The Chinese intrusions in the Line of Actual Control (LAC) has always been a concern for the Indian border forces (namely the Indo-Tibetan Border Police) and the Indian Army 14th Corps who overlooks deployment of troops in Kashmir and Ladakh region. However, the recent Chinese military intrusions in the Galwan valley has raised the prospects of a military conflict between the two Asian regional powers and the result in such a warfare can be rather difficult for either adversary to digest.
Both India and China boast a powerful military, with India having experience in combat, operating in high-altitude and a battle-hardened mountain warfare troops posted across the Pakistani and Chinese lines. However, this prospect of conflict arises from a fact that neither India nor China has resolved the disputes in the last seven decades.
The primary reason is that neither side wants to lose the advantage of the tough terrain – high mountains, rivers and other strategic points that are capable to act as a shield or even a chance to inflict damage based on who dominates the strategic high point overlooking these de-facto borders. Both sides have been part of skirmishes – beginning of the revolt against Chinese rule in Tibet – when India gave asylum to the Dalai Lama.
China still fails to recognize Arunachal Pradesh as an Indian territory, instead listing it as the regions coming under South Tibet
The tensions have been high and the Chinese perceived the Indian resolve to not compromise as a threat to their sovereignty. In 1962, the Sino-Indian War ended with Indian defeat ending with the annexation of Aksai Chin. China still fails to recognize Arunachal Pradesh as an Indian territory, instead listing it as the regions coming under South Tibet.
The PLA has advanced rapidly in terms of weapon systems, logistics and technology. China’s defense budget is a whopping $261 billion and that’s still lesser than the US defense budget of about $732 billion. India’s defense budget nevertheless ranks third with $71 billion. Surely, China’s GDP outweighs India’s by a factor of just less than five, although India’s economic growth is expected to perform better than China’s in the next few decades, and surely will close down the gap. But the reality is that India’s under threat from Chinese incursions and a tendency for India to repeat the mistakes.
The PLA had moved in and built roads in Ladakh in 1999, when India was fending off the Pakistan Army from Kargil (presently part of Ladakh). The PLA’s infrastructure building along these disputed territories – a move to better reinforce and swarm in troops in cases of rapid response or to instigate war – has led to the Dokhlam incident, when India intervened in behalf of Bhutan’s claims for keeping the Chinese off from gaining advantage over the tri-junction area.
Moreover, the Depsang incident in 2013 had gotten India to dissemble military structures in the region and were asked by the Chinese to remove surveillance technology from the region. It is not known exactly whether India has followed in on this.
The ongoing standoff in the Galwan valley (not in the disputed category) and across the Pangong lake is a sign of China getting insecured again. Especially since the failure of responsibility from China to prevent the virus from surging past their mainland, the Chinese have been tempted to show their economic and military aggressiveness. India was the natural target because the coronavirus did affect the military’s response in the presently heated up region.
Apparently, a few members of the border force had the virus, and a usual exercise in the region was abandoned. The PLA took advantage and occupied the disputed region at Finger 4 in the Pangong lake, although India claims as far as Finger 8.
The Chinese occupation of regions along the Galwan valley is a strategic threat on the other hand, with the possibility of PLA assault over the strategic Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldi road, that connects the rest of Ladakh to the Daulat Beg Oldi Airstrip/Military Base. This is a serious escalation and a threat to Indian national security. The Galwan valley can fall to the Chinese in case of conflict. The Chinese are not showing intent to abide by the de-escalation agreement signed on 6th June 2020. India should makes its position clear and act in consonance with it – even the threat of resolving this issue by force.
Views are personal