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The Galwan Valley Brawl – a New Turn in Indo-China Relation?


The situation is changing every day so I must state the caveat. This column was
written on Tuesday, the 23 rd of June 2020.

The entire Sino-Indian border is about 4056 kilometers long and traverses on Indian Union Territory of Ladakh and four Indian States (Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh) to include the Western LAC, an undisputed section in the centre and the MacMahon Line in the East.  The border dispute with China is six decades old and at the lowest ebb, it resulted in the historic 1962 War, often touted as a Himalayan Blunder on the part of the then Indian administration.

Border skirmishes between the two countries are a recurrent feature butthe clash on June 15th was a barbaric one and a major blip in the radar. Arguably, the deadliest since 1975.The weapons used, suggest a depraved mindset of the Chinese attackers which tells chillingly of a simmering hatred,inside. And, 1.3 billion Indians are visibly enraged, spouting fire on social channels – rightly so.

A synopsis

On June 6th, there were talks between the two sides – at Lieutenant General level.A mutual agreement was struck to de-escalate and pull back troops because both sides had mobilized at Patrol Point 14, close to the LAC at the Galwan valley. Readers would know that the standoff was gathering momentum since May. A Chinese “observation post” had been set up at the vertex of the bend in the Galwan river on the Indian side of the LAC, and at the meeting, it was agreed that it would be removed. A few days later, the post was dismantled by the Chinese, only to re-emerge on 14th June.

On June 15th, Colonel Santosh Babu, the Commanding Officer of the 16Bihar Infantry Battalion set out (alongwith 40 others) for Patrolling Point 14 (PP14) andto check if the encroachments had been removed as per agreement. They hadn’t been, or rather, they re-appeared, cocking a snook at bilateral relations. Ironically, in this area, the troops from both sides had not been belligerent earlier, if not exactly sharing a smoke.

Reminiscent of the medieval times

Colonel Babu and his men on that fateful day were met by unfamiliar faces(in great numbers), and extremely hostile ones too. The rest is well documented – how the brutal fight was ignited and more troops were called in from both sides. There was no exchange of gunfire but the nature of the attackwas reminiscent of medieval times. Twenty brave Indian soldiers were martyred, including the Commanding Officer. We are unclear of the casualties on the Chinese side but there are indications that the number could be as high as 40 or even more. The Chinese had least expected this kind of retaliation and if reports are to be believed, they are in disarray.

China is a revisionist state and seeks global domination. Ever since the 1950s during the time of Zhou Enlai, they have engaged in a border dispute with us with the sole intent of redrawing the map. When one sees their revanchism in the South China Sea, one comprehends the expanse of their ambition.

The South China Sea is one of the busiest waterways and even for India, the route accounts for 55 percent of its trade.

Over the last decade and by forcing the nine-dash line including maritime incursions, the Chinese point of view is that of a bully – they want to control the waters and a massive chunk of international trade.

Look at Xi (or is it 11) Jinping’s brainchild – One Belt One Road(OBOR), dubbed as the “Project of the Century” and forcibly positioned as the ultimate connectivity between multiple countries across the continents of Asia, Africa & Europe. Do we have a modern-day Alexander trying to restore the ancient Silk Route and riding roughshod over global sentiments? India, admirably, in both cases has maintained a hard stance and it has not got down well with Eleven Jinping. 

Who does it in these times!

Absolutely appaling! It is given fact, the border disputes countries have with their neighbouring countries, but not at this point of time when the world is fighting a severe pandemic and human race is vulnerable. It comes across as a very barbaric and insensitive stand on part of the Chinese, but guess that’s a part of the bigger game of the world politics.

There can be a million arguments why the Galwan Valley brutal brawl was ignited. The common enough reason is that it’s just another extension of the border dispute that’s going on for six decades and now with the new global complexities – case in point being the blame game directed towards China for misrepresenting critical information on COVID – 19 – it has taken a more vicious turn. It may be argued that China is visibly upset  India is cozying up to the US and this was meant to be a warning. If it was, then clearly it didn’t achieve its desired impact. The message is loud – the Indian soldier is not to be cowed down by China’s military might. It’s also very clear and unambiguous.

The Chinese economy is about 13.6 trillion USD and ours is at 2.9. We simply can’t take on someone who’s four times our size so we have to draw them out intelligently.

Then again, Shivaji too was incapable of taking Aurangzeb head-on. But through guerrilla warfare tactics, he managed to stay ahead. The call for a ban on Chinese products is impractical. They are everywhere – table fans to mobile phones, bulbs, toys, washing machines, et al. It’s ideal for optics and seeking “revenge” but Indian substitutes may not be able to match their price points and quality. That’s why we need to think long-term and build capabilities that will take us closer to Superpower status. It may take us a decade but unless we get there we will always find ourselves forced to take sides. And of course, we have to think BIG. Not just by a handful of people but the entire nation.

Always remember those 20 martyred soldiers and how valiantly they fought to give the Chinese a bloody nose. Let their sacrifices not go to waste under the stuffy weight of babudom.

About the authors : Vineeta Jerath is the Co-founder-Editor of SUBURB Magazine. She writes on a wide spectrum of topics and is passionate about social issues. She is also a US certified NLP practitioner & a Reiki Channel.
Soumitra Das Gupta lives in Gurgaon. Besides reading, he is also stimulated by observing quirky human behavior to create stories around them. A flâneur of sorts, he loves to scout for ideas.

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