Acknowledging that Chinese soldiers remain stationed at a remote camp some 10 kilometres within India’s territory in Daulat Beg area of Ladakh, defence minister A K Antony has said that “India will take every step to protect its interests”. India has sent up a battalion of its Ladakh scouts after the Chinese incursion on April 15 and they have set up a temporary camp just 500 metres from where China’s People’s Liberation Army has set up its camp. Though no shots have been fired, so far the flag meetings of the officers of the two armies have failed to yield anything tangible.
While small incursions are common across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Sino-Indian border, it is rare for either country to set up camp so deep within disputed territory. Clearly the fact that China has come up with perhaps the most ambitious, brazen and evidently well-thought out incursion into our territory is not without a specific agenda. India had set up the Daulat Beg airstrip during the 1962 war, and reopened and operationalised it five years ago. China knows that it is a strategic asset for India in Aksai Chin area. In case of an open conflict, it would be a key frontline airstrip to launch air strikes against the Chinese.
The manner in which the UPA government has responded to the Chinese belligerence gives an unfortunate impression that it is hoping to resolve the face-off through diplomatic persuasions. Given China’s past behaviour, this is mere wishful thinking. New Delhi should not take such a flagrant violation of its sovereignty lightly and firmly ask China to vacate its aggression. It should send a strong message to Beijing that it is not dealing with an India of 1962. Simultaneously, it should step up its preparedness to take on China in case it shows any sign of belligerence now or in future. Preparing for a military conflict is the best way to avoid it.