By Jaideep Saikia
India-China relations are fraught with a surfeit of mistakes. But there is an attempt by both sides to bury the past and make a new beginning. Indications are that the incident in Galwan is history. In any event, the reasons for the intrusion in Eastern Ladakh were pure messaging to both the United States as also India’s neighbours. While it sought to “inform” the United States that India cannot be used as a countervail to its anti-China overtures, Beijing was attempting to caution India’s neighbours that India cannot be relied as a security foil. But the most important reason was to restrict India to its land commitments and away from embarking upon maritime quests, a right which China seeks to be its prerogative.
Earlier an impasse was witnessed in Doklam. It has an interesting narrative, one which gains in importance when the fact about the Chinese having “informed” New Delhi “in advance” about its plan to build a road in the plateau is factored into. If this information is correct than the conflict can be said to have been unnecessary.
At any rate, a solution of sorts—with an eye to circuiting the status quo that prevails—was proposed by this author on 26-27 August 2014 during the course of an Indo-China “Track II Dialogue” in which he was a member of the Indian delegation. With the knowledge that neither sides would surrender ground (the instances which were quoted were that of Thagla Ridge held by the Chinese and the Namka Chu River that runs south of the Ridge held by the Indians) as well as the fact that the only solution lies in converting the “Line of Actual Control” into an International Boundary, this author took recourse to semantics. The phrase “Line of Actual Control”—even if a step is to be taken by the generation that is to come—must be replaced by a classification that does not ring of belligerence. “Line of Amity” is the name that was proposed. If unyieldingness is inevitable and status quo is the only outcome of protracted negotiations, it is this author’s considered opinion that at least a change of nomenclature that resonates of accommodation could herald a positive mindset change from continual and non-progressive status quo. This author also laced his plea by stating that altering the name from “Line of Actual Control” to “Line of Amity” would not have any legal implications or bring forth questions about the principle by which delineation of boundaries are normally undertaken. He hazarded this aspect despite the fact that the watershed principle almost approximates the Thagla Ridge which the Chinese presently occupies. The name “Line of Amity” also has the distinct possibility of bringing future leaders of both the countries to the table without the baggage of the past as well as the suspicion that has accompanied almost all Indo-China boundary dialogue and could well be the prerequisite for entente cordiale.
(The author is a celebrated conflict analyst and author of several bestselling books)