After the 1962 Sino-India war, China got hold of the Aksai Chin region (East of Ladakh), and this region which India claims to be its territory is strategically crucial for Beijing as it connects the Xinjiang province with western Tibet.
Tensions along the India-China border on the Eastern Ladakh do not seem to suppress. Army of both neighboring nuclear power countries is installing their temporary base in the disputed area along the Galwan valley and Pangong Lake. The situation came into light when the Indian soldiers noticed the Chinese building tents and trenches in the territorial region along the LAC, which has been considered to be on the Indian side.
To counter this incursion, the Indian Army deployed its soldiers alongside the LAC. Rising tensions and constant heat of the matter turned dangerous when on the evening of May 5, a scuffle broke out between both the army along the border region near Pangong Lake. In the disturbance, around 100 men of both sides incurred injuries although no bullet was fired. India and China share a land border of around 3,500 km and over the years there have been disputes but the armies of both the countries have ensured that no bullet has been fired.
Why has the issue sparked now?
There are many reasons and among them, the most primal is regarding the location of LAC. The region alongside the Galwan river which is closest to the LAC has become the hotspot because of the newly constructed road by India along the Daulet Beg Oldi region in Ladakh. As this road is ready to function, it can allow the smooth flow of arms, ammunition, and men from the national capital, Delhi and this can strengthen the Indian influence over LAC.
The Chinese media outlet Global Times claims the Galwan Valley as Chinese territory. Dr. Long Xingchun, president of the Chengdu Institute of World Affairs states that “India is the one which has forced its way into the Galwan valley, as per the information by the Chinese Army. So, India is changing the status quo along the LAC and this has deeply angered the Chinese.”
With China allying with Pakistan, tensions among the three countries often result in border conflicts. China which is witnessing an increasing infrastructural development in the area, is worried as it may hamper their movement through the important Karakoram highway connecting it with Pakistan. Beijing invested $60bn in bridging the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The road will be the prime medium of transport of goods from China to Pakistan and from Gwadar (Southern Pakistan port) to China.
What do the locals say?
“Although the tension between both the countries has been clear over the years, this time the situation is becoming more aggressive from the Chinese side,” says Rizgzin Spalbar, the Congress candidate for Ladakh in 2019 Lok Sabha polls. “With their incursion in the Indian occupied territory, the issue has come to light,” he said further. Speaking to Rigzin, he adds “The border issue is a grave concern for the sake of national interest but in the coming days, it is going to endanger the livelihood of the locals”.
The pastures in the Galwan Valley are the feeding grounds for the livestock of the locals. With the Chinese incursion, the locals cannot feed their livestock. “The issue of Chinese soldiers crossing the LAC is not an old one”, says Rigzin. He further adds, “Due to this, the nomads have to bear the pain as they search for newer breeding grounds.” Although the border issue with China is of national interest, it may lead to bigger problems for the locals if the matter is taken in prime priority. In the days to come, if the border issue is not solved, it may lead to migration of the nomads to Leh, says Spalbar.
Member of Parliament from Ladakh Jamyang Tsering Namgyal conduct three days extensive tour in border areas of Eastern Ladakh and ensures safety, security and overall development of the civilian residents along with Pangong Lake near Line of Actual Control (LAC) where the tense situation prevailed since the standoff began.
During the visit of the border Ladakh MP stated that,”We especially the border residents of this (Ladakh) area live with peace and harmony which is very essential for the overall development of this region as well as our nation.We don’t want any confrontation with our neighbouring countries and we strongly believe in peace, progress and prosperity”, Ladakh MP added.
Statements from the Ministers
The Defence Minister of India, Rajnath Singh, admitted the entry of the Chinese troops onto the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC). In a television interview, Rajnath Singh added that “Yes, the Chinese soldiers have entered the Indian side on the LAC. There are differences in the perceptions of where the limits of the LAC are and the Chinese soldiers have arrived in sizable numbers”.
Despite the incursion by China on the Indian side of LAC, Rajnath Singh shares the confidence that the matter will be discussed and handled with peace. “In the current situation, military-to-military talks are underway, and there is a possibility that discussions will be held on June 6 at the level of senior military officers. I discussed this with the Army Chief today,” he said.
In a Press Conference held in Beijing on June 1, the spokesman of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Zhao Lijian said that “The situation at the China-India border is overall stable and controllable. China and India have opened diplomatic and military communication channels on border issues. Further, he adds,”I believe that the two sides may settle the issues properly through negotiations”.
What does the future say?
India and China have been at war for the same border issues. After the 1962 Sino-India War, many talks have been initiated by both the countries, but the issues have always been on a standstill. In 2017, for more than two months, both the countries were in a similar stand-off in the Doklam plateau. As for India, it objected to the construction of a road in a region that was in the territorial reach of Bhutan. To its contrary, the Chinese were firm and did not take a step back.
With China trying to emerge as the superpower, it would want to get hold of the important Garwan Valley to further boost its transportation with Pakistan.
One thing that has to be considered is that both countries are capable of Nuclear warfare. To prevent this, and to resolve the border dispute, the practice of peace talks and agreements could ease the tension in Delhi and Beijing.