“The age of expansionism is over, this is the era of development…whenever we have seen expansionist tendencies, these have spelt danger for world peace.”– Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing troops in Nimu, a short distance from Leh town 17 days after the Galwan clash.
There was bloody cash in the Galwan Valley on June 16, 2020 when the Chinese soldiers attacked the unarmed Indian soldiers who were on a routine patrolling of the LAC area, the Line of Actual Control. The LAC between the two nations is not clearly demarcated and the dispute has led to several face offs between Indian and Chinese soldiers, but no bloody fight like what happened in Galwan valley recently. The presence of rivers, lakes and snowcaps means the line can shift. There is supposedly an understanding between the two countries that the actual petrol movements can be a point further or less due to lack of clarity in its definition. Ambiguity is known to both the countries, and hence such movements are not taken as something that deserves bloody response. A routine interaction between the military officers from both the side along with diplomatic interaction had been the usual mechanism of solving temporary overlaps near the border.
But China as usual is a promise breaker and it did violate the agreed norms of patrolling of the region till the dispute is settled. It did violate the promise in 1962 and it again tried to do the same misadventure. However, it was mistaken. The year 2020 is very different from the year 1962 in as much as preparedness of India as well as India’s changed defense doctrine is concerned. The deception technique of “Hindi -China bhai bhai” this time would not work and India indicated that Chinese misadventures based on military expansionism would no more be tolerated. India would defend its territorial integrity at any cost. The country which did military misadventure in Tibet and now trying to do it in India’s neighbourhood as well as the South China Sea has lost its credibility and trust as a rising power due to its arrogance and false sense of superiority.
Galwan clash and Chinese Designs
Chinese troops clashed with the India troops (June 16) on ridges at a height of nearly 4,300m (14,000 ft) on steep terrain of the Galwan Valley, with some Indian soldiers falling into the fast-flowing Galwan river in sub-zero temperatures. The fighting, reportedly took place without any firearms because of a 1996 agreement barring guns and explosives from the area. At least 76 Indian soldiers were reportedly injured in addition to the 20 dead. China has not released any information about Chinese casualties.
Old habits die hard. China is known for its belief in military expansionism and Galwan is another example. China had sent thousands of troops into Ladakh’s Galwan valley in a misadventure in order to occupy 38,000sq km (14,700sq miles) of Indian territory and have final control. Several rounds of talks in the last three decades have failed to resolve the boundary disputes. India has shown its pacifist face to the world so far and it would insist to maintain the same identity. But if provocations like this continue, India has indicated its intention to save its territorial integrity by all means.
Border dispute between the two regional powers cannot and should not be solved through military clashes. China should know that its model of military expansionism has become obsolete and unacceptable in the modern world. India and China, the two nuclear armed neighbours have overlapping territorial claims along the more than 3,440km (2,100 mile), and have different perceptions about the Line of Actual Control (LAC) leading to a long standing dispute, which both the countries have agreed to solve through negotiation. Since the LAC is yet to be defined clearly and consensually, border patrols have often bumped into each other, resulting in occasional scuffles. But no bullets have been fired in four decades.
However, China of late has been provocative and appears to assert itself militarily along India’s border. Probably its perception about its relative military superiority against India is based on wrong assumptions, at least for two reasons. First India has won many battles and wars in the recent past due to outstanding caliber of its military forces as well as its just cause behind these wars, mostly saving its own territorial integrity as well as life of its people. Secondly today the geopolitical winds blowing in the world are more favourable to India. Any Chinese misadventure at this juncture would be costly and suicidal for China’s journey to become a global power.
China’s desire to encircle India and intervene in India’s sphere of influence is not a hidden truth. It has shown a foolish audacity several times to claim parts of the State of Sikkim and whole of Arunachal. It closed in to Indian border in Sikkim very recently. In May, dozens of Indian and Chinese soldiers exchanged physical blows on the border in the north-eastern state of Sikkim. The Doklam misadventure of China was also foiled by a firm and resolute Indian government. It was in 2017, that Indian soldiers were compelled to clash with the Chinese soldiers in the region after China tried to extend a border road through a disputed plateau, Doklam.
China’s claim of parts of Ladakh is a proof of its military expansionist approach as Ladakh is an integral part of India. Tensions have risen especially over a road built by India in Ladakh. China’s feeling of provocation with regard to India’s new road along the LAC in Ladakh’s remote area is pointless. It is none of the Chinese concerns what India does in its own territory. Given the geo-political aspirations of some countries in India’s neighbourhood India has made this road to boost its development outreach to its own people and territory. In the emergent situations this road would also improve India’s capability to move men and materiel rapidly, especially in case of a conflict. China has no right to be infuriated by India’s development efforts in its own territory.
The Western media cleverly dithered from taking sides, despite India’s pacifist record all through the post second world war era contrary to China’s military expansionism. Ji Xinping is also trying to do these adventures to flare the spirit of nationalism within China when he is finding it difficult to showcase economic growth and development as the achievement of his government. The Prime Minister of India, without naming China has rightly indicated in one of his recent speeches that “age of expansionism” was over and countries across the world were now witnessing the “era of development”. It is better that China appreciates this sooner than later.