In a barbaric turn of events in the night of 15 June 2020, a major violent altercation broke out between Sino-Indo soldiers in the Eastern Ladakh Galwan Valley which led to bloodshed and casualties apparently from both sides as per the statements by the Indian Government.
The news of the incident was shared on 16 June 2020 by the Indian side and confirmed the death of 3 soldiers, a number which in a few hours, changed to 20. This marks the first deadly clash between the two countries in the past 45 years. The very next day the Indian Army released the list of those 20 martyred soldiers which also included one commanding officer. The Indian side also claimed that 43 of the Chinese soldiers were killed but these figures haven’t been acknowledged by China. One of the reporters at the Chinese newspaper Global Times tweeted the death of 5 soldiers and 11 injured but soon the statement was retrieved. On 14 June 2020, merely a day before the brawl between the two sides, Union Minister Rajnath Singh spoke at the “Jammu Jan Samvad Rally” through a video conference where he claimed that India would not compromise its national Pride at any cost. He assured talks with the Chinese government at a diplomatic and military level while adding that “China too expressed a wish to resolve this issue via talks”.
On 17 June 2020, the Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lijian Zhao in a press conference claimed China’s sovereignty over the Galwan Valley and said that the Indian troops “deliberately launched provocations and attacks” on Chinese personnel resulting in physical confrontations. In a sharp retort to China’s claim over Galwan valley, the spokesperson of Ministry of External Affairs Anurag Srivastava referred those claims as “Exaggerated and Untenable”. He even informed that both the Countries’ Foreign Ministers were on phone conversations that day and both came to a mutual understanding that the overall “situation should be handled in a responsible way”. The following day China freed 10 Indian soldiers from its captivity including 2 Majors, 2 Captains and 6 Jawans as reported by various media outlets however this has not been confirmed by the Indian Government.
However, China from the past month has aggressively been creating conflict without aiming to seek any resolution. It has been accumulating its military force since the beginning of May 2020. On May 5 2020, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) breached the Line of Actual Control (LAC), to enter the Pangong Lake and Galwan Area leading to a major brawl between the two sides. On 9 May 2020, it made another attempt by infiltrating into Sikkims’s Naku La that resulted in intense altercations between the troops injuring 4 of India’s and 7 of China’s soldiers. Three days later in Eastern Ladakh, the Chinese Army was observed hovering Choppers around the LAC borders.
Such infiltrations at the hands of PLA gave way to a series of diplomatic talks between the two countries starting from June 2 2020, which saw Major-General level talks between two nations. June 5 2020, saw video talks between Indo-Sino officials ambassadors. But, it was finally on June 6 2020, that the two countries came to a final agreement of “disengagement” and vouched to start the process of de-escalations. Two days after the agreement, Rajnath Singh had a review meeting with Bipin Rawat (Chief of Defence staff) and three Chiefs of Indian Armed Forces. Later, the Chief of the Army Staff General Manoj Mukund Naravane assured that the tensions between Indo-China were under control and a few days later the incident of 15 June 2020 happened.
The death of 20 soldiers has caused massive public outrage demanding a permanent ban on products Made in China. Several videos on social media were surfing depicting people sabotaging Chinese electronic gadgets. Indian Railways terminated the 471 Crore contract of installing signal systems from Kanpur to Din Dayal Upadhyay Station which was given to a Chinese company in June 2016. However, the major reason given for snatching away the contract from Beijing National Railway Research & Design Institute of Signal & Communication Group Co. Ltd. was due to mere 20% of progress in the span of 4 years.
On Thursday, Ajay Shukla tweeted an image of “iron nail-studded rods” and claimed it to have been used by Chinese troops on the Indian soldiers. Rahul Gandhi even asked in a video about the one responsible for sending Indian soldiers towards danger without weapons. Although, the two nuclear powers have an abundance of artillery the face-off took place using stones, rods and sticks. Both sides are not allowed to open fire adhering to the 1996 agreement.
