The Galwan Valley stand-offDisengagement and de-escalation are the only options for China and India for peace and development.
India and China have a history of border conflict. The last Sino-Indian clash before 2020 was in 2017 in the Doklam region. It was a three-month-long stand-off between the two armies from June to August. The most recent military confrontation between the two countries was witnessed in the Galwan Valley in June 2020. The Galwan valley face-off was, however, not the end of the conflict. China reportedly moved in 20 martial art trainers from the Enbo Fight Club to the Tibetan plateau to train its forces, three weeks after the clash. The martial art fighters have been employed to help with border patrol and special forces. However, there is some ambiguity as to which border area have they been deployed to; some suggest that the fighters were reinforced near the Indian border.
Experts have raised concerns over whether there is an ultimate agenda that China aspires to achieve or if the face-off was linked with its behaviour elsewhere. Some analysts have suspected that this stand-off is connected with the Kashmir angle; Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s move to withdraw Kashmir’s special autonomy. Foreign affairs experts and China watchers believe that the conflict in the Galwan Valley was anticipated and calculated if viewed in light of China’s overall international performance.
A few other international incidents which provoked anti-China sentiments worldwide include the incidents in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea, resumption of Taiwan's observer status at the World Health Organisation, and the extension of China's National Security Law to Hong Kong in violation of its commitment to respect its autonomy for 50 years under the 'one country, two systems' pledge made in 1997.
Moreover, China's global standing took a severe hit with the outbreak of Covid-19 and a widespread perception that it failed to curb the virus from spreading. Several countries, including the United States and Germany, have been vocal in expressing their criticism. In response, China supposedly undertook a well-publicised and choreographed ‘mask diplomacy’ overdrive to all its Belt and Road Initiative beneficiaries; medical aid was dispatched in small consignments several times. Subsequently, the beneficiary countries put flattering 'Thank you, President Xi' messages on their social media handles and acknowledged China’s successful management of the crisis. The ‘mask diplomacy’ overdrive did create a sense of positivity early on. However, as the virus spread worldwide, claiming several lives, the international community has been compelled to question China’s role.
Chung-Kwang Tien, the representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Centre in India, says India’s ‘friendly geopolitical concessions’ toward China have borne no reciprocity. Just two weeks before the Doklam stand-off, Modi had proudly said, ‘It is true we have a border dispute with China. But in the last 40 years, not a single bullet has been fired because of it’. The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson had 'welcomed Indian's positive remarks'. Following the stand-off which sparked anti-China and hyper-nationalist sentiments in India, the Indians decided to boycott Chinese goods, apps and burned the flag as well. Chinese media reported this as a ‘trade war’ and said that India’s economy was heavily dependent on China. By boycotting Chinese goods, India is ‘denying the poor their right to a better life’ and many Indian sectors will be ‘crippled’.
'Wolf Warrior diplomacy' refers to a top-rated thriller movie Wolf Warrior 2, in which Chinese commandos rescue Chinese citizens who find themselves caught in a violent war in an unnamed African country. The message the movie spread is this: No one messes with China. Chinese diplomats have recently been witnessed using unconventional approaches. Today, they are not only mainstream with Twitter and Instagram handles, but also convey their messages directly to the individual, where the action is intended or pending. Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi’s activism is a pure representative of all these. Popularly referred to as 'China’s Charm Offensive', Yanqi regularly features in the national dailies having a one-to-one meeting with the top echelons of Nepal.
The Galwan Valley gets its name from the Galwan River which originates in the Aksai Chin region and joins the Shyok River. It is located in eastern Ladakh and is a vital road link to Daulat Beg Oldie, the world’s highest landing ground next to the Line of Actual Control. The Galwan Valley is considered strategic for both countries. The river is the highest ridgeline which allows China to control the Shyok route passes, which are close to the river. The country wants to control the area as it fears that India could end up threatening its position in Aksai Chin by using the Galwan River valley to its advantage. Furthermore, China is very opposed to India's constructing any tent or infrastructure in the area.
On July 10, India and China held yet another round of talks at the diplomatic level as per the agreement by both sides. The nations reviewed the progress made in the ongoing disengagement process and agreed on 'overall development' of bilateral ties. The talks were held under the framework of the Working Mechanism for Consultation & Coordination on India-China Border Affairs between Naveen Srivastava, joint secretary (East Asia), and Wu Jianghao, director-general of the Department of Boundary and Oceanic Affairs, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The Working Mechanism meeting was held based on a conversation between Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on June 17, two days after the violent face-off in the Galwan Valley. The conference focused on a crucial phone conversation held on July 5 between National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Chinese Special Representative for border negotiations with India, Wang Yi, State Councillor and Foreign Minister. So far, there have been multiple rounds of Working Mechanism meetings, but this latest round is the first one held after the SR-level discussions. The previous meeting was held on June 24. Disengagement and de-escalation are the only options for China and India for the interest of both countries’ peace and development.
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