Issue Net Edition | Date : 17 May , 2013
The Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh at a bilateral meeting with the President of the People’s Republic of China Mr Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Fifth BRICS Summit, at Durban, South Africa
Tavleen Singh narrates in her book ‘Durbar’ that having personally witnessed grisly scenes of children dying of starvation in presence of their hapless parents themselves surviving on grass for over a month, when she brought it to the notice of the concerned Chief Minister and the political hierarchy at Delhi, the government response was total denial of any starvation deaths whatsoever and a countercharge that this was propaganda by the Opposition parties.
Are we to blindly follow Nehru’s legacy of “not a blade of grass grows there” with reference to Aksai Chin?
The situation today has not changed, in that, pragmatic recommendations for dealing firmly with China are being brushed under the carpet as ranting by ‘China bashers’. Same was the case in building public opinion for withdrawing from Siachen on grounds it had no strategic significance – now acknowledged otherwise. Similarly, some military veterans and scholars were roped in to portray India’s shameful response to China’s intrusion in Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) into some sort of diplomatic victory, some even saying that the Chinese intrusion was because of ‘forward’ movements of the Indian Army, knowing full well that Indian Army unlike Pakistani Army will not move an inch forward without political approval.
It is only after public pressure for past few weeks that AK Anthony ventured to give a statement on 12 May 2013 (first statement as Defence Minister 42 days after the Chinese intrusion of 15 April) that India has the right to develop infrastructure on own side. But the question remains as to what is ‘own side’ and have we exchanged the claim lines with China? The answer appears to be no, as per an article by a recently superannuated former Chief of Staff of Eastern Command. What then has been the purpose of the numerous meetings on the border issue over the years?
The statement by Sushil Shinde that India has no jurisdiction over the area of Chinese intrusion is ominous. Strategic importance apart, we don’t seem to have any inkling about something known as ‘resources’ over which conflicts are likely to rage in future. Are we to blindly follow Nehru’s legacy of “not a blade of grass grows there” with reference to Aksai Chin. Take Siachen; India constitutes 17 percent of world population but has access to only four percent of global fresh water reserves. Musharraf as a Lieutenant General (much before he became Chief) gave a presentation to Pakistani Defence Ministry stating that at the time of Independence, per capita availability of water in Pakistan was 6000 cusecs which had already come down to 1000 cusecs per head. He strongly advocated that Pakistan must capture Kashmir to meet future requirements of water, besides other reasons. China occupied Shaksgam Valley because of its glaciated fresh water reserves. Yet we are talking of vacating one of our largest fresh water reserve in Siachen despite India heading towards being a water starved nation and China already deploying water weapons by damming rivers flowing into India.
Former ambassador P Stopden (who hails from Ladakh) said on national TV post the Chinese DBO intrusion that over the years India has ceded to China over 400 square kilometres of territory in Ladakh alone.
Both Aksai Chin and Ladakh are known to have large uranium and mineral reserves though no mining has been undertaken. Yet we are gradually ceding to Chinese intrusions. Former ambassador P Stopden (who hails from Ladakh) said on national TV post the Chinese DBO intrusion that over the years India has ceded to China over 400 square kilometres of territory in Ladakh alone. This is not counting Chinese illegal occupation of Aksai Chin (38,000 square kilometres) and Shaksgam Valley (5,800 square kilometres). He would not make such statement without basis. The implications are therefore clear – there have been many intrusions in the past that have been hushed up, as would have been done in the recent one in DBO (acknowledged officially as 19 kilometre deep but actually 30 kilometres) had not an enterprising journalist spilled the beans.
If we have actually ceded some 400 square kilometres of territory in Ladakh, it would not be surprising if similar has been the case in the central sector and northeast. The recent Chinese intrusion at DBO would give them another 275 square kilometres and it is not known whether they came down from KK Pass or Aksai Chin. Times of India of 4th May states that surveillance imagery captured by spy drones showed the PLA made three simultaneous intrusions in the adjoining areas of the DBO sector in mid April this year. But there is silence whether the Chinese continue to sit at these three locations or have gone back. A linked serious question is that when the DBO Sector was earlier held by Ladakh Scouts and controlled by the Army, when, why and on whose order was this sector allotted to the ITBP and given command channels through the ITBP chain. Was this deliberate to facilitate Chinese intrusion, firming in, and to eventually turn the flanks of Indian defences at Siachen, concurrently facilitating handshake between Chinese sitting in Gilgit-Baltistan with Aksai Chin. This actually amounts to silent war crime and the government must come out clean.