Trust deficit with China remains, says strategist

Express News Service
BENGALURU: The disengagement by Indian and Chinese armies at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Pangong Tso area in eastern Ladakh has begun, but can India trust its neighbour?

“Not really,” said former additional secretary, Cabinet Secretariat and President, Centre for China Analysis and Strategy, Jayadeva Ranade. “Every claim of withdrawal from the Chiese side needs to be verified and re-verified,” he told The New Sunday Express.

Both the armies started the process of initial disengagement on Wednesday, a day before Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, briefing the Rajya Sabha, gave details of both sides moving out of friction points along the LAC.

“The disengagement at the LAC is a tentative and first step to reduce chances of conflict between the two armies, where they are eyeball-to-eyeball against the backdrop of distrust for China. The Chinese cannot be trusted. We have to be very watchful of what they do when summer comes,” he said.

“As long as the Chinese don’t go back to the pre-April 2020 position, we will remain in suspense. The disengagement gives us an opportunity to prepare for their next course of action,” he added.

Ranade pointed out that while India has made its stand clear on the process and conditions for disengagement, there has been no word from across the border. “Why is President Xi Jinping quiet on the disengagement? Unless he can show to his people that China has gained from this nine-month long standoff at the LAC, his position can be weakened. In 2017, after the Doklam standoff, the reaction from China was immediate. They were very upset. There has been no reaction from China on the disengagement,” he said.

Ranade commended the Defence Minister for giving details in Parliament. “I am glad the Defence Minister spelt out the Indian territory under illegal occupation. This is significant because now when the two sides meet on the border issue, they will figure prominently. It will be a long LAC,” said Ranade. He said that on the face of it, China agreed to disengage after it realised that India has “resisted their sustained pressure”.