Indian and Chinese troops were involved in a face off along the LAC in Tawang region of Arunachal Pradesh, on December 9. Indian Army explained that this incident had occurred, because in some areas of Tawang, both sides have different perceptions of the alignment of the LAC, wherein Indian Army and PLA patrol up to their respective claim lines; and troops involved in the face off disengaged after flag meeting was held as per the established protocols and mechanisms. This statement reflected factual situation as existing on ground, in accurate manner.
‘China urges India to restrain frontline troops, work together to maintain border peace’ was the title of an article regarding the same incident, published in the Chinese government mouthpiece ‘Global Times’ on December 13. Official statements and assessments of experts mentioned in this article, follow the general pattern of perception management, practiced by the China through their concept of ‘Three Warfares’.
Three Warfares i.e., Public Opinion/Media warfare, Psychological warfare and Legal warfare are integral components of Chinese Military Strategy. Twin aims of these activities are to propagate favourable narratives through perception management activities for advancing Chinese interests and compromising the opponent’s capability to respond. Pursuit of at least two components, Public Opinion and Legal, of the three warfares strategy, while conveying the Chinese narrative regarding Tawang incident, was obvious, in the Global Times article.
Public Opinion warfare involves employing propaganda as a weapon through various forms of media to weaken the adversary’s “will to fight”, while ensuring strength of will and unity among civilian and military views on one’s own side. Statement of Senior Colonel Long Shaohua, spokesperson of the PLA Western Theater Command, mentioned in the article claims, “Chinese border troops were on a routine patrol on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on an eastern section of the China-India border on Friday when Indian troops illegally crossed the line and blocked the Chinese forces. Faced with the trespass, the PLA dealt with the situation with professional, standard, and powerful measures and stabilized the situation”. This articulation is clearly a part of Public Opinion warfare exercise. It deliberately portrays the Indian troops as initiators of the incident and praises PLA for professional handling of the situation.
Same article contained, the opinion of an expert, Lin Minwang, a professor at the Institute of International Studies of Fudan University, about this incident. He states, “What is worth noting is that historically, conflicts on the India-China border rarely occur in winter…for India, at the strategic level, it needs to signal to the outside world that China-India relations are tense, which is related to maintaining its position in front of the US, and that India also wants to sustain its strategy of balanced diplomacy”. Reference to imaginary strategic messaging by India, is an apparent effort to actively guide public opinion and preserve the initiative on the “public opinion battlefield”, regarding a botched-up misadventure of PLA.
Legal warfare tinge was indicated in the statement of Chinese Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin, mentioned in this article. He said, “We hope that India will meet China halfway, implement the important consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries, strictly abide by the spirit of the relevant agreements signed by the two sides, and jointly maintain peace and tranquillity in the border region”. This remark is clearly designed to seize ‘legal principle superiority’ and delegitimizing Indian actions which were initiated to prevent PLA troops from crossing the LAC. And interestingly through this statement, China, which has violated all agreements and attempted to change the status quo in Eastern Ladakh is trying to fix the blame on India.
It is extremely important that Indian media presents an informed and factually correct analysis of the Tawang incident to the public, and at the same time create awareness about the incorrect narrative being conveyed by China. Unnecessary rhetoric is not warranted while reporting about a situation which, as is generally known and reported press in the past, has occurred many times since 2006.
Signing off for the week, by quoting Marcus Aurelius, “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth”.
Brigadier Rajiv Mahna YSM, SM, VSM is an Indian Army Veteran who has chosen to remain a student for the lifetime.
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“We Said It”
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