In what is the most serious dispute between India and China since they went to war in 1962, over 50,000 Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers have breached the de facto border called the Line of Actual Control (LAC) to overrun numerous strategic areas in India’s eastern Ladakh.
The situation is growing increasingly dangerous. Indian intelligence estimates that through its sustained push, China now controls a combined area of about 1,000 square kilometers in this border region. Beijing has thus unilaterally redrawn the LAC.
China’s military offensive in Ladakh is not merely tactical, but has the strategic object of realizing specific long-term objectives. The PLA’s moves are, after all, being directed by the top leadership: the Central Military Commission (CMC), which is chaired by Chinese president Xi Jinping.
Chinese Han culture is goal-oriented. Its military might well believe that if it invades a territory at will and meets little resistance, it is under no obligation to retreat on request.
India’s fears that the Chinese would not retreat were quickly proved justified. Reports emerged of PLA troops laying optical fiber cable in areas they had occupied. Such a network will facilitate secure lines of communication between forward troops and bases in the rear, as well as enable data transfer of images and documents.
On top of the worrying situation in Ladakh, there are apprehensions that China might open another front in India’s eastern sector. Beijing has long claimed the entire 83,743 square kilometer area of Arunachal Pradesh, which it calls ”South Tibet.” Ladakh is on the western fringe of the 3,488 km LAC that divides the two nuclear powers; Arunachal lies to the east.
China’s adventurism in India might be explained by its pique at Delhi’s completion last year of the 255 kilometer Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) road, which improved connectivity along the 1,147 kilometer LAC in eastern Ladakh. The carriageway leads to the world’s highest airstrip and to India’s military base at DBO, which is just 12 kilometers south of the strategic Karakoram Pass.