'Even if there is no full-scale war, Galwan-like skirmishes cannot be ruled out.'
"The Chinese transgression in Ladakh did not happen in 2020. They have been transgressing the LAC slowly and continuously since 2012."
"In 2019, there were 157 transgressions."
"The Chinese are on a different ballgame. They are looking at Ladakh as a long-term dispute," says Lieutenant General Sanjay Kulkarni (retd), PVSM, AVSM, SC, SM, VSM.
The General commanded a brigade and a division on the Line of Actual Control and was decorated with the Shaurya Chakra for leading his platoon to unfurl the Tricolour in Bilafondla on the Siachen Glacier.
General Kulkarni discussed the current situation on the LAC and Xi Jinping's end game with Rediff.com's Archana Masih.
The first of a two-part interview:
It has been a year of this standoff and the situation is deadlocked at the moment. As a military man, what are your thoughts about the situation at the border with China?
First and foremost, the Chinese can't be trusted. They are bidding for time to build more infrastructure and increase their resources.
The Chinese troops are not very far from the LAC -- 150-200 kilometres or so. If the situation were to worsen, they can return to their previous positions in about 4-5 hours to pressurise us.
Eleven rounds of corps commander meetings have not been able to achieve substantial headway except the disengagement in Pangong Tso.
That was a vital step that eased the high-level of tension that had existed at that time.
As part of the disengagement process, we also vacated the Kailash Heights and the Chinese are now wanting to turn the tables on us. But Indian troops have not let that happen.
The Chinese have exposed their conduct that they will finally and ultimately do what they want.
We should have been prepared for this and we are prepared for it.
What is it that the Chinese are looking for?
The Chinese are looking at pressurising us as far as they can and as long as they can.
They are looking at making the LAC contentious. They do not look at themselves as the encroachers.
If the Chinese wish to have good relations with India, they must show their honest intentions on ground.
Since Xi Jinping took over as the general secretary of the Chinese Communist party and chairman of the central military commission in 2012, China has shown its aggression time and again.
In 2019, there were 157 transgressions on the LAC. This is indicative of their intentions -- it is very clear that they do not want to settle the border dispute with India.
They want to keep India under pressure. The Chinese are on a different ballgame. They are looking at Ladakh as a long-term dispute.
India must be prepared with boots, bricks and bandobast.
Can you explain that?
Boots -- we need soldiers with high morale on the ground for high altitude mountain warfare. Our troops must be combat ready with their boots on the ground -- that is the only thing that can save us from any catastrophe that can occur.
Bricks -- we need the wherewithal/equipment to fight.
Bandobast -- we need the infrastructure to survive at those unimaginable altitudes.
Even if there is no full-scale war, Galwan-like skirmishes cannot be ruled out.
The Galwan incident did not happen in isolation. We lost 20 soldiers and that bothers me.
We must make it absolutely clear to the Chinese that the Indians are ready. We will deter them from doing any misadventure that can cause embarrassment to us.
What do you think is Xi Jinping's end game?
After Mao Zedong established the People's Republic of China in 1949 ruled by the Chinese Communist party, Xi wants to establish the Communist party Xi dynasty.
The Communist party may not consider itself as an imperial dynasty, but certainly sees itself as a dynasty that will rule China for nearly 100 years.
Xi has conveyed to the people that they will receive excellent education and great living conditions. In return, the Chinese population has surrendered its freedom to the Communist party.
He has no intention to hand over presidency after two terms and hopes to be president for life.
He has also conveyed to his people that corruption will be eradicated and that the Chinese people deserve the best.
He wants to endeavour to ensure that Tibetans, Uighurs, Mongolians which comprises approximately 1% of the population also see the 'Chinese prosperity'. They have started on this project in a big way in terms of building infrastructure, model villages that are coming up which can also be used by their soldiers in peacetime.
They are building roads in places like Tibet where the density is 3 persons per square kilometre. In Xinjiang, it is 13/sq km compared to mainland China where the density is 1300/sq km.
Xi believes that the heavens have mandated China to be the centre of the world. He believes he has been mandated to rule China and take it to the pinnacle of glory.
China has had 34 imperial dynasties that have ruled them. The Chinese Communist party is the 35th dynasty.
It is in this context that they look to 2021 (June 1 will mark 100 years of the founding of the Chinese Communist party) or 2049 (100 years since the founding of the People's Republic of China).
Xi wants to leave his imprint on China. He believes to be strong is glorious.
What is the Chinese intention on the LAC where disengagement seems a distant possibility?
The Chinese begin their domination slowly and steadily. They test the waters first -- like their increasing claims in the South China Sea. They are on the verge of completing an airstrip on the disputed Spratly Islands. They did not do this overnight, but slowly and gradually.
Similarly, the Chinese transgression in Ladakh did not happen in 2020. They have been transgressing the LAC slowly and continuously since 2012.
Hence, we have to be very alert. We cannot trust the Chinese. We have to make ourselves stronger to build our deterrence.
- Part II: 'China is our enemy'
Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com