China sees India as an economic, political and military competitor: Lt Gen (retired) HS Panag
One of the first military analysts to raise an alarm about the border situation with China was Lt Gen (retired) HS Panag, a former GOC of the Northern Command. In an interview with Sunetra Choudhury, he talks about how the situation with China worsened with 20 Indian soldiers being killed on Monday.
How did we get to a situation where 20 of our soldiers are killed in that region?
I think we have not read China right, both politically and militarily. We have failed to appreciate what is China’s political aim. China sees India as an economic, political and military competitor not just in South Asia but in the international arena. Its intent is to impose its hegemony on India, and the border dispute is just a tool it uses. Otherwise all territories that China strategically requires were seized before the 1962 war. After that war, relations improved but despite all agreements and meetings, China refused to demarcate the LAC. They have kept this issue open and they use it to impose their hegemony on India.
But you also say that by denying that the Chinese were in our territory, India committed a mistake?
I say that because China always exploits a prevailing narrative. For example, they exploit race relations in America. In India, the narrative is that of a strong government which has given freedom to the armed forces and we will take aggressive action. When these clashes happened, it was at a time when we have said that there is no intrusion. So the Chinese have said, “We have done nothing, we have only come up to our area...”
Why no guns and sticks and stones?
...we didn’t want an escalation. So both sides wouldn’t carry arms and at times you would see soldiers putting their hands in their pockets and talking. But sooner or later when armies confront each other, first there is pushing and jostling, scuffles and then. as the temperatures went up by design by the Chinese, they came with clubs, they came with knuckledusters, studded baseball bats. It was an effort at a local level to show they supremacy and to humiliate us. And we fell into the trap.
So what is the way forward, how should India respond?
We must have a clear head when we start looking at the future. We have two options. One, when such a thing happens, even the Chinese will be disturbed about it; it affects them internationally. The sheer brutality of the incident, it calls for sanction internationally. It may create a ground for diplomatic negotiation. Our political aim today should be that status quo of April 2020 should be restored. Number two, at the end of this, we should demarcate the LAC so that such incidents don’t take place. We should put this incident behind but great ready for the worst.