A view of Namgia village near China Border in Himachal Pradesh

NEW DELHI: With 62 clauses in seven chapters, China’s new boundary law passed on October 23 has raised concerns in India and could make it very difficult to conduct boundary negotiations, former foreign secretary Shyam Saran has said.
“The room for coming to an understanding and resolving the border issue will become somewhat more complicated than it already is,” he told TOI. He said the law is a formalisation of the Chinese government policy in managing its borders for the last several years. “It gives a sort of legal basis on which things to do like setting up of border villages, which some people have called “dual-use” villages, but you may have seen reports that actually fairly substantial villages have been set up in territory which is claimed by Nepal, or Bhutan and even in the eastern sector in India.”
The law underlines, “The PRC’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are sacred and inviolable and the state shall take measures to safeguard them.” Saran says “when you pose the issue in those terms, it diminishes the space for compromise. If you consider your claim as actually part of your sovereign territory, then it becomes much more difficult to find a compromise. We saw this with respect to Galwan. When differences arose, they said Galwan is Chinese sovereign territory, which means that there is no room for compromise”.
One of the more concerning issues in the boundary law is the “permission” to these border villages to use all methods of defence, including combat, essentially turning them into militia groups, somewhat like the Chinese fishing fleets. Saran said, “See the Chinese Coast Guard, which is a more of a paramilitary force… If you see the recent Coast Guard law, you will see they have been given the authority to use lethal force to safeguard Chinese interests, essentially making the Coast Guard an arm of the PLA.”
According to the new law, he said, the “border guarding forces”, the PLA and the people’s armed police, will be expected to work with the village and provincial authorities for defence activities. “That means it’s almost like a whole of society approach to safeguarding your borders. So, I think the fact that you have this law, we should expect more activism on the India-China border.”
“There has been a diplomatic response by the ministry of external affairs. So, that puts the record straight. As far as the situation on the ground is concerned, currently, there is no option but to hold the line — we simply do not have the capability of actually going about violently seeking the vacation of territory, which is ours and has been infringed upon by them. The only thing that you can do is to make certain that further ingress is not possible,” said Saran.
But in the longer term, India can think of pushing the envelope, he suggests, as it did in south Pangong Tso. “There are large parts of the border where we are in a better position. Is it possible that whenever there is some provocation like this, we have the ability to instantly create an ingress on the other side, so that you have something to bargain with? It requires restructuring of some of your border forces capability to be almost commando-like.”
Otherwise, this situation, he believes, is likely to continue because it is very low risk for Beijing and keeps India stretched, off-balance and spending a lot more on defence.

FacebookTwitterLinkedinEMail




Source link