India China face off at galwan valley
-BY AISHNA MISHRA
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar is set to meet his Chinese and Russian counterparts at a virtual conference of the Russia-India-China trilateral on Tuesday, as the tension between India and China continue to rise. In a recent clash between Indian and Chinese soldiers at the border in Sikkim, it is difficult to predict what discussion goes on the table.
The deadly skirmishes have lead to fresh speculations on the ties of India and China. Prime Minister Narendra Modi faces an unprecedented challenge as India surrounds itself with two hostile neighbours. Ever since India abolished article 370, it faced several cases of encounters and ceasefire violations by Pakistan. Not just article 370, making Leh-Ladakh a part of Indian Union Territory and construction of Dauld Beg Oldi Road have seemed to make the Chinese upset. While India has its external conflicts, there’s one within - the opposition continues to question the contradicting statements issued by the Army, the Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister.
As the cases of Coronavirus surge, China is aiming to reset its border with its non-surrogate neighbors. A lot of strategic thinking goes behind China’s every move as it tries to redefine its boundaries. According to the journalist Shekhar Gupta, China always plays such tactics to surge nationalism in a country which lacks press freedom. The fresh ‘state-based actor’ cyber-attacks on Australia proves China’s urgent need to push back its non-surrogate countries. The Recent Intel by a Singapore firm has warned India about possible cyber-attacks. The bone of contention to it is that India has been following a seven-year-old Cyber Security policies and the laws need to be updated in the era of technologies armed with Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.
Escalations started with the construction of Bailey Bridge by India in Eastern Ladakh along the Line of Actual Control. The bridge holds strategic importance as it helps the Indian Army in the movement of troops and weapons. The bridge is built on Shyok River ( also River of death, a tributary of Indus River ) and is very close to Shyok-Galwan convergence, where the recent skirmishes have said to occur. It links to Daulat Beg Oldi Road, which is around 9km away from the LAC. The talks began on 6th June between 14 Corps Commander Lt Gen. Harinder Singh and his counterpart with an aim of d-escalating the situation, where both the sides agreed to step back from the area by 2kms.
(as per the map shown by IISS)
On 15th June, It was found that two Chinese tents were still intact near the patrol point 14. The Indian Army dismantled one of the tents, which further led to the fight between the two countries. Chinese army came back with troops, outnumbering Indian troops, armed with iron rods, nail-studded clubs and rocks wrapped in barbed wire. 20 casualties were reported on the Indian side and 10 soldiers were later released by China. Although no such revelation has been made by the Chinese government, it is estimated that the casualties are far more than the Indian. China has never been open about its casualties, even in the 1962 Sino-Indian War. The actual number of casualties was only reported during the late 1990s.
The clashes led to the Indian Government revising its Standard operating procedure along the Line of Actual Control or the rules of engagement along the LAC, empowering field commanders to sanction the use of firearms under ''extraordinary'' circumstance. This decision comes as a response to the Chinese’s violation of three key bilateral agreements that were signed in the year 1993,1996 and 2013. According to the 1993 agreement, “No activities of either side shall overstep the line of actual control. In case personnel of one side cross the Line of Actual Control, upon being cautioned by the other side, they shall immediately pull back to their own side of the Line of Actual Control. When necessary, the two sides shall jointly check and determine the segments of the Line of Actual Control where they have different views as to its alignment.”
After the fatal incident was reported, widespread anger was observed across India. Indians held protests urging the public to boycott the Chinese goods. However, boycotting the Chinese goods will have a severe impact on India as its manufacturing sector continues to face many hurdles. The ongoing diplomatic talk might be a solution for the short run but is very unlikely to sustain for a long period of time. After the 2017 Dhoklam standoff, Multiple High-level talks have been conducted in order to defuse the tensions between the two developing countries but it continues to be a bone of contention. Amidst the rising cases of Coronavirus, Assam Floods and Migrant Crisis, Narendra Modi faces an unprecedented challenge with its hostile neighbour which needs a tangible solution. The question is, Will he follow the footsteps of Nehru or make his own way to lead India?