China- India border conflict: Five fingers or agreement?
The Indo-Chinese border conflict at Ladhak has different explanations:
China thinks that India´s new nationalism and its rapprochement with the USA, the hope that it can replace China as global factory, would now mirror in the military sphere. The Global Times writes:
„An economy-crippling lockdown doesn’t seem to have deterred India from daring to dream big as its ambition to replace China’s role in the global industrial chain expands.
India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh is forming an economic task force to attract companies eyeing a manufacturing shift from China, according to media reports. However, despite such efforts, it is still delusional to expect economic pressure facing China amid the COVID-19 pandemic will allow India to become the world’s next factory. Radical voices saying that India is on track to replace China reflect nothing but nationalistic hubris.
And such conceit has gone beyond economic issues to reach the military level, which has led some to mistakenly believe they can now confront China with border issues. Such thinking is undoubtedly dangerous and misguided. Thus far, Chinese border defense troops have bolstered border control measures and made necessary moves in response to New Delhi’s recent attempt to unilaterally change the border control situation in the Galwan Valley region.
Western media outlets have been enthusiastic in touting India’s competitiveness by comparing its market potential to China’s, which has given some Indians a false impression of the actual situation. It would be unrealistic to think that there is any chance India could take China’s place at the current time. Tensions between China and the US are not an opportunity for India to attract relocating industrial chains, because the South Asian country is not prepared to receive such a manufacturing shift given its poor infrastructure, lack of skilled labor and stringent foreign investment restrictions.“
China makes India responsible for a new assertiveness, infrastructure building in this region in order to fix new borders, the Trump-Modi meeting, the new Indian Hindu nationalism which by the Jammu/ Kashmir abrogation law also influences the Line of Control, etc. India on the other side claims that there is a new Chinese assertiveness, that it is the first time that China claims that the Galwan valley is part of China and also points to other aggressive actions of China like in the South China Sea which was the model for Chinese encroachment step by step. Chinese and Indian hawks on both sides are proposing military action and voice alarmist warnings. As frontrunners ist the Tibetan exile community in India, which sees Mao Zedong´s five finger strategy at work:
„Ladakh is the First Finger, China is Coming After All Five: Tibet Chief’s Warning to India
Lobsang Sangay said Beijing’s recent actions on the Line of Actual Control with India can be seen as following the ‘Five Fingers of Tibet strategy’ as was laid down by Mao Zedong.
China’s claim of sovereignty over the entire Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh, a claim that it had not made directly for decades, has prompted the leader of the Tibetan-government-in-exile to issue a dire warning to India: “learn from what happened to Tibet”.
Speaking exclusively to CNN-News18, Lobsang Sangay, President of the Central Tibet Administration, explained that Beijing’s recent actions on the Line of Actual Control with India can be seen as following the ‘Five Fingers of Tibet strategy’ as was laid down by People’s Republic of China’s founding father Mao Zedong.
“When Tibet was occupied, Mao Zedong and other Chinese leaders said, ‘Tibet is the palm which we must occupy, then we will go after the five fingers’. The first finger is Ladakh. The other four are Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh,” he said.
The statement came after India’s ministry of external affairs had at 1am on Thursday said that China is making “exaggerated and untenable claims.”
India had in a statement on June 16, and in a read-out of the phone conversation between foreign minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Chinese Wang Yi on June 17, categorically mentioned that the Chinese side had “sought to erect a structure in the Galwan Valley on our side of the LAC”.
This, the statements said, became a source of dispute, leading to the violent face-off on the night of June 15. Twenty Indian soldiers, including a Commanding Officer, had died in the clash.
Sangay said that India needs to remain very wary of the Chinese leadership. “Unless you know what happened in Tibet you will not fully understand the Chinese leadership mindset, their strategy. So they have the palm, now they are coming after the five fingers.”
He expressed deep concern over the violence on the border and said that in most cases, the intrusions in border areas are coming from the Chinese side.
„Dialogue is the only way forward. Having said that, India has the right to defend its territory and sovereignty. Chinese strategy has been carrot and stick. India should have the same strategy but never be the first one to take action or intrude,“ he said.
When asked why the Dalai Lama was silent on the issue, he said, “His holiness the Dalai Lama has been speaking for India for 60 years. Since 2011 he has devolved his political authority to the elected position which happens to be my office.”