The agreement states that “neither side shall open fire or conduct blast operations within 2 Km of the Line of Actual Control. It also explicitly states that during any disagreement between two sides over the alignment of LAC or any other issue, the personnel must exercise restraint and the countries shall seek diplomatic consultations. Even though, large scale military exercises are barred in the disputed area. There was also a 2013 agreement signed between the two countries which consolidates the provisions in the 1996 Agreement. This agreement ensures that the border patrolling by the countries doesn’t escalate into armed conflict by stating “The two sides agree that they shall not follow or tail patrols of the other side in areas where there is no common understanding of the Line of Actual Control in the India-China border areas“.
China uses the confusion of alignment of LAC to its own benefit. Unlike Line of Control (LOC) with Pakistan, LAC is not a border demarking a specified area. Most of it is divided by the bank of the river or some other terrain with no soldiers patrolling the area. LAC came to existence after the 1962 Sino-Indian war and the line was unofficially demarcated as a cease-fire line until 1993 joint agreement where it was accepted as the Line of Actual Control. But, both the countries have different interpretations of this line which the Chinese sides have been trying to take advantage of.
PM Narendra Modi on 20 June 2020 organised an all-party meet to discuss the soaring border tension and said that China “didn’t enter our border” but according to Economic times, China has invaded up to 3 km inside the Galwan valley. In March, the Indian government itself claimed that China has occupied 38000 square km of Indian land in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh.
There are two major points because of which China is showing its aggression. First being that India is all set to complete the Darbuk-Shyok-DBO (DSDBO) road whose construction started in April 2019 to connect Daulat Beg Oldi near Chinese post with Leh. The road falls near Galwan Valley which China claims its sovereignty over. The 255 Km long project will strengthen the strategic position of the Indian military in the disputed area. Chinese have constantly been opposing its construction since the beginning of May. While the other point of contention is the heavily patrolled Pangong lake in Ladakh. Officially, 135 km of the lake belongs to China while the rest 45 Km to India. The regions of the lake have been divided into fingers. According to the Lallantop, India used to patrol till finger 4 (a turning point for Indian vehicles) but now it has been reduced to finger 2, thanks to the constant Chinese intrusion. In China occupied Aksai Chin, its army has brought in heavy amunitions and constructed various roads to enhance connectivity. Slowly, it is trying to claim the Indian regions through force.
According to The Indian Express, in the year 2020 the number of transgressions made by China stands at 170. There have been 5 rounds of diplomatic talks but there seems to be no resolution in regards to the Beijing aggression. It also reflects that the neighbour is not interested in backing down. A former army official told The Lallantop that they are ready for war to save the native territory but being against a powerful country can never be a solution. India clearly is on the backfoot because such bloodshed was last seen only in 1975 where two of India’s soldiers were shot dead in Arunachal Pradesh, an incident remembered as an accident by the countries. The only viable option that remains is to have talks with the Communist Party of China which controls the country. Another option is to internationalise the issue and corner China at a diplomatic front.
Last month, Xi Jinping threatened Taiwan and alluded to using force for “peaceful unification” of the Island nation with China bringing in widespread criticism. Not to forget, the cold war like situation between US-China and President Trump trying hard to annihilate trade relations with Dragon. On 20 June 2020, President Trump said that Washington is in talks with India as well as China during this “very tough situation”. He added, “They’ve come to blows, and we’ll see what happens. We’ll try and help them out”
With the rise of the #BoycottChina sentiment, companies like Xiomi, Vivo, Tiktok and others are fearing their future in the Indian market. The contract of Delhi-Meerut Regional Rapid Transit System project which is currently with the Chinese firm is being reviewed and the IPL’s title sponsorship with Vivo is also under scrutiny.
In the latest update, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on 21 June met the three chiefs of defence services along with the Chief of Defence Staff to review the situation in Eastern Ladakh.