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Indo-China Galwan Valley rift: What ensued?

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India-China Border

 After almost four decades of minor scuffles at the Line of Actual Control (LAC), India and China are witnessing a dispute that has taken a fatal turn. On Monday, there was a physical brawl between the Indian and Chinese troops at LAC leading to 20 Indian and an undisclosed number of Chinese soldiers casualties. Since then the situation is tense and has kept both the countries on a watch. 

The bloody brawl took place in the Galwan Valley near Aksai Chin, the area which is controlled by China but claimed by both countries. 

On Friday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a televised statement that no Indian territory or border has been captured by China and that India’s armed forces have been given “a free hand to take all the necessary steps” to keep the country’s sovereignty maintained. He further said, “The entire country is hurt and angry at the steps taken by China. India wants peace and friendship, but upholding sovereignty is foremost.”

The brawl on Monday was physical and without any firearms on accord of the 1996 agreement signed between India and China. As per the agreement, there would be no presence or use of guns and explosives in the LAC area. The physical fight also led to over 76 Indian soldiers being injured. 

The fatal fight was fought first with hands and then will bamboo rods covered with nails. China has however not yet disclosed the number of casualties.

Disputed territory and conflict history

The Line of Actual Control is a loosely defined de facto border between India and China that emerged as an aftermath of Sino-Indian War of 1962. In 1959, Chinese President Zhou Enlai proposed both side troops to withdraw behind the LAC. The LAC extends into three regions – Eastern, Western and Central Section. 

Aksai Chin, the area of contention in recent clash, lies in the Western Section of the LAC and is claimed to be a part of Xinjiang by China and by India as a part of Ladakh. This region witnesses harsh climate and is inhospitable with freezing temperatures even in summer, located at an altitude of 14,000 feet in the Himalayas. This means that humans cannot practically inhabit the region due to the tedious acclimatization and high probability to suffer from fatigue, nausea and headache.

Though the LAC clearly demarcates each country’s territory on map, the conflict of exact location has always been in existence due to historic disagreements, clashing claims for territories and ill-defined maps. 

Confusion regarding LAC dates back to partition of India post Indo-Pak 1947 war which led to more disputes on Kashmir that India, Pakistan and China have claims on. The 1962 India-China war was over Aksai Chin. Since then minor trifles have been along LAC over the disputed territory. Moreover, China’s close ally with Pakistan makes the relationship between New Delhi and Beijing even more complicated.

Post Conflict Scenario

The tension between both the nuclear powers is apparent post the incident. India and China both are scrambling to de-escalate the situation through peaceful talks and negotiations.

Former Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said, “I think an agreement will take time and need concentrated negotiation that should not be sporadic but sustained.”

On Wednesday Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi discussed with his Indian counterpart that both countries must “properly address the border situation through existing channels.” 

The situation might however quickly take a turn. The following days are going to be particularly tense with no certainty that these would be the last of discussions between India and China.  

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