Shyam Saran, former Foreign Secretary, has written: "Of late, China has been resorting increasingly to unilateral actions seeking to alter the status quoThe Chinese side maintains that in the"Convention Between Great Britain and China relating to Sikkim and Tibet", the southern-most point identified as the peak of Gipmochi, is located on the Bhutan frontier but further south. From its recent actions, it appears that China has been afflicted by some form of an insecurity complex vis-a-vis India, possibly stemming from India's strategic partnerships particularly that with the US. Some examples of China's adamant behaviour are given here.
Chinese intransigence on the resolution of the territorial dispute is the real cause of periodic and instability, writes BRIG GURMEET KANWAL (RETD)
Stand-off at Doklam: Symptom of a Larger Malady
For Over one month now, border guards of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) nave been locked in a stand-off with troops of the Indian Army and those from the Royal Bhutan Army at Doklam, a small plateau near the India-Bhutan-Tibet trijunction at the southern tip of the Chumbi Valley. In blatant violation of their agreement that neither side will attempt to alter the status quo while negotiations were being conducted to resolve the boundary dispute, Chinese soldiers were engaged in building a road on the Doklam plateau on the territory that had been under Bhutanese control for long. On being requested by the Government of Bhutan, Indian troops intervened on its behalf to stop further construction activity.
The PLA is clearly seeking to gain an operational advantage by grabbing a sensitive piece of land that would facilitate the launching of future operations to cut off the narrow Siliguri corridor that links mainland India with Bhutan and India’s seven north-eastern states. The duration of the transgression across the Line of Actual Control (LoC) at Doklam is the longest since the signing of various Border Management Agreements starting with the first one in 1993.
The Border Management Agreements signed by the two countries include the Agreement on Maintaining Peace and tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas, September 7, 1993; the Agreement on Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) in the Military Field along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas, November 29, 1996; the Agreement on Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the India-China Boundary Question, April 11, 2005; the Protocol on Modalities for the Implementation of Confidence Building Measures in the Military Field along the Line of Actual Control in India-China Border Areas, April 11, 2005; and, the Agreement on Establishment of a Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on IndiaChina Border Affairs, January 17, 2012.
In order to remove the anomalies and impracticalities of these agreements, India and China signed the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA), fn October 2013. The BDCA commits the two sides to “periodic meetings” of military and civilian officers and to exchange information — including information about military exercises, aircraft movements, demolition operations and unmarked mines. It emphasises the avoidance of border patrols “tailing” each other and recommends that the two sides “may consider establishing a hot-line between military headquarters in both countries. Apparently, the PLA opted to ignore all of these provisions and acted in a surreptitious manner.
Shyam Saran, former Foreign Secretary, has written: “Of late, China has been resorting increasingly to unilateral actions seeking to alter the status quo…The Chinese side maintains that in the “Convention Between Great Britain and China relating to Sikkim and Tibet”, the southern-most point identified as the peak of Gipmochi, is located on the Bhutan frontier but further south. On this basis, China has laid a claim to Doklam, but this has been contested by the Bhutanese side. The Chinese side has recognised this as disputed territory. Although both China and India accept the alignment of the Sikkim-Tibet boundary as laid down In the Convention…they have agreed that as far as the tri-junction is concerned this can only be settled in consultation with Bhutan. The current impasse has arisen because the Chinese side has gone further by attempting to build a defence class road through the area. This will significantly elevate the potential security threat to the Siliguri corridor which is a vital transport artery for both India and Bhutan. China should have shown greater sensitivity in this matter.”
He then goes on to recommend a way out: “The Chinese side has demanded that the issue should be resolved by India withdrawing its security personnel from the Doklam area. In fact, the issue can be defused by both sides agreeing to restore the status quo and mutually disengaging their forces. This is how earlier such incidents were resolved satisfactorily.”
According to news reports, the standoff was triggered at least in part to “force an unwilling India to accept its (China’s) one belt-one road (OBOR) programme and that the incident was deliberately publicised when the Indian Prime Minister was on a visit to the US to meet President Donald Trump in Washington. While this will remain in the realm of speculation, Chinas growing military assertiveness and belligerence in the Indo-Pacific region is unmistakable.”
The root cause of most transgressions and patrol face-offs is the non-demarcation of the LAC, which leads to varying perceptions about where it runs. Serious Chinese incursions across the LAC are endemic and tensions continue to persist. Several incidents of reckless behaviour nave occurred in recent years. The well-known transgression by the PLA at Depsang near Daulat Beg Oldie in May 2013 could have led to an armed clash if the PLA had not backtracked. When President Xl Jinping was meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the banks of the Sabarmati River in Ahmedabad in September 2014, Chinese and Indian troops were locked in a tense stand-off at Chumar in Ladakh.
Earlier, a stand-off at the LAC had resulted in a prolonged shooting match at Nathu La in 1967 with large-scale casualties on the Chinese side. Then again, in 1986, the Chinese transgressed into the Wang Dung area along with the Sumdarong Chu. India had airlifted an infantry brigade to face them. After a long stand-off, the Chinese finally withdrew without a single shot being fired. Despite these setbacks, the Chinese continue to make attempts to unilaterally alter the status of the LAC.
Waging War through the Media
From its recent actions, it appears that China has been afflicted by some form of an insecurity complex vis-a-vis India, possibly stemming from India’s strategic partnerships particularly that with the US. Some examples of China’s adamant behaviour are given here.
Chinas spokespersons and the media have been using every conceivable occasion to denigrate India, let it down and damage its standing in the comity of nations. China has once again blocked India’s application for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). At the 27th plenary session of the NSG, held at Bern on June 22-23, 2017, China continued to insist that the Group should formulate the criteria for the admission of new members first, before making exceptions for any country. China holds the view that NSG membership should be given to Pakistan also along with India, despite Pakistan’s abysmal record as the worlds worst proliferator.
As expected, Chinas long-standing technical hold on Masood Azhar, head of the Pakistan-based terrorist organisation Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), being designated an international terrorist by the United Nations sanctions committee, has still not been lifted. Although India was finally admitted as a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) at the Astana summit on June 9, 2017, China made sure that Pakistan was given the same status simultaneously.
In the past, China had objected to India’s Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC) prospecting for oil off the coast of Vietnam after winning a contract from its government, even though the area was within Vietnam’ territorial waters. China, of course, claims the complete South China Sea as its territorial waters in complete disregard of the Law of the Sea Treaty.
China’s leadership loses no opportunity to show its annoyance with India over even inconsequential issues. In March 2017, the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying it was “strongly dissatisfied” with India for inviting the Dalai Lama to open an international Buddhist conference in Nalanda, Bihar. Beijing protested even more loudly when the Dalai Lama visited Tawang in Arunachal