Warning sign: On a fresh India-China faceoff

 India cannot wish away the situation on the Chinese border by staying silent 

Updated - December 15, 2022 06:39 pm IST

Published - December 15, 2022 12:20 am IST

Another attempted transgression by the Chinese military, this time in the Tawang sector in the eastern section of the India-China boundary, has served as a reminder of the precarious state of affairs along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). A crisis that began in April 2020, with PLA transgressions in Ladakh, in the western sector of the boundary, has now appeared to have widened to Arunachal Pradesh. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said in Parliament that the Indian Army had forced the PLA to return to its posts. The Minister’s comments, on December 13, came four days after the incident, details of which were first reported by The Hindu on December 12. An Army statement confirmed the clash. The Opposition, which has criticised the Narendra Modi government’s continuing reticence on the China border issue, staged a walkout after being denied a discussion.

As troubles now flare in Arunachal, the situation in Ladakh still remains unresolved. India is yet to resume patrolling in any of the five disengagement areas where temporary buffer zones have been established, while the Chinese military remains on India’s side of the LAC in two other friction points, in Depsang and Demchok. What is clear is that the Chinese military has decided, for reasons still unexplained, to unilaterally change how both sides manage what were previously mutually recognised disputed areas. Managing what has become a live border after three decades of relative peace, and crafting a modus vivendi with China in this new situation, has now emerged as a pressing challenge for New Delhi. This is both a military and a political challenge. Addressing it will require, as a first step, transparency, and taking the Opposition and public along on an issue far too important to be led by apparent considerations over optics. Those considerations also appear to be one factor behind the continuing freeze in high-level political contact with China, with Prime Minister Modi and President Xi Jinping avoiding a formal meeting at two recent multilateral summits. That the leaders have not spoken for more than three years, barring an exchange of pleasantries at the G-20 summit, is an untenable situation as risks continue to rise along the borders. A resumption of dialogue will, at the very least, allow India to convey its concerns at the highest level. The public also remains largely in the dark on the events that have transpired along the borders, as well as the developments that led to the loss of life of 20 Indian soldiers, in 2020. If the Government’s apparent hope was to maintain silence until the crisis resolves in due course, the latest clash has served as a warning sign that it is nowhere near ending.

To read this editorial in Tamil, click here.

To read this editorial in Hindi, click here.

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