The Indian army’s firing of shots, the first time it has happened in more than four decades in a border region between China and India, is an extremely dangerous act and set a vile precedent that broke the traditional tacit understanding by both sides of not using firearms, Chinese experts said, noting that the risk of accidentally sparking another conflict is getting higher.
As the standoff enters its fourth month, already much longer than the 73-day Doklam standoff in 2017, the latest Indian provocation also showed the country’s desperation, as it is hoping to gain more bargaining chips at the negotiation table and end the months-long standoff in its favor as soon as possible, as winter is approaching and the South Asian country is struggling to provide sufficient logistical support to frontline troops for winter, while also facing increasing pressure from its domestic COVID-19 epidemic and border issues with Pakistan, analysts said.
The Indian troops crossed the LAC at the western section of the China-India border into the Shenpao mountain region near the southern bank of Pangong Tso Lake, said Senior Colonel Zhang Shuili, a spokesperson of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Western Theater Command, in a statement released on Tuesday.
During its operation, the Indian army outrageously fired warning shots at Chinese border defense patrol personnel who were attempting to negotiate, which is a serious military provocation and is very vile in nature, and the Chinese border defense troops were forced to take countermeasures to stabilize the situation, Zhang said.
Citing a source in the Indian government, India Today confirmed the situation and claimed that the Chinese soldiers fired at Indian positions first.
This is the first recorded instance of firing on the India-China border since 1975, India Today said, adding that shots were also fired during the August 31 event.
India broke the tacit understanding of not using firearms over the past four decades, and set a vile precedent that will leave extremely great danger for the situation to develop, Qian Feng, director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute of Tsinghua University in Beijing, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
Both sides had exercised great restraint in using firearms, and China upholds the principle of not firing the first shot, Qian said.
“India maybe only fired warning shots into the sky this time, but now you cannot rule out the possibility of its troops shooting at people next time,” Qian said, noting that China is sure to take countermeasures in an orderly way, but the event is very worrying.
Indian media claimed that China fired first, which is immoral and disgusting, and could be a move to irresponsibly shift the blame to China, analysts said.
The latest Indian provocation came only days after the defense ministers of China and India met on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting in Moscow, Russia on Friday, with Chinese State Councilor and Minister of National Defense Wei Fenghe expressing China’s firm determination to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said at the time that India hopes the two sides will adopt a responsible attitude, fully disengage frontline forces as soon as possible, avoid taking measures that may escalate or complicate the situation, and avoid turning divergence into confrontations so as to bring bilateral military relations back to the right track as soon as possible.
The Indian side’s move seriously violated related agreements reached by both sides, stirred up tensions in the region, and could easily cause misunderstandings and misjudgments, said Zhang.
Compared to the border standoff with China, India’s border standoff with Pakistan is more serious and has more chain reactions, and India does not possess the military strength to confront both China and Pakistan with high intensity in multiple sectors at the same time, analysts said.
India fears that if the standoff continues, it will not be able to handle the huge pressure, so it desperately wants to disengage as soon as possible, Qian said, noting that despite this, India still wants to boost its interests through negotiations.
On August 31, Indian troops illegally crossed the LAC at the southern bank of Pangong Tso Lake and near Reqin Mountain pass. This latest event makes the southern bank of the lake the latest flashpoint, analysts said.
Qian said that this region was not previously a focus of the border issue, but India now clearly wants to expand the disputed areas to win more bargaining chips in negotiating with China, in the hope that China will meet India’s demands in locations like the northern bank of the Pangong Tso, where China holds the advantage.
Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said he might meet Chinese State Counselor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Moscow during a meeting of the SCO member states’ foreign ministers in Moscow on September 10, Indian media Hindustan Times reported.
Chinese experts said that India’s mentality of promoting talks with pressure has not changed, and the latest event showed the trend of pushing for talks with force. Some people in India wishfully think the situation is under control, but in the end, they could be lifting rocks but only to drop them on their own feet.
Zhang said that China demands the Indian side immediately stop its dangerous moves, withdraw personnel who crossed the LAC at once, strictly control frontline troops, seriously investigate and punish the personnel who fired the provocative shot and ensure similar incidents do not take place again.
Gaining footholds on some of the highlands could give the Indian troops some short-term tactical advantages, but these will mean nothing if India cannot continue its logistical support for winter, or if India goes too far and the PLA becomes determined to solve the problem by force, as these regions can be easily won back if the PLA troops obtain permission to use firearms, a PLA veteran who served in Northwest China’s Gobi desert told the Global Times on condition of anonymity.
India should stop its provocation at once if it does not want to taste the power of the PLA again, the veteran said, noting that contrary to what Indian media would like to lead Indian people to believe, the PLA holds the overwhelming advantage in almost all aspects, including personnel, equipment, tactics and strategies.
According to a recent survey launched by the Global Times and China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, 57.1 percent of participants do not believe the Indian military poses a threat to China, and 49.6 percent of them believed that the Indian economy is heavily reliant on China.
The PLA Western Theater Command troops will firmly fulfil their duties and missions and resolutely safeguard national territorial sovereignty, Zhang said.
China has been exercising restraint and showing goodwill, but India has only mistakenly seen this as weakness, analysts said, noting that China should stop concealing its strategies and capabilities and release clear and strong signals, as it has done everything called for by humanity and duty to India.