There is a Chinese proverb; the one who ties the knot can alone untie it. This proverb China wants to attribute to India to reduce the tensions going on along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). China wants India to undo the abrogation Article 370 that changed the status of Jammu and Kashmir.
There are few plausible reasons making rounds for Chinese incursion into India. They are; India’s construction of Darbuk-Shyok-Daulet Beg Oldi (DSDBO) road from 2000. India along with the US and other powers hedging China and India not complying with Wuhan spirit or it’s follow up at Mamallapuram near Chennai are other reasons given for Chinese aggression.
Among the numerous stances of India breaking the Wuhan spirit, the most logical seems to be the abrogation of Article 370 that relates to Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, 2019, and the claim over the territories in the possession of China thus challenging China’s territorial integrity.
This idea was conveyed by Wang Shida, the Deputy Director of the Institute of South Asian Studies at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR).
He says: “On the Chinese side, India opened up new territory on the map, incorporated part of the areas under the local jurisdiction of Xinjiang and Tibet into its Ladakh Union Territory. This has forced China into the Kashmir dispute and stimulated it to take counter-actions on the Kashmir issue.” CICIR is Beijing-based think-tank affiliated to the Ministry of State Security, China’s top intelligence body.
The author says, China had raised this issue at the United Nations Security Council. ‘The Foreign Minister had conveyed China’s strong opposition to India’s moves of abrogation of Article 370 and the establishment of Ladakh as a union territory.’
The author quoted Home Minister Amit Shah’s statement in Parliament of taking back Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Aksai Chin from China.
Wang Shida said such statements had “posed a challenge to the sovereignty of Pakistan and China and “made India-Pakistan relations and China-India relations more complex.”
The author acknowledged that India’s foreign minister had conveyed to Beijing that the move was an entirely internal matter that did not impact India’s external boundaries or the LAC with China. But China opposed the Ladakh map for including Aksai Chin as a part of Indian Territory as that has dramatically increased the difficulty in resolving the border issue.
Now in such a situation the question is will India untie the knot, the way Chinese want it to do? Will PM Modi restore the previous status of Jammu and Kashmir in bargain for the withdrawal of Chinese troops? Or will he stick to his party’s nationalist agenda that changed the status quo in Jammu and Kashmir, even if it means compromising Indian Territory?
As things stand on ground, military level talks have failed between India and China. The PLA had flatly rejected the Indian demand for the withdrawal of the Chinese troops from the areas it occupied in May and restored the status quo that prevailed in April.
The Galwan River valley intrusion did not feature in the discussion of the military talks, the core issue of the current dispute. The PLA refused to discuss its intrusions into the Galwan River valley and instead claimed ownership over the entire area that Indian forces were patrolling for over two and half decades. At the moment the PLA has fortified its position at the Galwan River valley and are in a striking distance to India’s strategic Darbuk-Shyok-Daulet Beg Oldi (DSDBO) road.
As a consequence of dominating the DSDBO road, the Chinese have gained strategically and isolated India from the Depsang area where the road ends. The subsector north (SSN) ends at Depsang plains, India’s last outpost at the base of the Karakoram Pass.
The other focal point of Chinese intrusion is on the north bank of the Pangong Lake. Here, the PLA is controlling the mountain ridges that overlook the lake and slopes from the height of Finger 8,7,6,5 and 4. Chinese claim line is now at finger 3 which they made a buffer zone and the new LAC. Indian patrols cannot go beyond Finger 3 and control only finger 1&2.
It appears that China now has come inside three to five kilometers that is supposedly to be the Indian Territory. They occupy some sixty kilometers of Indian land. Since no joint statement was released after the India China military talks, its outcome is well known.
Now the problem Indian leadership faces is to diplomatically engage China and make them retreat to pre-April position. This is only possible only if there is some give and take. The give is India restore the previous status of J&K and the take is China withdraw its troops from its advanced position so that India regains its territory.
If this happens India will untie the knot and both go back to their old positions. India will go back to pre-August 5, 2019 position and China to pre May 2020 position.
If this doesn’t happen then the government has to accept the loss of territory to China while keep on bluffing that the negotiation channel is on, and just like black stashed abroad which is yet to come the leadership will be promising it will retrieve the loss of territory from China.
In such a case, the super nationalist leadership of the country has to go for an all-out war with China and evict it from its territory as India did with Pakistan during the Kargil war 1999. The problem in such adventurism is India may not get colonized again.
All these are Hobbesian choices for India to make. But they very well fits into the Chinese proverb that the one who ties the knot can alone untie it.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org