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Has India Captured ‘Higher Grounds’ in the Stand-off Against Aggressor China?

Pangong Tso area of Ladakh

All the recent media reports indicate that India is now in control of strategic heights in the Pangong Tso area of Ladakh where the Communist Chinese aggression has led to the current stand-off. As far as the Communist Chinese allegations of India opening fire is concerned, the Ministry of Defence has issued an official statement which not only rejects these allegations but also notes that it is the Chinese soldiers who opened fire.

A week before, it had been widely reported quoting sources that the special forces of the Indian Army has occupied the strategic heights adjacent to Pangong Tso lake. The brave act and the supreme sacrifice of Vikas Battalion or Special Frontier Forces soldier Nyima Tenzin corroborates the event that took place.

All these indicate that India is acting with a degree of strong affirmation against the Chinese aggression.

From Viewing Chinese Aggression as ‘Acne’ to Affirmative Action, A Sea of Change

Contrast the present reported situation in Ladakh to a similar situation back in 2013. That time, the government of the day engaged in an endless parley with the Communist Chinese and tried to lower the gravitas of the situation by terming it as a mere acne.

This time around though, India kept all options open. It continues to engage with the Chinese through talks, but has also heightened military preparations. In the words of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who visited Nimu, Ladakh some months back – “We are the people who worship Lord Krishna who plays the flute. We are also the same people who follow Sudarshan Chakradhari Krishna as an ideal.” The statement in no uncertain terms conveyed the world what India is up to.

India’s Commanding Height, Figuratively as Well

Some newspaper reports such as this one in The Sunday Guardian have detailed the story of India’s capture of the great strategic heights, quoting various sources. If this represents the story in literal sense, there are things to indicate that India clearly has an upper hand in the conflict situation in the recent scheme of things.

India’s mountain warfare capabilities are well recognized, even by adversaries. None other than a Chinese Think Tank had said a few months back that India has the largest, most experienced mountain army in the world. Latest media reports that are claiming that India surprised the Chinese troops by occupying contested heights are validating this observation. It is to be recalled that in October 2019, Indian army conducted Operation Him Vijay, a war-exercise, involving Mountain Strike Corps.

China is now facing a double whammy with the Malacca Dilemma. India traditionally had control over the narrow but vital Malacca strait on which China is dependent for its major supply. Ever since the Modi government came to power, there are many further developments strengthening India’s position in this regard. India now has naval entries in Singapore and Indonesia, and major powers like the US, Japan, Australia have joined hands with India to safeguard the strategic interests in Indo-Pacific region.

Infrastructure development and air power capabilities means there can be no repeat of 1962. Analysts opine that China thought it could fatigue India by embroiling into endless discussions, and as the winter approaches India will find it difficult to maintain its supply line. However, India in the recent years has improved its border infrastructure dramatically. Also, with the arrival of Rafale, though only five in numbers, it changes the conflict scenario to an extent. Any fighter jet that takes of from China has to think about what it can do if a Rafale from India engages them. The well-spread air bases near Himalaya and the Advanced Landing Grounds near LAC have increased India’s capacity to many folds in recent years.

China may produce any volume of propaganda through its state-controlled media screeching the terrible consequences for India in case a conflict breaks out, or how big China’s economy is compared to India etc. For now though, it seems that India has done quietly what suits its interests and gained the upper hand.