Smoking mirrors: The illusion of the LAC
The Aksai Chin region of Ladakh is a very mineral and resource-rich territory and is a part of the geographical construct called the Tarim Basin which lies to its northeast in southern Sinkiang. In the summer of 1949, the Soviets airlifted PLA troops into Sinkiang in a fleet of 40 transport aircraft to secure the region from the opposition Kuomintang. The Chinese invasion of Aksai Chin started in March 1950 after Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin kept Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Tse Tung in Moscow from December 1949 to February 1950, only letting him leave after the two of them signed the momentous Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Mutual Assistance on 14 February 1950 after intense negotiation.
The Soviets were interested in the Tarim Basin and its extension Aksai Chin’s generous deposits of thorium, beryllium and uranium, without which the Soviet nuclear programme located nearby in Semipalatinsk would be gasping for breath.
The Soviets also identified lake Lop Nor in the Tarim Basin as the site of the new Chinese nuclear testing facility. This lake was fed by the Tarim River. The two main tributaries of the Tarim River were the Karkash River originating in Aksai Chin and the Shaksgam River originating in the Shaksgam Valley. It was, therefore, necessary to build a road from Sinkiang into Aksai Chin and then connect the latter through to Tibet which was also being eyed by these two dictators. However, the entire operation had to be shrouded in secrecy away from the prying eyes of the western powers.
At that point of time in early 1950, India was still selling arms and ammunition to the Tibetan Army. India’s military outpost at Gartok in Western Tibet was also able to keep a watch on Sino-Soviet activities in Sinkiang as was her Consulate in Kashgar, Sinkiang. In order to eliminate this Indian presence, Stalin urged Mao to consolidate Chinese control in northwestern Tibet bordering Sinkiang by building a road to Gartok and sending troops from Sinkiang to keep a watch on the hostile lamas in Tibet who he alleged were up for sale to the highest bidder be it America, Britain or India. This is why China was — and is — determined to control Aksai Chin by hook or by crook.
That was the situation in the 20th century. Today, in the 21st century, China is enmeshed in a critical cold war with the US. At the heart of this cold war is the denial by the US, Japan and Taiwan of the sale of high-end microprocessors to China after the Huawei scandal broke out in 2018. That year China imported over US$ 200 billion worth of microprocessors from these two countries. When the US placed an embargo on China denying it these microprocessors, it had no choice but to try and build them through a process of self-reliance. Towards this end, it set up a giant polysilicon factory near Kashgar in Sinkiang. Microprocessors require vast amounts of freshwater. For China, this water can only be harnessed from the Himalayas and the Karakorum’s rivers. It has invested around US$ 25 billion to build five dams on the Indus River in PoK with water storage reservoirs of over 225 km in length. For these dams to be unmolested from any possible curtailment of the flow of the waters of the Indus River, the Shyok River, the Chip Chap River, the Galwan River, the Nubra River and the Chang Chen Mo River, all of them have to be controlled by China.
It is China’s eventual strategic aim to push India to the west of the Indus somewhere near Kargil by catching Indian forces in a pincer between Chinese and Pakistani forces. To this end, it will first try and annex Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) to cut India off from the Karakoram Pass and use the DBO airstrip as a launchpad to attack the Siachen base camp with aerial and heliborne forces. To this end, all the settlements on the newly-constructed DBO road like Qizil Langar, Burtsa Gongma, Murgo, Sultan Chhushku, Kataklik, Mandaltang et al are highly vulnerable. The Chinese have the jokers in the pack as of now. India’s only joker is the presence of political will and this needs to be used. They have India where Musharraf had us in Kargil in 1999. This is our Kargil nightmare come alive.
Today, the Indian Army cannot peacefully patrol beyond Finger 4 at the Pangong Lake; it cannot patrol up to the Kongka La Pass and it cannot cross to the east bank of the Galwan River. The PLA, in one swift move, now dominates the heights overlooking the Galwan River. The Chinese posts on these heights can direct kinetic fire at the DBO road, which is only a couple of kilometres away.
India has enough satellites in the sky and it is amazing that all of this PLA activity was not noticed by the intelligence bureaucracy safely ensconced in Lutyens Delhi. Such complacency in analyzing, communicating and acting is unforgivable.
For some strange reason, the Indian bureaucracy and in particular the MEA has never recovered from the utter rubbish of the Panchsheel Agreement of 1954, the disastrous concept of non-alignment and the fear of the “Chinese” after the 1962 war. This entrenched fear has overridden the actual vulnerability of the Chinese and their much-vaunted PLA. The Chinese are but a paper tiger using a tape recorder in the background to constantly growl at us.
Since 2003, when the Chinese rejected Indian maps of the actual ground position of the Indian Army and PLA in Ladakh, they have been freed from being bound to India’s perception of the LAC. Yet 17 long years have passed and we have been sitting complacent, letting the Chinese ring up huge trade surpluses against us. The last financial year’s trade deficit with China was in excess of USD 50 billion. We have transferred in excess of USD 500 billion to China since 2010 in this way.
The latest crisis in Pangong Tso and the Galwan Valley in Ladakh and at Naka La in Sikkim is unique because of the geographical spread. The Chinese are clearly sending a message. From Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping’s post-Doklam summit meetings in Wuhan in 2018 and Mamallapuram in 2019, it appears that China not only wishes India to acquiesce to vacating more territory in Ladakh but it also wants India to sit down with both China and Pakistan in a trilateral setting and resolve the issue of Jammu and Kashmir to their advantage and satisfaction. They are not going away this time. It looks like they will travel the whole way.
India has to rapidly build up its alliances and military strength.
Vedic astrologers are aware that the planet Mars enters Aries on 16 August 2020 and will remain there till 4 October 2020. The Dragon’s Tail or the south node of the moon known as Ketu enters Scorpio on 23 September 2020. The intersection of these movements makes the period 23 September to 4 October pretty ominous for the world.