Land Grab: PLA in its element
by Jaibans Singh on 03 Jun 2020 24 Comments

“Desperate men do desperate things”. These words ring in one’s ears with regard to the series of misadventures China is indulging in the critical COVID-19 environment. Apart from its international isolation due to its management of COVID-19, China is facing an existential crisis on several fronts including shortage of food for its huge population, falling demand for its industrial products, frustration due to the failing Border and Road Initiative on which it has spent billions of dollars, no gains from BRICS, no new markets, setback to industries in Wuhan, etc.


China is known to get belligerent when it gets into a crisis; it feels that a show of strength and masochism would see it sail through. Accordingly, in the face of its recent crisis, Beijing is hitting out wildly at all those from whom it perceives a threat. The action on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India is one such and by far the most critical misadventure in the current round.


The sequential and escalating events along the LAC began on May 5, with a confrontation between soldiers of both armies in Eastern Ladakh. Such altercations are routine, even though this one was more aggressive than normal, with injuries sustained on both sides. It was resolved at the local level, only to erupt again, the very next day, at far off Naku La in North Sikkim.  


Even as it became apparent that China was in an antagonist mood, the Indian side opted to play it cool. China, sadly, was in no mood to roll back and reports started coming in of escalated incursions along the Pangong Tso Lake and Galwan Valley in Eastern Ladakh. China moved in troops, built temporary structure and bunkers, activated airfields and used helicopters in response to what it called “illegal constructions of defence facilities across the border into Chinese territory by India”. Reports suggest that India has recorded ‘transgressions’ in Pangong Tso Lake, Trig Heights, Burtse, Doletango area and Galwan Valley in Ladakh and at strategic points in Sikkim.


China is referring to the Darbuk-Shayok-Daulat Beg Oldie road built by India in Galwan Valley as a reason for its ire. The road is well within Indian territory, away from the LAC and in an area that is under no dispute. In fact, by moving so far into undisputed Indian territory to take up key positions along the road, China has made a gross violation of the LAC protocol. The country is not ready to admit so and is now using gross misinformation and propaganda to justify its action. Notably, the border issues have been there for long and the buildup of infrastructure in Galwan Valley by India has also been going on for quite some time; so why this belligerent action at this point in time?


This looks to be part of an international land grab grand strategy chalked out by Beijing under its all-powerful leader, Xi Jinping, who is general secretary of the Communist Party of China, chairman of the Central Military Commission, and President of the People’s Republic of China. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China is more a political tool in his hands than a force dedicated to the defence of the country. It acts as the muscle power of Xi Jinping wherever and whenever required and is, thus, the largest land grab agency in the world. There is, after all, no justification for the PLA to be holding a strength of two million plus. Where does the government (Xi Jinping) wish to utilize this huge manpower?


China converted Pakistan into a vassal state through its China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project and the huge loans disbursed to the bankrupt nation. It has ventured into Africa in a big way and has huge unresolved issues in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Currently, when the world is grappling with the challenge posed by the Coronavirus, China has been busy pursuing an aggressive posture in the South China Sea and sank a Vietnamese fishing trawler near the Paracel Islands in early April. This deeply abrasive act was followed by renaming of 80 islands, reefs, seamounts, shoals, and ridges in the South China Sea, triggering angry complaints by the affected countries and international disgust.


Along with land grab, China is attempting to acquire controlling stakes in companies all over the world, raising hackles internationally. Spain, Germany, Italy, Australia and others have clamped down on such investments. India’s change in FDI rules to stem Chinese predatory trade is in line with the international perception. These acts, however, have irked China and may have propelled the misadventure along the border. 


China has been consistently refusing to sit across the table to resolve its decades-long boundary dispute with India. Instead, it keeps registering pinpricks along the LAC. The actions are taken on a wide front, ranging from Ladakh to Sikkim and Arunachal, with special treatment reserved for Aksai Chin area. The level of border aggression against India has witnessed a profound escalation in recent times, as exemplified by the Doklam crisis two years ago and now this ongoing imbroglio.


As things stand, the situation along the LAC seems to be worsening. The troops of the two countries are eyeball-to-eyeball and now there are reports of reinforcements being ordered by both sides. The fact, however, is that the Indian Army in a position of tactical and strategic advantage and yet it is exhibiting more restraint and maturity - an external calm while maintaining internal strength. This is a well thought out strategic move, whereby India is not seen as the wrong doer and yet maintains a defensive and strategic balance.


Two things are now amply clear. First, the time has come to resolve the border issues once and for all; second, China can never be trusted and hence the need to remain ever vigilant while increasing one’s own strength.


(Jaibans Singh is a reputed geo-strategic analyst, columnist and author

User Comments Post a Comment

Back to Top