India and China are undoubtedly two of the fastest-growing economies in the world, and with their ever-improving economies, the existence of competition cannot be overruled. The competition is not just economic, but in every other field where the two countries face each other and hence it is no surprise even when comes to the international border of the countries.
Talking about the border disputes of the two countries, it aroused as early as when India attained independence from nearly two and half-century-long British rule in India. The Britishers established complete control over Indian territories soon after invading Bengal and the Battle of Plassey in 1757. Early sources and Historians have many times mentioned the Chinese interest over the territories of British India but found themselves in a helpless state against the mighty British empire and were themselves facing constant threats due to repeated British invasions in China and the famous Opium war.
The western part of the Sino-Indian boundary was established in 1834, with the conquest of Ladakh by the armies of Raja Gulab Singh (Dogra) under the suzerainty of the Sikh Empire. Following a failed coup into Tibet, Gulab Singh and the Tibetans signed a treaty in 1842 agreeing to stick to the previous borders, which were left unspecified. The defeat of the Sikhs by the British in 1846 resulted in the transfer of the Jammu and Kashmir region including Ladakh to the British Empire, who then appointed Gulab Singh as the Maharaja under their suzerainty. China was in no way in a position to lay hands over the territories which it claimed to be it’s own but once India gained independence, China sniffed an opportunity but waited till complete withdrawal of British influence and control over India.
India was somewhat recovering from after-effects of British rule which resulted in unstable economic conditions and spread of poverty in India. Also on diplomatic front India did not fancy a great relationship with the European Union and the U.S. India was just like a newborn baby who was unaware and unprepared with threats of the outer world. Also, the cold war between USA and USSR was very much at its peak and India’s inclination towards Russia meant no support and help from the United States and the United States diverting its financial aid and support towards Pakistan instead foreseeing a better opportunity for better returns.
On the other hand, China was never under complete control of British and therefore, naturally in a better condition than India and bolstered a much stable economy than India and it also allowed China to improve equip themselves with a better army and was able to develop in the field of warfare and was more independent.
The Indo-China war of 1962 came as a big surprise to India and India was caught cold and unprepared by China. This was an opportunity for China to invade the territories claimed by it. China was able to conquer major chunk of Indian territory which is claimed to be it’s own and found itself to be in a bad position with lack of support upon the international front. India suffered a major loss both in terms of land and military strength. After the war, LAC (Line of Actual Control) came into existence.
But that’s enough for the past, India is completely different now and is well equipped to counter any kind of threats in the near future and is the largest buyer of arms and defence equipment. It has enough resources and manpower to put up a great fight with any sort of enemy forces and has developed and strengthened itself in all departments including army, navy and air force.
Both the countries seemed to be on peace with each other for about the last 50 years and incidents of firing and standoff between the two nations on the border were rarely reported. But in the past 5 years, especially after Modi government coming into power, the Chinese approach has become aggressive and hostile towards India. This behaviour from China has majorly been related to the uncompromising nature of the Modi government and India investing aggressively in defence equipment. China has also linked scrapping of Article 370 with LAC tensions.
The year 2020 has proved out to be catastrophic for the mankind and the whole world in general with the spread of COVID-19 affecting every single nation in the world in one way or the other, the economies crashing down and complete and partial halt witnessed in many industries and production processes leading to a state of unemployment and panic, China was blamed as the main reason for the spread.
Nobody can deny the fact that China has been ignorant towards the spread of the virus and failed to inform the world about the same in advance when the reports at the same time suggest that Wuhan city of China is the epicentre of the virus and spread of the virus can be traced back as early as August 2019 but it came to the knowledge of the world only by the time it had penetrated many nations and many people already infected with the Coronavirus. This led to many nations turning hostile to China and its policies and the Chinese government was subjected to criticism and its policies being questioned throughout the world. Now, when the whole world was fighting against the virus, China seems to be more concerned about claiming territories which it claims is illegally occupied by India.
This is maybe the reason that scuffles are more of a publicity stunt on the part of China to assert its dominance over India and divert the attention of the world from the COVID-19 virus for the spread of which China the culprit.
Major progress in the scuffle between the two nations was reported in early April 2020 in borders of Ladakh and Sikkim between the rival patrolling teams. The progress of events took place in the following manner:
April 15: Scuffles at the LAC in the Ladakh region which is sorted out after higher officers of both the countries intervene.
May 5: Scuffles at Pangong Tso and Naku La in North Sikkim results in significant injuries due to aggression on both sides.
May 6: Objecting to a road being constructed by India, Chinese troops close in on Finger 2 of Pangong Tso and block movement forward. After the scuffle on May 5, both sides move in additional troops.
May 12: Chinese military helicopters are seen flying close to Line of Actual Control, after which a fleet of Su-30 fighters of the Indian Air Force is sent to carry our sorties. Additional troops rushed to the site.
