- - Tuesday, March 16, 2021

China has fundamentally altered the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and there is no going back. In May 2020, China changed the situation on the ground by shifting the LAC and preventing Indian patrolling on territory previously controlled by India

China has constructed an entire village along the LAC in Arunachal Pradesh, which hotly came into debate in January. Despite multiple rounds of disengagement talks, the message is loud and clear, China is unwilling to take a back step. The dispute is far from over.

The latest disengagement talk between China and India is merely a reiteration of earlier peace talks. The agreement provides that China will move back its troops on the north bank to east of Finger 8, while the Indian army will move to its permanent base at Dhan Singh Thapa Post near Finger 3. The agreement goes on to state that any structures that had been built by both sides since April 2020 in both the north and the south bank area will be removed and status quo will be restored.

However, such disengagement talks have a major trust deficit, as China is prone to breaking them with impunity. Between 2014 and 2019, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China’s leader Xi Jinping met on 18 occasions including two summits. Seven months later, the PLA conducted deliberate and premeditated intrusions backed by a history of instigations starting from 1986 to 2013 to 2014 and 2017.

China’s intentions despite disengagement talks are far from pure. As a cautionary measure, back in August, China had deployed surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) at a lake located at Mount Kailash and Mansarover. Additionally, the missile base also hosts ballistic missiles with a 2,200 km range along the trans-boundary of major tributaries of Ganges such as Brahmaputra, Sutlej, Indus and Karnali, which directly poses a threat to India.

China clearly has a future strategic aim this year to hold on to its gains and get the Indian army out of Kailash Range. The disengagement talks could very well be hogwash and aimed to pull back Indian troops from the Kailash range in exchange of PLA pulling back slightly from some unimportant areas. India cannot rule out a possible military action by China post winters to evict Indian troops from Kailash Range.

Therefore, a call for disengagement by China should be taken with a pinch of salt. Because the question arises that how is China planning to remove such obvious military constructions as part of a disengagement, or is it willing to remove the constructions at all? Ulterior motives clearly dictate that such military equipment and constructions have been undertaken to leave open the option for future aggressions on the LAC.

Other points for consideration include that is China willing to dismantle all structures between Finger 4 and Finger 8? Also, there exists the issue of de-escalation of the opposing military outposts in the strategic Depsang plains, where the Chinese troops are obstructing the Indian army from going to the traditional points since April 2020. Additionally, there are more friction points like the Gogra Post, Hot Spring area and Galwan Valley.

The limited disengagement at Pangong Tso could very well be a gimmick and should not distract from worsening Sino-India relations. China’s increased military presence and its fondness for territorial aggression will continue unabated and push the Sino-Indian relations through many instances of violence.

As U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is reportedly to visit India later this month, the larger question must be asked: Is China planning to give up its expansionist intentions or is the Chinese Communist regime’s undertaking temporary measures in apprehension of unexpected resistance from India against its expansionist activities? As long as the LAC is not demarcated, a temporary fix is of no assurance. There is a definite threat by China to instigate future attempts of aggression at the LAC.

• Jianli Yang is president and founder of Citizen Power Initiatives for China.

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