Anatomy of China’s DBO Intrusion
The government should seriously review the external intelligence mechanism and make the Indian Army responsible for complete land borders. All security forces including Border Security Force, Indo-tibetan Border Police, Sashastra Seema Bal on the borders
The government should once again seriously review the external intelligence mechanism and make the Indian Army responsible for complete land borders. All security forces including Border Security Force, ITBP, Sashastra Seema Bal on the borders must be put under the operational control of the Army.
SOON AFTER 50 CHINESE were spotted camping at Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO), Ladakh, on April 15, 2013, media reports came up giving varied location of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) platoon. While some stated that the PLA platoon was positioned 10 km deep inside the Indian territory, some reported 18 and others stated they were 30 km within. Media blitzkrieg including TV debates followed. The pacifist lobby waved white flags reiterating that even modest physical action by India, say in establishing a new post ‘elsewhere’, would culminate in a Sino-Indian war that would go nuclear. The government finally admitted on April 25 that Chinese were indeed 19 km inside the Indian territory. Two days prior to this, the Minister of External Affairs Salman Khurshid had said that “these things keep happening” and that the issue will be resolved through dialogue. Defence Minister A.K. Antony stated that “India will take every step to protect its interests.” He initiated a series of military-to-military India-China flag meetings that have been fruitless with the Chinese Foreign Ministry categorically reiterating that the PLA had not crossed the line of actual control (LAC) and that these troops were located inside the “Chinese territory.”
We have witnessed many failures and whether we will learn our lessons at all is a moot question with lack of strategic culture, absence of a national security strategy, lack of an integrated border management structure, neglect of forward communications despite the substantial upgrades by the adversary and lack of intelligence, to name a few. Surely, this camp did not come up overnight. So where are the reports from the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and above all the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) which is manning this sector independently? A 19-km deep intrusion occurring in the wake of the massive intrusions in Kargil during 1999, is all the more shameful. What has happened to integration and improvement of intelligence that was expected to have happened post the Kargil conflict?
The External Affairs Minister’s statement that “these things keep happening” appears out of context when the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) itself is admitting that this PLA platoon is sitting way beyond even the Chinese perception of the LAC. The MEA has full details of Chinese perception of the LAC, which has been the basis of the ongoing border talks. The Defence Minister has acknowledged that there were 400 transgressions by the PLA during 2012. These, as well as similar transgressions in the previous years, could perhaps be categorised as transgressions because of “their perception of LAC” but certainly not what has happened at DBO. The latter is a deliberate and wanton intrusion by the Chinese, which really cannot be passed off as “these things keep happening”.
Media reports, quoting government sources, state that the DBO intrusion is a “localised action”. Nothing can be more absurd. Every unit and every formation of the PLA is posted with Political Commissars who report directly to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Such is their control that promotion of PLA officers is contingent upon the report by the Political Commissar. The PLA Chief himself reports directly to the CCP and not the Chinese Government. Under such a set up where is the question of a local PLA commander establishing a platoon 19-km deep inside the Indian territory all on his own? Such a statement may be meant to pacify public sentiments but government should not take this incidence as routine.
Media reports on April 25, 2013, stated that the Army Chief General Bikram Singh met the Defence Minister but surprisingly even after 10 days of the intrusion having been detected, there were no reports of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) having met and discussed the situation in the presence of Service Chiefs. It gives an impression that the incidence is actually being dealt as routine occurrence. We appear to be still under the Nehru-Krishna Menon syndrome of 1962 that China will do nothing adverse
Should the Chinese not vacate Daulat Beg Oldi, it would hinder the ITBP patrolling the Karakoram Pass
to us. The lobby of defeatists too is going full blast stating that “China will take what it wants” and “China is so strong economically and militarily that what can India do”. The words ‘self-respect’ and ‘reputation’ are obviously not in their vocabulary and they are unaware of the strengths of our military. No wonder, we have been ruled by foreigners for centuries. If we cannot get our acts together, we will continue to lose more and more territory. Do we understand the damage to India’s global standing when numerous nations including in the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean region are looking up to India as a “security provider.”
DBO lies astride the old silk route leading to Karakoram Pass (KK Pass), which goes beyond to Yarkand in China. Should the Chinese not vacate DBO, it would hinder the ITBP patrolling the KK Pass. There are already conflicting reports of the periodicity of patrolling the KK Pass—when was the last time they did so and are the Chinese already sitting on the reverse slopes, ready to make an appearance to surprise the vacillatingly unclear political hierarchy of India yet again. This apart, it would be possible for DBO being used as a base to threaten the route to Siachen Base Camp that feeds the Northern and Central Glaciers on the Saltoro Range. Chinese occupation of DBO would turn the flanks of the Indian defences on Saltoro Range—similar to Chinese claims to Doklam Plateau in Bhutan whose occupation by Chinese would turn the flanks of Indian defences in East Sikkim, particularly in area of Tri Junction. During Operation ‘Vijay’ in 1999, China quietly developed a road in eastern Aksai Chin towards DBO, the significance of which was apparently glossed over and has resulted in flux in the situation at Demchok on account of Chinese incursions and claims. Google imagery of 2006 shows an extraordinary large scale (1:500) terrain model extensively duplicating eastern Aksai Chin built close to Yinchuan (capital of Ningxia Autonomous Region). The 3,000 × 2,300 feet model is being used for tank war-games in preparation of a future battle in Eastern Ladakh/North Sikkim? In 2012, China called upon Japan and South Korea to establish astronomical observatories in Aksai Chin, in an apparent bid to consolidate its hold on the region.
The pacifist lobby is trying its best to say that the DBO intrusion is not part of any larger Chinese plan but has failed to give any logic for such assertion. It is naive not to see the writing on the wall. The US think tanks had warned in 1999 that China will start flexing its military muscle by 2010, but India hardly paid any heed to it. Some strategists are also saying that the DBO intrusion is to provide more depth to China’s Western Highway/ China’s National Highway 219 running through Aksai Chin, connecting Tibet with the Xinjiang region. The fact is that China has larger designs necessitated by its hunger pangs for more and more resources and for acquiring multiple land axes to the Indian Ocean, the latter also because of opposition at sea on its eastern front including Asia Pivot of the US. Chinese occupation of Aksai Chin was a strategic move looking into future requirements of resources, as was its taking control of Shaksgam Valley in exchange of nuclear assistance to Pakistan and now strategic footprints into Gilgit-Baltistan region.