Overview: What’s going on?
India and China share a border of more than 3000 KMs. On the 5th of May, Chinese troops violated the status quo by intruding into three locations Pangong Tso Lake, Hot Springs and Galwan valley. Since then, a series of talks and tussles have taken place at the LAC.
The Chinese troops were opposed to India’s attempt to build the Darbuk Shyok- DBO road connecting Leh to Daulat Beg Oldie, where IAF operates a strategic airfield. It has been under construction for more than a decade and is close to completion and needless to say, a very important road from strategic point of view. In case, the DBO road is stopped, the IAF air-field may be isolated and vulnerable to various invasions ultimately harming the Indian soldiers stationed in Siachen, which is the tri-junction between India, China and Pakistan. The Chinese troops started building up on their side of LAC in large numbers. Indian Army initiated mirror formation (Building up in the same way as the Chinese).
Due to it’s unique location, it becomes extremely important from strategic point of view.
A series of talks: walking the talk
To ease up the tension, both countries decided to hold a series of military meetings to resolve the issue in a peaceful and civilized manner. On 2nd June, 2020 the first Major General level talks were held which ended with no conclusions. 6th of June saw the Lt. Gen Harinder Singh, GOC of 14 Corps meeting with Major General Liu Lin which too didn’t have any clear conclusions however Chinese troops did fall back into their territory in some points, they continued the buildup.
Till then, 13 meetings were held and Chinese troops were rapidly building up in Galwan valley. There were also increased Chinese airspace activites on the other side. However there was no bloodshed till 15th June,2020.
Bloody clash at Galwan: Changing a decades long paradigm
On 15th June, 2020 in a commander level talk, both Indian and Chinese sides agreed to light up the build-up. According to the understanding, China would vacate the valley first, followed by Indian troops falling back. On the eve of 15th June, a patrol party under Colonel Santosh Babu, CO 16 Bihar went to verify whether the Chinese have vacated the area. However, on finding them there the patrol party asked them to go back. However, that was the Chinese plan all along. According to the LAC protocol, the patrol parties are not permitted by any side to carry firearms to prevent fire in heat of moment. The Chinese were prepared with sharpened stones, sticks, nails and boulders. The moment, Indian troops were well within reach, they started their attack.
The patrol party quickly called for reinforcement, seeing the CO succumbing to the injury, the rest of unit leaped at the attacking Chinese. Hours of fistfight took place in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed in action. According to the sources, 43 Chinese soldiers were either injured or killed. However, China as always hides its casualties to keep its image of a strong country in the Chinese people.
Aftermath of the clashes: A wake up call to India’s China policy
The clashes are the bloodiest confrontation in Ladakh after the 1962 war, till now most violence took place in the western front but the recent incidents indicate that the Eastern front could also open up for India. India continues its stand and the road development. Also, this gives India at the same time, the freedom to operate and respond to China in ways suited to its policy not only in the LAC but also in pressure points of South China Sea and may even boost up the QUAD project. Unless a major power intervenes, we may see more such clashes at not only the LAC but also at various global platforms.
Come what may, but the message from the Indian elephant is clear that no matter what happens, India will do what suits it and not what dragon expects from it.