Even as China and India remain firm on resolving the military standoff in eastern Ladakh, where People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops have entered into the territories patrolled by India for decades, New Delhi’s frontline warrior at the time of Doklam standoff in 2017 has proposed that India must draw a ‘red line’ for Beijing in the ongoing episode.
“China’s ulterior motive could be to eventually push the Indian Army West of the Shyok river in the region. This would give them a strategic vantage point over the newly constructed Daulat Beg Old (DBO) road and thus limit India’s options both towards Aksai China and Gilgit Baltistan. This will also reduce their own vulnerability with respect to CPEC.” says Lieutenant General Abhay Krishna, the former General Officer-Commanding-in-Chief (GOC-in-C) of India’s Eastern Command, who effectively headed India’s on the ground military response during the Doklam standoff.
Lieutenant General Abhay Krishna explains that China’s breaching of the decades-old status quo at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) betrayed an underlying fear of India trying to take back the Gilgit Baltistan region in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
“The abrogation of Article 370 in August last year, as well as the statements from the Indian leadership hinting at an imminent plan to take over POK, has rattled both China and Pakistan in one go. By trying to get across Shyok river in Ladakh, they want to pre-empt the possibility of an Indian action,” the military veteran says.
“We ought to draw a red line and assert our position to Beijing during the ongoing military and diplomatic talks,” adds Lieutenant General Krishna.
The General officer commanding in chief of India’s Eastern Command during the Doklam military episode in 2017, Lieutenant General Krishna recalls that New Delhi had conveyed to Beijing in categorical terms at the time that crossing the Torsa Nala would invite a strong retaliation from the Indian forces.
“The Chinese wanted to cross the Torsa Nala and get on the Jampheri Ridge, which is a part of disputed territory between Bhutan and China. From the Jampheri Ridge, one gets a view of the Siliguri corridor.” the General explains.
He notes that even though the territory concerned was of a third country Bhutan, the positioning of Chinese forces at the ridge would have directly threatened India’s national security. “We first intervened politely. But when we noticed that their belligerence kept increasing, we then decided to move up tanks and artillery up to convey our unyielding resolve… After two months of standoffs, the Chinese finally retreated to their traditional patrolling point away from the border. ,” recounts Lt General Krishna.
The suggestion by the army veteran comes as Indian and Chinese military remain engaged in a standoff since early May at two different locations in eastern Ladakh, at the Galwan Valley and the Pangong Tso Lake areas. The Commander of Leh-based 14 Corps, Lieutenant General Harinder Singh, is scheduled to hold a high-level military consultation with his Chinese counterparts on Saturday in a bid to find a solution to the impasse.
While US President Donald Trump has offered mediation and the aggressive Chinese patrolling along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) also featured in a telephonic call between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and him on Tuesday, New Delhi has remained confident that the issue could be resolved through existing bilateral mechanisms.
Pinning hopes on a bilateral resolution as well, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Wednesday that there was no need for intervention of a “third party.”
“China and India have a full-fledged border-related mechanism and communication channel. We have the capability to resolve this issue through dialogue and negotiations,” he said during his press briefing earlier in the day.