The Line of Actual Control (LAC) is just a position… in the demarcation of what separates India and China. From the length of LAC itself, the two sides disagree – India considers it to be 3488 km. long while China thinks it is only around 2000 km. There are many articles that deal with the nuances of what constitutes the LAC and so on but this post is not on that. What is sad is that despite ample early warnings given by the United States (US), India, for reasons best known to itself, indulged in masterly inactivity for a critical two-week period, that has led to it now demanding that the LAC as it existed on April 4, 2020, be agreed to. What it means (but not mentioned explicitly) is that the Chinese have made incursions in three to four points and India is asking them to retreat to the positions as existing on April 4th. How did things come to this?
The US warned India on April 20th
Looking at the troop movements and construction activity along the LAC, the US warned India that the Chinese were massing up troops, according to reliable sources. The warnings were repeated at least a couple of times in the following days. Yet, the mandarins in the Ministry of Defence (MoD), allegedly sympathetic to Russia advised the Government to do nothing. This was because the pro-Russian elements in the Armed Forces and MoD who were concerned about the build-up and contacted the Russians were told that the Chinese would not cross. But clearly the Chinese had different ideas. By the time reality dawned and India sent troops, they were horribly outnumbered.
A few days later, on the 27th the Intelligence Bureau (IB) flagged the movement of Chinese troops into Indian territory with no resistance from the Indian side. Since the line is not clearly drawn, there have been instances of incursions on part of both sides into the other’s territory while doing patrols and they have retreated in the past. But the evidence of construction in Ngari Kunsha Airport, near the Indian border, shows significant construction on part of the Chinese (see Figure 1). The combination of two satellite pictures of the Airport taken on April 1 and May 17th, show the amount of construction activity that has taken place.
But the Chinese object to India constructing bridges and upgrading their roads inside Indian territory! Whether it is this activity or the statement by the Home Minister of India that India will take back Aksai Chin whatever be the cost, that got the goat of the Chinese, one will never know. But the reality is that there was significant activity on the Chinese side, that was not matched on the Indian side. Of this masterly inactivity, someone in the Indian setup has to answer.
Did MHA goof?
The activity on the LAC was reported by the IB to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) too. The reason is that the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) comes under the MHA and a matter of this importance should have been cleared in a matter of hours and the Minister alerted. But according to reliable sources, a Babu sat on it for two weeks and finally the Indian Government woke up to the reality on May 16th. But by that time, China had entered up to four kilometers within the Indian side. Not only that, several tanks, and artillery equipment have also moved in. All signs indicate that China is in for the long haul. Several skirmishes between the two armies have resulted in 90 on the Indian side and 140 on the Chinese side being hospitalized.
PM swings into action
Prime Minister Modi was apprised of the situation around the 20th of May and acted decisively. Reinforcements and troops are on the way to the border areas, but is it too little too late? On May 27th, after troops being hospitalized on both sides, talks were mooted and the first round took place on June 6th. For more see Figure 3.
Things that need to be addressed ASAP
There was a deliberate attempt to slow things down, to tamp the information flow in various departments of the government. PM Modi needs to crack down and address this right away. Some Babus appear to be holding a torch for the previous regime and may have done this in a deliberate manner. If Financial intelligence sources are to be believed, a certain family has moved a significant portion of their illegally amassed wealth to Macao, a Chinese territory. That a member of Lok Sabha from that party made a statement daring China to act in a tweet only to tuck his tail between his legs and delete it hours later, hints at a sudden twist in the play.
Modi needs to listen to China experts and act quickly and decisively and India can thwart the Dragon’s designs and match them eyeball for eyeball.
 Line of Actual Control: Where it is located, and where India and China differ – Jun 6, 2020, Indian Express
 AP Explains: What’s behind latest India-China border tension – May 30, 2020, Washington Post
 India won’t bow to China’s bullying – Prof M D Nalapat, Jayadev Ranade with Rishabh Gulati – Jun 7, 2020, NewsX channel
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