Might is right: Mainsprings of India’s foreign policy

Amjed Jaaved

A simplistic explanation of India’s recent face-offs with neighbours is well epitomized by the peasant saying “jiski lathi, uski bhains” (who wields the stick gets to own the buffalo). The wisdom muffled in the saying is `might is right)’. If you want a highfalutin way of saying the same thing, turn to the Greek sage, Thucydides: “The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”

Recall Aesop’s fable about the wolf that accused the lamb of muddying its waters. The lamb’s protests that it was only drinking downstream did not, of course, stop the wolf from eating it up. India wants to eat up its neighbours like it devoured disputed Kashmir, Junagadh, and Hyderabad.

Incessant provocation: Despite China’s objections, India continued to construct 32 strategic roads for faster linking of the feeder roads to the so-called Line of Actual Control. Besides, it never stopped work to convert the Galwan wooden bridge (seven to seven point five kilometers) into a concrete one. Even after conclusion of the recent major-general-level talks, India brazenly announced that the work in progress on roads and bridges will not be stopped. For several past years, India has been strengthening its road-and-bridge network in the border areas in accordance with Shyam Saran Report.

No surgical strikes on China: A psychological adjunct to the might-is-right is perhaps the fight- or-flight (from `flee’) response. Though both countries agreed to pull back troops to about one kilometer (or up to 2.5 kilometers), India continued to provoke China about location of a Chinese camp. Not a single shot was fired as per agreement to maintain peace, yet India lost at least 20 soldiers including a Commanding Officer on a single day in Galwan Valley. But India gave no gung-ho ultimate to China. Nor did it carry out a surgical strike akin to that on Pakistan. Each year, `proud’ India celebrates `surgical strikes’ on Pakistan. When 19 soldiers (one less than those killed at Galwan) lost their lives in Uri in 2016, the chest-thumping Narendra Modi launched surgical strikes across the Line of Control.

The reluctant officer commanding was manoeuvring to get posted back. Most `soldiers’ died while fleeing at sight of upcoming Chinese, and jumped into Galwan-rivulet cold waters.

OBOR and Venus-envy effect: China and India had slow economic start. But, subsequently, China leapfrogged India, thus making India jealous of China’s economic progress. India is opposed to China’s belt road initiative but unable to provide a substitute.

Bible, James 3:14 advises `But if you have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.That is to say, `But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, don’t boast and don’t lie against the truth’.

Research shows jealousy is based on `(1) Great malice and baseness of nature.(2) An unreasonable grasping ambition. (3)Inward sense of a man’s own weakness and inability to attain what he desires and would aspire to. Idleness often makes people, and by corollary nations, envy the accomplishments of others.The effect of jealousy or envy is that `this ill quality brings confusion and calamity upon the envious person himself who cherishes and entertains it, and, like the viper, gnaws out the bowels which first conceived it. It is indeed the only act of

justice that it does, that the guilt it brings upon a man it revenges upon him too, and so torments and punishes him much more than it can afflict or annoy the person who is envied by him…it ferments and boils in the soul, putting all the powers of it into the most restless and disorderly agitation’.

China’s memory of bitter past (Opium Wars): In that interview, India’s defence minister George Fernandese spoke at length of the Chinese ‘String of Pearls’ surrounding India. From Gwadar on the West to Coco Islands on the East, via a series of strategic locations in the Indian Ocean, George believed this necklace could become a noose.

Mao Zedong (born 1893, Hunan) went to Beijing in 1918. He worked for some time in Peking University’s library. There he became associated with Li Dachau and Chen Duxio, co-founders of Chinese Communist Party, and became a Marxist. On September 21, 1949, Mao Zedong proclaimed to the world, `Our nation will never again be an insulted nation. He envisioned an ideal party of workers, peasants and soldiers. This vision was in stark contrast with alternative vision of a party of intellectuals, technocrats, religious leaders, overseas Chinese and former capitalists. For one thing, the Chinese leaderships have all along been bottoms-up not tops-down. On September 21, 1949, Mao Zedong proclaimed to the world, `Our nation will never again be an insulted nation. He envisioned an ideal party of workers, peasants and soldiers. This vision was in stark contrast with Liu Deng’s vision of a party of intellectuals, technocrats, religious leaders, overseas Chinese and former capitalists.

