Arpan A Chakravarty, Research Mentor, Internationalism & Urvashi Arora, Research Member, Indian Society of Artificial Intelligence & Law.
The tensions have been on a continuous rise in the South Asian region as these two nuclear power nations- India and China engage on border skirmishes with each other. The situation has escalated after both the countries employed diplomatic and military means to solve the issue. Both the countries blamed each other for the skirmishes which happened at the western sector of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) namely the Galwan Valley. This whole dispute has been prolonged for more than four-weeks, creating tensions in the region.
The current tensions have been one of the focal points and start at a very special timing with the looming COVID-19 Health Crisis which the countries around the world are battling with at this point in time. The expansionist behaviour portrayed by China tussling for the becoming super-power by dethroning the American domination across the world has been the reason as India being an instrumental ally for the United States. Australia, also one of the victims to China’s expansionist moves, has pledged that it shall not bow down to pressure created by China in the region. Japan, Viet Nam and other smaller Asian countries have been facing the heat due to the recent activities in the South China Sea.
This recent intrusion by the Chinese forces was surprising as no soldiers have ever been killed since 1975 on both India and China’s side, while taking 10 soldiers from Indian side in detention. Since then, the whole issue has been fueled and influenced by propaganda and strategic leaks which have influenced the international coverage of the situation of Galwan Valley. One of the major geopolitical shifts in the region changes came in when China decided to weaponise the “Upper Riparian Rights” agreed upon by India and China to enjoy equal privilege over the river at the border, there have been attempts to change the course of Pangong River.
While encountering the reasons behind Chinese repression, we can observe that the country adopts force and suppression to gain their benefits, especially when the other nation is in a vulnerable position. The current pandemic has given them an opportunity to carry out their mission intelligently and violate the Riparian rights, along with aggressive activities near the border. The India-China dispute in Galwan Valley dates back to 1962, when both the countries fought over the sovereignty of Aksai Chin, a territory claimed by India as a part of Jammu and Kashmir, whereas China claims it to be a part of Xinjiang.
The current standoff between the two countries could be in favour of China as it seems to apply the ‘two-step-forward-one-step-back’ strategy, which was widely discussed by Shivshankar Menon, India’s Ambassador to China (2000-2003). Ultimately, this will lead to altering the current status quo, by occupying the Indian acclaimed territory. A state of warning has been issued in the country. Another implication of such a move is that China can cut off the Indian rights to access Aksai Chin region in the east, Shyok Valley in the north and chip chap plains, thus deviating India’s rule and control to the west of the Shyok’s river. This is a way out for China to help itself to control the southern side of the Karakoram, which will gain their access to Siachen Glacier from the Depsang corridor. This indicates China’s seeking to divert the rivers of Shyok, Galwan and Chang-Chenmo into the region of Aksai Chin, to create even more issues in the region.
Amidst the LAC standoff, Indian Army completed the crucial Galwan river bridge that PLA has been trying to stall. Indian Army engineers have completed a 60-metre bridge over Galwan river in eastern Ladakh that would consolidate India’s hold of the sensitive sector by allowing Indian infantry to move across the cold mountain river and also protect the 255 km strategic road from Darbuk to Daulat Beg Oldie, the last military post just south of the Karakoram Pass.
The bridge was built by the formation engineers despite the PLA showing hostile moves in the area in an effort to force Indian Army to abandon the project. The construction of the strategic bridge was seen as one of the triggers for the aggressive manoeuvres by China’s People’s Liberation Army in eastern Ladakh that led to the stand-off between the two countries before Western Theatre Command of PLA made an