Tensions across India’s borders with China and Pakistan have grown in the past year. An assertive China lays claim to the entire state of Arunachal Pradesh and intrudes into areas in Ladakh, which have historically been on the Ladakh side of the Tibet border. New Delhi looks on passively and acts as an apologist for Chinese actions, muttering that there are “differences in perceptions” over where the Line of Actual Control actually lies. Our “senior officials” deliberately obfuscate the fact that the Chinese refuse to exchange maps spelling out precisely where, in their view, the Line of Actual Control lies. China, thus, refuses to spell out its claims and intrudes, at will, into areas it finds unoccupied. The external affairs minister gushingly asserts that he would love to live in Beijing!
In Jammu and Kashmir, the November 2003 ceasefire across the Line of Control, which has been largely observed for over a decade, has been seriously violated, commencing with the beheading of an Indian soldier in January this year. There have been 55 ceasefire violations in August. Five Indian soldiers were shot at close range on the Indian side of the LoC on the night of August 6.
In the parliamentary furore that followed the August 6 outrage, Defence Minister A K Antony said the government was capable of protecting the country’s borders and that the army was free to respond appropriately to ceasefire violations and infiltration. This has been followed by 31 ceasefire violations in September, the most serious of which was caused by infiltration in Keran, which came to notice on September 23. Strangely, the country was kept in the dark about this development for around a week. Was this because it would have embarrassed the government if details became known before the summit meeting with Nawaz Sharif in New York?
Sharif has close links with groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and obviously has no intention of ending cross-border terrorism. It also needs to be remembered that General Musharraf was forced to ask for a ceasefire in 2003 following huge military pressure across the LoC. Indian artillery pummelled Pakistani positions across the LoC in response to covering fire and assistance provided by Pakistani army posts to support infiltration across the LoC. The shelling was so intense that essential supplies could not be moved across the Neelum (Kishanganga) River valley in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
After posts near the Keran sector were overrun by infiltrators in 2002 and could not be recaptured even with artillery fire, then NSA Brajesh Mishra authorised precision-guided bombing of the area by IAF Mirage 2000 jets on June 26, 2002. Pakistan realised thereafter that such cross-border infiltration would face a massive response. Terrorism and cross-border infiltration are dealt with by such measures and not by shedding tears about Pakistan “also” being a “victim of terrorism”.
South Block seems to feel that Chinese and Pakistani incursions can be addressed merely be setting up “mechanisms” like contacts between DGMOs and foreign offices, which meet, drink tea and then part. The reality is different. Whether it was the Chinese intrusion at Wangdung in Arunachal Pradesh in 1986, or infiltration cross the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir, talks were complemented by firm military action.
Neither China nor Pakistan is going to ease the pressure on our borders. China has better road communications both in Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh. The answer, therefore, lies in improving firepower, communications and establishing air superiority. Our road communications in both Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh are woefully inadequate. Acquisition of weapons systems like Light Howitzers and strike aircraft (MMRCA) to give teeth to our mountain divisions and under-equipped and under-strength Air Force are hopelessly delayed because of time-consuming procedures and shortage of funds. India’s national security and standing are being eroded and undermined by corruption, inefficiency and fiscal profligacy.