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Remember the time?

Two years ago, a ministry of defence (MoD) report had stated that “the possibility of China and Pakistan joining forces in India’s farthest frontiers, illegally occupied by the two neighbours, would have direct military implications for India”. VP Malik writes.

india Updated: May 12, 2011 23:39 IST
VP Malik

Two years ago, a ministry of defence (MoD) report had stated that “the possibility of China and Pakistan joining forces in India’s farthest frontiers, illegally occupied by the two neighbours, would have direct military implications for India”. That possibility is now a reality.

Last week, the Northern Army Commander (NAC) confirmed that Chin-ese troops are present on the Pakistani side of the Line of Control (LoC). Though the Chinese army would not point guns towards our posts on the LoC, the fact that they are there reflects their ‘joint’ interest and enhancement of strategic and operational preparedness on the LoC along with Pakistan.

What the NAC has stated is not new. The Chinese military presence in the Gilgit-Baltistan area of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK), purportedly to improve infrastructure became visible last year.

It is also known that China plans to construct a railway line and oil pipelines from Kashgar in Xinjiang to Gwadar port in Pakistan.

Another development needs to be linked to this issue. The MoD notes that the Sino-Indian border is 4,056-km long and includes the whole of the western sector including Aksai Chin, PoK and the Shaqsgam Valley (ceded by Pakistan to China in an India-disputed agreement in March 1963).

But in a statement a Chinese newspaper in 2010, the Indian ambassador to China put the border length to be 3,488 km. The Chinese newspaper added its own comment along with the interview: “There is no settled length of the common border. The Chinese government often refers to the border length as being about 2,000 km.”

Now, the Chinese has made this figure (2,000 km) the new norm in the official characterisation of the border with India. It appears to have knocked off almost the whole of the western sector boundary and has questioned Indian sovereignty over J&K.

With an assertive China, the dispute over accession of J&K to India is no longer a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan but a trilateral issue among India, Pakistan and China. It has thus ensured integrity, authority, and security over Aksai Chin and the Shaqsgam Valley held by China.

While planning for the north-western sector, the Indian armed forces have no alternative but to factor in the two-pronged threat. It is now obvious that as China develops, it will become more aggressive and create new pressures on the border issue.

China is known to be assertive in its diplomacy on security and military issues. It will attempt to exploit our diplomatic appeasement postures and defence weaknesses on the ground to its advantage.

India cannot afford to let the latest developments go uncontested diplomatically. In the interest of its own security and Asian stability, it must build a sympathetic international lobby.

In the coming financial year, China plans to spend $91.6 billion on defence and this does not include its budget for internal security. India’s approved defence budget this year is $34 billion.

India must pay greater attention to its defence preparedness, particularly on the northwestern borders. There’s an urgent need to build defence infrastructure along the northern border.

According to media reports, our border road-building programmes in the north are three years behind schedule. Beside making up shortages and replacing obsolescent weapon systems with newer ones at the earliest, we must build rapid reactive military capability for all under-developed areas in the Himalayas.

India must not become complacent as we did before 1962.

(VP Malik is former Chief of Army Staff. The views expressed by the author are personal)