Daulat Beg Oldie, A New Theatre of Chinese Power Play

Daulat Beg Oldi ( DBO), is the north eastern most corner of Ladakh, in the state of Jammu & Kashmir, India. DBO is a sensitive military post because of this geography. DBO is just  9 km northwest of the Aksai Chin Line of Actual Control (LAC) between China and India. In April 2013, a contingent of the Chinese Army intruded into Ladakh, India and set up camp approximately 18 km. inside of the Indian side of the LAC.

India has fought a war in 1962 and lost territory to China. Akshai Chin area, China has occupied post 1962 war (shown as red shaded area in the map). 

India considered the MacDonald line (shown as dotted line) to be the border between India and China. However, China did not accept that and occupied Akshai Chin. After cease fire in 1962 China proposed both sides move twenty KM away from LAC. However, LAC was kept ambiguous by the Chinese deliberately. India believes green line in the picture to be LAC, while China considers red line to be LAC.  Both parties often intrude into each other’s area but do not stay back. At this time, China has erected tents on Indian side of the red line that India considers her territory. In response, India has also brought in army and camped eye ball to eye ball to Chinese army men in the same area. According to dipolmats, China never showed interest to discuss border issues clearly. This may be a deliberate ploy to keep the issue ambiguous and unsettled. This tactics may be in line with long term strategic Chinese military doctorine. 

According to which, Chinese army will apply pressure by precipitating a limited war like situation and forcing the enemy to discussion table. Such a strategy is discussed in by Narashima Rao (1).
Many people have criticised Indian response to Chinese incursion as passive and weak.  Much smaller countries like Vietnam had fought war with China on territorial issue. Recently, Japan had mobilised fighter planes in response to Chinese aggression on a disputed island on South China Sea. By contrast, our foreign minister  claimed intrusion was a localised issue and will be resolved soon. Our prime minister proclaimed, India has a plan. However, he never elaborated his plan. Meanwhile, three flag meetings between area commanders yielded nothing, because it was in all certainty being controlled from Beijing army head quarter. 
However, in reality Indian options beyond diplomacy are limited. Post 1962, China had developed infrastructure to support their war machine by building motorable roads, railway tracks along border. All these developments would give Chinese advantage of rapid mobilisation and deployment if they so desire. By contrast, India being a passive and defence oriented country, did not build adequate infrastructure along the Line of Actual Control. It is assessed that if India wants to respond to Chinese occupation in DBO sector, it will take India more than 15 days to bring a battalion. Chinese can do the same in 3 days. Of late, India has woken up and started building infrastructure along LAC. Besides, close alliance of India with United States have even irked Chinese. DBO being very close to Karokoram highway, Chinese assess that India can monitor their troop movement in the area. So they wanted to dismantle Indian infrastructure in the area.  It emerged that Chinese are demanding that India destroy military infrastructure India built on her side. Predictably, India has refused the proposition and the impasse continues. 

It is noteworthy that in last 50 years the border between India and China has remained calm. Is it because mutual restraint, goodwill , maturity or imbalance at ground level is difficult to pinpoint. Emergence of India as a major economic player in the world stage, has created oppurtunity for trade between two countries. India is a big market for Chinese manufactured goods. Present president of China is likely to visit India soon, it is his first foreign visit after taking charge. Analysts like Joe Gandelman (2), consider this to be significant because it implies China gives a lot of importance to India. It is also believed that President is engaged in a tussle with army in the political structure of China. While President wants business and good relationship, generals want to fulfill their agenda of bringing India to negotiation table on border dispute like Arunachal or Indian position on Tibet,  by forcing issue at DBO sector. It is also assumed that Chinese want to settle issues before India bolsters her border infrastructure.

Although, India has not many options at this time, it is important that she wakes up and starts to build infrastructure along border. We cannot be treated so ignominously time and again. Yes, we must settle issues by dialog and diplomacy. However, sometimes we need the defend what is ours, by force if the enemy undestands that language. What good is world’s third largest army, world’s fourth largest economy, one billion plus population, if we cannot defend our borders!

As of 5th May, 2013 both Chinese and Indian troops have agreed to move out of eye ball to eye ball faceoff at DBO sector. It is a welcome relief. However, nation must know what India had to sacrifice to persuade Chinese to vacate occupied territory. Rumor has it that India has agreed to dismantle a strategic infrastructure in Chumur sector in Ladakh. This outpost was useful to Indian army to oversee movement of Chinese troops on Karokoram highway.

1. NarasimhaRao10  Ladakh and the War Zone Campaign Doctrine of China 

2. JoeGandelman: China-India spat signals Beijing’s tensions with generals | The Moderate Voice http://t.co/QzLik9Dfxl via @po_st

3. “China’s India Land Grab” – examines China’s muscular policy toward its neighbors

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