This blog has previously discussed China's intentions on the Line of Actual Control (LoAC), which forms the actual boundary between the Indian Army and the People's Liberation Army of China. The LoAC is not to be confused with the International Boundary... it is an unsettled border, like the Line of Control (LoC) between Pakistan and India in J&K.
There's also a Line of Opinion (LoO) in this blog, which separates those who believe that China is taking an increasingly provocative stance over territories that it claims... and on the other side of the LoO are those (like myself) who believe that China is only repeating what it has always claimed: that Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai China are parts of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), which India has admitted since 1953 is a part of China. I have also argued that the so-called "intrusions" by Chinese troops are nothing more than a difference of perception on where the LoAC runs and who controls what. I've argued that Indian troops frequently patrol areas that China claims are on its side of the LoAC.
Now, the Chief of Army Staff, General Deepak Kapoor, seems to have come down on my side of the LoO. I am attaching an account of his interview with Karan Thapar on Devil's Advocate yesterday.
New Delhi, Feb 23 (PTI) Incursions by Chinese troops in Arunachal are a result of difference of "perception" of Line of Actual Control (LOAC), Army Chief Gen Deepak Kapoor has said and that Indian troops also indulge in moves that could be seen as intrusion by the other side.
He, however, said border infrastructure on Chinese side was better than that of India, giving them an "additional capability to bring additional troops", and the government here is "seriously looking into" this aspect.
"I think a degree of misperception has been built on this issue of incursions.. first and foremost, it is a matter of perception. The Chinese have a different perception of the Line of Actual Control (LOAC) as do we. When they come up to their perception, we call it an incursion and likewise they do," Kapoor said in Karan Thapar's 'Devil's Advocate' programme for CNN-IBN.
He said the level of total number of incursions in 2007 is "somewhat similar to what it has been in the past. So, the feeling that too many incursions have taken place into Indian territory is not right."
Asked whether Indian troops also incur into Chinese territory as often because of differences of perception about LOAC, the army chief replied: "that's right.. which they would call an incursion into their side. So, therefore, to that extent, we would be as much blameworthy for that kind of
incursion up to our perceived LOAC."
So what the Chief is saying is "don't be too worried about panicky press reports about China taking over Indian territory." 1962 was a long time ago and the Indian Army is more than capable of beating back any Chinese attack, if one takes place, which does not seem likely at all. The 1993 and 1996 agreements on CBMs and Peace and Tranquillity on the Border are working perfectly and life on the LoAC is a generally peaceful affair.
That having been said, India's foreign ministry has also noted a clear shift in global geo-politics, one that has worked to China's advantage and to India's disadvantage. Until 2005, the future contours of Great Power rivalry seemed to be woven around the rise of China and its seemingly inevitable challenge to the current US dominance. In that scenario, India was poised to be the countervailing power, the swing state which could tip the balance in favour of either China or the US.
All that changed in 2005, with Putin's open challenge to American dominance. Over the last two years, Russia has replaced China as the second pole of future Great Power rivalry. And guess who's replaced India as the countervailing power? That's right... it's 1972 all over again; America has rediscovered China! That's why, over the last year, you have seen an entirely benevolent American view of China's military build up. Robert Gates is singing a very different tune from Donald Rumsfeld, and that's not because of the personalities involved. It's because China could be a future ally.
India hasn't helped its case by rejecting the US-India nuclear deal and by the plethora of anti-US statements that comes out from the Left Front. This is not, by a long margin, to say that US-India relations are no longer important in Washington's perspective. But, for sure, things have changed since Condy Rice wrote her Foreign Affairs article identifying India as the next big thing for America.
So don't be surprised to see China adopt a harder attitude towards India. In 2005, with India-US relations at their peak, Wen Jiabao signed a set of "political principles" that would guide an eventual border settlement. In that, Beijing effectively signed away Tawang, by agreeing that "settled populations" would not be disturbed in a final settlement. Today, China is back-peddling from that. The US-India relationship has changed since 2005; Beijing no longer feels pressured to keep India happy. That's realpolitik.
But folks, please! That doesn't mean that China is about to grab Arunachal. The Army Chief's statement should make that clear.