ACCORDING to a report in Indian news portal The Wire, Indian intelligence officials and political leaders said that the Indian Army and Indo-Tibetan Border Police personnel deployed along the border with China were pushed back, kilometre by kilometre till India lost almost 35 square kilometres of territory. The report is based on conversations with a cross section of senior officials and political leaders to make sense of the government’s approach on the latest stand-off with China. The Wire reported that China had opened six fronts at Galwan Valley, Pangong, Demchok, Naku La and 14 km east of Doklam in Bhutanese territory starting third week of April, when the snow started melting. If India continues with its expansionist policy, intimidating the neighbouring countries and turning the Muslims and other minorities into second class citizens, India will not have any sympathizer in its confrontation with China.
India is witnessing its worst-ever border tension since the Kargil episode in 1999, as China has brought forward at least 5,000 troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh. Skirmishes have been reported at multiple locations in eastern Ladakh — three in the larger Hot Springs area and one in the ‘Finger’ area of Pangong lake. News agency ANI has also reported that Chinese troops have pitched tents and stationed themselves close to the post. Chinese discomfort dates back to last year’s inauguration of the strategic Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldi road, and now with start of construction India has angered the Chinese. Satellite imagery shared on social media by experts has shown that the troops are most likely within the Chinese Claim Line (CCL) in the Galwan Valley, whereas India considers it Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Indian civil and military leadership, otherwise resorting to jingoism against Pakistan but is keeping mum, as they are being criticized by their own social media referring to merging Sikkim with India, and browbeaten Bhutan and Nepal. Three weeks ago, Nepal protested India’s inauguration of a new road to Tibet (China) that passes through territory claimed by Kathmandu with police arresting dozens demonstrating close to India’s embassy, to show that Nepal government believed in diplomatic approach. Earlier, Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had inaugurated via video link the 80km road from Ghatiabagarh in northern Uttarakhand State to the Lipu Lekh Pass high in the Himalaya. The pass is claimed by Nepal based on an 1816 treaty that defines its western border with India. Kathmandu also claims the adjoining and strategic Kalapani as a part of its territory, although Indian troops have been deployed there since Indo-China war in 1962.
Last year New Delhi published a new map that showed Kalapani within its borders, and Nepal’s Foreign Ministry had condemned India’s unilateral act against the understanding reached between the two countries that a solution to boundary issues would be sought through negotiations. Nepal has been a prime target of Indian deep state stratagem to make it a client state after subduing Bhutan and the Maldives. Nepal had many a time tried to break the octopus squeeze of India. But due to geographically landlocked position, contiguity and trade dependence, Nepal had to compromise to avoid the wrath of India. So immense had been the Indian interference in Nepalese socio-politico and economic affairs that the nation could not adopt a consensus constitution after a decade of political infighting. And when it did adopt a federal, democratic and secular Constitution in 2015, India had instigated Madheshi and Tharu people living in Terai region of Nepal.
These proxies created unrest through protests, and India enforced economic blockade of Nepal in 2015, which resulted in a serious shortage of food, medicines and fuel etc., thus adding to the miseries of Nepalese people. Nepalese know full well that Madhesi and Tharu people were systematically migrated from Indian States of Bihar and UP to create an ethnic imbalance to control Nepal, as the country is strategically very important. Nepal tried to establish ties with other powers specifically China in order to reduce its dependence on India. In September 2017, China opened a strategic highway from Tibet to the Nepal border, which could be used for civilian and defence purposes. The 40.4-kilometre highway in Tibet between Xigaze airport and Xigaze city centre was officially opened to the public with a short section linking the national highway to the Nepal border.
Months ago, India had issued a new political map to show the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two new Union Territories. In it, it depicted Kalapani as part of Indian territory, which led to a strong objection from Nepal. Of course, Nepal would be happy over the current tension between India and China, as the latter had entered in an agreement with India on construction of another road, and Nepal had indicated to lodge protest with India and China. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan lashed out at the Hindutva Supremacist Modi government by saying that it was becoming a threat to India’s neighbours. In a tweet that he posted on Wednesday, PM Imran cited India’s border disputes with China and Nepal as well as the adverse impact of the Modi government’s Citizenship Act on Bangladesh. “The Hindutva Supremacist Modi Government with its arrogant expansionist policies, akin to Nazi’s Lebensraum (Living Space), is becoming a threat to India’s neighbours. Bangladesh through Citizenship Act, border disputes with Nepal & China, and threat of false flag operation by India,” he tweeted. He said that India was a threat to its minorities by relegating them to 2nd class citizens’ status and to regional peace as well. India has border with every SAARC country; and has problem with every country: military conflicts, water disputes, border disputes that can lead to conflagration.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.