Tuesday, May 7, 2013

If army fails, China will open new flanks: General Shankar Roychowdhury


After 21 days and 19 km of intrusion by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) into Indian territory, New Delhi has failed both diplomatically and militarily to push the Chinese back on the other side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Gen. (Retd) Shankar RoychowdhuryFormer Chief of Army Staff, in a candid interview with me, says the stand-off may lead to a 1962 war-like scenario.

Q. The third flag meeting between the two sides have failed to generate any result. Today is the 20th day of the stand-off. How do you see the situation developing?
ANS: The situation will not develop further. We have a very articulate Foreign Minister who has been making tremendously conciliatory statements. The major issue is that the Chinese have come across a line that India feels is the boundary. They have not just come across the Line of Actual Control (LAC), but have established them selves. This is a major variation. To move them back India will have to undertake a multi-pronged strategy. One arm of that will definitely be diplomacy. The second arm has to be an appropriate military build-up to contain and isolate whatever has come across otherwise New Delhi will not be able to get the right message across to the Chinese.
Nothing much will come out of this unless the government builds up its nerves and some kind of pressure is applied, otherwise we should reconcile that the Chinese will stay where they are and even militarily build-up further in the area.
Q. The government seems to have reduced the gravity of the situation by saying that it’s an ‘acne on the beautiful face’ and ‘a localised issue’. Do you agree with this?
ANS: I do not agree with the government on this at all, at all, at all, reason being: In 1996 India and China had a treaty and there were eight points of differences on the perception of border. Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) is just one of them. If India feels that it’s a localised issue and our response is ineffective the Chinese who are attempting to establish themselves under the new regime both on the ground and on the high sea may take a chance in other areas of dispute. Response in one area may further aggravate the situation in other areas as well.
Our Foreign Minister has time and again gone out of his way and has said that we do not want any trouble. If you do not want any trouble please keep quiet. Do not keep talking.
Since India is militarily weaker and unable to influence Chinese decision making from a position of strength, our esteemed and sometimes excessively civil foreign minister should not endlessly dwell on our supposedly common background as ‘two ancient civilisations’.
Q. This is not the first incident. There are reports of over 600 incursions in past few years. This time it is very serious as they have come in about 19 km inside Indian territory and this may give rise to Kargil-like situation?
ANS: What I am more worried about is not Kargil, but a 1962 like situation of Tawang and Thag La. Many seem to be not remembering their history and those who do remember says let us not do war mongering.
India, in 1962 went forward and claimed the Thag La ridge thinking that the Chinese will not react. But it was a complete failure of Indian intelligence. And this was the basic failure in Indian thinking that Chinese will not react regardless of what we do. India tried and establish its self beyond Thag La and the Chinese came rolling down on India.
So we should keep ourselves prepared and balanced. Keeping ourselves prepared to contesting and contending this creeping by the Chinese in the disputed areas should be our considered strategy.
 And this is something that is not being taken into account.
Q. India has started building military infrastructure in the disputed area. The are feeling a little provoked. Do you think New Delhi has taken a right step to develop military facilities at forward posts?
ANS: India should have started building military infrastructure decades back. What we are doing is too little, too late. And when we get some kind of pin prick from somewhere we scramble and try to contain it and then we get ourselves into all sorts of trouble. India must retain its balance, but very seriously develop border infrastructure which has not been adequately developed, specifically in the case of Daulat Beg Oldie.
Also, the Chinese should not feel provoked. We are within our side of the border. Chine has been developing military infrastructure on their side. India has taken a non-confrontational line and will continue to develop the required infrastructure. The Chinese do not hesitate in doing what they feel right.
Q. Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid will be visiting China on 9th May. Should he visit China at all?
ANS: In my personal opinion. NO. He has avoided saying that this issue of DBO will come up in his meeting with the Chinese counterpart. The emphasis is on cultivating good neighbourly relations between the two. Nothing wrong with that, but at the same time India must work on what is in the best interest of the country.

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