Mao’s Cultural Revolution (1964-76) was no bed of roses. During 1964-66, intra-elite transformation was in a state of flux. Radical years 1966-66 witnessed mass mobilization. During 1967-69, an imaginary May 16 Conspiracy led to arrest of two strands of leading radical figures, 25 of 29 Party first secretaries was sacked. Lin Biao became Mao’s closest `comrade in arms’ and heir apparent. He masterminded a plot to assassinate Mao, fled towards Mongolia in airplane and was killed in air crash. Period 1968-76 was marked by demobilization, palace intrigues, popular anxiety and subsequent reforms. (Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom (ed.), The Oxford Illustrated History of Modern China).

China’s history does not corroborate democracy-and -development zeitgeist. China underwent different phases of political orientation 1985-1988 liberal neo-authoritarianism, 1989-1992 neo-totalitarianism, 1993-1996 hard authoritarianism, 1997-2008 soft authoritarianism, 2009-2015 hard authoritarianism, 2016-2018 fluid merit-based authoritarianism. Its political future is constrained by economic transformation of its society.

Economic well-being has created a tsunami of expectations. China’s income per capita per annum is US$ 7,593. It has 1.09 millionaires and world’s second largest number of billionaires. Chinese urbanites now possess ‘four rounds’ (a bicycle, a wrist watch, a sewing machine, and a washing machine) and `three electrics’ (a television, a refrigerator, and a private telephone connection).

Today’s China is aggressive metamorphosis of its humiliating past. It is ready to take on anyone it sees as a threat. Mao travelled a thousand lessons to drill into Chinese mind two lessons: Now China shall not be attacked. Now it will not be humiliated.

What lies ahead for China? Its political orientation in future will be determined, inter alia, by stability in its political periphery including Xinjiang (Uighur unrest), Tibet, Hong Kong and Taiwan. There have been riots at Lhasa (March 2008), Urumqi (July 2009 and May 2014), and at Hotan and Kashgar (July 2011)

No respect for LoC or LAC: To understand Sino-Indian differences, one needs to peek into Indian mind through books such as Shivshankar Menon’s Choices: Inside the Making of India’s Foreign Policy, Shyam Saran’s How India Sees the World, and A G Noorani’s India-China Boundary Problem 1846-1947.

Intermittent cross fire across Indo-Pak Line of Control or provocative intrusions or incursions on Sino-Indian border reflect India does not care a fig for sacrosanctity of LOC or LAC. A common misperception is that the Line of Actual Control is more sacrosanct than the LOC.

India’s prestigious Indian Express dated June 6, 2020 dispels the impression. It explains `The LoC emerged from the 1948 ceasefire line negotiated by the UN after the Kashmir War. It was designated as the LoC in 1972, following the Shimla Agreement between the two countries. It is delineated on a map signed by DGMOs of both armies and has the international sanctity of a legal agreement. The LAC, in contrast, is only a concept – it is not agreed upon by the two countries, neither delineated on a map or demarcated on the ground’.

The afore-quoted newspaper poses the question `what was India’s response to China’s designation of the LAC?’. It then explains India rejected the concept of LAC in both 1959 and 1962.

Even during the war, Nehru was unequivocal: “There is no sense or meaning in the Chinese offer to withdraw twenty kilometres from what they call ‘line of actual control… In July 1954, Nehru issued a directive that “all our old maps dealing with this frontier should be carefully examined and, where necessary, withdrawn. New maps should be printed showing our Northern and North Eastern frontier without any reference to any ‘line’. The new maps should also be sent to our embassies abroad and should be introduced to the public generally and be used in our schools, colleges, etc”. This map, as is officially used till date, formed the basis of dealings with China, eventually leading to the 1962 War’ ( IE, June 6, 2020, Line of Actual Control: Where it is located, and where India and China differ).

There are genuine differences on border `perception’ that intermittently lead to face-offs. India considers the LAC to be 3,488 km long, while the Chinese consider it to be only around 2,000 km.

Shyam Saran discloses that the LAC was discussed during Chinese Premier Li Peng’s 1991 visit to India, where PM P V Narasimha Rao and Li reached an understanding to maintain peace and tranquillity at the LAC. India formally accepted the concept of the LAC when Rao paid a return visit to Beijing in 1993 and the two sides signed the Agreement to Maintain Peace and Tranquility at the LAC. The reference to the LAC was unqualified to make it clear that it was not referring to the LAC of 1959 or 1962 but to the LAC at the time when the agreement was signed. To reconcile the differences about some areas, the two countries agreed that the Joint Working Group on the border issue would take up the task of clarifying the alignment of the LAC.

