Inch by inch, slowly but surely, we keep loosing territory…
Almost exactly two years ago, I wrote a post titled, As the Government sleeps, dark clouds gather on the horizon… In that post, I had carried excerpts from an article by Tarun Vijay that was prompted by continued trespassing and stealth incursions by Chinese into the Ladakh area.
Two years on…and a general election later, nothing seems to have changed.
Inch by inch, the Chinese are encroaching into Indian territory…while the government acts “ignorant” or “supremely confident” depending on the mood of the moment. Sometimes, it simply brushes things under the carpet. Two vignettes to illustrate what I mean.
The first in which esteemed Foreign Minister Shri Pranab Mukherjee is quoted as saying this on the matter of cross-border incursions by China:
Sometimes incursions take place… but there (is) no need to press any “panic button”
The second, a priceless gem (as reported by Indrani Bagchi):
…The concern on the Indian side is that these incursions by China are taking place a little more frequently than India is comfortable with…
A recent PTI news-report noted how India has lost a “substantial” amount of land over the last two decades to China. It was based on a meeting held recently on this issue.
Although the government tried to act coy under the cover of “unclear or unmarked boundaries”, attendees at the meeting (including officials from J&K government, MHA and Army) felt that:
it is clear…that we are withdrawing from LAC and our area has shrunk over a period of time.
Though this process (is) very slow…we have lost substantial amount of land in 20-25 years
For good measure, the record noted (emphasis added):
…the lack of institutional memory in various agencies as well as clear policy on this issue which in long run has resulted in loss of territory by the India in favour of China.
Not that any of this is news to China watchers.
Forget China watchers, none of this should be *news* to anyone who has been reading reports of “Chinese incursions” or “transgressions” over the last few years.
But there appears to be a conspiracy of silence. No voices are raised, no twitter campaigns are talked about…Most strategic thinkers and analysts appear to have accepted that this is unstoppable – and worse – irreversible.
Where are the voices of protest? Where are the worthy dailies who are willing to start a “campaign” at the drop of a hat?
But I forget. There is no money to be made in a “Lets face the reality” campaign. No publicity, no extra ad revenue. Just a lot of uncomfortable questions. Far easier to focus on poverty and NREGA…or Sh Sant Singh Chatwal.
And so inch by inch, slowly but surely, we keep loosing territory…and keep forgetting about it.
Let me dig up a few recent incidents.
A Congress member in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday said incursions by Chinese troops had taken place in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim…Nabam Rebia from Arunachal Pradesh…said the Chinese army had demolished a Buddha statue in Tawang district on October 30.
…this year too about 50 Chinese transgressions have been reported in this area…(Chinese troops) started building a road towards the end of the year that crossed this tract of land.
June 2008: More reports of “transgressions” in Sikkim
…There have been 65 transgressions into Sikkim in the last six months and on June 16, PLA men entered the region in light vehicles and later returned to their territory.
…on June 1, a combined Indian Army-ITBP patrol was intercepted by the PLA in Depsang Bulge and forced to turn back after the PLA planted vehicles in front and behind the Indian patrol vehicle and escorted it back across the Chinese “perception of the LAC”
December 2008: Report from Ladakh
Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) damage the tents of nomads who had moved with their cattle into Dokbug area of Nyoma sector. They also threatened them to vacate the land.
The SDM (appointed by the government to probe complaints of incursion) contended that it was another attempt by the Chinese to claim the territory as disputed in the same fashion as they had taken Nag Tsang area opposite to Phuktse airfield in 1984, Nakung in 1991 and Lungma-Serding in 1992.
Pawan Bali mentions such tactics too:
The locals in Ladakh say that similar tactics were used by the Chinese in the past to grab portions of Indian territory in the region. Till 1984, Indian had claims over the Nang Tsang area, which is opposite Phukste air field. Now, its in Chinese terrority.
The Nagking area was again under Indian occupation till 1991, and now is on the other side. Similar claim was laid over Langma Serding area, which was a part of Indian territory till 1992.
June 2009: Chinese helicopters violate Indian air space along the Line of Actual Control in Chumar region and also air-drop some expired food.
July 2009: Chinese troops enter Indian territory near Mount Gya, recognised as International border by India and China, and paint boulders and rocks with “China” and “Chin9″ in red spray paint.
Sept 2009: Report from Leh
Deputy commisioner of Leh ..(in) his letter…informs that Shepherds of Ladakh have complained that Chinese troops entered into the Indian boundaries as far as their settlements and threatened them effecting their daily lives and work.
The Chinese soldiers asked Indians to get out from Ladakh warning them of dire consequences.
Jan 2010: Another Letter from Ladakh
A letter from a village in Ladakh, bordering China, has sent alarm bells ringing in the security establishment in New Delhi.
The letter says that Chinese army officers have been threatening labourers who are making a road under the NREGA scheme. The threats are verbal, but they are enough for the workers to completely abandon the project.
LAHDC Chairman Chering Dorjay said, “People of Demochok were building a road under NREGA scheme, while doing they were threatened by Chinese army. It’s not true that Government had asked them to stop work, people stopped work after they were threatened and subsequently we reported the matter to Deputy Commissioner (DC), Leh.
I could go on and on but I am sure you have got the point.
Sixty year ago, a prescient Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Nehru (emphasis added):
Let us also consider the political conditions on this potentially troublesome frontier. Our Northern or Northeastern approaches consist of Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling and tribal areas in Assam. They are weak from the point of view of communications.Continuous defensive lines do not exist. There is an almost unlimited scope for infiltration.
Sixty years on, his words have been forgotten, his warnings dismissed…even as China moves in, inch by inch, slowly but surely while we sleep, unaware, ignorant and utterly indifferent to the approaching danger.
P.S. From a report filed by former SDM (Nyoma) Tsering Norboo:
A Chinese proverb is famous in the world – better do in inches than in yards
Map Image courtesy: Wikipedia