The 1962 war of India and China resulting in humiliating defeat of India by China was conceded by then Brigadier John Dalvi as ‘Himalayan Blunder’. Dalvi was the commander of the Indian 7th Brigade, which was destroyed, leading Dalvi to be captured by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on 22 October 1962. He wrote his infamous book ‘Himalayan Blunder’ regarding that war in which he openly narrated the causes of that shameful defeat. With no end in sight, current standoff between India and China in Doklam area may show the repetition of history. China and India have been engaged in a standoff in the Doklam area of the Sikkim sector near the Bhutan tri-junction for over a month after a Chinese Army‘s construction party attempted to build a road. Chances of War between nuclear armed India and China are on increase with passing days.
India has around 3488 km long border with China, most of which is disputed between these nuclear armed neighbours. A summarized explanation of disputed borders and areas is shown in following figure.
The area of current flare ups, Doklam, is shown in the following map:
The episode of current clash started in mid June when China tried to construct a road in its disputed area with Bhutan i.e. Doklam. That disputed pocket is under Chinese control and it doesn’t have any land contact with India. India, perceived this as an unacceptable change to the status quo with potentially serious strategic ramifications. Indian Army jumped into the picture and trespassed into the area. No bullet was fired but eyeball-eyeball encounter and jostling happened. Indian Army stopped China from building road and People’s Liberation Army bulldozed Indian Bunkers. It is strange thing that besides many other reasons, 1962 Sino-Indian war, also, erupted on the issue of a road construction in Aksai Chin area then.
India has taken the stance that It has intervened into the issue on the request of Thimphu. India is not willing to leave Bhutan’s territory and China has set a precondition for Dialogue that Indian troops must leave the Chinese controlled border area.
Chinese media has lashed out at India. Chinese media said a “third party’s army could enter Kashmir” at the behest of Pakistan government, considering “India’s logic” to obstruct Chinese military from constructing a road on Doklam area in the Sikkim sector at Bhutan’s request.
This cautionary was given by a prominent Chinese think-tank analyst Long Xingchun, who is a director at the Centre for Indian Studies at China West Normal University. An article written by him for the state-run media Global Times lists his arguments criticizing India’s stance at the disputed border region.
The commentary added another dimension to the face-off by bringing in the Ladakh region and linking it to Pakistan, China’s “iron brother” ally.
“India should not regard the existing situation as the same as or even similar to the previous two standoffs in 2013 and 2014 near Ladakh, a disputed area between China, Pakistan and India in southeastern Kashmir. Diplomatic efforts led the troop’s frictions there to a well-arranged end. But this time it is a totally different case,” it added.
It is rare for China to call Ladakh a “disputed” region and make a reference to Kashmir.
“India has repeatedly ignored China’s call for pulling its border-crossing troops from Doklam area back to its own territory. However, turning a deaf ear to China will but worsen the month-long standoff and put itself further into embarrassment,” the commentary said.
Though Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj has claimed that Border standoff between India and China hasn’t escalated further but amid the ongoing stand-off with Indian Army in the Doklam, China held an ‘11-hour military drill’ close to the borders of Arunachal Pradesh. With China flexing muscles, Indian Army test fires howitzer guns at Pokhran. There is perception in Chinese media that India must be taught a bitter lesson just like 1962 Sino-Indian War. If India remains stubbornly adhered to its current stance then it may have to face second episode of “Himalayan Blunder”.
Jawad Akram is an Islamabad based International Affairs Analyst.
He has done Masters in International Relations.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @Jawad5677