It appears India is short on fulfilling its promises. At heart, Nehru never cared a fig for the disputed state’s constituent assembly, Indian parliament or the UN. This truth is interspersed in Avtar Singh Bhasin’s 10-volume documentary study (2012) of India-Pakistan Relations1947-2007. It contains 3649 official documents, accessed from archives of India’s external-affairs ministry. Despite effort for over a year, Bhasin was denied access to coveted Nehru Papers. But, in 2014, Bhasin was able to get permission from India’s Department of Culture to access them.

These papers gave new perspectives on Nehru’s vacillating state of mind concerning the Kashmir dispute. In his 2018 book (published after six years of his earlier work), India, Pakistan: Neighbours at Odds (Bloomsbury India, New Delhi, 2018), Bhasin discusses Nehru’s perfidy on Kashmir in Chapter 5 titled Kashmir, India’s Constitution and Nehru’s Vacillation (pages 51-64). The book is based on Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru and author’s own compendium of documents on India-Pak relations.

Let us lay bare a few of Nehru’s somersaults about plebiscite: (a) Kashmir’s assembly’s `accession’ disowned, Security Council owned. Nehru banked on so-called Instrument of Accession and its authentication by `Constituent Assembly’. Nehru unmasked his brazen volte face in a letter dated October 31, 1947, addressed to the disputed state’s prime minister, on the fourth day of `signing’ of the mythical accession instrument by maharajha on October 26, 1947. It was `counter-signed’ by Lord Mountbatten on October 27, 1947. The letter says `after consideration of the problem, we are inclined to think that it [plebiscite] should be held under United Nations’ auspices (p. 28 ibid.). He reiterated in New Delhi on November3, 1951 that `we have made it perfectly clear before the Security Council that the Kashmir Constituent Assembly does not [insofar] as we are concerned come in the way of a decision by the Security Council, or the United Nations’(SWJ: Volume 4: page 292, Bhasin p.228). Again, at a press conference on June 11, 1951, he was asked `if the proposed constituent assembly of Kashmir “decides in favour of acceding to Pakistan, what will be the position?”’ he reiterated, `We have made it perfectly clear that the Constituent Assembly of Kashmir was not meant to decide finally any such question , and it is not in the way of any decision which may ultimate flow from the Security Council proceedings’ (SWJ: Volume 15:, Part II, page Bhasin page 56). He re-emphasised his view once again at a press conference in New Delhi On November 3, 1951. He said `we have made it perfectly clear before the Security Council that the Kashmir Constituent Assembly does not [insofar as] we are concerned come in the way of a decision by the Security Council or the United Nations’.

Pakistan not labeled `aggressor’ and then so labeled. He never labeled Pakistan an aggressor. But he told parliament on March 1, 1954 `that “aggression” took place in Kashmir six and a half years ago with dire consequences. Nevertheless the United States has thus far not condemned it and we are asked not to press this point in the interest of peace (Bhasin pp. 55-56).

Security Council disowned as just a non-binding mediator. Bhasin points out that `there was a perceptible shift in his [Nehru’s] stand on July 24 1952` about the future of the State _ if the decision of the Security Council was at variance with that of the Constituent Assembly’. Nehru said, `Unless the Security Council functioned under some other Sections of the Charter, it cannot take a decision which is binding upon us unless we agree to it. They are functioning as mediators and a mediator means getting people to agree (SWJ, Volume 19, page 241. Bhasin page 56).

Security Council re-owned. Bhasin points out (page 57 op. cit.) `At the same press conference on 24 July, 1952 when asked what the necessity of a plebiscite was now that he had got the Constituent Assembly, he replied “Maybe theoretically you may be right. But we have given them an assurance and we stand by it (SWJ: Volume 19, pp. 240-241. Bhasin p. 57).

Crux of disputes with neighbours: India’s supercilious and perfidious attitude towards its neighbours is reposibe for lingering border disputes. India’s disputes with its neighbours being simple have simple solutions. But, India’s coercive diplomacy and lack of political will has delayed the solution. The Indian government unilaterally released new maps of disputed Jammu and Kashmir State. These maps show the disputed state as converted into an Indian `union territory’. The UT includes even Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan.

India presumed Pakistan, like other peripheral states, was too weak to do tit for tat. The Indian attitude reflected the Kautliyan template: bheda (sowing seeds of discord) to achieve yana (victory) through danda (force).

Kautlia believed that `all neighbouring countries were actual or potential enemies’. A corollary to his advice was fostering friendly relations with non-neighboring powerful countries. India’s former foreign secretary frankly tells how India’s attitude delayed solution of disputes.

In line with Kautlian dictum, Shyam Saran advised: `India must seek to align with other powerful states to countervail the main adversary [Pakistan].This would mean closer relations with the US, Japan, Australia, Indonesia, and Vietnam, all of which share India’s concern over China’s unilateral assertions of power in Asia’ (How India Sees the World: Kautliya to the 21st Century).

USA backed India’s opposition to China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice Wells said on November 22 at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars, “We share India’s concerns over projects that don’t have any economic basis and that leads to country ceding sovereignty.”

India is the only major country in the world opposed to the OBOR on grounds of `territorial sovereignty. It claims the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), passes through Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan that are `India’s territory’. Kashmiri leader Farooq Abdullah had taunted Indian PM Narendra Modi “to go and occupy these areas.”

After Kashmir, India annexed Nepalese territory in maps: In blatant violation of mutual treaties, India annexed Kalapani area on the India-Nepal border. In a press release, Nepal’s government termed the “unilateral action” as unacceptable”. Nepal’s legislature enacted clarification to affirm its sovereignty over Kala Pani. However, India has already brazenly occupied over 14,000 hectares (140 km2) Nepalese territory of Susta in Tribenisusta, Lumbini Zone, near Nichlaul, UP.

Saran was outspoken about how India created or delayed solution of border disputes. For instance, he says (ibid. pp. 88-India itself created the Siachen problem. He reminisces, “In 1970s, US maps began to show 23,000 km of Siachen area under Pakistan’s control. Thereupon, `Indian forces were sent to occupy the glacier in a pre-emptive strike, named Operation Meghdoot. Pakistani attempts to dislodge them did not succeed. But they did manage to occupy and fortify the lower reaches’.

He recalls how Siachen Glacier and Sir Creek agreements could not fructify because of foot dragging. He says ‘NN Vohra, who was the defence secretary at the time, confirmed in a newspaper interview that an agreement on Siachen had been reached. At the last moment, however, a political decision was taken by the Narasimha Rao government to defer its signing to the next round of talks scheduled for January the following year. But, this did not happen…My defence of the deal became a voice in the wilderness’.

Similarly, demarcation of Sir Creek maritime boundary was unnecessarily delayed. Saran tells ` if we accepted the Pakistani alignment, with the east bank of the creek as the boundary, then Pakistan would get only 40 per cent of the triangle. If our alignment according to the Thalweg principle was accepted, Pakistan would get 60 per cent. There was a keen interest in Pakistan to follow this approach but we were unable to explore this further when the Siachen deal fell through. Pakistan was no longer interested in a stand-alone Sir Creek agreement’ (The Thalweg principle places the dividing line mid-channel in the river).

To him `Kashmir dispute was almost settled but delayed by India’. In his memoirs In the line of fire, then president Pervez Musharraf proposed `a personal solution of the Kashmir issue’. This solution, in essence, envisioned self-rule in demilitarised regions of Kashmir under a joint-management mechanism. The solution pre-supposed reciprocal flexibility. The out-of-box Musharraf Kashmir solution was in fact a regurgitation of India’s former foreign secretary Jagat S. Mehta’s proposals.

Mehta understood a plebiscite was the real solution. But, India was not willing to talk about it. So, he spelled out ‘requirements prelusive to a solution’. He presented his ideas in his article, ‘Resolving Kashmir in the International Context of the 1990s’. Some points of Mehta’s quasi-solution are: (a) Conversion of the LoC into “a soft border permitting free movement and facilitating free exchanges…” (b) Immediate demilitarisation of the LoC to a depth of five to 10 miles with agreed methods of verifying compliance (c) Pending final settlement, there must be no continuing insistence by Pakistan “on internationalization, and for the implementation of a parallel or statewide plebiscite to be imposed under the peacekeeping auspices of the United Nations” (d) Final settlement of the dispute between India and Pakistan can be suspended (kept in a ‘cold freeze’) for an agreed period Conducting parallel democratic elections in both Pakistani and Indian sectors of Kashmir (f) Restoration of an autonomous Kashmiriyat (g) Pacification of the Valley until a political solution is reached.

