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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Have the Modi-Jinping talks failed? What the recent conflict means

Even after numerous diplomatic visits, hospitality from both sides, peace talks and more, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s engagements seem to have failed as what the events have culminated to currently. The rising tension between the two nations raises the question of whether Modi-Jinping talks failed, what does the recent conflict mean or did they ever progress? The recent conflict in eastern Ladakh points towards a rather concerning direction. Let’s find out how.


What happened at Galwan?

The Chinese neither entered our territory nor has any post been taken over by them, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the all-party meet on June 19 to discuss the border incident along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on the night of June 15 in eastern Ladakh where 20 Indian soldiers died in the line of duty in brutal hand-to-hand combat with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

“Neither have they intruded into our border nor has any post been taken over by them (China). Twenty of our jawans were martyred, but those who dared Bharat Mata, they were taught a lesson,” said PM Modi. Emphasizing on India’s might, the PM said no one can take even an “inch of the land”. “Today, we possess the capability that no one can eye even one inch of our land. India’s armed forces have the capability to move into multiple sectors at one go,” said the PM.

The opposition including Congress’ Sonia Gandhi, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, Telangana Rashtra Samithi leader K Chandrasekhar Rao, Janata Dal (United) chief Nitish Kumar, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader MK Stalin, YSR Congress Party’s YS Jagan Mohan Reddy and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray was among those who attended the meeting. Providing assurance to the opposition parties, the PM said be it deployment, action or counter-action our forces – be it on land, in air or water – are doing everything to protect our borders.

The reason behind the conflict at Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh is still quite unknown, although it might have been about Chinese soldiers dragging their feet about removing some of the installations they erected in May in an area India claims to be its own. The troops have since then disengaged, the Indian Army had said in a statement confirming the number of deceased at 20. Indian Army officials have also claimed 43 Chinese were killed or seriously injured, citing radio intercepts and other intelligence. This hasn’t been verified yet.

The attack has sparked off a lot of speculations and moves including the idea that the Chinese had pre-planned it, the call for boycotting Chinese products across the country, and a lot of other things.


Was the attack pre-planned?

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) cleverly planned the attack on Indian troops in eastern Ladakh’s Galwan for at least two days, a senior government official told the Hindu.

The Chinese allegedly blocked small rivulets in high areas, releasing water at a significant speed when Indian Army personnel appeared at the disputed site in Galwan area on June 15. “The strong gush of water made the men lose balance. The Chinese charged, pushed the Army personnel and many fell into the Galwan river,” the official said. The Chinese were said to have done a check earlier by flying unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to see the number of the Indian troops and accordingly made their presence felt on the other side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the official stated.

The Hindu reported on June 18 that the clash took place after Colonel Santosh Babu, who was commanding the unit, demolished a tent erected by the Chinese and later set it on fire. During the June 6 military-level talks, the two sides had decided to remove the tent. It has now been revealed that the tent was destroyed two days before the June 15 clash. When Indian troopers were patrolling the disputed site, the Chinese apparently threw boulders on them and unleashed strong current of water by unblocking the rivulets. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had issued a statement that the “Chinese side took premeditated and planned action that was directly responsible for the resulting violence and casualties.” The official added, “The patrolling team walked into an ambush. The area had witnessed clashes on May 5 and the attack took place despite a high alert. The men were outnumbered by the Chinese. No gunshot was fired.”

Boycott China products
A Small hoarding with text Boycott China Products written on it to discourage import of foreign made goods in India (Photo: shutterstock.com/fotosunny)

Boycott Chinese products

As boycott Chinese products began trending on social media since the attack, the Indian government might have plans to impose higher trade barriers and raise import duties on around 300 products from the country. India currently has a $59.3bn (£47.7nb) trade deficit with China, with 11 per cent of India’s imports coming from there. The Indian Telecom Ministry has also ordered government telecom providers and other private ones to ban all future Chinese deals and equipment upgrades. There are also plans to ban Chinese companies from participating in tenders for future projects that are quite likely to include plans to upgrade 4G services in India.

Calls for a boycott is not a new thing in India, it has been growing since early May when Chinese troops began to move forward in the disputed territory in Ladakh, and violent encounters and stand-offs occurred between troops on the ground. Sonam Wangchuk, the pioneering Indian engineer from Ladakh who gained his fame from the movie ‘3 idiots’, has been at the forefront of calls for a boycott on China, in response to what he claimed as China’s “bullying” behaviour over recent years, where land used by the local herdsman, he alleged, to graze goats in Ladakh has slowly been encroached on by Chinese forces.
“If we just meet them with military force, that’s what China are looking for,” said Wangchuk. “We should do what they fear more, which is economic damage. India sends so much money … but we need to get ourselves out of this trap and call out China for what they are: a wolf, a rogue nation.”
Wangchuk said the campaign has been going on well and the response has been overwhelming. “Citizens can make a huge difference,” he said. “The same wallets that built China in the last 30 years can also bring them down.”

According to PTI, several Tibetan NGOs have slammed China for the clash at Galwan Valley in Ladakh and has also asked the international community to boycott Chinese-made products. “The Tibetan community stands with India at this hour. We condemn China’s attack on Indian soldiers at the border in Ladakh, a joint statement issued in a press conference organised by the NGOs in Mcleodganj said. We respect and honour the soldiers who lost their lives and express heartfelt tributes to their families, said the group of NGOs which included the Tibetan Youth Congress, National Democratic Party of Tibet, Students for a Free Tibet and Tibetan Women Association. Now the governments and leaders from all over the world are expected to take strong action against China and their occupation policy by uniting with India,” they said.

The NGOs further added that the liberation of Tibet might also ensure the safety of Indian borders. “A statement should be issued by the international community immediately against the Chinese military’s incursions into Indian Territory so that it can be strongly condemned,” they said.

Even after all of this, it is not yet certain if India would survive without Chinese products. As the opposition blames the central government of sitting idle when brave lives were lost at the border, it is said they are since disengaged and the two governments are trying to work it out. We can only keep our fingers crossed.

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