India losing information war to China: Gen Malik on Ladakh face-off
Retired General Ved Prakash Malik on Tuesday (June 16) said that the government's silence over the Galwan Valley face-off even as real-time information is available to the authorities could cause serious troubles and make India lose the information war to China.
Former Army Chief General Ved Prakash Malik on Tuesday (June 16) said that the government’s silence over the Galwan Valley face-off even as real-time information is available to the authorities could cause serious trouble and make India lose the information war to China.
In an interview with the NDTV, General Malik, who served as the Army chief during the Kargil War, said the death of an Indian Army officer and jawans in Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh on Monday during the violent face-off with the Chinese troops left him in a state of shock while reminding him of the 1967 Nathu La and Cho La clashes.
He revealed that even as the talks have been going on from the past five weeks between the Indian and Chinese officials at a military level, the tensions on-ground were still rising.
“The incident comes to me as a shock since we were being assured of talks being held at various levels regarding de-escalation and disengagement. But it seems like the talks went in vain since the scuffle took place and our soldiers lost their lives,” he said.
Taking note of rising tension along the Sino-India border, Gen Malik said that the time for military talks were now long gone and the matter needed to be taken up at a political or diplomatic level.
“Army level talks have their own limitations. For the Army the pre-defined Line of Actual Control is what they have to secure and they cannot change anything even during negotiations or for that matter amid action. However, the current situation cannot be resolved at Army level, now it needs political or diplomatic level,” he said.
Expressing his deepest condolences to the families of the martyrs, he said that he is not in favour of any more scuffles taking place between the two forces and even the upcoming military level talks, if any, should be held under full protection and in presence of extra cover forces.
On being asked if there is a possibility of facing loss of lives without any firing, as being told by the Army, he said, “For now, we have to go by the statement of the Army that no shots were fired. However, stone pelting, hand-to-hand combat, and sticks laden with barbed wires and nails could also kill soldiers even if they are wearing their protective gear.”
Amid the ongoing tension along the LAC, the question that arises is what should the Army do now?
Gen Malik feels at such a critical juncture the Army needs to keep doing its job of protecting the border from the external forces, but it’s in the hands of the political authorities whether to localise or escalate the situation.
“On the ground, build-up and tensions is there and will remain but the decision needs to be reached on a political level whether to localise or escalate the matters. At local level, the Army has a very limited role and needs to stand at their positions wherever they are,” he said.
Is Indian losing out the information war?
Since the time of the face-off, the Chinese officials have issued a number of statements at various levels, including the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian solemnly asking the Indian side to follow their consensus and strictly regulate its front-line troops.
However, till now other than a statement issued by the Indian Army, no information has been revealed from the Indian side.
“Indian side losing out as far as information war is concerned and I wish there were some statements made since the Chinese officials have been doing it at different levels. I hope soon we get some statements but looks like people are waiting for political authorities to make up their mind.” he said.
“But with real-time information available these days to the prime minister and other authorities as far as information war is concerned we need to react faster and the delay doesn’t do any good to us,” he added.
With the Chinese media quoting the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Western Theatre Command Spokesperson Colonel Zhang Shuili saying that “China always owned sovereignty over the Galwan Valley region,” Gen Malik believes that the talks held till now went in vein and the statement worsens the situation.
“The time has come for the matter to be handled at a political or diplomatic level since the Chinese side passing such statements could be bad for us,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Army Chief Gen MM Naravane cancelled a scheduled visit to Pathankot in view of the incident in eastern Ladakh.
According to a senior military officer in New Delhi, it is the first incident involving the casualty of an Indian soldier in a violent clash with the Chinese Army after 1975 when four Indian soldiers were killed in an ambush at Tulung La in Arunachal Pradesh along the de-facto border between the two countries.
Official sources said there was no firing between the two sides. The incident comes days after Indian Army chief Gen MM Naravane said both sides have begun “disengaging” from the Galwan Valley.
Following the standoff in eastern Ladakh, the two sides have deployed additional troops along the LAC, the de-facto Sino-India border, in North Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh in the last few days, the sources said.
After the standoff began early last month, the Indian military leadership decided that Indian troops will adopt a firm approach in dealing with the aggressive posturing by the Chinese troops in all disputed areas of Pangong Tso, Galwan Valley, Demchok and Daulat Beg Oldie.
The Chinese Army has been gradually ramping up its strategic reserves in its rear bases near the LAC by rushing in artillery guns, infantry combat vehicles and heavy military equipment.
The trigger for the face-off was China’s stiff opposition to India laying a key road in the Finger area around the Pangong Tso Lake besides construction of another road connecting the Darbuk-Shayok-Daulat Beg Oldie road in Galwan Valley.
The road in the Finger area in Pangong Tso is considered crucial for India to carry out patrol.
India has already decided not to stall any border infrastructure projects in eastern Ladakh in view of Chinese protests. The situation in the area deteriorated after around 250 Chinese and Indian soldiers were engaged in a violent face-off on May 5 and 6.
The incident in Pangong Tso was followed by a similar incident in north Sikkim on May 9. The India-China border dispute covers the 3,488-km-long LAC.
China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of southern Tibet, while India contests it. Both sides have been asserting that pending the final resolution of the boundary issue, it is necessary to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas.