China’s transgression attempt near the southern bank of Pangong Tso, which was thwarted by the Indian Army was a deliberate move to provoke India, according to American intelligence assessment.
Beijing is infuriated with its local commander withdrawing forces when a physical conflict appeared imminent, added the assessment report.
Washington said Indian troops have prevented any loss of ground, according to a source familiar with the assessment who spoke on condition of anonymity. The Pangong Tso region situated high in the Himalayas is considered to be within India’s territorial control, according to US News and World Report.
The US believes that Indian forces were better prepared to face the Chinese provocation following the deadly violent standoff in June in the Galwan valley, in which 20 Indian soldiers had lost their lives. However, the assessment did not conclude whether Chinese forces were the first to act in a provocative manner in this case, although the US has chosen to side with India due to China’s past provocative behaviour.
American intelligence officials and local analysts have questioned the timing of the latest standoff even as China is seeking to cool tensions or it has given the appearance it wishes to do so and improve its relations with India.
“We are staggered at the timing of the Chinese actions but shouldn’t complain either if Beijing shoots itself in the foot,” according to the intelligence assessment.
Indian officials are slated to meet with their counterparts virtually from the US, Australia and Japan later this month for a summit, which Indian sources say, will likely result in a new intelligence-sharing agreement among the countries.
“The result of the 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue and its Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement will not only equip the Indian armed forces with the vital intelligence it needs to better understand Chinese military positions and movements, but it will serve as an important step in formalizing a partnership with New Delhi that Washington would like to see grow even stronger at China’s expense,” according to US News and World Report.
The US Defence Department said China has prioritised military spending over the last decade to focus on expanding its capabilities to be operated in disputed regions along its border, including India and Bhutan to contested waterways in the East and South China seas.
“China’s leaders use tactics short of armed conflict to pursue China’s objectives. China calibrates its coercive activities to fall below the threshold of provoking armed conflict with the US, its allies and partners, or others in the Indo-Pacific region,” according to the latest version of the Pentagon’s annual Military China Report, which was released on Tuesday.
The US intelligence assessment stated that Chinese troops this time were building encampments in contested space, a tactic adopted by both sides to gain a foothold they can expand later into infrastructure to support broader operations in the future.
Chinese President Xi Jinping would have known about the latest clashes in advance due to the nature of the Chinese military’s decision-making. Xi may have created a “cycle of provocations” and does not know how to extract the Chinese Army without appearing to show weak, according to US intelligence officials.
Analysts at that time believed Chinese troops did not anticipate the mood of the Indian people following the Galwan valley clash. The Indian government subsequently took action, which included banning several Chinese mobile applications.
Talks have been held between the two sides but the outcome has not come out yet. Recently, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi embarked on a five-nation visit in Europe to ease tensions, particularly the growing skepticism of using Chinese telecom major Huawei to help build 5G networks.
“The timing is puzzling given the upcoming US-India talks and what appeared to be some recent – if not particularly successful – efforts to reduce tensions along the border,” Sheena Greitens, associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs, was quoted as saying by US News and World Report.
“One effect of the standoff has been to add a sense of urgency to efforts to strengthen US-India ties, especially in terms of defence cooperation. But developments at the 2+2 should not be viewed as a knee-jerk response to this week’s flare-up: There is a long-standing interest in the United States in strengthening ties with India in its own right,” Greitens said.