The latest edition of the PIC Adda saw PIC host Mr. Nitin Gokhale, National Security Analyst and Member, PIC, for a talk on “India-China Boundary Conundrum: Ground Reality” on 19th December. The session was moderated by Air Marshal Bhushan Gokhale, Trustee, PIC.
Mr. Gokhale covered the ground reality and began by providing a brief overview of the terrain and infrastructure in and around the LAC. He also provided a few maps on why there was contention over the LAC as perceived by India and China (specifically between finger 4 and finger 5, along Pangong Tso). He highlighted the Indian counter-operation which led to the occupation of strategic heights along the south bank of Pangong Tso, which was not anticipated by Chinese forces. The move by India has bought it some much needed strategic leverage, though it has upset the Chinese administration, as occupying strategic heights now allows India a deep view into the Chinese garrison across from Pangong Tso.
Additionally, the new road built from Shyok to Daulat Beg Oldie, has given India better access to the airstrip. This allows for better movement of troops into the required areas in case of conflict. To explain Chinese movements and actions, several theories were suggested, as Mr. Gokhale outlined during his talk. Chinese troops being put into action to contain Indian infrastructure build-up in the Northern sector seems to be the most popular line of analysis.
Mr. Gokhale emphasised that irrespective of the actual cause for Chinese action, India had responded well, by deploying both tanks and artillery to the furthest points along the LAC for the first time in its history – to match China’s deployment. Given that the stand-off is in its ninth month, this has been the longest and biggest deployment from India. The military stalemate continues as rounds of talks continue between India and China on the topic of disengagement. Mr. Gokhale summed up by stating that a more militarised LAC is a new reality, as previous border agreements have been rendered useless after the loss of trust between India and China. The outcome of the rounds of talks is being carefully watched across Asia. That both sides desire de-escalation is well known, though on what terms, remains to be seen.