Shekhar //

Indo-China border conflict has again flared up and caught attention of the whole world. People with saner minds are worried with every information of increasing military concentrations on both sides of the border in and around Galwan Valley[1] in Ladakh. We here in India can confirm that jingoism is on the rise and spiraling with hype in ‘Boycott Chinese Product’ slogan ever since 16th June, 2020, the day when the news of sacrifice of 20 Indian Jawans, the sons of peasants and workers, first came. With both India and China being nuclear powers and big nations occupying important places in world’s modern military capabilities, any eventuality of such a border conflict escalating into military confrontation as is evident now poses a big threat to peace not only in this region but in the whole Indian subcontinent. Progressive forces and all those who are opposed to fascist oppression and exploitation must be careful enough not to add fuel to fire in the name of doing down Modi’s regime or in the garb of making look Modi small and stupid. Rather, they must come forward and try to mobilize all and themselves and try to put a brake on any possibility of a new border war. Such a war at this juncture will go heavily against common people who are already pushed in abysmal penury and are facing worst economic situation owing to unprecedented unemployment and loss of livelihood. It is incumbent upon all of us and the whole society to protest against any attempt to further worsen the situation on the border. We must not forget that those who die on the border are mostly the sons of those peasants and toilers who are already dying in economic hardships. We must say, border wars useless as they don’t solve, rather, complicate the border issues.   

Who attacked first and why, what exactly led to the brutal killing of 20 Indian Jawans and capture of 10 more, who intruded into whose territory when and where, what exactly is the present status of LAC etc. are just the few most nagging questions pertaining to fresh violent clash on Indo-China border whose exact answers satisfying both sides may never be possible to come. Even a world war fought on this may not solve these questions and resolve the dispute once and for ever. This is typical of all border disputes all over the world. Such disputes can only be amicably resolved through mutually respectful, transparent, honest and open dialogue without any prejudice between aggrieved partners in which keeping their own people well informed and allowing them to freely participate in the opinion making process is the key to a successful dialogue. Resorting to aggressive posture and stance to pressurize each other or to unilaterally break mutually agreed agreements on not using firearms and shooting each other army personnel in border skirmishes along LAC will certainly lead to military confrontation and war that will not resolve rather complicate the issue to a point of no return as it did in 1962. This will also provide opportunity to other powers to meddle and fish in troubled water. In addition to this, once aggressive war hysteria is created and is deeply rooted in the masses over a border issue, it often becomes very difficult in future to get rid of this even for those who create and ride over this.     

At the moment, the truth is too far away to prevail and win. Almost two months have passed since the first news of fresh skirmishes on May 5-6 between Indian and Chinese troops near Pangong lake in Galwan valley had first arrived. Since then, the shrouds of clouds concealing the truth with respect to reasons and factors responsible for this and the more serious ones that later led to brutal killing of 20 Indian personnel in the night of June 15 at Patrol Point (PP) 14 are still persisting. However, China’s claims of reasons and factors responsible for this clash are above board and are being quite openly propagated with Chinese daily The Global Times blaming ‘arrogance and recklessness of the Indian side for the consistent tension on the border.’ On the other hand, Indian government, at least in the beginning and except till MEA’s statement on 25th June 2020, chose to limit itself to confirming that no one has ever intruded, no intrusion has occurred, and no Indian posts have been captured.

But, on the other hand, amidst rising tensions and military mobilization from both sides on Indo-China border in eastern and northern Ladakh, Indian Media has gone all gaga while hyping and celebrating ‘boycott of Chinese products’ slogan in the garb of clamoring for nationalism. This may and will further increase distrust between the two countries and in no way, help solve the border issues. No one must fall prey to such media’s bragging that is done with a very limited purpose to increase their TRP by appeasing orchestrated nationalist feelings and sentiments. Even if this slogan works, it won’t hurt China’s economy as much as it will India’s. These diversionary tactics has though become a yearly routine sans any impact. Whenever media wishes to divert people’s attention from a real problem and any government failure, it uses this tactic and propagates this slogan day and night to make up for the loss of faith on government owing to such failures. However, despite all these, the trade between India and China has been continuously expanding to an extent that it has led to India’s huge trade deficit (of almost tens of billions). India imports 14% of her total volume from China (though for China, it comprises only 3% of its total exports) for the most obvious reason of their cost-effectiveness which is very high as compared to the West or even to India. Among other things such as, high volume of production, the rate of exploitation of workers in China is very high and because of this she is able to produce commodities at cheaper and competitive costs. India cannot produce the same commodities at the same cost and price at the given rate of workers’ exploitation. Though Indian government is reportedly planning to clamp higher trade barriers and impose increased import duties on 300 Chinese products, yet this is a fact that the growth of profit of MSMEs and other sector depends on cheap imports from China. Small parts, equipment of machineries and other raw materials imported from China are comparatively immensely cheaper. Quality wise also, they are at least not worthless, otherwise none would have imported them. For its pharma sector, India imports 80% of its total requirement of raw materials used in preparing medicines, called API (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients), from China. For certain life-saving medicines like cephalosporins, azithromycin, and penicillin, the dependency on such imports is as high as 90%. The range of products imported is very large, from mobile phone, lamps, ceramics, toys, series bulbs, crackers to suitcase, and what not. Not only that, Modi government has offered almost every profitable tender from road, highway and dam constructions to artifact, sculpture and tourism development to Chinese companies that offer a high margin of return to their Indian Masters. China’s GDP is five times that of India who incurs heavy debt every year from China. In such a situation, how and on what basis India’s media, the chief war monger in the present time, clamors so much to sanction China’s economy is either a mystery or a laughable stuff. Just imagine that even in the midst of all such hue and cry, many Chinese companies (along with Huawei, Xiaomi, Oneplus and Oppo) are being reported to have continued to donate crores of rupees to PM CARES. Anti-China debates are run on channels along with Vivo’s advertising headlines. India’s most pampered sports cricket and its topmost body BCCI have long term contracts with Chinese companies. Even after so many days of media’s bragging, no news of any TV channel having torn the contract paper has come. Nor the PM CARES has sent the donated money back or BCCI has taken any decision to disapprove its contracts!      

China has been openly speaking in the clearest possible manner on the reasons why such violent clashes took place and also about her intentions and plans. According to China, as reported in The Global Times on 17th June, ‘New Delhi has adopted a tough stance on border issues’ and also that ‘India has been building extensive infrastructure facilities along the border and forcibly built part of the facilities in the Chinese side of LAC.’ Thus, China has put the blame squarely on India for this clash. China has also categorically blamed India for having been wooed by the US with its Indo-Pacific Strategy to spearhead attack on China and because of such US’s provocative plans India is taking tough and aggressive posture on border issues. The Global Times writes that ‘the Us has wooed India with its Indo-Pacific Strategy…These concepts dominated by the US implicitly target China, and Washington needs a country like India to spearhead attacks on China.” It further writes that ‘no ties between India and other countries can take the place of India-China relations. New Delhi can never unilaterally resolve the border disputes with Beijing.’

On the other hand, from the very beginning of this fresh episode of disturbances on the border, Modi government maintained a deliberate and stunning silence saying everything is good and fine. After June 15 violent clash that claimed the lives of 20 Indian Jawans, it still kept its mouth shut giving no answer as to why this fatal clash occurred if everything was good and fine. Even on the day of All Party Meeting held on 19th June, what the prime minister said or summed up was ambiguous and did in no way remove the cloak of mysteries that surrounds the June 15 tragic incident, let alone removing the dust from the whole Indo-China fresh border disturbances that erupted in April-May and first drew attention on 5-6th May. Modi government continuously only just assured that they were normal things and nothing serious was happening.

