India on Monday released the Chinese soldier who had strayed into the Ladakh area three days ago. While New Delhi called this an “act of peace”, it had earlier chosen to describe Pakistan releasing the Indian Air Force pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, from its custody as something the neighboring country had done out of compulsion.
Just three months ago, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa (retired) had said Pakistan had no other option but to release Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman after his MiG 21 was shot down in an aerial dogfight in February 2019.
On the morning of January 08, a Chinese PLA soldier had lost his way and entered Indian territory near Gurung Hill in the Chushul sector of Eastern Ladakh, following which he was apprehended by the Indian Army.
“The PLA soldier had transgressed across the LAC and was taken into custody by Indian troops deployed in this area. Troops from either side are deployed along the LAC since friction erupted last year due to unprecedented mobilization and forward concentration by Chinese troops,” said the Indian Army.
The Indian Army had also mentioned how the Chinese soldier was “being dealt with as per laid down procedures”.
Interestingly, the area of the capture lies south of Pangong Lake, one of the friction points between Indian and Chinese troops in the border ongoing standoff.
India Today reported the Chinese soldier has been released by India and sent back to the PLA after spending 72 hours in Indian custody. It is believed the soldier was released after the Indian officials did not find any foul play in their investigation into the incident.
This is the second such incident involving a Chinese soldier. In October last year, a PLA soldier identified as Corporal Wang Ya Long was taken into custody when he strayed into the Indian territory.
It was reported that Wang was carrying civil and military documents at the time of the capture, and was later provided medical assistance before being handed over to China a day later, on October 21.
An Indian Army official told The EurAsian Times, India’s decision to release the Chinese soldier is an “act of peace”.
“This is India’s indication towards its ability and willingness to differentiate between erroneous actions versus deliberate provocations, and its willingness to go an extra mile to maintain peace at all costs.”
“Therefore, the release of the Chinese soldier who erroneously ventured into the Indian territory shows the tolerance of Indian authorities and keenness to restore normalized relations at all costs,” said the official speaking on the condition of anonymity.
India’s stand vis-a-vis the Chinese soldier is in stark contrast to its reaction to February 2019 episode involving Wing Commander Varthaman.
The IAF pilot was held captive by the Pakistani military for 60 hours after his aircraft was shot down in an aerial dogfight during the India-Pakistan border skirmishes of 2019.
Islamabad had released videos of Varthaman being rescued by Pakistani soldiers from a violent mob of villagers, after which he was given medical attention and interrogated.
However, days later Pakistan decided to hand him over to the Indian side as a “gesture of peace”, following which Varthaman was conferred the Vir Chakra gallantry award by New Delhi.
“A reason why the two scenarios play out differently is mainly down to strength and the international reputation of the two nations. On one hand, there is the Pakistani military which was pressurized into sending Abhinandan back to us under the Geneva conventions and due to India’s dominant position at that time,” a retired army officer said, requesting anonymity.
“On the other hand, the Indian Army releasing the Chinese soldier is not down to pressure on us, but because we are in the position to do so, unlike Pakistan. A scenario where the Chinese military can scare us does not exist, either in terms of the numbers or the capability, which perhaps cannot be said about Pakistan, who had all the things to worry about,”
“With Abhinandan’s capture, Pakistan had a lot of eyes cornering them into a tough spot which is completely different from our situation with China. You can only call it an act of peace if you have the option to do so,”
“If you have no other option, it is a case where you are forced. That cannot be called something one is doing out of one’s own accord. So, it is fair to say that Pakistan just had no other option. If it is cowardice, call it that. But beggars really cannot be choosers,” the retired Indian Army official added.