A decade-long conflict between China and India at the Ladakh Border has taken a violent turn. India claimed that 20 Indian soldiers died after the military stand-off with China on 15th June. Before this, low-level tensions arised when China accused India of trespass and provocation, in May. It was reported that military personnel from both sides started a hand-to-hand combat that resulted in injured soldiers at both ends.
India also accused Chinese forces of crossing the border at multiple points and setting up their camp. Few reports of Chinese casualties also came out, but not confirmed by Chinese officials. Military officials from both countries agreed to meet and peacefully diffuse the situation. However, it didn’t work and both sides are now blaming each other.
Confrontation At The Ladakh Border
Both the countries only fought one brief war in 1962 in which India suffered a humiliating loss. China called a ceasefire after claiming two territories at LAC and then withdrew their claim. The 15th June clash at the Ladakh Border is the first confrontation between the two superpowers that produced casualties.
The battle took place at Galwan Valley between China’s Tibet and India’s Ladakh. It was reported that no lethal weapons were used. The two countries engaged in hand-to-hand combat again but this time used rocks and stones. India alleged that China attacked its soldiers with steel rods and nail-studded clubs. The country’s media also claims that 20 of its soldiers and 43 of Chinese soldiers are dead. However, China did not confirm the number. India accused China of sending thousands of troops into Ladakh’s Galwan valley.
The confrontation occurred over a new road which India built in Ladakh, along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) that separates these two sides. This infuriated China, which deployed extra troops and started building their own infrastructures in the disputed territory. This brought the two competing forces closer to each other, thus intensifying the chances of battle. Their spat over Doklam Plateau was also due to a road which China wanted to extend and India stopped them.
Strategic Importance Of The Galwan Valley
Both military superpowers have been arguing over a disputed territory which was never really demarcated correctly in the first place. However, both sides believe it can provide economic and military benefits. Both countries have a territorial claim and China has warned India about their capability to protect what is theirs. Ladakh Border tensions were bound to rise because it is as strategically important as other regions they are disputing over such as Kashmir, Aksai Chin, Depsang Plains, Trans-Karakoram Tract, and Arunachal Pradesh.
Reportedly, China and India are poorly divided and the LAC is created hastily. The surroundings, rough terrain, and clusters of rivers, lakes and snowcaps can make the line shift. This is the reason why forces from India and China confronted each other multiple times and escalated already present border tensions.
The conflict is getting intense for many reasons but the most prominent one is the strategic goal of both countries for which they blame each other. According to the experts, the new road built by India is the most remote and vulnerable area along the 3440km long shared Ladakh Border. And India’s decision to start their infrastructure projects in the region seems to have angered China. This road could boost India’s capability to move their Army and equipment quickly in case of any conflict.
Is There Any Danger?
The loss of lives can raise the bar in this conflict. People died due to this conflict for the first time in 45 years. India already lost once and now it is not expected to back-off from China. Several discussions and meetings over the course of three decades have failed to resolve the border dispute. However, many reconciliation attempts have been halted or stalled in the past.
If neither party agrees to resolve conflicts, the stand-offs could destabilize the whole region and potentially make it a warzone. One can only hope that both of them do not escalate to the level of full-scale combat. The results would be catastrophic considering both of them are armed with nuclear technology.