“A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle.“
— Benjamin Franklin
The Line of Actual Control (LAC) is a notional demarcation line that separates Indian territory from Chinese-controlled territory in the Sino-Indian border dispute. It refers to the line formed after the 1962 Sino-Indian War and is part of the Sino-Indian border dispute. It forms a key part of China’s ‘Salami Slicing‘ theory, one where China uses minor transgressions, none of which would constitute a casus belli by itself, but later produce a much larger action or result in China’s favour which would have been problematic or unlawful to perform all at once. A notable example of this strategy is the alleged String of Pearls strategy in the Indian Ocean.
Something similar has happened in LAC since May 2020.
In May 2020, the Chinese intruded in Gogra after the PLA violated the LAC at Pangong Tso. The Chinese moved a platoon of soldiers inside the Indian perception of the LAC while simultaneously maintaining considerable strength on their side of the LAC. Indians countered them by organising a “mirror deployment” and matched the PLA’s strength. Following the disengagement agreement reached in the wake of June 15 2020, the Galwan Valley clash, the Chinese were supposed to move back to their side of the LAC.
Just like in Gogra, the Chinese came within the Indian side of the LAC in Hot Springs. In July, the Chinese had agreed to pull back but again did not fully implement it. The disengagement talks in July were the second such exercise after the standoff began. The first, on June 6, failed after the Chinese did not hold up their end of the agreement in Galwan Valley, and a clash ensued. Twenty Indian soldiers died in the clash, with the Chinese side acknowledging at least four fatalities at their end. This clash was the first instance since 1975 when a clash on the India-China border resulted in deaths. After the second round of talks, the only location where the Chinese entirely implemented their disengagement commitments was in Galwan Valley.
Sources had said in May last year that it would take only 5-6 hours for the Chinese to pack up and leave if they intended to.
The issue in Depsang Plains relates to China blocking Indian patrol parties from accessing five Patrolling Points. The Chinese have set up cameras in the ‘bottleneck’ and the ‘Y’ junction areas (that allow the Indians to reach the PPs) and block Indian patrols with the vehicles they drive in from their side. There have been claims that the Chinese have also pitched tents on the Indian side, but the Army denies it.
The issue of Demchok is another legacy problem. Following the fresh round of tensions in Ladakh, the Chinese carried out a “minor transgression” at Demchok, and the PLA set up a “few” tents.
“But this area is disputed,” a source had said, adding that this is not a classical violation. “It was on-and-off previously but, since April, the Chinese have firmed up.“
Throughout the standoff, China continued building infrastructure near the LAC. Optical fibre cables have been laid for its troops in Pangong Tso and Gogra-Hot Springs. Two new marinas at Pangong Tso have been built. Cameras, motion sensors, a 5G network, satellite jammers and surveillance equipment have been installed along the LAC. Airbases at Hotan, Kashgar, Gargunsa, Lhasa-Gonggar and Shigatse are being developed. At Kailash-Mansarovar, China is building a surface-to-air missile site. In July, Stratfor reported that the Chinese built 26 new temporary barracks and 22 new bases along the border. In September, Stratfor reported that since June 2020, the construction of four new heliports has started.
In November, China constructed Pangda village 2 km within Bhutan’s territory and 9 km from the 2017 Doklam standoff site, which the Bhutanese ambassador to India refuted. New Chinese ammunition bunkers were also reported. Weeks later, reports emerged of China having constructed three villages near Bum La pass, lying within Chinese territory and reportedly constructed while Chinese and Indian soldiers faced off in eastern Ladakh. This was followed by the construction of another village in the disputed territory along the border in the Upper Subansiri district (January 2021). (Source)
China on June 25 operationalised its first fully electrified bullet train in the 435.5-km Lhasa-Nyingchi section of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway, connecting Lhasa and Nyingchi, a strategically located Tibetan border town close to Arunachal Pradesh.
On June 15, Indian and Chinese troops clashed for six hours in the Galwan Valley. On June 16, Chinese Colonel Zhang Shuili, spokesperson for the PLA’s Western Command, said that the Indian military violated bilateral consensus causing “fierce physical confrontations and casualties“, and that “the sovereignty over the Galwan Valley area had always belonged to China“. (Sources – PRC, ET, AA) On June 18, India’s Minister of External Affairs said that China had “unilaterally tried to change the status quo” and that the violence was “premeditated and planned“. The same day, the US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs said that the Chinese PLA had “invaded” the “contested area” between India and China. On June 19, however, Supreme Leader declared that “neither have [China] intruded into our border, nor has any post been taken over by them“, contradicting multiple previous statements by the Indian government. Later his office clarified that he wanted to indicate the bravery of the 16 Bihar Regiment, who foiled the attempt of the Chinese side.
At the election rallies in the state of Bihar, The Supreme Leader spoke of the BJP’s successes – including the clashes between Indian and Chinese troops in the Himalayas. He felt no hesitation in mentioning the “Sons of Bihar” who “lost their lives in Galwan Valley for the tricolour and ensured Bharat Mata’s head is held high.” He added that “in Galwan Valley, jawans from Bihar died for the country.” Free throws came from a man who could not even utter “China” ever since Galwan. (Another source – just in case the multitudes mentioned above were not convincing enough)
May the best Supreme Leader win.
“An ego always looks at his face in the mirror never in his eyes.“
― Amit Kalantri, Wealth of Words
(Not to be confused with ‘Laal Aankhein’ (red eyes))