A fortnight after August 15 face-off between India and China that led to killing of 20 Indian soldiers, the situation remains unchanged. The two countries remain in eye-ball to eye-ball confrontation at Galwan Valley, Pangong Tso, Hot Springs and Depsang. Mercifully, there has been no fresh violent face-off but there is no guarantee this would not recur, if the two countries fail to reach an understanding in near future. This would only increase the odds of the two sides trying resolve the stand-off through military means. At the same time neither of the two countries wants it. Hence the simultaneous effort to carry on dialogue at several levels.
There has been engagement between the foreign ministers, at the Corps Commander level, and in the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs. However, this has hardly resulted in de-escalation so far. Though, there was some talk of disengagement for a while, China has only firmed up its control of the friction points in the period. This has created irreconcilable differences between the two sides and these can only be resolved if they meet each other half way. But this doesn’t appear to be the case. In fact, China has further hardened its position by claiming the entire Galwan Valley.
The current stand-off has left the Indian strategic community wondering as to the objectives of China. More so, when an open hostility with India has also far-reaching consequences for the regional geo-politics: it can push New Delhi more and more into the embrace of the US, something that will be to the detriment of China. Interestingly, Chinese incursions follow ten months after revocation of Article 370 and bifurcation of J&K into two union territories. China had termed Ladakh’s conversion into a union territory as “unacceptable”. And in a part of the analysis of the Chinese action emanating from its policy personnel, the altered constitutional status of Ladakh has been cited as one of the reasons. The statements by the top BJP ministers threatening to take back Aksai Chin, PaK and Gilgit and Baltistan are also said to have forced Beijing to act and secure its assets in Pakistani controlled Kashmir.
In a sense, we are witnessing a profound transformation of regional geo-politics. India-China border face-off is not only creating a sharper regional divide but also accelerating the process of cold war between China and the US. There certainly is an alternative to this fraught realignment of forces: and this is for a larger reconciliation process among India, Pakistan and China. But the big question is, do we have the statesmanly leaders who would make such a prospect a reality?
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