At the end of nine months of military standoff with the Indian Army in eastern Ladakh, China has only lost face and earned a bad name, said Lt Gen YK Joshi, the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Army’s Northern Command.
In an exclusive interview, Lt Gen Joshi said the Chinese had been aiming to shift their claims further along the LAC and acquire more dominating heights but they have achieved nothing in the past nine months and have gone back to status quo ante.
"It’s very surprising that they did what they did. I was a brigade commander from 2009-11, when we had only 2 battalions looking after the entire Eastern Ladakh," he expressed astonishment at China's attempts to shift the Line of Actual Control (LAC) as far as possible.
Explaining what could have motivated Chinese action and what they hoped to gain from the situation, Lt Gen Joshi said, "Since 2009-11, we have been improving force levels in these areas. We have been improving infrastructure in these areas and we are drawing closer to clarification of the LAC at some stage.
The Chinese have realised this and they are looking to shift the claims westwards, acquire more dominating heights, shift the LAC as far as possible till we arrive at a clarification of the LAC. So, that was their aim but then China has achieved nothing post this."
"They have gone back to status quo ante, all their forces have gone back, and all the landforms have been restored. They just earned a bad name and nothing else,"
China was only trying to save face after India gained leverage in the disengagement talks by occupying the heights of Kailash Range on August 29, 30. "Post 29, 30, we've had these three flag meetings -- 7th, 8th and 9th. In these meetings, China was looking for a face-saver. But in these three flag meetings, China realised that we will not be relenting."
On the question of a possible a lapse in detecting China's movements and more importantly intentions, Lt Gen Joshi said, "I would not say it was a lapse. Every year the PLA comes on the western highway in the area of Khangsewar, Saidullah, and they carry out the exercises and last year the same thing happened. But if we were to hazard a guess on China’s intention, that was not very clear immediately. That got clear when they came to Galwan, up to patrol point 15, 17 Alpha and subsequently on the North bank as well."
Even as India and China agreed to disengage on February 10, the standoff has led to major distrust between the two sides. "Given the fact that they broke all the agreements and they did what they did, currently, the trust levels are low. We have to build up this trust again if we want to have peace."
However, Lt Gen Joshi said, "The Chinese have shown their sincerity of intent or purpose in carrying out the disengagement process. And as agreed earlier, we started on February 10 and they have been doing it at a very rapid pace."