Why the Indian government tried to hide things in such a way is however not very difficult to understand. There are many reasons of this silence. For example, an open and above-board disclosure of this bloody clash may have the possibility and potentiality of hurting Modi’s image of a Super Man. That’s why it tried to hide the number of casualties and even those who were seriously wounded and captured in June 15 clash. Later, under pressure it accepted but with a rider that they sacrificed their lives while killing a far bigger number, almost double, of Chinese troops consisting of their senior officers, too. Ex-Army Chief, who is also a minister, even claimed that Chinese personnel were also captured and released just Indian personnel were. This proved to be a complete lie in a debate on a TV channel. Prior to this, the Government continuously as said above tried to deny even the existence of any serious tension built up in eastern Ladakh region. Finally, as expected, it became impossible to hide anything anymore. Many retired army veterans, as also many independent observers and experts, through open source intelligence based on the study of satellite images have been publicly and constantly criticizing the government for all these unnecessary coverings and all its acts of omissions and commissions. Under this pressure and also when the information of further acts of China’s intrusion came, the government via Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) came out with a statement on 25th June accepting for the first time that “the situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) was much more serious than the routine clashes that take place between Indian and Chinese patrol teams.” Why Indian government took so much time in clarifying even this simple thing is a question that has no direct answer, though its reasons are quite obvious, within the ambit of general knowledge and understanding. The more they are suppressed, the more conspicuous and visible they become!

The popular historical view and perception about Indo-China border prevalent among the vast majority of Indian masses is that China since 1962 has captured and seized control of a lot of Indian territory and based on this an anti-China deep feeling and perception exists in India. No logic works here. No historical facts reign in this. In line with this perception, it is believed that China has again captured Indian territory in the last couple of months and recently at least in 4 places, 3 in eastern Ladakh (between finger 4 to 8, at hot spring and Pangong lake) and 1 in northern Ladakh regions (in Depsang[2] plains) as is being propagated vigorously by Congress as well as by a few Army Veterans. However, Modi government is still away from accepting this. It doesn’t mean that Modi and his supporters don’t share the above mentioned anti-Chinese perceptions. The reasons of denial here are different and obvious. Accepting loss of territory to China will blast his image and would make it urgent and incumbent upon Modi to go to war against China to take back those territories or else it will hurt his Super Man image very seriously and it will be impossible for him to survive with his laboriously built Avtaar image that speaks in public a language of nothing is impossible if Modi is in charge (Modi hai to mumkin hai). The option of going to Military war against China or at least to go for Pakistan like surgical strikes and further bolster his Super Man image is good for him to fasten his fascist rule, and he or his think tank would have surely thought over this, but, as everyone knows, it is never an easy option. Not only that, it is fraught with disastrous outcomes even when the US is on his side. That’s why he shied away from even directly taking the name of China even once either in his address in All Party Meet or Man Ki Baat. China is not only economically much stronger but also militarily a heavy weight, a superpower in her own capacity. Even if America vows to help India, Modi can’t hope for miracles. Indian ruling classes are rightly hesitant in going to war with China and taking every step with utmost care lest they know it will be disastrous. So even if it is true that China has taken over some territory of India (it is easy to assume this for two countries have different perceptions of LAC[3] and both know this), Modi or his government cannot accept it before they decide to go to war. So, only option left to his government is to flatly deny that any intrusion has taken place at all. If China is taking advantage of this, so it may. There is no other option, even if loses some ground to Congress on his own turf.

It seems as if Modi government is caught unaware in an unanticipated crisis. Indian ruling classes have been trying for long to become a superpower of a stature at least as equal as that of China. For this, they have been treading on a narrow but well calculated path that visualizes and aims at exploiting the contradictions between China, an emerging imperialist country and the US, the leader of the western imperialists though on the bane and downfall due to many reasons, by committing to strategic alliance with the US on the one hand,  and making all possible and necessary friendly economic and trade relationship with China for the sake of well-being of the Indian ruling classes on the other, and at the same time making extensive inroads on the borders to appease and further deepen the aggressive nationalist sentiments of the masses that they have themselves built over the years to hoodwink them, divert their attention and garner their support in their expansionist drive. We can find a leaf of this when Indian ruling classes, even amidst the present serious and to some extent a humiliating face off, have been announcing their claims even on Aksai chin in the name of different perceptions of border line. This reminds us of Nehru’s thousand-pound statement in the face ignominious defeat expressing resolve of fighting for even one thousand years against China over Aksai Chin. Perhaps, clandestine character of such advances (in terms of forward push by way of fast building infrastructure facilities, already a Chinese allegation that Modi and his men would appreciate and accept to prove his edge over Congress that did nothing to pursue the old Nehruvian forward policy) made during 6 years of Modi’s regime, and they accept this, for which they pat and are patting so strongly their own back and do everything to openly advertise it for winning applauds of the masses as against Congress which his supporters say has done nothing or done very little on the border. Now, with the unfolding of this fresh border episode, this seems to have completely backfired as China in retaliation has openly claimed sovereignty on the whole of Galwan and, as being reported widely through media, has built too many military structures across the LAC i.e. on the Indian side and thus openly challenged the strength of India. Perhaps, Modi government had no prior idea or estimation of such an eventuality and hence we are witnessing either his silence or very calculated and carefully well measured statements on this issue.                                   

