“In a historic move, India has sent 50,000 additional troops to the Chinese border,” Bloomberg said in a 27 June article, citing unnamed sources in India. It added that India had now amassed a total of about 200,000 troops on the India-China border, a 40 percent increase over last year. The veracity of this information is not yet ascertained. The Indian government declined to comment on it. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on 28th that the current situation on the Sino-Indian border is generally stable and the two sides are resolving the relevant border developments through negotiations. In this context, the words, actions and military deployments of the relevant military and political officials should be conducive to de-escalating the situation and cooling it down, and to enhancing mutual trust between the two sides, rather than the other way around.
The Bloomberg report said that since the deadliest India-China border conflict in decades last year, India’s Modi government has been seeking to de-escalate tensions with arch-rival Pakistan and has focused mainly on confronting China. “India has moved troops and multiple squadrons of warplanes to three different India-China border areas in recent months, four sources familiar with the situation said.” Previously, India’s presence on the border was mainly to deter Chinese action, but the surge gives Indian commanders more options, including attacking and capturing territory against China if necessary, a strategy he called “offensive defence”, according to one source.
It is unclear how many Chinese troops are deployed along the border, the report said. “The immediate concern is that any miscalculation could lead to a serious conflict between India and China”. Hooda, an Indian lieutenant general and former commander of the northern army, told Bloomberg that “it is dangerous for either side to have so many soldiers when the border management agreement has broken down.”
“The troop reinforcement is part of the negotiation process,” was how some experts interpreted the move on the Indian side. “In military negotiations, both sides have to let each other know that they have the will and resources to continue the conflict, even as they try to reach an agreement,” Joshi, an Indian military expert at the National University of Singapore’s Institute of South Asian Studies, was quoted by Deutsche Welle as having said on 28 June. “The Indian military believes that when they negotiate with Beijing they have to be savvy, so this could lead India to take a more offensive approach to control on the border so long as negotiations are not yet concluded”. Bloomberg, for its part, quoted Indian experts as saying that despite India’s strategic shift and troop movements, China will still have the upper hand along the border. The “economic and military asymmetry between India and China will continue for a long time, and India still has a long way to go to reduce it.”
Qian Feng, a researcher and director of the research department of the National Institute of Strategic Studies at Tsinghua University, told the Huan Qiu Shi Bao on 28 June that the Bloomberg report itself was not very credible, and that the key details of the figures it listed were vague. The fact that the Indian Army has more than one million men in total and deploys a certain percentage of its forces in the border area is already a well-known fact, not something that has come to be known only now. The report is more like a pastiche of facts unconnected to each other, with the aim of continuing to stir up tensions along the Sino-Indian border. In recent times, India has still not emerged from the second wave of the epidemic, and in the absence of any significant change in the situation at home and abroad, a troop deployment of this scale is both militarily unnecessary and, in practice, would greatly disrupt and undermine the Indian army’s ongoing epidemic prevention efforts.
Anonymous analysts told the Global Times that it has been more than a year since the India-China border standoff, and despite eleven rounds of talks between the two sides at the level of military chiefs, India has failed to achieve its desired goal of “restoring the status quo that prevailed before the standoff last year”, and the Modi government has come under greater pressure from the opposition and public opinion as a result. India therefore needs to take advantage of the current window to reiterate its “tough stance” and regain its lost points, but with a tacit agreement between the two sides to “engage in peaceful dialogue and not let the situation escalate out of control”, negotiations are still the way forward. The government’s response to the crisis has been to make it clear that it is not a problem.
(Based on a report in Bloomberg. The original report can be seen here.)