The Galwan imbroglio
Skirmishes at the LAC in Galwan Valley that resulted in the death of 20 soldiers including a commanding officer have brought the Sino-Indian bilateral relations to a very sensitive crossroad. Casualties along the LAC since decades threatens the tranquillity that has been pursued by both countries in the same period. The Wuhan Spirit has been dampened and consequently replaced by the Galwan stand-off. Despite the high-level de-escalation consensus between officers of the Indian Army and PLA on June 6, Monday's ugly confrontation resulting in losses on both sides delineates the tensed situation on the ground. The two versions of the skirmish as forwarded by foreign ministers of both countries also denote the underlying incongruity between them. While the commitment to avoid clashes and diplomatically resolve the situation is intact, the desperately sought truce appears unsettling, to say the least. Prime Minister's reassurance to guard India's sovereignty calms the troubled Indian psyche. Still, the loss of twenty souls at the LAC has enraged the nation to a point where calls for snubbing Chinese goods has gained expression and momentum. Not just in an individual capacity but even the government must revise contracts given to Chinese companies and instead offer them to Indian counterparts, aligning itself with the 'Atmanirbhar Bharat' ideologue. Border tensions at the LAC had begun in early May but the serious escalation resulting in loss of lives comes as a major push for India to reassess its relationship with a neighbour practising double standards. If we are to not let those 20 sacrifices go in vain, we ought to harden our stance in the Galwan Valley the same way we did during the dilution of Article 370. Following the June 6 decision to restore the status quo ante in the area, there was no reason for such confrontation. But it took place and lives were lost. India needs to remind China that business and border transgressions cannot occur simultaneously. The general public sentiment of boycotting China — be it apps or goods — is not unfounded but rather the outcome of Chinese transgression in Ladakh that remains unacceptable.
Not only does Indian leadership require to defuse the tensed situation but live by its commitment to not lose even an inch of India's territory. However, the increasing Chinese presence — military and equipment — inside the Indian territory at Patrol Point 14 in the Galwan valley combined with its commitment ensuring the protection of its sovereign territory as reiterated by its foreign minister does not augur well for India. Satellite images show a number of vehicles used to transport troops, heavy construction equipment and tents for forward-deployed soldiers. Their presence in the Galwan area threatens the strategic Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie (DSDBO) road and their intentions reek of an expansionary objective which India ought to counter by all means. The senior leadership has to come up with both diplomatic and offensive strategies to counter Chinese aggression. The increasing Chinese presence underlines the lapses in Army Commander-level talks which paves way for higher diplomatic resolution mechanism. However, even foreign ministries of both countries do not appear to be on the same page with regard to the skirmish or the LAC. China blaming Indian Army for crossing the LAC and expressing its commitment to secure its territory — which happens to be inside the Indian side of LAC — is ought to be outrightly rejected by India. While some consensus has to be reached through diplomatic channels, India must be prepared to deploy forces to the LAC in order to match the rising Chinese presence.