Galwan: Postscript to a tragedy

  • IASbaba
  • June 19, 2020
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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Topic: General Studies 2,3:

  • India and its neighborhood- relations
  • Security challenges and their management in border areas 

Galwan: Postscript to a tragedy

Context: The Indo-China border clash at Galwan Valley of Ladakh led to loss of twenty Indian Army personnel.

For a brief background on the issue: click here and here 

Significance of the Galwan valley incident

  • Failure of Diplomacy: After the Corps Commander-level talks between the two sides on June 6, it was thought that there would be a de-escalation of the confrontation
  • Watershed moment: The incident marks the end of a 45-year chapter which saw no armed confrontation involving loss of lives on the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
  • Calculus of Bilateral relationship changed: The business as usual approach with China after this incident will be under strain particularly the economic relationship
  • Bilateral relations in other areas will be under considerable strain: In areas that impinge on national security, as in the cyber field, telecommunications & 5G, clampdowns can be expected in the treatment & entry of Chinese companies in India.

Similarity of situation during late 1950s

  • The atmosphere between India-China were complicated by the revolt in Tibet and the granting of asylum by India to the Tibetan leader Dalai Lama in March 1959
  • In October 1959, there was a face-off between Indian and Chinese troops at Kongka La(in Ladakh). Nine Indian soldiers were killed and three soldiers were detained then
  • It was after Kongka La incident that the national mood turned against the Chinese in full measure which eventually broke down the diplomatic correspondence to resolve the boundary question leading to 1962 war
  • The conflict in 1962 inflicted wounds on the national soul and prestige from which India took time to recover.
  • Nearly three-decade long cold relationship between India & China began to recover after former PM Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to China in December 1988.

So, will there be a repeat of 1962 war? 

  • 2020 is not 1959. India and China are in a very different place in their history as nations today. 
  • They have grown immensely in strength and stature on the world stage and their relations have substance and a diversity of content in a manner absent in the 1950s
  • To assume that India is towards a full-blown conflict with China may therefore be an oversimplification

What India needs to do now?

  • Cool-headed thinking is the need of the hour as India is facing multiple crisis now:
    • COVID-19 crisis demands the full attention of the government
    • The economy needs to recover from the stagnancy of the last few quarters
    • The tensions with Pakistan and the Kashmir issue persists
    • A dispute over territory with Nepal in the Lipulekh/Kalapani area has to be handled
  • Therefore, battlefront with China cannot be blindly embraced, however much national pride and prestige are at stake.
  • Strong political direction, mature deliberation and coherence are keys to handling the situation.
    • The Army can make tactical adjustments and manoeuvres to deter the Chinese
    • Also, a comprehensive China strategy must be evolved along with effective strategic communication from top level
    • Be proactive: India that should take the initiative to insist on a timely and early clarification of the LAC.
    • Temporary resolutions: Pockets of difference of alignment as perceived by each side have to be clearly identified and these areas demilitarised by both sides through joint agreement pending a settlement of the boundary
  • Realignment of Foreign Policy
    • The events in Galwan Valley should be a wake-up call to many of India’s Asian friends and partners about Chinese aggressiveness
    • This is also an opportunity for India to align its interests much more strongly and unequivocally with the U.S. as a principal strategic partner and infuse more energy into its relations with Japan, Australia, and the ASEAN


Apart from insisting on a timely and early clarification of the LAC, India should take a long view of its South Asia policy

Connecting the dots:

  • Act East Policy
  • RCEP and why India opted out of it

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