China’s aim of building these new villages along the LAC with India is multiple. These helped populate Han Chinese closer to the border areas, overwhelming the Tibetan population demographically since the invasion and occupation of Tibet in 1959-51, writes Lt Gen Prakash Katoch (retd) for South Asia Monitor
Iran had blamed Israel for the assassination of its nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh on November 27 and vowed to avenge it at a time of its choosing. This did not imply immediate retaliation - same as in response to the killing of General Qasem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Quds force in a US drone strike in January this year.
However, there are indications that the US and Saudi Arabia expect some action or are looking for an opportunity to hit Iran before US President Donald Trump transfers the presidency to Joe Biden on January 20.
In recent days, American AWACS (Airborne Warning And Control System) have been active close to the borders of Iran and reconnaissance aircraft are preparing to assist ships in the Persian Gulf. This has raised speculation that the US attacking targets in Iran maybe in the offing.
US war games
After an exercise with the Indian Navy, US nuclear aircraft carrier USS Nimitz returned to the 5th Fleet in the Middle East. Now there are reports of a US Navy strike group led by USS Nimitz being positioned to support operations in the Persian Gulf region.
Satellite imagery indicates Saudis are strengthening their air defense/missile defense systems from the Persian Gulf to protect against retaliatory strikes by Iran on American bases in Saudi Arabia. As for Iran, it is certainly apprehensive of UAE and Bahrain establishing relations with Israel. Besides, there are indications of some thaw in Saudi-Turkey relations.
But while the Trump administration is engaged in war games over Iran before Biden takes over the reins of America and reviews US-Iran ties including the Iran nuclear deal, Beijing is busy populating its borders with India and Bhutan with ethnic Hans, diluting the population of Tibetans further. And why would China not do so? It is going scot-free for allowing the epidemic – which has killed 1.57 million people worldwide - to happen and lacking data transparency.
Biden appears to be looking to mend ties with China albeit the nomination of Katherine Tai – a trade lawyer with a history of taking on China - as the US trade representative does not imply a complete reversal of the Trump administration trade policies. In Justin Trudeau of Canada, Beijing has found a replica of Imran Khan of Pakistan. Not only Trudeau has supporters of Khalistan part of his cabinet, but he had also invited People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers to train in winter warfare in Canada.
Chinese villages on disputed borders
A month after the India-China standoff at Doklam Plateau in Bhutan was resolved in 2017, Chinese PLA recommenced its construction activities in the region, incrementally encroaching on the Doklam Plateau itself. Recent satellite imagery indicates China has built a village named Pangda within the eastern portion of the Doklam Plateau. This has been confirmed by China’s state-sponsored media. The imagery also shows a nine km road inside Bhutanese territory stretching along the bank of Torsa River extending south from the border between China and Bhutan.
According to Indian government sources, after the experience of the Doklam standoff with India, PLA has developed some 20 military camps in the depth areas to enhance their preparedness during a conflict with India and are using these bases for helping in operations on the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The current India-China standoff in Eastern Ladakh after the Chinese aggression in May-June this year remains unresolved despite parleys at the ministerial and diplomatic level that eventually boiled down to eight rounds of talks at senior military commanders-level talks. Presently both sides are dug down for the winter with some 5,000 troops from each side facing each other.
Now there are news reports supported by satellite imagery that China has built three villages close to Bum La pass in Arunachal Pradesh. Cartographic aggression, incremental territory grab, and legal warfare are games practiced by China in the past decades. Beijing has taken advantage of border areas of India and Bhutan which are either sparsely populated or not at all because of which there is little or no civil administration in these areas. Under the present Indian government, roads are to be developed to only those border villages that have a population of at least 100, which is not the case in many cases.
China’s aim of building these new villages along the LAC with India is multiple. These helped populate Han Chinese closer to the border areas, overwhelming the Tibetan population demographically since the invasion and occupation of Tibet in 1959-51. There would naturally be locals too who have been ‘Sinicized’ or brainwashed with the ideology of China's Communist Party (CCP).
In addition, there would-be members of the PLA specifically tasked to develop cross-border contacts to find routes and avenues for cross-border operations and deep reconnaissance.
With no civil administration in the area and poor communications, there have been numerous instances in the past of Chinese civilians-cum-PLA offering rations and money to villagers across the border and also encouraging cross-border marriages. China has been practicing this in Pakistan and Myanmar as well.
In December 2019, a report published by the Associated Press gave a list of 629 girls and women from across Pakistan sold as brides to Chinese men and taken to China.
As for China, the communist ideology of CCP is that the body of an individual is the property of the state. That is why China’s honey-trapping operations are so successful, be it the US, India, Nepal or elsewhere globally. Morality was never in the lexicon of the CCP.
(The author is an Indian Army veteran. Views expressed are personal)