India did not heed advice by another of its own foreign secretary J.N. Dixit. He said, `It is no use splitting legal hairs. “Everybody who has a sense of history knows that legality only has relevance up to the threshold of transcending political realities. And especially in inter-state relations… so to quibble about points of law and hope that by proving a legal point you can reverse the process of history is living in a somewhat contrived utopia. It won’t work.”

A South Asian hegemon: Raj Mohan elucidates India’s ambition, in terms of Kauliya’s mandala, (inter-relationships) to emerge as South Asian hegemon in following words:

‘India’s grand strategy divides the world into three concentric circles. In the first, which encompasses the immediate neighbourhood, India has sought primacy and a veto over actions of outside powers. In the second which encompasses the so-called extended neighborhood, stretching across Asia and Indian Ocean littoral, India has sought to balance other powers and prevent them from undercutting its interests. In the third which includes the entire global stage, India has tried to take its place as one of the great powers, a key player in international peace and security. (C. Raja Mohan, India and the Balance of Power, Foreign Affairs July-August 2006).

Henry Kissinger views Indian ambitions in the following words: ‘Just as the early American leaders developed the Monroe Doctrine concept for America’s special role in the Western Hemisphere, so India has established in practice a special positioning of the Indian Ocean region between East Indies and the horn of Africa. Like Britain with respect to Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, India strives to prevent the emergence of a dominant power in this vast portion of the globe. Just as early American leaders did not seek approval of the countries of the Western Hemisphere with respect to the Monroe Doctrine, so Indian in the region of its special strategic interests conducts its policy on the basis of its own definition of a South Asian order’ (Henry Kissinger, World Order, New York, Penguin Press, 2014).

Zbigniew Brzeszinsky takes note of India’s ambition to rival China thus: ‘Indian strategies speak openly of greater India exercising a dominant position in an area ranging from Iran to Thailand. India is also position itself to control the Indian Ocean militarily, its naval and air power programs point clearly in that direction as do politically guided efforts to establish for Indi strong positions, with geostrategic implications in adjoining Bangladesh and Burma (Zbigniew Brzeszinsky, Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power).

Robert Kaplan, in his book, Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and Future of American Power, argues that the geopolitics of the 21st century will hinge on the Indian Ocean. USA’s new protégé is India. To woo India firmly into its fold, the USA offered to sell India Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD, for $3 billion per unit) and Patriot Advance Capability (PAC-3) missile defence systems as an alternative to the Russian S-400 air defence system. India ditched Russia from whom it had earlier decided to purchase five S-400s at a cost of $5.4 billion.

Beware of uncanny entente and Thucydides’s Trap: Despite agreeing to a buffer zone, India has officially announced to carry on building roads and bridges in disputed territory. It was funny to see two nuclear powers exchange fisticuffs and throw stones on each other at altitude of 14000 feet. It would be funnier if they engage in a nuclear Armaggedon to end at a pyrrhic victory. Mutual suspicions lead to wars. “It was the rise of Athens, and the fear that this instilled in Sparta, that made war inevitable.”

Nepal tensions: At long last Nepal has legislatively re-claimed Kala Pani territory. Indian army chief Naravane rebuked Nepal for doing so at China’s prodding. India’s hostile attitude has galvanised Nepalese people. Nepalese security forces killed an Indian, or Nepalese of Indian origin, when he tried to sneak into Nepal. It is eerie that the voluble army chief stayed suave this time. He said, “We have a very strong relationship with Nepal. We have geographical, cultural, historical, religious linkages. We have very strong people to people connected. Our relation with them has always been strong and will remain strong in the future”.

Kalapani episode has swung Indo-Nepal relations into flux. Till recently, Indian army chief used to be decorated with the honorary rank of General of Nepal Army. India and Nepal share a unique tradition wherein their respective Chiefs of Army Staff are anointed as Honorary Generals of the other’s forces. General Rajendra Chettri is already an Honorary General of the Indian Army

India used to be the biggest provider of military assistance to Nepal. But, since signing of the peace deal in 2006 after end of a 10 year civil war, the latter has not asked India for military assistance. The two countries have participated in joint military exercises. General Manek Shaw though not himself a Gorkha commanded a Gorkha regiment. He once quipped if one says he is not afraid of dying he is either a liar or a Gorkha.

Nepalese can join Indian army after passing a tough selection process. Some Nepali recruits rose to the rank of Major/ Lieutenant General or equivalent. Each year, about 28000 Gorkhas apply for job in Indian army. The selection process requires young hopefuls to run uphill for 40 minutes carrying a wicker basket on their back filled with rocks weighing 70lbs.

