1) The road from Galwan, a year later
GS 2- International Relations
Context: On June 15 last year, the Line of Actual Control (LAC) witnessed its first deaths after 1975 when 20 Indian soldiers and at least four soldiers of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) died in a violent clash in Galwan in Ladakh. China is now in a different league, competing with the U.S., and New Delhi faces the task of living with an uneasy calm.
- The ministerial statements in Parliament were monologues with no questions allowed from other representatives of the people.
- A huge public outcry led to an official clarification by the Prime Minister’s Office which contained rhetoric that dodged the offending remarks.
- The Government’s political strategy for dealing with the Ladakh border crisis has been based on dodging, denial and digression.
- An honest appraisal of the situation in Ladakh would be politically costly for a government.
- There is no record of the Cabinet Committee on Security being convened to discuss the Ladakh border situation — Mr. Modi is being held responsible in the public imagination for the setback.
- The current situation is not militarily precarious in Ladakh. With a continued deployment of 50,000-60,000 soldiers, the Indian Army has been able to hold the line to prevent any further ingress by the PLA.
- The Chinese presence on the Indian side of the LAC in Gogra, Hot Springs and Demchok gives the PLA some tactical advantage but the area which majorly jolts Indian military plans is the Chinese control of Depsang Plains.
- There has been no progress in talks after the disengagement at Pangong lake and Kailash range in February.
- The basis of this shift was articulated by the Chief of Defence Staff when he recently said that China is a bigger security threat for India than Pakistan.
- The Ladakh crisis has also exposed India’s military weakness to tackle a collusive threat from China and Pakistan: to avoid such an eventuality, the Government opened backchannel talks with Pakistan which led to the reiteration of the ceasefire on the Line of Control.
- The Ladakh crisis has also led the Government to relook external partnerships, particularly with the United States.
- The Indian side was silent about it but senior U.S. military officials have earlier spoken of the intelligence and logistics support provided to the Indian forces in Ladakh,
- While the Indian military has sought to learn from the American experience of implementing the Multi Domain Operations (MDO) doctrine to wage a war of the future against a technologically superior PLA.
- That China is “a larger neighbour, which has got a better force, better technology”, was acknowledged by General Rawat recently, to argue that India will “obviously prepare for a larger neighbour”.
- The military importance of the Quad remains moot, with India reportedly refusing to do joint naval patrolling with the U.S. in the South China Sea; the two treaty allies of the U.S., Japan and Australia, also refused.
- India’s focus on its land borders and its limited resources for military modernisation in a period of economic decline impinge on its maritime ambitions in the Indo-Pacific.
- India’s attempts to counter the burgeoning Chinese influence in the neighbourhood have faltered, exacerbated by the mishandling of the second wave of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
- With the widening power gap between New Delhi and Beijing, the challenge is as much economic as it is geopolitical.
- Despite the border crisis and the Indian restrictions on Chinese technology companies, China displaced the U.S. to be India’s biggest trade partner in 2020-21, up to nearly 13% of India’s total trade.
- Even though India has been dependent on China for medical equipment to fight the pandemic and asked for assured supplies, the Government has been reluctant to publicly acknowledge this dependence.
- New Delhi has placed the border issue at the centre of the relationship with China, arguing that there can be no normalcy without restoration of status quo ante at the borders.
- For the past few decades, Indian planners operated on the premise that their diplomats will be able to manage the Chinese problem without it developing into a full-blown military crisis.
- That belief has been laid to rest. Militarily, Chinese incursions in Ladakh have shown that the idea of deterrence has failed.
- New Delhi has learnt that it can no longer have simultaneous competition and cooperation with Beijing; the dramatic engagement that started with Rajiv Gandhi’s historic visit to China in 1988 is over.
- India will never be comfortable taking sides in a new Cold War between the U.S. and China, as it has always valued its strategic sovereignty.
- Beijing seems as keen as New Delhi to avoid a military conflict, though accidents such as Galwan can never be ruled out.
- This leaves India with the daunting task of living with this tense and uneasy calm with China for some time, a challenge brought to the fore by the Ladakh crisis.
The events of the past one year have significantly altered India’s thinking towards China. The relationship is at the crossroads now. The choices made in New Delhi will have a significant impact on the future of global geopolitics.
15th June Mains Expected Questions
Q. Biotechnology is deeply affecting the lives of everyone, especially after the onset of pandemic. What are the challenges and prospects associated with it. Elaborate.