An unfortunate incident happened on the night of 15-16 June, when the recent impasse on the LAC broke down leading to a melee at Galwan valley, killing 20 Indian soldiers and an unknown number of Chinese soldiers (43 Chinese soldiers dead reported by Indian sources). This event is in stark contrast with the statements coming from the military brass and Diplomatic sources engaged in de-escalating the tensions on the LAC with their Chinese counterparts.
The reason for the scuffle as specified by Indian Army sources, was a check-in process by a team of Indian soldiers led by Col. Santosh Babu to check and remove the left-over illegal camps built by Chinese soldiers on the Indian side of the LAC which led to over-aggressive behavior by Chinese soldiers and fisticuffs, killing soldiers from both sides.
With this event, the streak of no bloodshed on the LAC since 1975, in which 4 Indian soldiers of Assam rifles lost their life at Tulung La situated in Arunachal Pradesh, has been broken. This is a clear case of violation of key agreements of 1993,1996 and 2013 between both the sides, through which they are committed to maintaining peace despite differing perceptions of the LAC.
The statement of Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi has underlined that India wants peace but “will give a befitting reply” if provoked, and External affairs minister S Jaishankar has conveyed to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi that the Galwan Valley development will have a “serious” impact on the bilateral relationship, shows the change in the stance of the political leadership of India.
Belligerent China is pursuing her interest, at a time when global turmoil is evident due to the Corona Pandemic. Shrouded with the Pandemic, China has recently passed a Security bill for Hong-kong, started coming vociferously in the South China Sea, increased her critical narratives on Taiwan, and taking a hard stance on the LAC against India, all being attempted at the same time.
The current tensions on the LAC have been perceived to be due to changing dynamics of global politics and a pro-active foreign policy of India slipping towards the anti-Chinese group, coupled with the building of a road called DSDBO (Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat beg oldie) connecting Leh with the Karakoram, build a few miles away from the Aksai Chin. But, are these the real reasons for the Chinese hard stance, or are there other things we have missed?
We must bear this in mind that the changing power dynamics tilting towards China is a nudge for China to be more belligerent in different areas to push for the agenda of Chinese nationalism in a time when voices are being raised against Chinese leadership at home as well as globally. At a time when the whole world is very much dependent on China for their manufacturing needs, these actions seem to be logical.
One thing which the world isolated from is The modern Kingdom (China) with a medieval mindset. The book is written in the 5th century by a Chinese Army General Sun Tzu named “The Art of War” that is still relevant today, not only for learning purposes but also for practical applications.
“The Supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without even fighting”
And that’s what is really happening now, a continuous game of hardening, followed by negotiations, almost resembling an endless motion inside a loop. China’s increasing investment in foreign countries, with increasing clout through Cultural diplomacy and People Diplomacy to have influenced all around the world, find resemblance in the work of Sun Tzu, to defeat the enemy by making it impotent even without waging a war.
As China is denying a process of exchanging the maps with India, which clearly shows the intention of leveraging the LAC position through ambiguity to pressurize India, as and when required, The nibbling away tactics are just a game of China which is the brain-Child of the most ambitious leader of China, Mr. Jinping, after whose succession the flare-up on the LAC has increased, be it the skirmishes of 2013 at Daulat beg oldie and 2017 Doklam Crisis or the Current impasse on the LAC on multiple areas.
China is a country whose tactics are unknown but whose goals are very much known, The Middle Kingdom. All the moves consolidate to make China stride in that direction. The surprising move of China claiming Galwan Valley, a shift from the past, is meant to make India agree on the existing status quo, by nibbling away the occupied land from India. But the current crisis between India and China is an Eye-opening moment for India, debunking the misplaced sense of our ability to handle China and an illusion provided by the informal summits of Wuhan and Mamallapuram, and making us aware that we not only have one enemy to deal with we have two, one being in wide-open (Pakistan) and other being hiding in the face of an Economically (China).
Ashley Tellis of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace -a South Asian Strategic affairs analyst of repute says India – like all other countries – which share a border with China have only three choices. First, retaliate against expansionism by copy-cat capture of poorly defined territory held by China. Second, resist expansionary claims actively – on the ground and diplomatically. Third lie back and accept the rape.
The third option seems irrelevant in the current scenario given the current government which is riding on the wave of nationalism finds itself in a dilemma to consider that option. The first option, employed earlier, has borne no fruits, in the meantime leading to the current situation. Now the only left option with us is confronting through multiple fronts, with upgradation in our defense infrastructure coupled with formulating a new National Security Strategy to confront these kinds of situations in the near future, wisely. A clearer stance on the LAC, by resolving it through consensus and not to allow it to fester by clearing-out all the differences as well as forging the global alliances to diffuse any unilateral action by China are the ways forward. Equally important is to consider the Economic front, to steer clear of growing Chinese dominance in the Global Economic front as well as Indian dependence on it. Ours is an Economy ⅕ the size of the Chinese, and here lies the great task ahead.
China is certainly ahead of India in Military and Economic terms, but are we willing to legitimize the killing of our fellow countrymen, just not to confront, thinking of a powerful Enemy?
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Indeed the steps were taken by the GOI to stop Chinese cheap goods imports to India, canceling of Indian Railways infrastructure building deal with China, and the Launch of Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative, are some of the moves in the right direction. Government is now taking their share of responsibility, now is the time to ask, Are we taking ours?