As the first signs of deescalation appear in Chumur, it is now clear China overplayed its hand by sending disproportionate number of troops to intrude into India.
On Wednesday, the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) began sending a battalion-strong (1000 men) force two km west of the original flashpoint at a location called 30 R in the Chumur sector even as a flag meeting was on to try and resolve the issue.
By intruding 4-5 km inside Indian territory with such a large force, the PLA perhaps hoped to intimidated the Indian Army. But the local commanders under 14 Corps based at Leh and the Northern Command swiftly deployed almost 1500 troops to counter the Chinese intrusion taking the PLA by total surprise.
The eye ball to eye ball standoff soon became headlines, putting visiting Chinese president Xi Jinping under pressure during his talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi broached the subject at an informal dinner he was hosting for Xi in Ahmedabad, the Chinese side realised that a local operation had suddenly become bigger headache than they anticipated.
Preliminary assessment by India’s National Security managers suggests the PLA Commanders did not anticipate India’s swift counter build up and a firm stand during two marathon flag meetings on Monday and Wednesday. This was a change from previous occasions when the Indian side often appeared unsure of how to deal with intrusions and transgressions as was evident during the three week long Depsang face off in April last year.
When the current crisis began in early September, the Chinese were taken aback by India’s strong objection to a road it wanted build in Chumur.
When the presence of a small force failed to deter local Indian commanders, China tried intimidation by sending a battalion-strong force
But even that didn’t work forcing President Xi Jinping to admit obliquely that incidents on border happen because it is undemarcated but the trick he said is in preventing such incidents from having a large impact.
Unfortunately for him, a tactical blunder on PLA’s part at Chumur ( with his full knowledge) has turned out to be a decision with large strategic implications especially since the President was on a high stakes visit to India.
As the troops withdraw gradually, China would introspect on what it gained by raising the pitch to a level higher than required