In the four-month-long standoff with the Indian army in eastern Ladakh, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) now finds itself in a crisis of its own making. The Chinese army has therefore launched a propaganda war to intimidate India, whose army jawans stand firm and vigilant at the Line of Actual Control.
In our prime time show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Friday night, we showed videos released by Chinese official TV media showing their tanks and artillery guns in action. For the last three days, Chinese TV stations are broadcasting war games videos with their newscasters saying that if India does not withdraw its troops and defuse tension, it should be prepared to face a war. The PLA troops are constantly carrying out war exercises in Tibet and the Chinese media claims that these videos have been released by the PLA’s Western Theatre Command in Tibet.
Two days ago, Chinese TV showed airborne troops carrying out mock drills with their anchors saying that the PLA is all set to deal strongly with the current standoff in Ladakh. Our defence editor Manish Prasad says that the Chinese army is trying its utmost to provoke, intimidate and threaten India and telecast of such war games videos are part of its propaganda war. Nobody knows the date, time and location of these videos, but Manish Prasad, presently in Leh, says that the Indian army is ready in Ladakh with mirror deployment of its troops and artillery. Our fighter jets, tanks and artillery guns are ready to deter the enemy from launching any misadventure.
One cannot stop laughing while watching a video released by the Chinese army in which ‘hot’ noodle packs are being provided to their troops with the help of drones. The world knows that the capability of Indian troops to carry out high altitude warfare is legendary and our brave jawans have the tenacity to fight against all odds high up in the mountains. The ferocious manner in which our jawans foiled Chinese troops’ attack in Galwan valley, inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy, has been noticed across the world.
The Chinese army is claiming from rooftops that its troops are ready to dig in for a long haul during the oncoming winter when snowfall starts. They claim that Indian troops may not be able to withstand a tough winter in Ladakh’s mountainous region. The Chinese media, while showing ‘hot’ noodle packs being served to its troops, commented that Indian jawans may have to content themselves with cold, canned food during winter. They overlook the fact that our army has already set up small kitchens at base camps at 16,000 feet altitude for our jawans. These base camps are regularly being provided fuel so that the kitchens continue to provide hot food to our jawans keeping a close vigil on the LAC.
When the propaganda war by the Chinese PLA failed, the Chinese mandarins resorted a ‘drama’ in Moscow. I am deliberately using the word ‘drama’ because the marathon talks between our Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar and the Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi yielded a five-point consensus that may look nice on paper, but is not worth the paper it is written on. The ground reality is completely different.
The five-point consensus was on (1) not allowing differences to become disputes, (2) troops should continue the dialogue, quickly disengage, maintain proper distance and ease tension (3) both countries shall abide by all existing agreements and protocols (4) both countries shall continue communication through Special Representatives mechanism (5) as situation eases, both sides should expedite new confidence-building measures for ensuring peace and tranquility.
High-sounding words, these. The ground reality is different. China has deployed more than 50,000 troops near LAC in the Ladakh sector, and its air force jets and air defence systems are continuously carrying out exercises. Why are the Chinese army generals so worried? It is because, our Special Frontier Force jawans, manned by Tibetan exiles, have occupied several heights near the LAC, from where they can keep watch on Chinese troop movements.
The Indian position is now stronger compared to that of China’s. Our jawans are in control of nearly 24 heights in the southern part of the Pangong lake area, and the PLA generals are worried. Our jawans are manning the post on the topmost height of Finger 4. This was possible because of pre-emptive action taken by SFF troops during a midnight operation at 6,000 metre (18,000 feet) height. The two armies are now in a faceoff for Finger 4 and Finger 5. China has made heavy deployment and India has also made mirror deployment of its troops and weapons in that area. Earlier, our troops were at a lower height and there were problems in keeping watch on Chinese movements, but now they have an upper hand by occupying key heights.
Just imagine, the world’s highest battlefield is Siachen glacier at 22,000 feet height, and our jawans are now posted at heights which are at 18,000 feet in Pangong Tso. Presently, both the armies are in a faceoff situation in Pangong Tso, Depsang valley, Hot Springs and Chushul. Our jawans are close to Rechen La, a strategic point, considered a lifeline for Chinese troops assembled there.
Let us try to understand why the Chinese generals are worried and appear to be in a hurry. After their incursions were noticed in April, the Chinese troops were engaged in clashes with Indian jawans in June. At that time, they were in a better position. Till April, India had been trusting China’s friendship and the Chinese army took undue advantage. But now, the situation has reversed. Our army occupies nearly 24 heights from where our troops can keep a close watch on Chinese troop movements. China wants our troops to disengage from these heights.
The second point over which China appears to be worried about is: trade. Chinese mandarins want that India should lift all restrictions on bilateral trade even as talks on Ladakh continue. Chinese IT companies have been badly hit by bans imposed on apps by the Indian government. India’s stand is quite clear. There can be no return to normalcy until and unless China disengages its troops and reduce its troop deployment in Tibet.
The third point is: China is isolated in the world arena. Big powers like the USA, UK, European countries, Japan and Australia are with India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s strong diplomacy with these countries is yielding positive results. Faced with international opprobrium, China wants to wiggle out from the crisis it has created.
And last, but not least, the effects of all these developments are being felt by the Chinese Communist Party leadership which is facing criticisms from the Chinese public. In Hindi, there is a proverb: Munh Me Ram, Bagal Me Chhuri (One who speaks sweetly may be hiding a dagger behind to stab at the right moment). Once bitten, twice shy. India has realized the Chinese game of double-talk and has therefore decided to respond accordingly.
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