Foreign Affairs
Arunachal clashes: What is India’s alternative?

On December 9, last Friday, there was a violent clash between Chinese and Indian soldiers in the Tawang sector of the north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh. During this, some soldiers of both sides were injured.

It was reported in the Indian media on December 12, but official information was received four days later on Tuesday (December 13) when Defense Minister Rajnath Singh made a statement about it in Parliament. The opposition demands that the Prime Minister should make a statement on this matter and discuss it in the House. When the demand was not met, the opposition party boycotted the House.

On Tuesday, Rajnath Singh said in Parliament, “On December 9, 2022, PLA forces attempted to unilaterally change the status quo by encroaching on the Yangtze area in the Tawang sector along the Line of Actual Control. Our forces resolutely responded to this attempt. China faced it.” He said, “It turned into a face-to-face encounter. The Indian Army forced the PLA back to its posts.”

Rajnath Singh said, “Soldiers from both sides were also injured in this clash. Neither our soldiers were killed nor anyone seriously injured in this incident. It is true that no soldier has been killed in recent times. Despite the clash, Rajnath Singh The opposition and some military experts are not satisfied with Singh’s statement.People are questioning why the defense minister did not inform the country for four days.

The Tawang incident is very serious

According to Ajay Shukla, a former colonel of the Indian Army and now strategic affairs editor of the Business Standard magazine, the clash in the Tawang area is definitely very serious. He said, “This incident is as big as the Galwan incident. The difference is that 20 Indian soldiers were killed in Galwan. Around 35 soldiers were injured here. They are being treated at the military hospital.

According to Ajay Shukla, experts tracking China believe that President Xi Jinping may have made this plan during the 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (October 16-24) held a few days ago. However, he said that since there is no condition to know the reality of the land, only guesses can be made.

Local decision or top leadership decision?

The question also arises as to whether the Chinese soldiers stationed on the LAC near the Tawang sector took this decision on their own or the instructions must have come from the highest authority of China. Ajay Shukla says, “The information that the Chinese soldiers will take this decision on their own is completely wrong. Nothing happens in China without Xi Jinping’s permission.” China has another thing to say about this. A Chinese military spokesperson said that the PLA’s Western Theater Command was carrying out regular patrols in Chinese territory along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), when Indian troops entered the Chinese side and tried to intercept the Chinese forces.

Sun Shi, an expert on Chinese affairs and a senior journalist affiliated with the National University of Singapore, says that the latest clashes in the Tawang area were not planned. “The borders of the two countries are not fixed. Both India and China claim many areas. This is why there was a clash between the soldiers of the two countries. But immediately after the clash, the soldiers of both sides returned to their respective places.

According to him, the soldiers stationed there were not given any instructions from any senior military officer or top leadership. Sun Xi said Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi shook hands at the recently concluded G-20 summit in Bali. Earlier this year, Modi and Xi Jinping could not meet and shake hands at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Sun Xi’s statement should be rejected and if it is accepted that the Chinese soldiers tried to infiltrate the Tawang sector under the orders of the Supreme Court of China, then the question must arise as to why China did this and what it did with it. What do you want to achieve?

The purpose of the clash?

China is very angry with the Indian government’s decision in 2019. He said that instead of looking at the clash in Tawang area in isolation, it should be seen as a complete package. According to him, China has benefited in the Galwan incident and China wants to take the same strategic advantage in Arunachal too.

In response to what message China wants to convey to India or the international world from the latest clashes in Tawang region, Ajay Shukla says, China probably wants to show that India has nothing in front of them and China has so much military power. He can teach India such a lesson whenever he wants. However, Ajay Shukla also does not forget to say that China has not made its position clear so far and after the Galwan incident, China said that India has strengthened its infrastructure near its border and China did not like it.

Looking to distract yourself from domestic situations?

Some experts have said that because of the Covid policy, Xi Jinping has faced fierce opposition within China and to divert attention from internal problems, Chinese soldiers have tried to clash with India on the border. But Ajay Shukla says this can only be experts’ guesses as China does not officially tell anyone about its motives behind any action.

In such a situation, another question arises that what is India’s option to face it?

India has options

Ajay Shukla says, India has many options but India does not want to use them. He said that although India has fewer political options, its military options are not weaker than China’s. According to him, during the Galwan incident, both the ruling BJP and the main opposition Congress accused each other. he According to him, there is a lack of political consensus in India to take strong action against China. India may lack political consensus in its dealings with China, but it is also true that the military capabilities of the two countries differ greatly.

Indo-China military capabilities

In 1962, there was no significant difference in the military power of India and China. Their military capabilities were almost equal. India has been independent for 15 years and China was founded only in 1949. India had British equipment and weapons while China had Russian. In this situation, there was not much difference in the military strength of both countries. But today there are many differences between them.

Be it the number of soldiers, arms or tanks etc. or the defense budget, China is ahead of India. Most importantly, China has more basic facilities than India in the Tibetan area along the Line of Actual Control. India is far behind in this matter. Infrastructure is still being developed in parts of India. In this way, there is a gap of 10 to 15 years between India and China. In fact India is a subcontinental power while China is emerging as a global and intercontinental power in the last 10-15 years. The fundamental difference between the two puts India at a disadvantage.

China’s military commitment is greater than India’s

Ajay Shukla also believes that China’s military power is greater than that of India, but according to him, China’s military commitments (Taiwan, Hong Kong, South China Sea etc.) are also very high. From this point of view, it will not be easy for China to take military action against India and India’s situation is not that bad, he said.

General PR Shankar (retd) has written an article in the English newspaper Indian Express, in which he says that even after the establishment of the new CDS, no significant progress has been made in the field of Army’s Integrated Theater Command and Army Renewal. He says that this is the most important need now. But Ajay Shukla says that since India has to spend a lot in the field of education and health, it has not increased the military expenditure much. General Shankar in his article said that China is the biggest threat to India now and the government should take China’s threats seriously rather than making political rhetoric about Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Is China a bigger threat or Pakistan?

But Ajay Shukla does not seem to agree with this. According to him, India has to face two fronts (China and Pakistan) and if extremism is added to Indian-administered Kashmir, India will have to face two and a half fronts at the same time.

Ajay Shukla says, “The challenge to India from Pakistan and China is not only imaginary, because China supports Pakistan militarily and financially in everything. In response, Pakistan gives China its naval base, ports and access to the Arabian Sea. Therefore, India is always worried about fighting on both these fronts.

Negotiation is the only way

Many analysts believe that negotiations are the only way out. A military solution to the border dispute between India and China is not possible.

“India should first strengthen itself diplomatically, then think about increasing its military power. Now all the countries that are seen with India are provoking India. Quad member countries also support India. They want to help but that support should be in finding a diplomatic solution.” Not to find a military solution.”

Sun Xi said, “India is presiding over the G-20 and Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi may face each other at the summit in India next year, so both leaders do not want any clash on the border.” Only the top leadership of both the countries want to solve the problem, the diplomats also want to maintain peace, so the military leadership should not allow this issue to be raised.” Vijay Gokhale, India’s former foreign secretary and currently a non-resident senior fellow at the Carnegie Foundation, wrote an article on December 13, in which he said it was crucial to resume the stalled talks between the two countries since November 2019. According to him, one of the problems is that China does not consider India as an equal power with global influence.

He says, “India must accept that its power is not yet sufficient to prepare China to consider India as its equal. But China must also understand that in the Asia Pacific America and its allies are the most powerful group in the region. China is the second power but India is also the third power.”

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