The loftily named Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs has met four times since the Chinese initiated Ladakh crisis on 19 April 2020. The respective Corps Commanders have met five times, and are likely to meet again; lower down the military chain, Division and Brigade Commanders many times more. The two Special Representatives, as well as the Foreign Ministers, spoke at least a couple of times. None of these interactions have had any influence on the Chinese leadership to restore the boundary status quo as it existed in April 2020. This, thus, means there is only one option–non-military option left.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has met Chinese President Xi Jinping 18 times since 2014; more interactions than he has had with any other foreign leader. The effusive warmth displayed during the meetings, whether on a swing in Ahmedabad; in Wuhan or last in Mahabalipuram less than a year ago would no doubt have given him a greater insight into the thinking that has gone behind the 2020 Chinese intrusions. India can benefit from his multiple meetings, but for as things stand, Chinese troops have made no signs of withdrawing to their original positions. New Delhi’s hyperactive spin doctors sought to convince Indians that disengagement was underway. But it never happened.
The Government of India has tried to sway Indian thinking into believing ‘all is well’. But it isn’t, and nobody knows that more than the people on the ground. Former J&K Minister for Cooperatives and Ladakh Affairs, Chering Dorjay, has declared that unless India restored status quo ‘there will no end’ to China occupying more land. He was the president of Ladakh BJP until recently. Ladakhi shepherds have been complaining about grazing lands having shrunk. Clearly pointing to a very disquieting feature of Indian governance, wherein perceptions on the ground are at stark variance with how the government would like the country at large to believe.
Intrusions have been caused by Chinese troops violating an understood principle on border management. The intrusions can only be evicted when the Chinese withdraw to original positions. They can’t be ousted by making India believe there is no crisis, for there is a severe calamity facing the country, and it can’t be brushed under the carpet, even if the PM is chary of naming China. The catastrophe is multitudinous, from the local to the larger military message of not retaliating, regional to the international suggestion that India doesn’t have the stomach to fight for its land, and the most important of all, New Delhi is more keen on a spin than a lasting solution.
When transparency has taken a toss, and India responded along predicted ways, China will sit as it had long planned, for 18 meetings have indicated to Beijing that the Government of India believes it is the fount of all knowledge, and nothing preceded it. Wangdung, Sumdorong Chu, 1986, Exercise Falcon and Exercise Chequerboard are essentials of inherited military knowledge. But in the current scheme of things, inheritance is selective, just as information dissemination is also discriminatory. As a result this will be the first government in independent India to give up its land without putting up a fight.