Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation

A New India Building a Strong Border Infrastructure

The Prime Minister’s visit to Ladakh to motivate the valiant soldiers protecting our motherland was truly the reflection of a great leader and statesman, and will go down in the annals of history. It not only sent a firm and powerful message across but also demonstrated a show of solidarity of a united Atmanirbhar Bharat – a Swabhiman Bharat, a Shashakta Bharat, a Sanghatith Bharat and Ek Atma Bharat.

While addressing the soldiers in Leh, Prime Minister Modi said that the enemies have seen their “fire and fury” and that the tales of bravery and dedication they had displayed will echo in every home. Earlier, soon after the Galwan episode, Prime Minister Modi had stated that twenty of our jawans were martyred but not before they taught a lesson to those who had dared to raise an eye towards “Bharat Mata” and assured the nation that our forces would spare no effort to protect our body as today we had the capability that no one could eye even an inch of our territory. He said that the infrastructure in the border areas had improved greatly leading to heightened patrolling and close monitoring of movements at the border. The armed forces had been given a free hand to take all necessary steps. PM Modi asserted that India would respond firmly to any attempts to transgress the Line of Actual Control. At Leh, the Prime Minister sent a strong message to China, that “the age of expansionism is over”.

China has always had, in its DNA, a devious nibbling annexation habit and policy, due to which the areas of differences increased since the Congress meekly turned a blind eye to the nibbling away of our territories by the Chinese through continuous transgressions and border violations. Though we entered into as many as six bilateral agreements in 1988, 1993, 1996, 2005, 2012 and 2013, we did not address the dispute over the Line of Actual Control (LAC). When the Chinese intruded and pitched tents deep inside our territory in Depsang, in 2013, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh mildly mentioned in Parliament about the Chinese having a different perception about the LAC. Protocols, talks and understanding between delegations meant nothing to China which kept violating decisions taken. Confidence Building Measures were being misused by the Chinese to resort to psychological warfare and “salami slicing”. This is because after 1962, non-violence was considered the policy of the then government.

Our inglorious defeat in 1962 was due to Pandit Nehru’s policy after China’s invasion and occupation of Tibet in 1950, even though he had been cautioned by Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel. Due to the policy of congress regimes after 1962, the defence forces were neglected and infrastructure was non-existent.

It was only after Sh. Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister, that strengthening infrastructure became a national priority. Today, there has been a great leap in infrastructure development at the Indo-China border on the Indian side which has become a great deterrent for China. Had the infrastructural development started in the Congress regimes, we would have been in a much more dominating position today. It was only thanks to the vision of Prime Minister Modi, that after 2014, we have created a strong road network by the Border Roads Organization and the CPWD. The Border Area Development Programme has been allocated Rs. 784 Crores in the fiscal year 2020-2021. “10% of the total allocated funds will be additionally allocated to the States/UTs abutting Indo China Border [Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Sikkim and Uttarakhand] for taking up works in the districts abutting Indo China Border”.  The creation of infrastructure “would help integrate these area with the hinterland, create a positive perception of care by the country and encourage the people to stay or in the border areas leading to safe and secure border” as per the M.H.A.  And border infrastructure has developed on all borders through comprehensive Integrated Border Management Systems – be it border out posts, border fencing, mobile towers, use of technology at the border and lighting. On the Indo-Tibet Border, not only has the spread of roads increased, but also other infrastructure including helipads, tunnels and bridges. In an interview to Doordarshan (DD News) on 7 July 2020, in an interview, US Military Strategist Edward Luttwak praised Indian’s border development push. US Secretary of State, Mike Pompei stated that India responded best to Chinese aggression.

At the same time there has been increased patrolling – be it long range patrols, short range patrols or joint patrols of the Army and ITBP. We have always held our ground in the several face-offs which regularly take place. Our regular patrols also enable us to assess Chinese activities, identify features of tactical importance, dominate infiltration routes, corroborate inputs and assert our presence. Post 2014, our patrols have been actively engaging, confronting and preventing any incursions from the other side. We are consistently asserting our right and not allowing any construction activity in our territory within the LAC. In Doklam we stalled the construction of a road by the Chinese which would have adversely affected our strategic interests. This was certainly a diplomatic victory for India. It is only after this that China became more wary of India’s diplomatic and military might, under Prime Minister Modi.

Work on a link road, part of an infrastructure project of a strategic road in Ladakh, is one of the factors which seemed to have pushed China into their misadventure on 15 June 2020 when they were effectively countered by our valiant soldiers. Another reason which could have irked China is the fact that a strong India rightly did not support the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which was not advisable from our security point of view. The BRI was a project by China to establish their dominance in global trade and this included the China – Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is not acceptable to India and it goes through Pakistan occupied Kashmir. Other factors which could have added salt to China’s wounds could have been the friendly relations between India and USA and the formation of the two Union Territories of J & K and Ladakh and abrogation of Article 370, the greatest achievement of the Indian government since independence. This only reflects Chinese vulnerability and the Galwan aggression only reflects the desperate action of a frustrated country.

Due to its predatory designs, global antagonism against China is only rising. USA, Japan, Australia, Canada, other European and nations have criticized China for their unilateralism and expansionist actions in the South China sea, their repression in Hong Kong and bullying behaviour in border disputes. Former US National Security Adviser John Bolton has said that China is an existentialist threat of the 21st century. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has stated that China aggression towards its neighbours is being widely perceived as a threat to their sovereignty. Border tensions, aggressive posturing by China is uncalled for, he further stated. A similar view has been expressed by Japan which cancelled President Xi Jingping’s visit to Japan. Apart from global resentment, the nations, in the periphery of China, are also wary of its policies. This is not expected of a member of the United Nations Security Council which is, in fact, expected to set an example. The initial resentment, world over, against China, followed in when it was learnt the coronavirus emanated from China.

Prime Minister Modi’s front footed, no compromise policy towards China has been a judicious mix of diplomatic, military and economic options. Prime Minister Modi and President Xi Jinping have had as many as 18 summit meetings in the past six years, including two informal meetings at Mamallapuram and Wuhan. Several meetings have been held at different levels. The 15th meeting of the WMCC (Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination), was held on 24 June 2020, where India stressed on respecting the LAC and both sides agreed to expeditiously implement the 6 June understanding on disengagement and de-escalation.

While diplomatic parleys should continue, it is imperative to continue Prime Minister Modi’s policy of strengthening both our infrastructural and military consolidation. Though India is a peaceful nation, we shall negotiate only from a position of strength. Prime Minister Modi’s stance and the manner in which he has addressed and continues to address the Ladakh episode is indicative of that approach.

(The writer is a retired Director General, ITBP. His views are personal.)

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