Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Chinese Needling in Sikkim

Note: This post must be read in conjunction with the following posts on the subject:

China’s recent aggressive move on the Sikkim border is nothing short of provocative. Destroying bunkers and suspending the Kailash Mansorovar yatra are hostile acts and need to be dealt with in befitting manner.

China is at it again; doing what it knows best – a blend of restrained aggression by carrying out “innocuous incursions into Indian territory” along with psychological warfare and propaganda.

In 2007 and 2008 PLA troops made incursions in the small tract of land referred to as the Finger Area  frequently — in 2008 itself about 50 Chinese transgressions had been reported in this area — and then started building a road that crossed this tract of land. It is in this context, the present standoff in the Sikkim- Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction in Sikkim between the Indian troops and the Chinese troops must be viewed.

While the media focus was on the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington, tension was brewing in Sikkim along the Tibet border with China. A highly questionable version of the events put out by the Chinese Foreign Ministry claimed that Indian border guards (probably referring to the Indo Tibetan Border Police or the ITBP) had crossed the boundary and entered “Chinese territory” and obstructed what was “normal activities” of the Chinese frontier forces in Donglang area and that the Chinese had taken counter measures. And the Chinese Defence Ministry accused Indian troops of objecting to the building of a road in what it claimed to be Chinese territory. According to the PTI, the Chinese troops were reported to have destroyed two make shift bunkers of the Indian Army in the Lalten area of Doka La. (It needs to be mentioned that the PLA had destroyed a make shift bunker in the same area of Doka La in 2008). While what is being claimed as a counter measure may have occurred as part of the time-tested tactic adopted by the Chinese, it is extremely unlikely that the ITBP personnel (who do not carry arms in that area) would have carried out any transgressions across the border. This again is part of the nefarious Chinese propaganda.

In order to exert pressure on the Indians, the Chinese shut down the Nathu La pass entry for Indian pilgrims travelling to Kailash Mansarovar (a pilgrim site revered by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains) and called for the “withdrawal of the Indian personnel who had overstepped and trespassed into Chinese border." It is unclear whether the Chinese want a complete withdrawal of Indian troops from the Indian side or only those whom the Chinese have accused of crossing the border.

The Chinese provocation may be attributed to the following factors: One, China perceives a growing threat because of the close relations between India and the US and the mutual defence cooperation which it finds unsettling; two India in no uncertain terms snubbed Beijing on the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) because of its objections to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that is slated to go through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK); third; India is going ahead with a Afghan air corridor bypassing Pakistan which the state-owned Global Times referred to as Indian stubbornness; fourth, India ignoring Chinese objections allowed the Dalai Lama to visit Tawang in April 2017, which it foolishly has been claiming to be part of Southern Tibet. Lastly, according to Subir Bhowmick, a veteran journalist Sikkim is the only sector along the border where India has a tactical and terrain advantage. India’s decision of raising the mountain strike corps, though mired in financial uncertainties, has upped the ante. And hence the coercive tactics adopted by the PLA.

China is also concerned about the proposed purchase of 22 drones by India from the US. These drones will greatly enhance India’s surveillance capability in the Indian Ocean where China has been making significant inroads in the past few years.

Indian policy makers must understand one irrefutable fact that China is an aggrandizing power, a state that would use any means possible to grab territory. China has done it in 1962 and it virtually claims more than eighty percent of the South China Sea through the means of a dubious historical nine-dash line. According to the strategic affairs expert, China has been eating away at India’s Himalayan borderlands. This is a fact, howsoever bitter it may seem. China’s Global Times in its OP-ED has stated: China avoids making an issue of border disputes, which has indulged India's unruly provocations. This time the Indian side needs to be taught the rules.  

India cannot afford a showdown with China on border issues. It lags far behind China in terms of national strength and the so-called strategic support for it from the US is superficial. China has no desire to confront India. Maintaining friendly ties with New Delhi is Beijing's basic policy. But this must be based on mutual respect. It's not time for India to display arrogance toward China. India's GDP is only one-quarter of China's and its annual defense budget is just one-third. Having a friendly relationship and cautiously handling border issues with China is its best choice.

