All eyes are now focussed on Saturday’s meeting between 14th Indian army corps commander Lt Gen Harinder Singh and his counterpart in charge of the South Xinjiang military district.
All previous meetings at the level of local commanders up to the rank of Brigadier have failed to resolved the more than one-month-old impasse in the Ladakh-Tibet border.
India has maintained that it would not suspend , rather complete , its ongoing projects to build roads and bridges in the border areas which seems to be the main reason for the Chinese forward policy .
Since the intrusions this time are deep , the Chinese are expected to drive a tough bargain for withdrawal and are likely to link it to suspension of Indian defense infrastructure development.
Indian leaders have also said they will not enter any bilateral agreements that might infringe upon its sovereign right to build such infrastructure along the Line of Actual Control.
India is also organising special trains to move 11,815 construction workers from Jharkhand to areas closer to the disputed boundary with China. The Ministry of Defence is working with the Ministry of Home Affairs and also the Ministry of Railways to move construction workers from Jharkhand to areas closer to the Indo-China border.
Currently 61 border roads are under construction. Only 25 per cent of these works are pending and the target is to finish them this summer.
The situation worsened after around 250 Chinese and Indian soldiers were engaged in a violent face-off on the evening of May 5 in Pangong Tso which spilled over to the next day before the two sides agreed to “disengage”.
However, the standoff continued.
The trigger for the face-off was China’s stiff opposition to India laying a key road in the Finger area around the Pangong Tso besides construction of another road connecting the Darbuk-Shayok-Daulat Beg Oldie road in Galwan Valley.
Much would depend on Lieutenant General Harinder Singh, who is GOC of the Leh-based 14 Corps. His field experience, his intelligence background and his international exposure may help.
“What we now need is both a hard stare and a casual wink , a warm handshake and one with a firm grip to drive home a clear message — we want no conflict but we are more than prepared for one,” says a mid-rank officer.
Nicknamed the ‘Fire and Fury Corps’, the 14 Corps is part of the Udhampur-based Northern Command of the Indian Army and faces the “most hostile terrain”.
An expert in counter insurgency, Lt Gen Harinder Singh took over the command of the 14 Corps in October last year. Prior to that, he held several crucial positions in the Indian Army, including the posts of Director General of Military Intelligence, Director General of Military Operations, and Director General of Operational Logistics and Strategic Movement.
Lt Gen Harinder Singh has also served in Africa as part of a United Nations mission and has seen combat experience in Jammu and Kashmir.
An alumnus of the National Defense Academy, Lt Gen Harinder Singh was commissioned into the Army’s Maratha Light Infantry. Later during his military career, Lt Gen Singh graduated from the Defense Service Staff College (DSSC).
Lt Gen Singh was also a senior research fellow at the Institute of Defense Studies and Analyses (IDSA), New Delhi, and at the S. Rajaratanam School of International Studies (RSIS) in Singapore.
A prolific writer, Lt Gen Singh has published several essays and papers. His book titled ‘Establishing India’s Military Readiness Concerns and Strategy’ is awaiting publication.
Meanwhile, on the eve of Saturday’s border talks, Easternlink has reports of a fresh stand-off from Chumar in Ladakh, the site of many face-offs in the past.
“Chinese soldiers have moved forward and are now in close proximity of the Indian post there,” said an officer in the sector. “Their build-up is considerable.”
But he was not willing to provide more details, saying ” We are all looking forward to the June 6 talks” between 14th Corp Commander Lt Gen Harinder Singh and his counterpart in the Southern Xinjiang military district.
32.67*N, 78.56*E is the grid reference of the stand-off area.
Senior officers now admit that the Chinese intrusions in the area of Pangong Tso, Hot Springs and Galwan riverare considerable, something that Defence Minister Rajnath Singh admitted when he said “Kafi bhari sankhya me aaye gain.” (they have come in big numbers) . The intrusions are deep and threaten Indian forward posts.
” Having seized the initiative by securing approximately 40-60 square km of Indian territory in three different areas, China will be negotiating from a position of strength and will try to impose unacceptable conditions–no further development of border infrastructure on the Indian side–to restore status quo on its own terms. If diplomacy fails, China has come prepared for a border skirmish or a limited war,” said former Northern Army commander Lt Gen H S Panag.
” India’s task is cut out. It has to ensure that status quo ante 1 April, 2020 prevails for quasi sanctification of the “un-demarcated” LAC, so that China does not advance similar claims in future to gain tactical advantage and embarrass/humiliate India at will,” Panag wrote in the PRINT website. ” If it cannot be done diplomatically, then it must be done by force. However, rather than evolving a clear strategy and broadly sharing it with the nation, the Narendra Modi government and the military have gone into ‘denial’ about any loss of territory, attributing the present situation to differing perceptions about the LAC.”
He rubbished some journalists and activists “who are also busy peddling their interpretation of the alignment of the LAC to prove that no territory has been seized by China.”
” A perception is being built for diplomatic acquiescence. What else does China want? We are playing into its hands,” Panag wrote in a direct attack at those trying to play down the intrusions for political reasons.
Another former major-general Gaganjit Singh who has commanded mountain divisions on the China border said “the intrusions are very deep and someone was obviously sleeping for long.”
“How could they come this far? Now we can do nothing, can we fight and throw them out from they have dug in, very difficult. Talks will fail, only if we have some bargain somewhere else could be a push for a deal, but I doubt if we have such plans. Now We have to be careful of Arunachal Pradesh also,” Gaganjit Singh told Easternlink.
The most shocking aspect of the Chinese intrusions is this: Many Indians clearly love @narendramodi more than they love their country.— Ajai Shukla (@ajaishukla) June 4, 2020
They would close their eyes and allow China to capture chunks of Indian territory, rather than admit such a thing had happened on Modi’s watch.