“He has separated church and the state, hence it is my responsibility to speak about Tibet and political and administrative matters, hence I am here condemning the violence and warning India and neighbouring countries that what happened to Tibet can happen to you,” he added.“
Beyond encroaching the Galwan valley and other disputed areas, China is now planning huge reservoirs in Tibet using the so-called Heaven Channel, as well as the diversion of water resources to Beijing and Shanghai in order to satisfy China’s water shortage. At the same time, however, this would mean that water volumes belonging to India and Southeast Asia would be lacking, which can have ecological and profound economic consequences. There is increasing hope among parts of the Tibetans that Tibetan independence may be promoted through a water conflict between India and China and the border conflicts. The Tibetan Rangzen Alliance expressed this most clearly:
“The possibility of anarchy and chaos breaking out is very real. Should it get there, there would surely be a chance to achieve Tibet’s independence. Of course, we have to use those moments with determination and force. The Chinese, however weak and disoriented, will certainly not surrender Tibet peacefully or voluntarily. At the same time, it must be emphasized that ranking is not achieved by simply waiting for China to destroy itself. The Tibetans can promote the process by destabilizing Tibet from the inside and organizing international economic actions against China. (…) Even if China should not ultimately break up, but is only weakened by today’s difficulties, the Tibetans still exist the possibility of creating or promoting a situation in which China ’s resources are underutilized and the Beijing leadership is forced to consider whether it is wise to sacrifice China‘ s own stability and integrity peripheral colonies. (…)
The struggle for Rangzen is a revolutionary struggle. It must be the business of those who have courage, dedication and willingness to make sacrifices. It should not be a tool from the box of Tibetan politicians‘ electoral tricks, it should not be a machine that provides scholarships and benefits, promotes careers or business, helps immigrants to the USA, and those who like to frolic among the greats of show business and among the rich and famous want to be given the opportunity to do so. (…)
So far, the struggle that is taking place within Tibet has received little more than moral support from outside, and even on this point our contribution has been extremely ambiguous. For example, the current decline in activities within Tibet is certainly largely a result of the massive crackdown by the Chinese, but also our tactically unwise announcement of an impending dialogue with China and the appeal by the exile leadership to stop and harm activities that harm China’s economy Call for a „constructive approach“ to China. (…)
(Chinese geostrategist)Wang also does not overlook India’s role in the matter and surprisingly admits that the Tibetans are much closer to India mentally, culturally and even physically than China. He describes how Chinese Qing and Guomindang officials often traveled to Lhasa via India because it was much more convenient. Wang sees a great danger in this proximity of the two nations, because he knows that India’s military capabilities have improved tremendously since 1962 and that Indian defense spending rose almost twice as fast as Chinese in the 1980s and is even higher today than it is today , although China has also increased its spending significantly. He appeals to foreign military experts who „believe that India today has the best mountain troops in the world, the toughest, the best equipped and capable of successfully warding off any Chinese attack.“
While the Dalai Lama is still committed to a peaceful solution to the Tibetan question, to a „meaningful autonomy“ in dialogue with Beijing, as well as hopes for the 400 million Chinese Buddhists whom he estimates and the pressure from the international public and other countries, now also through the Water conflicts around Tibet, parts of the Tibetan Youth Congress and the Rangzen Alliance are likely to explore other options here. The extent to which it is realistic to assume that India could occupy Tibet militarily and that a war with China would be waged remains to be seen. Nonetheless, parts of the Tibetan community seem to be placing their hopes in such an option, especially after the death of the Dalai Lama. Ultimately, however, it is decided in India and the United States to what extent you want to play the Tibetan map, whether New Delhi sees a serious threat from China’s water projects in Tibet and the Himalayas and wants to counter them, or whether the United States considers that a conflict between China and India might even benefit the Asian pivot.
However other countries and former allies of India remain silent and also attribute the new crisis to Modi:
„Modi finds neighbours silent as India-China tensions simmer
Mr Modi’s ‚Neighbourhood First‘ policy, which helped settle border disputes with Bangladesh and smoothed ties with Sri Lanka and Bhutan in his first term, has frayed in his second term. His government’s focus on driving a hardline Hindu nationalist agenda has alienated some traditional standbys and has made long-time trade and security partners uncomfortable.
While Mr Modi has been in touch with leaders in the neighbourhood since the latest border crisis with China began on May 5, the only expressions of condolences and concern so far have come from the US, the UK and the European Union. The United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres has urged both the countries to exercise maximum restraint.
Closer ties with Washington may have precipitated differences with Beijing, which has been increasingly assertive across the region – from the South China Sea to Taiwan and Hong Kong. But the current crisis has brought New Delhi’s absence of friendly neighbours into focus.