So far as common people and general masses are concerned, they have to either believe the propaganda fueled and unleashed by Congress or the ones propelled by BJP and RSS and their government, while both are resorting to jingoism and ultra-nationalistic campaign in their own specific way. Congress being in opposition is loud and seems like roaring, whereas BJP being in power is subtle and exquisite. Naturally, both being representatives of big bourgeoisie are committed to hiding many things related to border disputes between India and China. There is no third source effectively reaching up to the masses. Third voice will not be allowed, either. When it comes to dealing with border issues, particularly with China and Pakistan, neither transparency of fact nor any sane (factual) logic is allowed. Masses are just enchanted on ultra-nationalistic lines, while ‘informed others’ are sought to forcefully toe the approach and reiterate facts put forward by the ruling classes, both ruling as well as opposition. This is the history. It was not allowed even during Nehru’s times. A complete adherence to nationalistic agenda and approach is sought in this regard, even though it may go contrary to reality and in the end contrary to even the interest of the Nation and its people.

This time, Congress is playing the BJP in making ultra-aggressive overtones on the June 15 incidents. Modi’s difficulty is that he has become victim of his own image. He is imprisoned in the cobweb that his own men and supporters have built around him. True or false, so much is he captive of his own superman image that he cannot accept that India under him can ever lose even an inch to China or Pakistan. Congress knows this and is using this as a plank to upset him. Rahul Gandhi knows too well, Modi cannot take the risk of going to war with China as of now. If Chinese troops have really made incursions into areas previously controlled or patrolled by Indian troops (take this in the light of different perceptions of LAC), then the continued denial of Modi will help and his helping China in legitimizing her claim logically that the so called India’s lost territory is China’s. It further helps consolidate her this claim also that the clash took place as Indian troops had trespassed on her side i.e. the other side of the LAC as perceived by China. Going through the Chinese media, one can see this happen. Modi is caught between Scylla and Charybdis.

The reports that are coming from different quarters and the response so far of the Modi government clearly indicate a complete mess. There are confusions all around on Indian side. No clear picture has come about what has happened and what is going to happen next, either from our government or from the Army. Army in a democratic country like India (if she is still one!) is never independent of the country’s political authority and its will. So, it is primarily the BJP government’s responsibility and not the Army’s to place a clear picture. Though wars are fought by armies, yet if India loses or wins a war or a territory, its responsibility goes to political authority. If every other day there is a report of another incursion or another structure coming up on the disputed site of the border, its prime responsibility lies with the government. The BJP’s skewed presentation of Army’s role must be rejected. The mess that has been created is due to government’s deliberate inaction and silence. This is deliberate as Modi government is otherwise too much shrill on such issues. One must not forget this same BJP that likes not to hear even one dissenting voice ever had sent a fact-finding team to the border in 2013 to know what exactly had happened.      

