A top US expert feels that the Chinese incursions in eastern Ladakh are more a tactical move by the Chinese army than a larger strategy by its government.
The alleged incursion of the Red Army into Indian territory set off a diplomatic stand-off between the two countries.
The army is responding to the infrastructure buildup by the Indians on the other side in terms of roads, airstrips, tanks, bridges etc.
Lora Saalman, a Beijing based expert on India-China relations, who was on a brief visit to Kolkata, said incursions from both sides had been more severe in the past but the recent one has caught more attention because of the Chinese army’s proactive response to counter Indian acceleration of activities along the border, which is being perceived by China as a “threat”.
According to India, the Chinese army has advanced 19 km and pitched tents.
The incursions have sent ripples in political circles and created uncertainty over foreign minister Salman Khurshid’s visit to Beijing on May 9.
The expert said that the absence of a clearly demarcated border has made things complicated. The Indian infrastructure buildup is being perceived by the Chinese as a warning and they seem to be responding to that using the vagueness in definition of the Line of Control to get a firm toehold in the region, said Saalman.
The vagueness in the LOC is likely to stay forever unless a solution is worked out through sacrifices on both sides.
“That solution seems impossible because someone has to give away its piece of share,” said Saalman, who is the first American to have submitted her dissertation in Chinese.
Much of the Sino-Indian problem, often termed as “Sinophobia of India” by scholars, originated from a lack of understanding of each other, feels the expert.
“An Indian army officer candidly admitted during a private discussion that while they understood the threat perceptions from Pakistan, China was still a mysterious entity,” said Saalman.
The expert feels that both India and China were too preoccupied with economic issues and they never worked on building a relationship based on mutual understanding.
“Now is the time to resolve strategic issues,” said the expert adding that more exchanges of people from both sides of the border are required to increase the trust factor.
According to Saalman, Tibet is not a thorny issue for China as it is in the case of Dalai Lama.
China has a real problem with India’s closeness with the Dalai Lama. But without him in the scenario, things will be different.