Life in the Shadow of 1962

What does China have in store for India, except of course, for all the inexpensive half-priced gizmos? Chinese incursions into Indian territory have very long shadows. Ask anyone who has lived through the devastation of 1962. While our older generations find it difficult to shake off the horrors of the conflicts which spread like malignant tumor along the Indo-Sino border, our current-day leaders have chosen to ignore the entire situation and trivialize intrusions by calling them a “localized problem”. Profuse Chinese incursions have occurred in Burthe, Phuktsay, Chumar, and at numerous other places along the border in Ladhakh.

Last year, some of my friends and I went for a trip to Leh and Ladakh where we found some startling facts much of which are neither mentioned on the Internet nor in the copious tourist guides we read over and over again.

The last village in Ladakh about 11 km from the Indo-Sino border is supplied with almost all its needs – from medicine to clothes – by the Chinese Army. All canned food products available in this part of Ladakh are of Chinese manufacture, even the cups of noodles we consumed. All the small clinics in this area are supplied with medicines by the Chinese Army – free of cost. One of my trek-mates needed to be hospitalized for high altitude oxygen deficiency. As he was being administered oxygen, we noticed that even the oxygen cylinders were from China. We also noted unmarked helicopters flying in what we called ‘Indian airspace’. In all likelihood, these belonged to the Chinese Army. During winter, when all the transport roads are closed, the Chinese Army supplies amenities absolutely free of cost. While the Indian Army and the BSF also provides supplies, getting them involves a complex system of bribery that the locals are unwilling to undertake. We had a talk with an Indian Army Captain on the Khardungla Pass and asked him about his orders regarding the approaching Chinese Army. We were told that he had been given strict instructions to stand down and observe and to retreat if necessary, but not to go into a confrontation.

The latest news about the current flurry of ‘incursions’ is that the Chinese are retreating. Are they? Or, it is as the popular Hindi proverb goes, the tiger takes two steps back before deciding to leap. And what is our leadership planning? A Blitzkrieg on Beijing? Are we ready yet, to stand up and reclaim what we call Indian soil? Are these fringes of our great nation really Indian, given that most of the locals depend on Chinese supplies to sustain life?

As a proud Indian I would certainly like some answers. And to outlive the shadows of 1962.