This piece can be interpreted as nothing but a warning exhorting the PLA to teach India a lesson. China needs to be cautioned that it can ill-afford a confrontation of any sort with India at a time when it is unveiling the B&RI and more importantly 1962 is history and China cannot expect India to commit the same blunders it committed at that time to be repeated. Diplomatic niceties do not work with a bully like China. It is time for India to bare its fangs in order to deter China from carrying out its incursions.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

London Bridge and Borough Market Terror Attacks

The United Kingdom is facing the brunt of jihadi terrorism. Instead of being in denial, the government needs to introduce radical measures which may not be entirely in consonance with Western values of freedom and rule of law.

Attackers drove a van at high speed into pedestrians on London Bridge before going on a stabbing spree in the nearby Borough Market area on Saturday 3rd June 2017 at about 2210 hrs in what British authorities described as terrorist incidents. The attack lasted only about eight minutes before which the jihadis were neutralized. Authorities urged the people on Twitter to “run, hide, tell” if they were caught in an attack. Latest reports suggested that about seven people were killed and several injured and three attackers were also shot dead by the police.

The attacks come days ahead of a June 8 election and less than two weeks after a suicide bomber killed 22 people at a pop concert by U.S. singer Ariana Grande in Manchester in northern England. Though there was no immediate claim of responsibility, it does not require a rocket scientist to determine who the attackers were.

The BBC showed a photograph of two possible London attackers shot by police, one of whom had canisters strapped to his body.

A Reuters reporter said some time after the attack began that he had heard loud bangs near the Borough Market area.

Witnesses described a white van veering into pedestrians near London Bridge and knocking over several people.

“A van came from London Bridge itself, went between the traffic light system and rammed it towards the steps,” a taxi driver told the BBC. “It knocked loads of people down.

“Then three men got out with hunting knives, 12 inches long and shouting "this is for Allah" went randomly along Borough High Street stabbing people at random.”

Islamic State earlier on Saturday sent out a call on instant messaging service Telegram urging its followers to launch attacks with trucks, knives and guns against “Crusaders” during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

An elite Special Air Service - SAS - unit nick named 'Blue Thunder' is believed to have landed on London Bridge following the attack. Blue Thunder, who act on orders from the Home Secretary, are a 70-man strong unit formed after the 2015 Paris attacks and trained in tackling domestic terror scenarios.

Blue Thunder’s name comes from the unmarked blue Eurocopter Dauphin helicopter in which they travel. Photographs appeared to capture two of the aircraft landing on London Bridge shortly after the vehicle and stabbing rampage.

The civilian style helicopter is used to transport Special Forces troops around the country quickly and covertly. 

Similar attacks, in Berlin, Nice, Brussels and Paris, have been carried out by militants over the past couple of years.

“Following updates from police and security officials, I can confirm that the terrible incident in London is being treated as a potential act of terrorism,” Prime Minister Theresa May said.

London’s river Thames police said it was working with the lifeboat rescue service to help evacuate people caught up in the attack, described by police as a terrorist incident.

U.S. President Donald Trump took to Twitter to offer U.S. help to Britain. The White House said he had been briefed on the incidents by his national security team.

One woman told Reuters she saw what appeared to be three people with knife wounds and possibly their throats cut at London Bridge at the Thames river. Reuters was unable to immediately verify her account.


Police said they fired shots after reports of stabbings in the nearby Borough Market area. They also responded to an incident in the Vauxhall area further west, but later said it was unconnected to the van and knife attacks.

Streets around London Bridge and Borough Market, fashionable districts packed with bars and restaurants, would have been busy with people on a Saturday night out. BBC showed dozens of people, evidently caught up in the attack, being escorted through a police cordon with their hands on their heads.

BBC radio said witnesses saw people throwing tables and chairs at the perpetrators of the attack to protect themselves.

According to one witness, she saw a speeding white van veering into pedestrians at London Bridge. That witness told the BBC that the van hit five to six people. Reuters television footage showed dozens of emergency vehicles in the area around London Bridge. There were unconfirmed reports that it was a B&Q and Hertz van.

The incident bore similarities to a March 2017 attack on Westminster Bridge, west of London Bridge, in which a Muslim man Khalid Masood killed five people after driving into a crowd of pedestrians before stabbing a police officer in the grounds of Parliament.

Instead of being in denial, the government needs to introduce radical measures which may not be entirely democratic. These measures may include but may not be limited to deporting hate preachers, closing down places of worship where radicalism is fostered, curbing entry of so-called refugees/migrants and eliminating jihadis who have participated in the conflict in Syria/Iraq and returned to the UK. It is better to eliminate the terrorists before they cause mayhem than after carnage has taken place as it happened in the Borough market.