Tensions look to be escalating between China and India
No bullets were fired.
So far, Chinese and Indian troops exchanged brickbats and hurled bullies.
Normally, India and Pakistan skirmishes trade thunderous artillery fire and weapons drawn on each other -- often inflicting civilian casualties.
Presently, both China and India claim transgression of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) over Galwan Valley in Ladakh. The valley was once a flashpoint in the 1962 Sino-India war.
An earlier Sino-India border dispute in 2017 or Doklam stand-off refers to the faceoff between the Indian Armed Forces and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) over the construction of a road in Doklam near a tri-junction border area, known as Donglang, or Donglang Caochang (meaning Donglang pasture or grazing field), in Chinese.
After a month of the stand-off, both India and China withdrew their troops from the Doklam theatre.
As the Galwan valley stand-off continues, China is increasingly taking a more belligerent position. Of the flashpoints, three were in Ladakh in the Kashmir region, while another is at Nuka La Pass, which connects India’s north-eastern state of Sikkim with China’s Tibet.
The question is: Why are the two Asian giants hurtling down the path of war at the Himalayan frontiers?
When the military of the two countries are in a face-off, Xi Jinping tells PLA to “prepare for war” to thwart the coronavirus impact on national security.
The winter in Galwan Valley is brutal. Even during clear weather at any time of the year, border patrol at 15,000 feet above sea level is treacherous.
There are several theories to why this border tension exists when the world is trying to control the coronavirus that came from China.
First, China allegedly changed its claims over the Galwan Valley thrice. Now, Beijing says that the entire Galwan Valley belongs to China.
“India in recent days has illegally constructed defense facilities across the border into Chinese territory in the Galwan Valley region, leaving Chinese border defense troops no other option but making necessary moves in response, and mounting the risk of escalating stand-offs and conflicts between the two sides,” blames China’s official newspaper the Global Times.
Second, China is annoyed after the Indian authority’s plan for a huge economic zone in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, offering attractive packages to shift manufacturing plants from China, when companies are worried about the second wave of Covid-19 sweeping the country.
The media report in Indian newspapers has visibly irritated the bigwigs of the Chinese Communist Party, with the strategic ambition of India to replace China’s role in the global industrial chain only expanding. Thus, the Global Times editorial has expressed its rage against the “Make in India” campaign to become the world’s next destination for brand factories.
Third, Narendra Modi’s administration last year revoked the autonomous status of the part of Kashmir under its control. Indian-administered Kashmir is the only Muslim-majority region in India and has continued to be claimed by China’s staunch ally, Pakistan.
While India and Pakistan have fought wars over Kashmir, China has always stood beside Pakistan and supported Kashmir nationals’ right to self-determination.
The fourth sore point between China and India is Tibet, a region that China says is its rightful territory. Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and the so-called Tibetan government in exile, have its headquarters in Himachal, India.
Meanwhile, China is in no mood for dialogue. Beijing is blaming India, and China’s newspaper the Global Times has been publishing aggressive and anti-India rhetoric. It claims that India has “illegally constructed defense facilities across the border into Chinese territory.”
“Not since 1975 has a bullet been fired across the shared border. As a result, the theory that Sino-Indian clashes are flashes in the pan and unlikely to lead to more extensive fighting has become a widely held consensus,” Professors Sumit Ganguly and Manjeet S Pardesi wrote in the Foreign Policy.
Saleem Samad is an independent journalist, media rights defender, and recipient of Ashoka Fellowship and Hellman-Hammett Award. His twitter is @saleemsamad and can be reached at [email protected]