China conflict on Rawat’s lips
Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat on Friday said the eastern Ladakh border “remains tense amidst transgressions and belligerent actions by the Chinese” and warned that a “larger conflict” with China could not be ruled out if the unprovoked military actions spiralled.
General Rawat stressed that the increasing “collusion” between Pakistan and China posed an “omnipresent danger” to the region.
Speaking at the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of the National Defence College in Delhi, he said India would not accept any shifting of the Line of Actual Control and that status quo needed to be restored.
He added that China was facing “unanticipated consequences of its misadventure in Ladakh because of the Indian Army’s firm and strong response” but did not elaborate.
Rawat’s statement, which contrasted sharply with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “no intrusion” claim on June 19, came on a day the two countries began their eighth round of military talks to resolve the six-month-old border standoff.
“The situation along the LAC in eastern Ladakh remains tense amidst transgressions and belligerent actions by the Chinese,” he said.
“The PLA (Chinese army) is facing unanticipated consequences of its misadventure in Ladakh because of the Indian Army’s firm and strong response. Our (stand) is unambiguous — status quo has to be restored and we will not accept any shifting of the LAC.”
He added: “In the overall security calculus, a full-scale conflict with China is low on probability. However, border confrontations, transgressions and unprovoked tactical military actions spiralling into a larger conflict cannot be discounted.”
Since May the Chinese have altered the unmarked LAC at several friction points, having taken over an estimated 1,000sqkm of India-claimed territory.
During the military talks, the Indian side has been pushing for disengagement from all the friction points — the Pangong Lake, Hot Springs and the Depsang Plains — and restoration of status quo ante.
But the Chinese troops have so far refused to pull back, triggering fears among military veterans that Beijing is trying to establish a new status quo in the region.
Rawat on Friday referred to the increasing “collusion” between China and Pakistan as a security challenge for India along its western and northern borders. He said it posed the threat of regional instability with a potential for escalation.
“Constant friction with two of our nuclear-armed neighbours, with whom India has fought wars (and who are) increasingly acting in collusion, poses an omnipresent danger of regional strategic instability,” he said.
He saw a “potential for escalation threatening our territorial integrity and strategic cohesion”.
Rawat said Pakistan was continuing its proxy war through cross-border terrorism. “Unabated proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir unleashed by Pakistan, a vicious anti-India rhetoric on social media and efforts to create disharmony within India has taken India-Pakistan ties to a new low.”
He said “the persisting boundary dispute, China’s support to Pakistan, its increasing influence in South Asia through the Belt and Road Initiative projects and an unbalanced economic relationship are likely to ensure that in near future the Sino-India relationship will remain a fundamentally competitive one”.
Rawat also underlined China’s increasing footprint in the Indian Ocean Region and said it was a serious security challenge to India.
He said the “future would witness increasing militarisation of the key Belt and Road outposts” in the Indian Ocean Region.
With its ambition of emerging as a global power, China is already making inroads into South Asia and its aspirations “are evident in the ever expanding Chinese military maritime footprints in the Indo-Pacific”, Rawat said.