India’s biggest neighbour employed its ‘salami tactics’ to great effect in 2017. Latest reports show that Chinese aggression across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) has increased considerably since last year. This report must be seen in the light of the worsening situation for India in the Sub-continent.
As per the reports, Chinese transgressions across the LAC have skyrocketed from 271 incidents in 2016 to 415 in 2017, a jump of over 53%. The number of face-offs — when military patrols of the two countries come face-to-face in territory claimed by both — also shot up to 216 in 2017 from 146 in 2016, representing an increase of 48% year-on-year. These numbers confirm that China has upped the ante across the Himalayan border. Recent events also add credence to this story. 2017 also saw the Doklam Standoff in the tri-junction of the Bhutan-India-China border. The stand-off began in the second week of June and ended on August 28. China and India peacefully resolved the tension, with the former agreeing to pull back troops from the disputed region. But worryingly, about 800-900 Chinese troops are still positioned in the vicinity of the area, as per recent reports. China also reportedly intruded almost a kilometer into Indian territory in Arunachal Pradesh in December 2017. Though this situation was also resolved amicably, tensions continue to linger between the two Asian powerhouses.
The govt. needs to be aware of the situation along the 4000 kilometers plus border with China, especially along the 23 major areas of dispute along the LAC identified by India. These areas are vital to Chinese interests and are the site of most transgressions and military face-offs. These areas are of strategic importance like Dibang valley in Arunachal and Doklam on the tri-border. The govt. needs to be on its toes and on the lookout for China’s ‘salami-slicing’ tactics. China is becoming more and more assertive as its economic clout goes, but the Indian govt must not let the country be bullied in its own backyard. In his previous avatar as the BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate in the run-up to 2014 General Elections, Mr. Modi had waxed eloquent about the need to show "red eyes" to China. He had said that there was a need for India to assert itself, in the face of rising Chinese expansionist tendencies. In power for three years now, we wonder if the PM's warnings were mere fodder for election-time rhetoric, as India gets isolated in its own backyard owing to Chinese muscle flexing. Why is Mr. Modi mum on rising Chinese aggression?