PLA still at LAC, India plans new ways to counter China’s wolf-warrior diplomacy
With the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) holding out on de-escalation at some points of its transgressions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh -- Gogra-Hot Springs as well as Pangong Tso -- the Narendra Modi government is considering new ways to counter China and ensuring that the troops are back to their peacetime locations.
According to people familiar with the matter in the government and the military, contrary to China’s public posture that building trust with India is one of its diplomatic priorities, the PLA continues to sit on the green top of the Finger 4 feature on the north bank of Pangong Tso. This allows China a dominant sweep from Finger 3 to Finger 8. All the PLA has done is to vacate the saddle and the ridge beyond the brown top on the contested Finger 4.
The situation in the Gogra-Hot Springs area near Kongka La is no different -- the PLA is where it transgressed, with an objective to come up to the Kugrang River, a tributary of the Shyok River.
This obstinacy is matched only by the Chinese portrayal of even a routine meeting between the Indian ambassador to Beijing and a deputy director in the Foreign Affairs Commission as path-breaking, the people, none of whom wished to be identified, added. Meanwhile, they said, Beijing’s refrain about meeting India halfway is beginning to grate because “it is the PLA that is the aggressor, not the Indian army” as one official put it.
The official added that this would appear to be part of China’s strategy. “The Chinese projection of normalcy with India is a suggestion that New Delhi must accept the PLA ‘s aggression and move on with resuming diplomatic dialogue. This is totally unacceptable.”
Last Monday, the Chinese foreign ministry posted a statement on its website claiming that maintaining peace along the disputed boundary and deepening strategic trust with India was one of China’s key priorities. The statement has no reflection on the ground in Ladakh with the PLA making no efforts to restore status quo ante, the Indian official pointed out.
“For the India-China relationship, the two sides should jointly safeguard peace and security in the border areas and maintain sound development of bilateral ties,” the statement said.
While another round of diplomatic parleys between the two countries at joint secretary-level are expected soon, Indian troops are now ready to call the PLA’s bluff, the Indian officials said. The Indian military has decided that the Ladakh transgressions are unacceptable, and this includes the hindrance to Indian Army patrols in the crucial Depsang Bulge area, they added.
But India has to play it cool, they said, adding that the PLA’s obstinacy in moving back may be designed to provoke a reaction from the Indian Army and use it to further escalate the situation along the LAC.