Is Modi ceding Indian territory to China?

Chinese Bring In Bulldozers, Disturb Flow Of Galwan River: Satellite Pics
Chinese earth-moving equipment damming the Galwan River


Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement to opposition leaders regarding the crisis in eastern Ladakh has confounded the already existing confusion. His declaration, without mentioning China, that “No one has forcibly entered into Indian territory, there is no intruder inside our border, nor has any Indian post been captured by anyone” is contradicted by commercially obtained satellite imagery featured in television news reports. These clearly show the accelerated Chinese military build-up between the hill features Finger 4 and Finger 8 on the northern shore of the Pangong Lake, and in the Galwan Valley — areas considered well within the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Military-grade imagery from Indian satellites with sub-metre-resolution cameras and contact reports from the field indicating Chinese penetration in strength were available to the government from the beginning but apparently went unheeded.

The Prime Minister’s denial about the Chinese occupying Indian territory minimizes political troubles for himself and suggests he is reconciled to India losing these areas. This may be for two reasons. One, the army’s assessment that evicting the PLA from these areas would be an impossibly difficult task, could escalate to serious hostilities, and rupture his relationship with Xi Jinping that he has personally invested in.

And two, the profound blunder committed by the Ministry of External Affairs in 2008 by accepting Beijing’s condition that “clarification of the LAC” be no part of bilateral documents (as revealed in an article by Sun Lun, a Chinese-origin scholar at the Stimson Center in Washington, DC). It legitimates China’s expansionist activity in Ladakh and elsewhere on the indistinct LAC.

Sun Lun’s stunning revelation is a severe indictment of the MEA and its seemingly la-di-dah attitude to Chinese takeover of Indian territory which, by some authoritative accounts, amounts to 60 sq kms in the present crisis and some 1,300 sq kms in the new millennium. It fuels Beijing’s policy of creeping annexation predicated on the border dispute remaining unresolved and the LAC undefined.

The oft-repeated Chinese promise to negotiate a final solution at the Special Representatives level that successive Indian governments have been fobbed off with, in the event, is only a diplomatic ruse to buy time for the PLA to realize China’s territorial claims by incrementally pushing the LAC India-wards, and presenting Delhi every now and then with new territorial faits accomplis.

     The capture by China of Galwan is a strategic stranglehold because now PLA can interdict at will the traffic on the newly built Depsang-Daulat Beg Oldi/Karakorum Pass highway sustaining the Indian army presence on the Siachen Glacier. The army fouled up by not pre-emptively securing the valleys and the heights on the Shyok, Cheng-chenmo and Galwan rivers fronting on this highway when its alignment was firmed up over ten years ago.

It has left India with no alternative than forcibly evicting the Chinese from the Galwan, whatever the cost, as the army did Pakistani troops in 1999 from the Kargil ridge because they imperilled the lifeline to Leh. However, Modi appears disinclined to risk it.


Published in the Deccan Herald, Sunday, June 21, 2020 , at

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in asia-Pacific/Indo-Pacific, Asian geopolitics, Central Asia, China, China military, civil-military relations, Culture, Decision-making, domestic politics, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Army, Indian ecobomic situation, Indian Politics, MEA/foreign policy, Military/military advice, SAARC, satellites, society, South Asia, space & cyber, Tibet. Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to Is Modi ceding Indian territory to China?

  1. Kunal says:

    U mean modi gave our side to china and refused to take it back by any means?

      • manofsan says:

        I’m hoping that Modi is only staying quiet until we can get enough forces into place to push the Chinese back. If he’s only staying quiet in the hope that this episode can quietly fade away and be forgotten, while allowing China to keep its ill-gotten gains and the cost of our brutally murdered soldiers, then it amounts to a fundamental betrayal of his political base of supporters.

        Justice delayed is justice denied. There is only so long we can wait before re-taking the lost ground, and avoid losing credibility. Time is critical here.

        When do the winter conditions set in, to an extent that impedes movement and effectiveness? It seems to me that we only have until then.

  2. PRATIK KUMAR says:

    Hi Bharat sir. Sir do you think that instead of Apache, India should have given primary focus to HAL’s LCH for high altitude warfare? LCH, being lighter can perform better than Apache at high altitudes and further LCH is stealth, easy to handle, agile and highly maneuverable and has incoming missile warning system. Further instead of M777 howitzer, our own Bharat Forge’s light weight howitzer would be better for high altitudes. So I think the govt should have gone for war footing production of these weapons, which also includes LCA MK-1A (a potent machine).
    What do you say sir?

    • Absolutely, I have seen the LCH at HAL — beautiful machine at, what, half the cost?

