Xtreme theory on China
The Indian strategic community is in a dither, trying to work out why the Chinese have suddenly sent 40 troops 19 kilometres into territory that they have traditionally not even bothered to claim.
No theory is better than any of the others so long as Beijing remain opaque on its motives, even denying that there is an intrusion at all.
While I suspect that we will eventually find that domestic drivers have inspired this strange and egregious move. But for now one can speculate as to why this is taking place.
My favourite school of thinking is a bit far-fetched but has a certain geopolitical flair to it. This links the Daulat Beg Old intrusion with the Chinese taking over the Pakistani port of Gwadar.
The arises from the fact that the Depsang plateau’s northern ridge overlooks the Karakoram Pass — China’s gateway to Pakistan and lands beyond.
Beijing’s demands that India cease and desist its recent attempts to improve its border defences are about an attempt to neutralise the plateau as a site for Indian military deployments.
An artillery line or two or even some sort of a helipad on Depsang’s heights — and it’s hunting season for any vehicle, train or container crossing the Karakoram Pass.
Similarly there has been amazement at the recent Chinese announcement it would invest $ 750 million in developing Gwadar — a port connected to nothing, where a ship docks every half year and next to the fully developed port of Karachi.
Are these connected events? These would physically be connected if China did extend its plans to be Eurasia’s infrastructure hub to encompass Pakistan and the Arabian Sea.
As a Global Times article pointed out, a pipeline running from the Karakoram to Gwadar would allow China to get access to West Asia without the hindrance of the Straits of Malacca. Such a corridor would additionally boost Pakistan’s economy.
Cleaning up the Depsang would be part of any strategy to secure such an enormous project.
It sounds nice and also formidable in terms of funds and engineering.
I suspect therefore it was more of a few Chinese commanders getting together, saying India needs to be taught a lesson and someone then piped up “let’s do it on the Depsang plateau then, we need to keep that clear anyway.”
Or may be the prime minister’s visit to Japan was on their mind. Or sheer orneriness. All of the above may also be true.