recaptured the heights, writing a new manuscript of the mountain warfare. An unparalleled saga in the world history, but the cost was quite heavy. The price was paid by blood on the rocky mountains. China should be clear what it is up against because Indians retain their capabilities to get the things done in the most determined manner. The war machinery serves its purpose but what wins wars is the grit and determination of the soldiers.
Having said this, why should there be such a situation where blood has to be splattered in the icy heights to see end of the crisis, which, of course, will not happen, unless a dialogue is held. So why not pre-empt such a scenario by the dialogue at an early stage than wait for the tension to erupt into a wider conflict.
J&K has seen enough of conflict. Its stamina is exhausted. The explanation that only the troops would pass through J&K, and there would be no other impact is misreading of the situation. When army convoys move with tanks and other war-time paraphernalia, it is fear of war. There never is enthusiasm for war among the people except for the ill-informed paid jingoistic TV anchors who have no idea of what the war is. They visit the towns and villages far away from the actual borders and present distorted pictures and voices more often than not about the actual condition on the front lines . The backyard fiction-spinning men have reversed the phrase “pictures don’t lie.”. They have morphed the pictures to stream lies, which will put Goebbels to shame. They should know that the actual war theatre is full of blood and fury in which lives are lost, not the studio theatres where they can play one-sided games and claim whatever they want to.
The context of Foreign Minister S Jaishankar’s meeting with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi has to be seen against the backdrop of thickening and lengthening shadows of war. They were talking peace and tranquillity on the borers and the mechanism to do so – disengagement and de-escalation. It can happen only when peace becomes the byword in the overall relationship of the two countries. This peace, if achieved, would be a boon for the stressed people of J&K who don’t want any escalation of the situation on borders. They have already seen much of it. Not anymore.