By Kamran Yousaf
The Indian Prime Minister chaired an all parties’ conference on Friday, four days after 20 Indian soldiers including a colonel were killed in a bloody standoff with Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley of Ladakh region.
China and India both have their own stories to tell about what happened on June 15 in Galwan Valley.
The Indian version is that a bloody incident took place when Chinese troops refused to disengage from a location that comes under Indian territory. The two sides, according to India, on June 6, after talks between the corps commanders of China and India agreed to disengage from three points including Pangoing Lake, Hot Spring and Galwan Valley. The disengagement was to start from Galwan Valley. However, the situation turned ugly, as per the Indian version, when Chinese troops refused to vacate the Indian territory, leading to the bloody fight. The killing of 20 Indian soldiers including a colonel shell-shocked the Indians as well as their PM Modi, who took two days to give his first reaction. The Indian government built the narrative that the Chinese were to blame for the military standoff. Both government as well as retired Indian generals were of the view that Chinese troops occupied the land previously under Indian control. The Indian Foreign Minister reiterated the same that Chinese troops intruded into Indian territory, triggering the fight.
China, however, contested the Indian claim and said it were the Indian troops that violated the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and provoked the Chinese troops. The Chinese spokesperson gave a bit-by-bit account of what led to the current tussle. The crux of his statement was that the current position held by Chinese troops in different sectors of Ladakh region is legitimate since it is part of their territory. In other words, China has made it abundantly clear that India has to accept the status quo or else face the consequences.
When Modi chaired an all parties’ conference, Indian nationalists and public in general were expecting him to come up with a robust response. Instead he stunned everyone when he said China is not occupying a single inch of Indian territory in the Ladakh region. This immediately triggered a debate in India with known retired generals and diplomats concluding that Modi has effectively surrendered Indian territory to China. What was astonishing was that Modi contradicted the Foreign Minister’s version, who a day earlier, claimed that China made incursions into the Indian territory.
“I’m shattered to see India quietly accepting China changing status of LAC in Eastern Ladakh,” tweeted Rameshwar Roy, a retired lieutenant general and former chief of India’s Assam Rifles division. “What a sad day for every soldier like me.”
Questions being asked as to why the Modi government has an indifferent approach towards China when a much smaller incident evoked a far swifter reaction towards Pakistan. The answer lies in the economic and military prowess of China. If India spends around $70 billion per annum on its defence budget, China’s military spending is over $260 billion.
There was even talk in India of boycotting Chinese products. But independent experts believe that this will only hurt India more than China. Around 70% of smart phones used by common Indians are made in China. Chinese companies have also made investments of billions of dollars in many local Indian companies.
Clearly, the Indian government has little option to hit back at China. That is why Modi opted the path of capitulation. But he only needs to blame his expansionist policy for this global embarrassment. China has now put an effective check on his expansionist approach.
Meanwhile, Modi has now joined the ranks of former PM Jawaharlal Nehru, who also suffered a humiliation at the hands of China in 1962.
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