By Nitya Chakraborty
The five point formula agreed at the two hour talks between the two foreign ministers of India and China on Thursday night in Moscow amidst heightening tensions in Ladakh border, has come as a ray of hope in working on some arrangement to avert any bloody confrontation between the opposing troops of the two neighbours in the mountainous region. The most positive aspect is that the mentioned points of action are very practical and they can be implemented in practice provided the two governments move with trust and, the lack of which is at the root of the aggravation of the tensions on the border.
The moot issue at this moment is disengagement of the troops of India and China from the points which are outside the designated areas of the LAC (Line of Actual Control).In the last few days, the status quo that was prevailing before April this year had been violated and as usual, both the sides blamed each other for the violation. For the first time in the last forty five years, fires were shot, though in air, without killing anybody but this development itself that the troops on both sides are ready with firearms which can be used following any provocation, negates the very basis of the understanding which was for long at LAC areas of the border, no firearms will be used.
The increase in tensions in the five months coincided with the spread of pandemic covid -19 and though China, the originator of the virus, has managed the situation in the initial weeks, but the threat remains and it is having impact on its economy also, though in a small measure compared to India and the other countries. China has shown a smaller growth rate of just more than 3 per cent in the April-June 2020 period whereas India’s GDP contraction rate was 23.8 per cent. The first quarter was the worst period because of continuous lock down, but even then, the virus continues to surge in India and the experts say that India will be number one in terms of infections in the third week of October this year surpassing the USA which is topping the global chart at present. Already should continue dialogue, India is number one in terms of daily infections and daily death rate.
So there is a twin disaster facing India at the moment- the surging of covid in an exponential manner and the collapse of the economy. This is not an appropriate time to get involved in a confrontation which may finally lead to a war. Even a limited war at this period of Indian economy bringing unprecedented agony to the common people. So the situation demands the exploration of all possible options to avert a full scale confrontation with China and work for a workable solution. The process is not one sided, it depends on Chinese leadership’s perception about its role in the Indian Ocean region and Asia in general and how it sees India as a competitor. This is a long term war of attrition between the two powerful neighbours and this will continue, but even within this, ways have to be found out for peace and tranquility on the borders by making use of the formula which has been arrived at in Moscow.
According to the five point formula, the two ministers agreed that both sides should take guidance from the series of consensus of the leaders of the developing India-China relations, including not allowing differences to become disputes. This is a broad understanding but the second point is most specific and that meets the exigencies of the situation. This says that the two ministers agreed that the current situation in the border areas is not in the interest of either side. They agreed that the border troops of both sides should continue their dialogue, disengage and maintain proper distance to ease tensions.
This is the most important part of the formula which has to be activated right now. The India-China border dispute is as old as the coming of communist China in 1949.The only thing was that the issue was not given any prominence until the Dalai Lama issue cropped up in late 1950’s and the India-China war took place in October 1962. The disputes are long term and this will require continuous efforts at high political level. The solution depends on many complex issues. That process can wait as has been the case for decades since 1962, But for short and medium term, the tensions on border can be avoided through disengagement and keeping safe distance between the troops.
The Indian mainstream media is floating the idea, especially the TV channels that India has occupied all the mountain tops giving the Indian army big advantageous position and if any war starts now, India will beat the Chinese in Ladakh border hollow. The senior army people are claiming that Indian army can fight in two fronts, both against China and Pakistan. It does not suit the army seniors to talk in the manner of political leaders. India should make all its preparations in a silent manner and show its mettle when the time comes. Continuous boasting of the Indian capability, which is the norm these days, does not speak well facilitating the process of dialogue and disengagement. War is not a child’s play and the talks should not be made lightly. The war for India is the last option if it is thrust on the country but all efforts will have to be made to avoid in the interests of 1.38 billion people.
The five point Moscow formula has given a lifeline for restoring some peace on the India-China border. Let us seize this opportunity and make all efforts to get it workable. The Narendra Modi government has a duty to try for optimum use of the formula and the nation as a whole, should welcome his efforts in this direction. This is the only way. (IPA Service)