Neglecting the demands of Ladakhis can have bearing on India's national security

Mixing politics with national security in sensitive border regions like Manipur and Ladakh can cost us dearly. China is a rogue state with aggressive designs and well well-advanced in hybrid and conventional conflict with an expanding arsenal of nuclear weapons.

Photo (Twitter)

Post India's independence, when British officers led the Pakistani Army to invade Ladakh, it was the Nubra Guards of Ladakh who fought them as there was no Indian Army in that area. Ladakhis are among the most patriotic and peace-loving in India. One can say this from personal experience having commanded two formations in Ladakh – the Siachen Brigade and the Division in Kargil. The contribution of Ladakh Scouts in safeguarding the nation has been immense.  

Prior to a bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir state into Union territories of J&K and Ladakh on October 31, 2019, Ladakh received a very small fraction of the massive funds the central government was pouring into J&K. The feeling prevailed that since Ladakhis didn’t pick up guns like those in Kashmir Valley, they were being ignored. But they continued to shun violence

Due to difficult terrain and climatic conditions, Ladakh is prone to natural disasters, including avalanches and mudslides. Landslides block roads on high-altitude mountain passes throughout the year. In winter, many areas are completely cut off for prolonged blockages due to snowfall. On August 6, 2010, at least 255 people (including six foreign tourists) died in Leh and 71 towns/villages in a midnight cloudburst and heavy overnight rains triggering flash floods, mudflows, and debris flows. Ironically, the government hospital at Leh did not even have a mortuary, indicating how pathetic the conditions were.

This, however, is not about the wrath of nature in Ladakh but the turmoil unfolding in this sensitive border region in backdrop of the  continuing three-year old standoff with China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and China vigorously developing border infrastructure close to the Siachen Glacier (,capturing%20Pangong%20Tso%20and%20the).     

Ladakhi protests

Ladakhis have been protesting for reasons that include the loss of traditional grazing grounds to China since 2020. A Pashmina March by locals to border areas to prove loss of traditional grazing grounds has been stopped with the threat of imposing Section 144 (prohibiting assembly of five or more people) and cutting internet for two months; The government has allotted about 150 sq km of pasture land to private corporations without safeguarding to locals, who fear this may increase three-fold aggravating climate change.  Ladakhis demand the ruling party should fulfill its pre-election promise of granting statehood to Ladakh and implementing the Sixth Schedule of the constitution that provides measures of autonomy and self-governance to the Scheduled Tribes in the hill regions.

The brouhaha about returning Kashmiri Pandits to the Kashmir Valley has died down despite claims of normalcy.  But the Ladakhis demand for implementing the promises made for statehood and implementing the Sixth Schedule of the constitution must be seen in the context of Ladakh’s changing demography over the years with migration from the Kashmir Valley, especially in areas of Dras-Kargil, plus  ‘construed’ efforts by the migrants to push the Ladakhis eastwards, of which the government is aware. 

The reasons behind the government’s stance are multiple. First, the stand taken that no territory has been lost to China in 2020, but it cannot explain ( PLA presence 20 km inside Depsang among other intrusions; why we cannot patrol 26 out of 65 protective patrols; why we vacated Kailash Range without insisting PLA simultaneously vacate Depsang-Demchok. 

Government intransigence

In fact, India has lost control of over 4,000 sq km of territory, which the government is loath to admit – that’s why the Pashmina March or even a token march by Ladakhis to the border is being denied.   

Second, intransigence towards the tribal, similar to in Manipur, and distrust of Ladakhis. One former diplomat has been spreading the word that giving statehood to Ladakh could lead to locals aligning with China-occupied Tibet (sic). Third, land allotted to corporate/industrialists without safeguards to locals – crushing tribal rights, as has been the case in the Maoists belt of Central India, and is now happening in Manipur and Ladakh.

Ironically, a select ‘white-washing’ group actively supports the dispensation as part of information warfare to mould perceptions: that nothing happened in eastern Ladakh during 2020; all is hunky dory with China put on the back foot; China’s infrastructure development in the area of Shaksgam has no strategic implications; and protests in Ladakh are instigated by Beijing.   

The mainstream media, including TV channels, shuns reporting on the strife, unease and protests in Ladakh. Sonam Wangchuk, engineer, innovator and education reformist led the protests on a 21-day climate fast and many Buddhist monks have continued  to fast since April 17. Instead of reasoning the protests having serious security implications, a set of jackals are hounding Sonam Wangchuk on social media, which is  commented upon by a former naval chief and Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee (

Mixing politics with national security in sensitive border regions like Manipur and Ladakh can cost us dearly. China is a rogue state with aggressive designs and well well-advanced in hybrid and conventional conflict with an expanding arsenal of nuclear weapons.  Moreover, lodging now a protest with China (, eight years after road construction began and was known in Shaksgam would only humor China.   

(The author is an Indian Army veteran. Views are personal)

Post a Comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
Sat, 05/04/2024 - 21:49
Подводя итог – я доволен покупкой входных металлических дверей от производителя мне достался товар высочайшего качества
с отличным сервисом - замер бесплатно,
доставка и установка также обошлись без каких-либо дополнительных платежей.
Madhu Bhaduri
Sun, 05/05/2024 - 17:06
An excellent article. There is a crying need to change our policy in Laddakh and Manipur. The government is playing with fire.
خرید بک لینک
Mon, 05/06/2024 - 10:29
Hello! Do you use Twitter? I'd like to follow you if that
would be ok. I'm absolutely enjoying your blog and look forward to new posts.
Deepak Adyanthaya
Mon, 05/06/2024 - 13:19
Viewing a people's reluctance to take up arms is a positive development but should not be considered a merit or qualification for appeasement. At the same time the propensity of a tribe to take up arms against the State must be viewed as treason and treated accordingly. The BJP and the Congress are guilty of appeasement to a lesser or greater degree. Stone throwers must be shot in the groin, taken into custody, max intelligence acquired from them and used for further action. If they are considered hard core, 75% 0f their organs must be harvested scientifically, castrated, bobbitised and sent back in order to indicate to future aspirants of terrorism that going to heaven after their heroic deeds is not going to help them anyway because of the lack of the required equipment. For dealing with terrorism, 'do to them what they do to you' should be the guiding principle, with due apologies to political considerations. Israel, KPS Gill and host of others have shown the way to deal with them. Why struggle to think of new methods. Politicians are soft because because they never pay. It is the people who pay for their sins.
Saddam managed a diverse and violent bunch of tribes like this.Though he belonged to a minority called Alawites, he battered all militants into submission and ruled like a king, till the Americans perpetrated lies and did him in.
There is a saying in the Tulu language that if you have the knowhow, you can even impregnate a mosquito. Meaning to say that it is the method that is important.