The latest information of intrusion is that Chinese troops have built a helipad on PP 14. Many Newspapers have been writing quoting anonymous Defence ministry sources that the situation continued to simmer in the Galwan Valley, Hot Springs and the Pangong Lake despite the corps commander level talks on June 22. They said the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had “dug in” and had so far not shown any signs of relenting or backing off from the areas that were once controlled by India. Tensions have now escalated on another front, too. Depsang Plains near Daulat Beg Oldie in northern Ladakh has been intruded where Chinese troops and tanks are said to have crossed the Line of Actual Control. Thus, since May and during all these days after June 15, what are being showcased by Modi government are mostly proved baseless and false. What MEA spokesperson has said on 25th June also confirms this. Even till yesterday, it was being reported that disengagement process was working well as diplomats were building up on military talks, though, the latest reported satellite images published in newspapers and magazines indicate fresh Chinese structures coming up in disputed areas. Intrusion in Depsang is supposed to be very serious as it is very close, just 20 to 30 km south east, to strategically important DOB, an important India’s airstrip. China may have aimed to disturb 3418 km long Darbuk Shiyok Daulat Beg Oldie Road that India has built for carrying supplies to army posts near Karakorum.

The whole apparatus seems to have been propelled to hide or at least under report the truth. Telegraph has exposed how even ANI tries to do this. The Telegraph writes: ”ANI, seen as pro-government, had in the afternoon tweeted that the Chinese had moved back some vehicles and troops at the Galwan Valley but a new tent that had come up near PP-14 where the June 15 clash occurred, was still there. Later, it deleted the tweet.” On 19th June, the Indian PM says that ”no one has intruded into our territory”, while it was in contradiction with what Foreign Ministry’s earlier statement i.e. that 20 Indian soldiers were killed by Chinese troops on Indian territory. A Defence Ministry official is quoted by The Telegraph saying, ”More talks between local commanders are being finalized to carry forward the corps commander level dialogue. So far they (Chinese troops) have been non-committal and have shown no signs of backing off from Indian’s side of the LAC.” One can imagine the extent of mess things on the border have been pushed into. Reports are being constantly fed into public domain that Chinese troops have captured territory across LAC and there is a very serious buildup of military personnel in the region from both sides. MEA spokesperson has also echoed the same thing in his 25th June statement saying, ‘since early May, the Chinese side has been amassing a large contingent of troops and armaments along the LAC.’ Though, when asked why, he sidestepped the question. What does it mean? It means that the government doesn’t want beyond giving a statement of general nature giving just few information. Government doesn’t want to irk or directly hit China fearing it may further escalate the tension. This seems good and reasonable but then the same government is resorting to war mongering on the ground through its agencies and organizations. This is a double pronged clandestine tactics that BPJ is pursuing. This may one day lead India and her people to a very precarious situation. 

On the other hand, it so seems that Chinese troops have been ordered to occupy all strategic positions in eastern as well as in northern Ladakh to pre-empt any sudden encirclement. This may have been fueled by India’s open commitment to the so-called value-based alliances and Asia-Pacific strategy propelled and orchestrated by the US. It is but sure that the US targets China through this. It may not be, however, out of place to mention here that China is itself on a long drawn ‘distant’ mission to ‘encircle the whole world’ by toppling America from his position of super most imperialist power of the Earth. But for this, at present she wants India on her side in spite of border disputes that she doesn’t want to get mismanaged beyond a point, though, at the same point, doesn’t naturally want to lose strategic initiatives on the border in lieu of India’s partnership, given India’s topmost proximity of Military interests guided geographical priorities particularly with the US and Israel along with the West including Japan. China’s statement after June 15 is a testimony to this. Till further times, China treats India as one of the most favorite trade partners. On the other hand, India under Modi has never shown any intentions to eschew his government’s deliberate effort to forge military alliances with America, the chief enemy of independence of all independent nations and people, as well as with the other western imperialism including Israel. This strategy may prove fatal for India as all other small and weak countries in our neighborhood as well as in the whole world fear America’s overbearing approach and if India goes completely to US’s side and risk misadventure by going to war with China, she will get isolated even from Sri Lanka, Bangla Desh and even Nepal where anti-India feelings are too strong due to big-brotherly and arm-twisting approach and attitude of Indian ruling classes, even though the people of both the countries have strong historical feeling of cultural, physical and civilizational togetherness and brotherhood. That is why such abnormal things have started happening all on a sudden now that didn’t happen before during all these long years since 1962 even when both had fought on borders in 1967 as well as 1975 in which serious casualties had occurred. Modi and his think tank know all this and is behaving according to this, unlike many’s belief, who would have expected him to act with a rash and recklessness. This again proves that fascists, though they may look like bunch of idiots, work behind the curtain with cold blooded calculations, till they are forced by unseen and unexpected circumstances to miscalculate and show belligerence.     