Military officials on both sides are in talks to dial down the temperature and the Indian and Chinese foreign ministers will both be part of a virtual summit that Russia is hosting on June 23.
The Prime Minister’s Office didn’t respond to an email seeking comment for this story.
The seeds of the current border crisis and the unravelling of some regional partnerships were likely sown last November, when India released a new map, months after changing the constitutional status of its portion of Kashmir and carving the Himalayan Ladakh area – a region of strategic importance nestled between western Tibet and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir – as a separate federally administered region.
The map had angered Beijing and elicited protests from Pakistan and Nepal.
In May, as the stand-off with Chinese troops simmered, ties with Nepal took a turn for the worse over India’s construction of a border road. The relationship was already under some strain after an economic blockade in 2015 blamed on the Modi administration pushed Kathmandu’s communist government under Prime Minister K.P. Oli closer to China.
Since then Nepal’s legislature has approved a new map demarcating a mountain pass and areas it says India claimed when it built the road despite repeated objections.
„New Delhi’s ongoing refusal to hold substantive talks on the disputed border has not helped either,“ said Professor Ian Hall, international relations expert at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, and author of ‚Modi and the Reinvention of Indian Foreign Policy.‘
„There is no doubt that Beijing has worked hard to build a closer party-to-party relationship between Oli’s government and the Chinese Communist Party, in parallel to conventional diplomatic links.“
Mr Modi also has Bangladesh offside. A scheduled visit by Mr A.K. Abdul Momen, Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, was postponed late last year amid nationwide unrest following implementation of a new religion-based law that fast-tracks citizenship for non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan.“
China hawks in India already propose much more new Indian assertive actions and criticize Modi for not posturing resolute enough and let China step by step make ist gradual encroachment of Indian territory. Therefore even the threat of an Indian-Chinese border war was an idea as Indian geostrategist Bharat Karnad proposes:
„India’s squeamish attitude towards China is a liability, the army should implement more violent rules of engagement and prepare for limited war“
A contribution by Indian strategist Samir Tata also proposed an US- Indo alliance not only in the Indopacific but also in the Himalaya with US boots on the ground and the scenario that Indian and US forces attacked Tibet and cut off China in Tibet and Xinjiang from its New Silkroad, gas and oil pipelines and water resources. In the US Army War College Vol.48, No.1 2018 Samir Tata published a programmatic article „US Landpower and an Indo-American Alliance“ ( page 95 ff.). Samir Tata is a foreign policy analyst. He previously served as an intelligence analyst with the National-Geospatial Intelligence Agency, a staff assistant to Senator Dianne Feinstein and a researcher with Middle East Institute, Atlantic Council and National Defense University. Samir Tata questions former Secretary of Defense Gate´s programmatic assumption, that in future US wars boots on the ground were not essential and that Navy and Airforce were the main contributors for such a war. Accordingly, the US Army should get prepared to fight Himalaya and land wars against China together with India. The question is if the author means his article serious or if it it is just a desperate move of the US Army to find a new place and role within the US military branches which are enlarged by a Cybercommand and maybe a new Spaceforce. However the article addresses the problem that China is getting more independent from sea routes by its New Silkroad initiative, that Offshore Control and Airseabattle might not work anymore and that the USA has to find a solution to cut off China from its silkroads in the event of a war. But precision guided missiles on pipelines and trucks might substitute boots on the ground in the Himalaya.
The Chinese military strategist Chen Guodong comments Samir Tata`s article as follows:
„What is the strategic motivation of Indian scholar Samir Tata? I can’t see it in this report. If Britain does not deliberately delineate a controversial borderline in the South Asian subcontinent, there will be no contradiction between China and India, and there will be no contradiction between India and Pakistan. In fact, there have been three wars between India and Pakistan, and a large-scale border war between India and China.
India’s national strength and national interests do not support India’s political ambitions. India should work to reduce conflicts with its neighbors. This report suggests that India is involved in an unknown conflict, which is not in India’s interest.
From a military perspective, the cost of long-range strikes is high, which is a disadvantage of India. The border between China and India is very close to major cities and industrial centers in India. China can use the tactical ballistic missiles and the J-20 stealth attack aircraft to hit the core area of India. India lacks conventional attacks on China’s core regions.
China’s energy import routes are diversified. China’s huge investment in wind power, solar power, nuclear power and electric vehicles will greatly reduce its dependence on imported oil. Even on the Indian Ocean route, the range and hit accuracy of China’s second-generation anti-ship ballistic missile Dongfeng-26 can effectively protect Chinese merchant ships sailing in the Indian Ocean.
