First casualties in 45 years . . .
For the first time since 1975, Indo-China border skirmishes have led to casualties. On Monday night, the Indian Army engaged in hand-to-hand combat with China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) at Galwan Valley in the northern region of Ladakh. The Indian government has confirmed the death of 20 Indian soldiers. China has not officially announced its casualties, but it has been reported that the PLA suffered 43 deaths in the battle. The reason for the clashes remains unclear as both sides blame each other. Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar said that China was erecting a structure inside Indian territory, while Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Indian troops attacked first. The Indian soldiers’ deaths have led to anti-China protests, and a call to boycott China-made products across India.
History behind recent tensions . . .
India and China share a 3,300-km-long border, and tensions have flared up time and again. In May, tensions rose to a new high, even as the countries were busy fighting COVID-19. Earlier this month, the two sides seemed to have arrived at a positive consensus and appeared to be solving the border issue peacefully. Some reports have linked India’s 2019 decision to revoke Article 370, which stripped the then state of Jammu and Kashmir of its special status, to Beijing’s decision to escalate its military activities along the border. China raised objections at the time and called the revocation of Article 370 “unlawful and void,” claiming that India had redrawn its borders to include Chinese territories.
Pick your battles . . .
On Wednesday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a somewhat restrained statement on the border clashes and indicated that the Indian government would not tolerate an attack on the country’s unity and sovereignty. Chinese officials have generally refrained from making any comments, but the two nuclear-armed neighbours’ actions have raised concerns for other world economies. As China continues to expand its regional influence, experts believe that continuing border tensions or any form of retaliation will be detrimental to India’s economy and regional stability. Experts advise India to exercise caution in its response as the country continues to fight another deadly enemy within its border – COVID-19.
- BBC: India-China clash: Diplomats’ strongly protest’ over border clashes
- Hindustan Times: ‘No compromise on borders’: PM Modi spells out India’s stance on row with China
- Observer Research Foundation: Reorienting India’s China policy towards greater transparency