India deploy more troops into Ladakh as China tensions rise
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And experts have warned of the possibility of a conflict erupting accidentally with such large numbers of soldiers concentrated in a relatively small area. Chinese and Indian soldiers slugged it out last year in Ladakh in hand to hand clashes which claimed more than 20 dead – the deadliest encounter since the Sino-Indian War of 1962.
And Ladakh is the region which has seen the biggest increase in Indian troops as a result of the latest deployment, with an extra 20,000 sent to the mountainous region.
In total, Express.co.uk understands India has now committed roughly 200,000 troops to three areas along the border – an increase of more than 40 percent compared with last year.
The move represents a shift in strategy, away from a purely defensive posture towards one of enabling Indian forces to attack and seize territory in China if necessary in a strategy known as “offensive defence”, an insider told Bloomberg.
Having so many soldiers on either side is risky when border management protocols have broken down
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin today told reporters: “The current situation on the border between China and India is generally stable, and the two sides are negotiating to resolve relevant border issues.
“In this context, the words, deeds and military deployments of relevant military and political leaders should help ease the situation and increase mutual trust between the two sides, not the other way around.”
Nevertheless, DS Hooda, a lieutenant general and former Northern Army commander in India, warned: ”Having so many soldiers on either side is risky when border management protocols have broken down.
“Both sides are likely to patrol the disputed border aggressively.
“A small local incident could spiral out of control with unintended consequences.”
Sushant Singh, a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research and visiting lecturer at Yale University, added: ”The crisis over the last year has brought home the reality to India’s decision makers that China presents the biggest strategic challenge in the future, and it has led to shifting the attention away from Pakistan.
“As this plays out fully, it will alter the geopolitics of the region significantly.”
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”The economic and military asymmetry will remain in place. And there is a long way to go for India to bridge this asymmetry.”
Speaking last year in the wake of the Ladakh clashes, Frank O’Donnell, a Nonresident Fellow in the South Asia Program at the US-based Stimson Center, told Express.co.uk China’s strategy of encroachment was plain to see.
He explained: “China appears to be altering the facts on the ground in terms of what the LAC will look like in Ladakh in future.
“The simultaneous withdrawals of Chinese and Indian forces of a distance of 1-2km each at their points of contention looks, on its surface, to be what an equitable and fair de-escalation would look like.
“However, this is not the case when China has in fact intruded up to 8km in some areas into Indian territory.”
He said: “This means that a mutual withdrawal of 2km means that China will withdraw to only occupying 6km of Indian territory within that area, whereas India has to withdraw further back within its own territory.”
Mr O’Donnell said China’s approach was commonly referred to in India as “two steps forward, one step back”.
He added: “There is also a strong likelihood that the withdrawals will halt at a point where China can retain the geographical advantages it has gained over India in the overall incursion, such as being able to cut Indian forces off from each other (as currently in Depsang Plains, for example), and retain the high ground captured in the Galwan Valley that enables it to overlook and potentially cut off the critical Indian Daulat Beg Oldi-Darbuk-Shyok supply road.”
Also speaking last year, Tobias Ellwood, Tory MP and a member of Parliament’s China Research Group, told Express.co.uk Beijing was becoming even more aggressive in its approach in recent years.
He said: “I think they were quite discreet in the last ten years.
“Since its aggression in Hong Kong it recognises that world opinion is changing but it doesn’t care.
“And the West is partly to blame here because we have allowed it to happen.”
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