The troop skirmishes in the Galwan River Valley sector of the 3,488 km undemarcated India-China border which extends from Aksai Chin in the north-west all the way to Arunachal Pradesh in the northeast, that resulted in the brutal clubbing to death of a colonel and 20 men of the Indian Army on June 15, is a tragic consequence of the egregious failure of successive governments in New Delhi to negotiate a stable border line between the two countries.
The plain truth is that the People’s Republic of China claims to bits and pieces of the disputed border region are not entirely unmaintainable. It’s common knowledge that during almost two centuries of British rule over the Indian subcontinent, “unequal treaties” were forced upon neighbouring countries, including Afghanistan, Burma and Tibet. Yet, despite SinoIndia bonhomie of the early Nehruvian years, this opportunity was lost. The price of this continuous failure has been repeatedly paid in blood by the Indian Army in the 1962 border war and even after that by troops patrolling uncharted territory in subzero climatic conditions.
In retrospect it’s shocking that for over half a century, the Delhi establishment adopted an ostrich-like attitude towards the simmering Sino-Indian border dispute. Astonishingly, since the BJP/NDA coalition was swept to power at the Centre in 2014 and again five years later, prime minister Narendra Modi has had 18 one-on-one confabulations with China’s president Xi Jinping. The long-festering border dispute should have been placed on the agenda and resolved through expeditious give-take negotiations.
Meanwhile despite the 20 Indian lives needlessly lost in the vicinity of hazy line of actual control (LAC) in the Galwan Valley, the national interest demands the latest incident is acknowledged as a localised skirmish that flared out of control. At a time when our coronavirus pandemic curve is spiking and the Indian economy is struggling to recover lost momentum after the 68-day national lockdown, this is not an opportune moment for debilitated India with an annual GDP of $3 trillion to take arms against PRC with its $14 trillion economy and superior military capability. Moreover, it’s important to bear in mind that our quarrel is with the unelected 100 million-strong Communist Party of China (CPC) which lords it over modern China, rather than with 1.4 billion Chinese people with whom we have had amicable diplomatic and commercial relations for several millennia.
Therefore, the best option in the national interest is to agree to redraw Sino-Indian border lines, even at the cost of conceding some ground to buy time. Simultaneously, we should use our soft power to export freedom and democracy to China by making common cause with Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and the growing pro-democracy movement within China, to block and overthrow the brutal, dictatorial CPC regime. Its crimes against the hapless Chinese people are far worse than its atrocities on the India-China border in the north.