Why did the MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava on 20th June sidestep the key questions on the concrete plans of both China and India for de-escalation and why did he also duck the question ‘whether the Chinese had also made an ingress into the Depsang Plains?’, these all must be understood in the light of what has been said above.

The irony of the present situation for the people of India is that, on the one hand, we see that Modi government is too cautious to speak anything directly hitting China in its formal statement on June 15 bloody conflicts as well as in explaining the reasons or citing factors of freshly tensed realities on the border, even though in public based campaigns it is as usual perniciously committed to utilizing sacrifices made by the Military personnel on the border for rousing ultra-nationalistic sentiments and war mongering so as to woo people for votes. Government not only lies too much, but also conveniently twists and distorts facts and figures for garnering electoral support. On the other side, Congress is hell bent upon creating war hysteria among the people in the name of exposing inability of Modi government in properly handling the Indo-China border issue and in maintain territorial integrity. This is quite common to the ilk of all reactionary ruling classes that they either hide the whole truth or say just half-truths in order to further their own narrow ends. Both BJP and Congress, as true representatives of big bourgeoisie, the topmost layer of Indian ruling classes and a trusted partner of international bourgeoisie, are competing with each other in trying to corrupt and fill the minds of people with jingoistic emotions with the sole aim of diverting people’s attention away from their loot and plunder and in their own utter failures in every field, be it economy, corruption, prices control, black money, siphoning away of banks assets or about providing jobs, food, public education and health care facilities, shelters etc. for the people.

Let us repeat our resolve to expose this and fight for restoration of peace on the border and at the same time fight for our own demand of better and economically secured life.

Let us take a pledge to change this world order, as there is no remedy of war under the rule of bourgeoisie, decaying and moribund as never before.  

  • Say No To America’s Meddling In Our Border Disputes, Pursue A Policy Completely Independent Of The Us And The Other Imperialists
  • Reject Useless ‘Boycott Chinese Product’ Campaign, It Further Worsens The Mutual Distrust
  • Solve Border Disputes Through Transparent Bilateral Talks,
  • Provide Better And Economically Secured Life For All

[1] Galwan valley is a part of Aksai Chin and LAC is situated near it in eastern Ladakh. Actually, it separates Aksai Chin and Ladakh. For the Military, it is strategically important for both India and China because of mountains lying on both of its sides. Owing to this reason, it had become one of the main battle grounds in 1962 war, too.

[2] Depsang lies close to India’s Daulet Beg Oldie air strip as well as the recently built Darbuk Shiyok Daulet Beg Oldie road (3418 km) that also connects Karakoram.  If China occupies Depsang plains, it means China has acquired strength to disturb both, the airstrip as well as the road. India’s main aim in constructing this road is to carry fast and uninterrupted supplies to Karakoram Army posts. 

[3] China shares a long land boundary of 15106.7 km with seven countries – India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Bhutan. Out of this, she shares exclusively with India a land boundary of 3488 km. It is split into Western Sector comprising Jammu and Kashmir, Middle Sector comprising Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand and Eastern Sector comprising Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. She also shares a sea boundary of 7516.6 km with India as well as with other countries. Due to differences in perceptions, a clear marking of boundary between India and China has not been done yet. That’s why, both have adopted a line of actual control (LAC) in place distinct boundary or LOC.

[Some errors were present in the third point of the footnote of the given article at the time of publishing. Corrections for the same are given below:

India shares a long land boundary of 15106.7 km with seven countries – China, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Bhutan. Out of this, she shares exclusively with China a land boundary of 3488 km. It is split into Western Sector comprising Jammu and Kashmir, Middle Sector comprising Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand and Eastern Sector comprising Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. Due to differences in perceptions, a clear marking of boundary between India and China has not been done yet. That’s why, both have adopted a line of actual control (LAC) in place distinct boundary or LOC.]

Originally published in The Truth: Platform for Radical Voices of The Working Class (Issue 3/ July ’20)

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