China has continued ”taking incremental and tactical actions” to press its claims at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India and has unsuccessfully sought to prevent New Delhi from deepening its relationship with the United States, the Pentagon has said in a report.
”The PRC (People’s Republic of China) seeks to prevent border tensions from causing India to partner more closely with the United States. PRC officials have warned US officials to not interfere with the PRC’s relationship with India,” the Department of Defense told the US Congress on Wednesday.
The Pentagon regularly reports to the Congress on the Indo-Chinese military standoff in eastern Ladakh. The Department of Defense has categorically said China is indulging in aggressive and coercive behaviour with its neighbours, India in particular.
Beginning in May 2020, the Chinese Army launched incursions into customarily Indian-controlled territory across the border and has concentrated troops at several standoff locations along the LAC, the Pentagon said. As of June 2021, China and India continue to maintain large-scale deployments along the LAC and make preparations to sustain these forces while disengagement negotiations have made limited progress. In addition, a substantial reserve force from the Tibet and Xinjiang Military Districts were deployed to the interior of Western China to provide a rapid response. The June 2020 skirmish in Galwan Valley, which led to the deaths of 20 Indian soldiers, marked the first loss of life on the LAC since 1975. In February 2021, China’s Central Military Commission (CMC) announced posthumous awards for four PLA soldiers, though the total number of Chinese casualties remains unknown, it said.
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The Pentagon said despite the ongoing diplomatic and military dialogues to reduce border tensions, China has continued ”taking incremental and tactical actions” to press its claims at the LAC. In 2020, China built a large 100-home civilian village inside disputed territory between the Chinese Tibet Autonomous Region and India’s Arunachal Pradesh state in the eastern sector of the LAC.
”These and other infrastructure development efforts along India-China have been a source of consternation in the Indian government and media,” the Pentagon said. In contrast, China has attempted to blame India for provoking the standoff through India’s increased infrastructure development near the LAC. Asserting that its deployments to the LAC were in response to Indian provocation, Beijing has refused to withdraw forces till India’s forces have withdrawn behind the Chinese version of the LAC and ceased infrastructure improvements in the area, the Pentagon said.
As the standoff continues, China has expressed its aim to prevent the standoff from worsening into a wider military conflict, the report said, adding that Beijing has voiced its intent to return bilateral relations with New Delhi to a state of economic and diplomatic cooperation it had perceived to be improving since the 2017 Doklam standoff.
China’s state-controlled media forcefully asserted China’s intent to refuse any territorial concessions demanded by India. Chinese officials, through official statements and state media, had also sought unsuccessfully to prevent India from deepening its relationship with the United States during and subsequent to the standoff, while accusing India of being a mere “instrument” of U.S. policy in the region, it said.
The Pentagon said in 2020 acute tensions and clashes along the border with India resulted in significant PLA force buildup and establishment or enforcement of forward positions along the Line of Actual Control. These tensions likely provided the PLA with valuable real-world operational and tactical experience, it said.
According to the report, at the height of the border standoff between China and India in 2020, the Chinese Army installed a fiber optic network in remote areas of the western Himalayas to provide faster communications and increased protection from foreign interception.
The PLA field commanders view near-real-time intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and situational data as well as redundant and reliable communications as essential to streamlining decision making processes and shortening response timelines, it said. The eastern Ladakh border standoff between the Indian and Chinese militaries erupted on May 5 last year following a violent clash in the Pangong lake areas and both sides gradually enhanced their deployment by rushing in tens of thousands of soldiers as well as heavy weaponry.
The tension escalated following a deadly clash in Galwan Valley on June 15 last year.
As a result of a series of military and diplomatic talks, the two sides completed the disengagement process in the north and south banks of the Pangong lake in February and in the Gogra area in August.
The last round of military talks on October 10 ended in a stalemate following which both sides blamed each other for the impasse.