Chinese soldiers have pitched their tents deep inside India’s Depsang Valley in Ladakh.
This time, Chinese soldiers have pitched their tents deep inside India’s Depsang Valley in Ladakh. While New Delhi calls it incursion, Beijing denies it, saying that their troops are well within its own territory.
Admittedly, the Indo-Chinese border is not well demarcated with China still claiming as its own large parts of India’s border areas.
Territory dispute apart, China and India have had several diplomatic tiffs since 1962, when Chinese soldiers walked (walked, because there was literally no resistance on the part of an ill-prepared India) into India and occupied parts of it.
The attack coincided with the Cuban missile crisis, when the two Super Powers, the USA and USSR, locked into a dangerous missile game in Cuba could not pay attention to any other part of the world.
Later, China announced a unilateral ceasefire and withdrew from Indian territories.
Observers then felt that an immediate provocation for the Chinese invasion could have been India’s grant of asylum to the Tibetan religious head, Dalai Lama. He and a band of his trusted followers escaped from Tibet in 1959 – following a Tibetan uprising against Chinese invasion of the plateau — and literally trudged into India, seeking shelter and asylum.
New Delhi not only gave them that, but also allowed them to establish their headquarters in the northern Indian hill town of Dharamshala. It still exists.
The Tibetan question has been an irritant between the two neighbours. Although there is an explicit understanding between New Delhi and the Dalai Lama that he will not use his headquarters for political purposes, Beijing has raised objections several times in the past to what it perceives as the spiritual heads forays into political activities using Dharamshala as a base.
Unfortunately, Indo-Chinese ties have never been as warm as they appeared to be before the 1962 border skirmish. There were hundreds of Chinese immigrants in India, especially in cities such as Kolkata. They were dentists, beauticians, shoemakers and restaurateurs.
What is more, they were very popular with Indians and highly respected for their skills.
But after 1962, many of them sensing a growing hostility among locals, left India for countries like Canada and Australia.
Today, with India and China competing for a primary position in the world economic order, a new kind of tension between them seems to be brewing.
China’s latest intrusion in Ladakh lends itself to a suspicion that Beijing, emboldened by its economic prowess, is beginning to expect that its neighbours behave like “vassal states”.
On Wednesday, Chinese military helicopters flew over Indian air space dropping food packets, cigarettes cartons and hand-written notes in what is being viewed in New Delhi as a brazen act of defiance.
Coming as it does barely two months ahead of the newly installed Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to India, this may well pose one of the severest diplomatic tests for India.
It must be said here that New Delhi must put its foot down and remind Beijing that such adventures across the border does not augur well for either of them, engaged as they are in an extremely serious economic pursuit – that of making Asia incredibly superior.
Gautaman Bhaskaran is India Editor of FMT, and Chennai-based author, columnist and movie critic. He may be emailed at [email protected]