Challenegs after Galwan Clash
India must face challenges of China robustly and forge alliances with likeminded nations.
A year ago, the Galwan clash occurred in eastern Ladakh. The incident claimed the life of twenty Indian soldiers and unspecified Chinese casualties. Rich tributes were paid to Galwan heroes who laid down their lives while thwarting Chinese aggression. The nation will never forget the brevity of the Indian soldiers. This is the major clash between two giant neighbours since Indo-Chinese war in 1962. The immediate provocation for the clash, probably, China was angered by the completion of a road to Daulat Beg Oldi – a strategic Indian post close to Karakoram pass and restoration of border infrastructure by India.
The Galwan clash was a premeditated plan by the PLA. Deliberately, prehistoric weapons were used in the clash to term it as a local skirmish. The PLA’s intention was to push the Indian troops from their traditional patrolling points. This incident followed a huge military build-up on both sides. Both countries prepared for a long haul. Indian troops made arrangements to camp there throughout the winter. China also moved troops and heavy military, creating a volcanic situation at the border. India’s foreign minister S. Jaishankar viewed China’s action ruined the trust between the two nations and the relationship was damaged.
A rational analysis of this incident clearly proves that China wanted to redraw the LAC line by blood and denied Indian troops the access to Indian patrolling points and routes. The entire exercise surprised Indian Army. However Indian Army quickly provided reinforcement and deployed a matching number of troops to thwart Chinese advances.
India must learn a lesson from this exercise. Chinese military posture conveyed a message that China’s economy, military and technological power far supersedes India. Thus, India must accept a subservient position and maintain a distance with western countries, the ‘enemies of China.’ Second, China has a pre-eminent position in Asia. India must respect this fact China believes. This conflict was possible by China because of the power differential that exists between the two nations. China has created massive infrastructure along borderlines from eastern Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh. Off late India has started similar border road construction on Indian side. China is envious of this development and wanted to teach a lesson to India. China is never serious about diffusing the border issues. Despite so many border talks in the last six decades, China dodged a permanent solution. All these aimed to acquire Indian territory slice by slice gradually.
In this Context, India has to promote strategies to protect its territorial integrity. India is lagging behind China in many ways. Economically, China is nearly five times more prosperous than India. China’s GDP is as high as 14.72 trillion dollars, against India’s GDP of merely 2.9 trillion dollars. China’s GDP in 2020 will presumably match with America’s GDP of 22.48 trillion dollar by 2025. Militarily, China has a strong military force in the world. China’s military is expected to be world class by 2035; while India stands at number four. Similarly, even on social parameters of education and health, China is far ahead of India.
China’s diplomatic influence and control over global organizations have substantially increased. All these were possible because of China’s capacity to provide technology and quality product at competitive rates. All these pointed to China’s growing stature in the world scenario.
In order to match with China, India needs to sustain its economic development in the next two decades. We need to ensure huge investments to achieve double digit growth. Further, our border infrastructures must match with that of China. In order to augment the country’s capacity, India needs to work with western allies such as USA, France, UK, Japan and Australia. These nations will support in international forums and provide modern military technologies. Second, India must develop strong ties with South Asian neighbours such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Afghanistan. These nations will support at regional forums and China’s strategy of encircling India will be foiled.
In the past, India has never taken partnership building in a serious manner. Now time is ripe for such efforts. We can consider bilateral or multilateral relations with these countries. These relations will go beyond the political and encompass economic interests, people–to–people contacts and institutional relationships. These efforts can be initiated by our ambassadors and diplomats. The rest of India needs to support these initiatives in order to counter Chinese challenges.
In recent years, China has shown a belligerent attitude towards western nations and Australia. Probably, this is China’s game plan to occupy the super power position in the world. China’s Belt and Road initiative intended to provide infrastructure support to weaker nations and thereby grab the country’s territory. China cannot gain the trust of neighbours, least apart, its closest allies, Pakistan and Iran with this kind of dubious intentions. The perfunctory study of Covid 19 origin in Wuhan lab has further eroded China’s credibility as a decent nation. China must remember that America’s hegemony in post Second World War was established by demonstrating cordiality and generosity. America’s immigrants made the country a super power. Accepting this, China must learn to be sober and faithful to acquire a premier position in the world.
In recent years, the QUAD group of four countries, USA, Australia, Japan and India have emerged as a strong force in Indo-Pacific to counter China’s influence. India has joined hands with QUAD countries and carried out Malabar exercise. Upholding the rule-based order, QUAD leaders vociferously advocated free open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region.
Malabar exercise is emerging as a counterbalance to China. Last year, India, USA, Japan and Australia carried out a massive naval drill in Indian Ocean. Germany, an ally of QUAD declared to join QUAD and keep Indo-Pacific region safe. Further, India has agreed to join the Build Back Better World (B3W) plan of the G7, an initiative to oppose China’s BRI and meet the infrastructure needs of low-and-middle-income countries. The recent G7 agreement at the UK summit was primarily aimed at denying further advantage to China. India must use these platforms to isolate China in global forums. Prime Minister Modi has realized the importance of QUAD and agreed to attend the QUAD meeting in-person scheduled to be held in Washington this July next month.
Since the Galwan clash, no major incident was reported. However, the tense situation has not subsided at the border. Nonetheless, standing strong against China, India has clearly delivered a message. The twenty-first century India has changed substantially since 1962. It can hit hard any country including China to protect its territory and global image. China must not forget this.
By Dr. Binod K. Das
(the author teaches International Relations at GLS Law College, Ahmedabad.)