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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Keeping A Distance From Chinese Lure

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi’s year-end assurance that China is ready to work with India for the “steady and sound growth” of bilateral ties and it is committed to upholding stability at the border areas where a stand-off has prevailed since 2020. The statement, believed to have been meant for an international audience, is untrue. Only last month, Chinese troops clashed with well positioned Indian soldiers near the Tawang sector of Arunachal Pradesh.

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Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi’s year-end assurance that China is ready to work with India for the “steady and sound growth” of bilateral ties and it is committed to upholding stability at the border areas where a stand-off has prevailed since 2020. The statement, believed to have been meant for an international audience, is untrue. Only last month, Chinese troops clashed with well positioned Indian soldiers near the Tawang sector of Arunachal Pradesh. In January 2021, another face-off left troops on both sides injured. India’s construction of a new road to a high-altitude air base is seen as one of the main triggers for a deadly Galwan Valley clash in June 2020 with Chinese troops claiming at least 20 lives. Tensions continue to simmer though China is concerned about the possible economic fallout as it runs a massive trade surplus with India. Wang Yi’s assurance on China’s readiness to work with India for the “steady and sound growth” of bilateral ties may have more to do with economic ties than military disengagements.

The government may disagree, but two of India’s defence services — Army and Air Force — are hardly powered enough to militarily take on China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which China disputes, or to recover China-administered Aksai Chin that India claims as part of its Leh District in Ladakh. The political statements on India’s military strength to match the People’s Liberation Army and Air Force are exaggerated. Although the Indian Army and Air Force have vastly improved their fire power over the years, they don’t seem to be a match for China’s military strength, either on ground or in the air. The reason is simple. India is not spending enough on its military to protect its territorial sovereignty. This is despite the fact that the country is almost continuously driven to fight frequent challenges from its two belligerent neighbours — China and Pakistan.

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Three months ago, a report by ‘The Guardian’ newspaper quoting locals near India’s border with China in the mountainous region of Ladakh said India “ceded” land to China after both sides agreed to withdraw troops from the contentious areas. Local Indians accused the government of giving away swathes of land after both sides agreed to withdraw troops from some contested areas and create buffer zones. On December 20, last year, the two sides held a corps-commander-level meeting (17th round) at the Chusul-Moldo border connection point with India reportedly pressing China for complete disengagement at the friction points, including Demchok and Depsang. However, there seemed to be no progress on the Ladakh impasse in the talks. Also, there was no word on the military clash in Arunachal Pradesh. This is truly disturbing. The government must step up the budgeted expenditure on building right defence infrastructure in the region, creating roads, tunnels, airports and domestic settlements to support military movement to effectively thwart Chinese aggression.

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The Hills Timeshttps://www.thehillstimes.in/
The Hills Times, a largely circulated English daily published from Diphu and printed in Guwahati, having vast readership in hills districts of Assam, and neighbouring Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
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