The standoff between Indian and Chinese soldiers in the eastern Ladakh region in the last one-and-a-half months is likely to fester for longer than any other such face-offs in recent years, and could surpass the 73-day conflict in Doklam in 2017.
The tense situation in Galwan Valley in all likelihood would be a prolonged feud since India has lost 20 of its soldiers.
Adding to the tensions is that 10 Indian soldiers, including officers, were in the captivity of Chinese People’s Liberation Army for three days after one of the bloodiest attacks was carried out by China June 15 at the Line of Actual Control.
There is a renewed fury in Indian security establishments after it came to light that 10 Indian Army men, including two officers of the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and Major, were in Chinese captivity for three days and were released only Thursday evening.
The assault on Indian Army soldiers at patrolling point 14 June 15 has left little scope to ease the tension between the two countries in the near future.
STATUS QUO IN CROSSHAIRS
China has changed the status quo at four places in eastern Ladakh, to which India has objected. The four standoff points are Finger Four in north bank of Pangong Lake, patrolling point 14 near Galwan Valley, patrolling point 15 and patrolling point 17A, which is also known as Hot Springs.
At these four points, troop concentration has increased manifold as China changed the status quo.
The Chinese move kickstarted after India had begun building road infrastructure in its territory near the LAC for easy movement of troops.
The Galwan Valley attack on Indian soldiers June 15 was not an isolated incident. The offensive by the Chinese PLA started from May 5 and kept happening over few intervals, leading to the attack June 15 night in 20 Indian soldiers, including a Colonel, were killed and 76 soldiers were injured.
Indian Army troops were outnumbered by 1:5 ratio when PLA troops attacked patrolling point number 14 at the Line of Actual Control. PLA troops “savagely attacked” Indian Army personnel, sources said.
“It was the deadliest attack carried on Indian Army personnel,” government sources said.
Those were the first casualties faced by the Indian Army in a clash with the Chinese PLA since 1975 when an Indian patrol was ambushed by Chinese troops in Arunachal Pradesh.
The Indian government and security officials believe that the situation will remain tense in the coming months even as both countries are trying to resolve the vexed issues through dialogue.
India is also looking at a multi-pronged approach to deal with China by curtailing its business activities in the country, which of course is easier said than done.
The eastern Ladakh crisis is an unprecedented situation even if compared to the Doklam stand-off, which was resolved after a little more than 70 days.
THE DOKLAM CRISIS
The Doklam crisis of 2017 was totally different from the current situation in eastern Ladakh region, as it was not taking place on a territory disputed between the two countries.
China was carrying out infrastructural development work in Doklam, the tri-junction of three countries — India, China and Bhutan — to which India had objected.
China then claimed that there was a boundary dispute between Bhutan and China in which India had no claims.
However, India refuted and stood its ground, matching the deployment of Chinese troops for 73 days.
The standoff was triggered by China, which said it was constructing a road within its territory. This was disputed by India, which said the Chinese road construction site was Bhutanese territory.
In Doklam, India feared that the Chinese road would give its military access to heights from where it could threaten the Siliguri Corridor, India’s tenuous link with its northeastern regions.
The crisis was resolved with diplomatic maturity without losing any ground. There was no change in the status quo on the ground and the face-off ended August 28, 2017.