      • Debanjan Banerjee says:

        Wonderful article Mr Karnad which clearly reflects the mood in this country. However when we look across the World, I am disappointed that Taiwan is supporting China in this conflict. Is it because Taiwan sees herself still as part of the Chinese civilization ? Or is it because China and Taiwan both have humongous amount of trade with each other? Why Taiwan is supporting China in this conflict whereas our politicians attended Tsai presidential ceremony

  3. Swapna says:

    India is in the final stages of setting up the defence cyber agency and academy. What’s your take?

  4. dpani says:

    Very crisp, @Bharat Karnad ji ! Your discussion on IndiaToday and this article brings lot of clarity to this messy issue.

  5. vivek says:

    operation like kargil with china is just dream , govt dont have guts again china but pakistan.

    • manofsan says:

      You talk like you could do it better. We’re in the situation that we’re in, and can’t go back in time. In hindsight, it would have been better that Modi not overly trust the Chinese. It would also have been better that Indian Army have anticipated and detected Chinese intrusion much sooner. I think we should become more vocal on human rights in China, as well as on it’s aggressions towards its other neighbors.

    • Kunal ( ENGINEERING STUD) says:

      Ministry should release latest satellite images of GALWAN valley.

      According to some sources QRSAM deployed at the Eastern Ladakh Sector

  6. devraj says:

    sir .are indian nuclear weapons capable of destroying chinese nuclear command center in terms of yields as all nuclear command centers hide in mountains and china made them by keeping russian and american megaton how indian untested 100-200 kiloton nukes destroy them

    • Deep-buried N-command centres are a reason why I have been for megaton-yield thermonuclears.

      • PRATIK KUMAR says:

        Sir re: nukes, Manpreet Sethi says that India must focus on safeguarding its nuclear arsenal and command from enemy’s nukes attack. But sir is it really possible to protect our nukes from Chinese nuclear attack, given they have yield in MTs and having MIRV tech.?

  7. Kunal says:

    No need to mention here but our military academies
    and technical institutions have very outdated curriculum which produces candidates having very limited strategic vision

  8. ranjith says:

    I believe Depsang is the real target. Once we are tied down in Galwan, Pangang Tso, Chushul, the Chinese will unleash their attack on Depsang and link up with GB. If there is a 2 front war, We should drop a nuke on Depsang in the first hour as a warning. If we allow the war to go beyond a few days, we will lose a lot of territories.

  9. john doe says:

    I’m surprised no one has realised that we’ve reclaimed our part of the Galwan. The PM said that in his statement. That’s why we lost those lives. They scaled the mountains and ejected the intruders who had encroached on our side of the Galwan. 16 Bihar & 3 Punjab beat a force three times as strong. The Chinese won’t release numbers of their casualties..

  10. Bharat kumar says:

    Our rakhsha mantri heading to Moscow would the russians say primarily confirm the previous bilateral agreements kamov , NUH ,etc and then will pressurise the chinese to evict … or is there a completely different objective ???


    Wonderful article Mr Karnad which clearly reflects the mood in this country. However when we look across the World, I am disappointed that Taiwan is supporting China in this conflict. Is it because Taiwan sees herself still as part of the Chinese civilization ? Or is it because China and Taiwan both have humongous amount of trade with each other? Why Taiwan is supporting China in this conflict whereas our politicians attended Tsai presidential ceremony I would wele your epert opinion

    • Yea. But what has India done for Taipei ever other than carry on with it in a surreptitious fashion?

      • PRATIK KUMAR says:

        Sir I am really confused, but when did Taiwan support China in this conflict? I agree that Taiwan considers itself the ‘real China’ and have an eye over some regions, but all Taiwanese moves are anti China. In fact after June 15 conflict, Taiwanese press lauded India’s fight back against China and released a pic showing Lord Ram killing Dragon. This shows clear Taiwanese support to India. So where did Taiwan support China, especially in current conflict with India? Kindly clear me this confusion sir.

  12. ranjith says:

    Sir, What do you think about conceding the LAC as permanent boundary in return for Arunachal. Is that something we should agree provided the Chinese are willing. (I know they are not at the moment). How will it affect domestic politics and if not Modi then who can make the country swallow the bitter pill? Is it even desirable to do such a deal?

    • That is what India has long tried to negotiate — the LAC. LAC includes Arunachal of course as inalienable part of India. It is China that has transgressed the LAC to occupy Indian territory.

      • ranjith says:

        Would our people accept the fact that we will have to give up claims on Aksai Chin in a hypothetical scenario of a deal with Chinese? I know there is less than 1% chance for this in the near term but international politics throw up a few surprises now and then.

  13. Rahul Singh says:

    Sir has anybody told you…. That you sound like sean connery?
    I love you.
    Leave aside ur immense knowledge I love to hear your voice.
    I am a student ……. will you condescend to be my teacher if i contact you?
    If irritating…then pardon.

    • Great, if I sound like Sean Connery to you. More seriously, please stoke your interest in foreign and military policy areas by reading books. There is no dearth of good books to further your knowledge.

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