May 23: Army Chief General Manoj Naravane visits the Leh-based 14 Corps headquarters to review the situation.
May 26: India’s top military brass meets PM Modi. The meeting came hours after the top four generals briefed Defence Minister Rajnath Singh about the situation in Pangong Tso lake, Galwan Valley, Demchok and Daulat Beg Oldi where the Indian and Chinese troops were engaged in aggressive posturing for the last 20 days.
May 27: Chinese President Xi Jinping orders the military to scale up the battle preparedness, visualising worst-case scenarios and asked them to resolutely defend the country’s sovereignty.
June 1: Beijing says the overall situation along the China-India border is stable and controllable. The Chinese keeps a fleet of around 10-12 fighter aircraft stationed near Easter Ladakh and carry out flying activity close to Indian territory.
June 2: Major general-rank officers hold deliberations. Reports suggested the meeting remained “inconclusive”.
June 6: In an attempt to diffuse the situation, Indian military delegation headed by the commander of Leh-based 14 Corp Lieutenant General Harinder Singh and China’s Major General Liu Lin, Commander of South Xinjiang Military Region hold talks.
June 13: Army Chief General Naravane said the situation along the border is under control. “I would like to assure everyone that the entire situation along our borders with China is under control. We are having a series of talks which started with corps commander level talks which were followed up with meetings at the local level between commanders of equivalent ranks,” he said.
June 15: An Indian army officer and two soldiers are martyred in an aggressive face-off with Chinese soldiers at Galwan Valley. The Army releases a statement, “Casualties suffered on both sides” in violent face-off during the de-escalation process with China.”
June 16: Local media reports 20 casualties and 43 casualties on the Indian and Chinese side respectively.
This is not the first time when the patrolling teams of the nations have subjected to scuffles as they have also been incidents like Depsang in 2013, Chumur in 2014, and Doklam in 2017 that momentarily impacted India-China relations. The main reason for the stand-off is being set to be a strip of road which India wants to construct on its side of the border to improve connectivity.
However tense the conditions may have been but these events have passed away without a single bullet been fired by either of the nations and casualties being a farfetched thought but recent reports suggesting 3-4 casualties on either side of the border have made things tensed and both countries are on a verge of war in true sense.
It has been also reported by the local media and by the heads of the armies of both the countries that no bullets were fired in the process and the scuffle took place only through bare arms, rocks and sticks. But the surprising fact is that the media at the same time has reported more than 20 casualties on the Indian side and around 43 casualties n the Chinese side which seems to be impossible considering the fact that no bullets were fired from either of the sides. Now, whatever the case may be but it a sure probability that things are going to become very tense between the two countries and war seems to be an inevitable possibility.
The conditions seem to be very tense between the two countries even in other fields as well. With India being one of the largest buyers of Chinese product and heavy investment of Chinese company in the Indian market at stake, the scuffle could result in boycotting of Chinese products and shrinking of the Chinese economy.
One more aspect of this dispute can be related to the United States. Recently the United States offered to mediate the border dispute between India and China and such stance may seem to be fishy especially to China. As the United States has to criticize China on major platforms recently and blamed China exclusively for the spread of Corona Virus, the possibility of the border dispute taking international colour with each country supporting one of the sides cannot be written off.
This may act as an opportunity for enemies of China to counter and suppress China on the international front restrict it from becoming more powerful. With rapid development witnessed in both India and China in the past decades and both the nations being the giants of Asia, the border disputes and scuffles may also be considered as an early sign of another world war. With China being in a better position than other countries after recovering early from the outbreak of Corona Virus, things can possibly get very messy and out of control. As China seems to be in no mood to withdraw from the international front at any cost and China may see it as an excellent opportunity to assert its dominance on international front convey an indirect message to the United States and other countries about the ever-increasing strength of the new developed China.
But, also it would not be easy for China to counter India being a much more powerful and independent country than it was in 1962 and with the kind of support India has on the international front may become a reason of major worry for China. This may act as an explanation that China has till date refrained from firing a single bullet and switched to armless combat instead so that things remain under control and border dispute does not turn into another war with much more damage expected on both sides in case of war.
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Krishnan, Ananth (12 June 2020). “Beijing think-tank links scrapping of Article 370 to LAC tensions”. The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 15 June 2020.
Paul D. Shinkman (16 June 2020). “India, China Face Off in First Deadly Crash in Decades”. U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved 16 June 2020.
Lau, Staurt (6 July 2017). “How a strip of road led to China, India’s worst stand-off in years”. South China Morning Post. Archived from the original on 16 December 2019. Retrieved 4 June 2020.
BY- Mayank Kumar Verma
Chanakya National Law University, Patna