The strategic motivation of Indian scholar Samir Tata is chaotic.“
Of course, these are China hawks on the US and Indian side, but China also wants to show that it is prepared for that sort of scenarios and wants to deter it:
Intensive, multidimensional drills show PLA capability in border region
By Liu Xuanzun Source:Global Times Published: 2020/6/18 17:02:10
A group of Type 96A main battle tanks (MBT) attached to a combined arms brigade under the PLA 72nd Group Army rumble through narrow mountain road during maneuver training in early June.Photo:China Military
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been conducting intensive military exercises of multiple dimensions, including high altitude tank and anti-tank drills in Southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, large-scale, long-distance maneuver of an army brigade to Northwest China, and nighttime group parachute infiltration, following the fatal clash between China and India in the border region.
These PLA drills not only showed that its forces stationed in border regions have high combat capability, but that troops from across China will also come to their aid, and the PLA can crush any aggression with land-air integrated joint operations, Chinese military experts said on Thursday.
Multiple types of new weapons and equipment including Type 15 lightweight tanks and HJ-10 anti-tank missile systems attached to the PLA Tibet Military Command recently joined a comprehensive live-fire drill in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau at an elevation of more than 4,700 meters, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Wednesday.
During the exercises, the tanks launched a fire strike on targets several kilometers away. After encountering hostile armored units, anti-tank troops switched to the front and destroyed enemy tanks and armored vehicles. Artillery units were also on the move and conducted precision strikes on enemy targets.
The drills also simulated damage to a friendly tank, which was quickly repaired by a support vehicle.
The main threat China faces on its border with India comes from Indian tanks and armored vehicles, but the Type 15 tanks and HJ-10 anti-tank missiles are very strong counters, Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Thursday.
A brigade under the PLA 81st Group Army of the PLA Central Theater Command also conducted a large-scale, long-distance maneuver to an undisclosed location in Northwest China thousands of kilometers away, after which its multiple rocket launcher systems, howitzers and anti-aircraft systems participated in real combat-oriented drills in unfamiliar terrains, CCTV reported.
Another airborne brigade recently held a daytime and nighttime group parachute infiltration drill featuring a thousand paratroopers, as main combatants were mixed with scouts and artillerymen for maximum combat efficiency, according to CCTV.
Separately, aviation troops of the PLA 77th Group Army tested their helicopter pilots in high-elevation regions, with attack helicopters and transport helicopters participating, said a statement the PLA Western Theater Command released on Thursday.
Previous reports showed that many other forces, including the 75th Group Army of PLA Southern Theater Command and thousands of paratroopers from Central China, have also mobilized to western China.
Song said that while the Western Theater Command is responsible for the defense of the border between China and India, forces from other theater commands can also support it.
While the fatal clash between China and India in the Galwan Valley region is unlikely to escalate into a large-scale military conflict, as such an escalation is against the interests of both sides, the PLA showed they are prepared, analysts said.
There are also voices in India that want to deescalate the conflict, as they see that this makes an Asian Century of harmony, inclusiveness and trade instead of conflict and wars like described in Parag Khanna´s Panasian book „The Future is Asian“ an illusion. Modi said that India is prepared for further Chinese encroachment and didn´t want to accept it, He rejects the attacks by the Congress Party that the soldiers were not armed, but declares that they were armed and that India wasn´t losing any territory and won´t make any concessions. However, he also proposes military dialogue which might be followed by a political dialogue between him and Xi and in the framework oft he SCO and BRICs, maybe even with Russia as mediator. Another high-ranking military also tries to deescalate by his opinion that the Indo-Chinese border conflict was not a new Kargil crisis..
„Intrusion can’t be compared to Kargil, unless it escalates’: General VP Malik
Former chief of army staff General Ved Prakash Malik says Xi want to retake territories China believes it had controlled earlier. „
However, while in China the population doesn´t care too much about these Himalaya territories China wants to occupy by its encroachment, in India it is a big issue: There are now „Boycott Chinese products“, stop Chinese 5G, decouple from China, be the new global factory instead of China and other anti- Chinese movements in the Indian population. General Asthana already said that these border conflicts are due tot he fact that China never accepted the old British treaties and if there is no agreement of delineation, demarcation and demilitarisation, these conflicts will continue to exist. But with China´s new assertiveness also due to its expansion by the Chinese- Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC )and the New Silkroad it remains to be seen if there will be any compromise. .