Covid 19 has created a serious healthcare problem both in China and India. Millions have been affected and thousands have died. While sharing a common grief the two countries are also faced with a new challenge. In the disputed territory of the Galwan river valley of Ladakh, soldiers from both sides confronted each other. A Chinese tent was burned. Stones and sticks were pelted. Lives were lost. According to information given by the Government of India, from the Indian side 19 soldiers and a commander died in the attack. No information is given about how many or if any soldier from the Chinese side died in this incident. But several days later the Chinese released a dozen of Indian soldiers taken as prisoners. The story from the Chinese side:

“By the early morning of May 6, the Indian border troops, who have crossed the LAC by night and trespassed into China's territory, have built fortification and barricades, which impeded the patrol of Chinese border troops. They deliberately made provocations in an attempt to unilaterally change the status quo of control and management. The Chinese border troops have been forced to take necessary measures to respond to the situation on the ground and strengthen management and control in the border areas.”

Both China and India are rising powers. Both, under two different systems of government are trying to make a jump from an agrarian economy to a postindustrial economy. Therefore they have stiff competition between them. Over the years each side has tried to maintain a degree of sympathy for the needs of the other. Yet, there are sticking points that hurt both sides. For example, there is a growing feeling in India that it was a mistake to accept China's sovereignty over Tibet. Then there is the Dalai Lama issue. No matter who or which Party is in Power in New Delhi, India will continue to shelter the Dalai Lama whom China considers a thorn in its side.

India's closeness with the United States and transactions with Taiwan have not been very well received by the Chinese. For India, China's foot dragging to resolve the border issue has remained a big disappointment. China's aggressive attempts to influence matters in neighboring Myanmar and Sri Lanka, its acceptance of Pakistan as a client state have remained a matter of concern. However, very gingerly each has been treating the other in the international arena. In economic areas they have facilitated trade and commerce for mutual benefit both at home and in a number of third countries. Still, the challenge exists. For India, China has stood as a stumbling block to gain a permanent seat at the Security Council. Whenever the issue comes up China thwarts the effort by injecting all kinds of arguments. India has reached out to thethe smaller countries of East Asia. Its strong friendship with the United States plus the friendship with Japan and other Asian countries have become a ring of fire around the neck of the dragon!

When two powers begin to rise at the same time they are bound to collide at some point. That point came last week. Nearly sixty years later, soldiers from both countries fought with each other. Barred by their respective governments to carry guns, they inflicted wounds by throwing sticks and rocks and by pushing and shoving. If it is true what trickles down through the Internet then the conflict will bring some festering problems to the surface. It shows that the Government of India does not prepare its soldiers well enough before they are deployed to the front. The press keeps saying “in the cold temperature”. What should it be in the Himalayan range?
“In order to ease the situation, China and India have stayed in close communication through military and diplomatic channels. On June 6, the border troops of both countries held a commander-level meeting and reached consensus on easing the situation. The two sides would discuss and decide phased withdrawal of troops through the meetings between commanders on the ground.”

At this point neither China nor India is in a position to go to war. Each may take matters into its own hands out of frustration but developing a permanent enmity between them is not possible. Both China and India are marching toward growth. A war between them would set their economic growth miles behind. Choice must be made between self-preservation and ego.

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