Galwan: Through diplomatic prism

The Galwan Valley clashes between Chinese and Indian troops of  June 15, 2020, have travelled three years. The distance in time has not erased the tragic memories of the clashes, in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed – Chinese casualties are not known till date – rather these get reinforced with every passing day.

The conflict that led to the clashes is continuing rather it is being reinforced with every passing day. The military standoff  with Chinese troops in eastern Ladakh is a silent story of Galwan now for the past three years, and there is nothing to suggest that the tensions would ease anytime soon.

This is a complicated situation, which both sides have been unable to resolve. Galwan happened, weeks after China started moving its troops closer to the Line of Actual Control, which has gained as line of contention as much as the Line of Control that divides Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

At LoC, a ceasefire is holding on, but the troops remain on heightened alert due to the constant threat of infiltration from across the borderline. At LAC, Indian troops are on high-alert for the past over three years because of the threat of China attempting to unilaterally change the status quo on the borderline.

The trust has been breached, the parallels of which can be drawn to Pakistani intrusions in Kargil in 1999, which caused change in the status of the borderline. Kargil was intrusion in heights, while China always held the threat of changing the LAC status as per its wishes, backed by its military might and economic power.

China is deemed as an aggressive power by many countries in the world, witnessing its expansionism and narration of being righteous all the time. It has its own rules in determining what is right or wrong. This is intoxication of power.

As far as clashes on the Himalayan heights in Galwan are concerned, two parallel and paradoxical scenarios have come into play – the tense military standoff is continuing, with both sides in a situation where there may be no war, but it is also not peace. The threat of escalation cannot be ruled out.

China is in denial mode. It doesn’t agree with the Indian plea rooted in the history of agreements between the two countries which made them partners in maintain peace and tranquility on borders, accepting the sanctity of the LAC till the time boundary would be defined as per the land records. Since the LAC passes through mountains, rivers and other natural features, it was understood that the two sides would work out a mutually agreeable boundary.

Now that question has been relegated to background as the first priority, at least for India, to save its prestige, is the reversal to the pre-April-May 2020 position. India has to do nothing unless China walks back from its current deployment of its troops. The ball is in the court of China.

Simultaneously, what we have witnessed is that while the tensions fluctuated between going up and then coming down, sometime raising hopes and also ringing alarm bells, India continued to talk with China. Its military commanders, diplomats continued with their effort.

This helped India in pinning down Beijing to the course of dialogue, thus effectively preventing it from more adventurous ways. China, has shown its aggressive tendencies in South China Sea, Taiwan Strait, and continues to be in confrontational mode with the US on many issues.

Those demanding answers from the Indian leadership on the fruits that dialogue with China have delivered , tend to overlook as to what the situation could have been, especially after Galwan clashes scaled up tensions and threatened more such clashes along the LAC.

The communication kept things in check. Yes, indeed, the situation at the LAC is very tense. India is spending fortune on maintaining its positions against Chinese troops, the euphemism of which is standoff. China is aggressor, India is defending its land and sovereignty.

But what has paid off is that the situation never reached a level where it could have caused erosion in India’s standing more than what it had already suffered since the beginning of the Chinese imposed tense situation.

Today’s situation, a fair analysis would reveal, is finest example of diplomacy in adversity. India used its diplomatic resources and investment to do the job, for which many countries could have used their militaries.

This brand of diplomacy succeeded or is succeeding to a large extent, as it has kept the lid on further escalation of the border situation, because a robust military presence was set up after Chinese provocations, and this was supplemented by the diplomacy.

Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar explained it succinctly: “Now with China, we are talking. It is not that communications have broken down. The point is that with China, in fact even on the day, even before Galwan happened, we were talking to the Chinese saying that look, we are seeing movements of your forces, which in our view is violation of our understanding.”

Jaishankar also revealed: “The day after Galwan happened, in fact the morning after, I actually spoke to my counterpart”. The idea of this diplomatic engagement is the disengagement of troops on the ground.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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