China’s assertion that it does not recognise the Union Territory of Ladakh or the State of Arunachal Pradesh is devious in its intent and mischievous in its timing. Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian’s claim comes in the midst of efforts to ease border tensions. Clearly, it is a diversionary ploy and a blatant attempt by the aggressive neighbour to evade responsibility for its provocative actions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). What is surprising is that such a preposterous claim should come just over a month after the foreign ministers of the two countries worked out a five-point agreement to defuse border tensions. As if this was not enough, the Chinese spokesperson has sought to attribute the ongoing standoff to the ramping up of infrastructure and military deployment by India along the border. Granting Union Territory status to Ladakh, following the bifurcation of Jammu & Kashmir, is India’s internal matter and no other country can comment on it. China is trying to use the festering border dispute as a pretext to meddle in India’s affairs and mislead the international community. Despite the ongoing talks at the field level for a comprehensive disengagement, there are disturbing reports of China rotating its troops on the banks of Pangong Tso, and creating, for the first time, permanent barracks in Ngari in Tibet. It appears that Beijing is readying to dig in for the winter. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke about how China is deploying over 60,000 troops on the border.
While New Delhi has been insisting on speedy and complete disengagement of troops from the flashpoints in eastern Ladakh and restoration of status quo ante, Beijing is reluctant to do a climb down, cocking a snook at the bilateral pacts, both past and present. The seventh round of military talks has been termed ‘positive and constructive’ but there is no breakthrough in sight. The gains achieved during the ministerial parleys are likely to be short-lived in view of the trust deficit. Given the territorial aggression and flexing of muscles by China in the region, India should not lower its guard in the diplomatic arena or on the ground. In August this year, coinciding with the first anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370, China had repeatedly sought in vain to initiate a discussion on Kashmir at the United Nations Security Council. Interfering in a bilateral matter, China had called India’s decision ‘illegal and invalid’, parroting the line of its all-weather friend Pakistan. Though the People’s Liberation Army’s incursions have been effectively repelled by the Indian troops in recent months, there is no guarantee that China will not resort to more such misadventures during the harsh winter ahead.
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