India’s sour relations with Nepal may have far reaching consequences. There are about one million Nepalis working or residing in India. Many Indian industries like Dabur have shifted production to Nepal as it is cheaper to produce in Nepal and distribute in India. India has been considering reduction in pensions to Gorkha retirees and a tab on

their recruitment. The total pension bill for the 1, 27, 000 pensioners (90,000 defence and 37,000 Central and State Government as well as paramilitary), and serving soldiers remitting home money is around Rs 4,600 crore. It works out to NR 6400, which is larger than the NR 3601.80 crore defence budget of Nepal.

Gorkhas against China: Gorkha’s War Cry is jai maha kali, ayo Gorkhali (Hail, Goddess Kali, The Gorkhas are here). In 1962, Sino Indian conflict, the gorkhas stayed loyal to India though the Chinese used loudspeakers daily against the company of Major Dhan Singh Thapa, PVC, to withdraw as they were from Nepal. They still carry into battle their traditional weapon, an 18-inch long curved knife known as the kukri. In times past, it was said that once a kukri was drawn in battle, it had to “taste blood” – if not, its owner had to cut himself before returning it to its sheath. Now, the Gorkhas say, it is used mainly for cooking.

Gorkhas against Pakistan: They fought well against Pakistan at Bilafond La, one of the “gates” leading to the glacier; the third battalion of the fourth Gurkha Rifles regiment stood up to repeated assaults by the Pakistani troops, all at a height of 20,000 feet. In the battle fought on September 20-24, 1987, 13 Gurkha troops were killed and 23 wounded. For their bravery, the unit earned 3 Maha Vir Chakras (MVC) and 5 Vir Chakras.

During the 1971 Indo-Pak war, a Gurkha battalion pioneered amphibious operations. Amid the Indian Peace Keeping Force operations in Sri Lanka, two Gurkha battalions participated in combat with distinction, but Lt. Colonel Inder Bal Singh Bawa, one of the battalion commanders, was injured and later died, along with many of the unit’s officers and troops. Col. Bawa was later decorated with an MVC.

There are about 32,000 Nepalese Gorkhas currently serving in the Indian Army’s seven Gorkha Rifle regiments (1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 8th, 9th and 11th). Each of it has five to six battalions (around 800 soldiers each). Gorkha unrest could disturb Indian army chief’s sleep. Another worry for India is the pro-Khalistan slogans raised on anniversary of desecration of the Golden Temple. There are about 30,000 sikh officers in Indian Army and 20 per cent of them are Sikhs. Punjab is a prosperous state with only five percent people below the poverty line. If Covid 19 pushes more sikhs below the poverty line, economic unrest may appear pervading into political upheaval.

Inference: Several factors account for China’s tit for tat in Ladakh. China was fearful of India’s ambition to serve as a US proxy and emerge as a South Asian hegemon. China was annoyed at India’s opposition to Belt road Initiative, and enthusiasm for the US-led Quad. China had to act to stop the unruly India.

China appeared desperate to control the lake at Lukung to conduct a future three-pronged strategy of attacking from Sirijap in the north, Chuchul in the south and through the lake water from the middle.

China also feared internationalization of Aksai Chin by India. The `annexation’ of disputed Kashmir provided it with an opportunity to intrude into the disputed area. China has misgivings about the rising wave of Hindutva and gung-ho political and military leaders in India. China is aware of India’s preparation for fighting a two front war.

Overall, the pattern shows China’s desire to take over, in future, the lake at Lukung through a three-pronged strategy of attacking from Sirijap in the north, Chuchul in the south and through the lake water from the middle. This is the key chokepoint from where the Chinese can cut off Indian access to the entire flank of Chip Chap plains, Aksai Chin in the east and Shayok Valley to the north, which means that Indian control is pushed to the west of the Shyok river and south of the Indus river, forcing India to accept both rivers as natural boundaries. And once China gets control of the southern side of the Karakoram it can easily approach Siachen Glacier from the Depsang corridor and meet at Tashkurgan junction from where the CPEC crosses into Gilgit-Baltistan.

That would be disastrous for Indian defence, leaving the strategic Nubra vulnerable, possibly impacting even India’s hold over Siachen. China’s access to Changla-pass through Lukung and Tangtse would threaten the entire Indus Valley. It is quite possible that China is eyeing the waters of the Shyok, Galwan and Chang-Chenmo rivers, to divert them to the arid Aksai Chin and its allied region.

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