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What changed two years after Galwan clash?

China blames India for border tensions

india-flag-galwan-twitter (File) Indian Army hoisting national flag at Galwan valley

Nothing has changed in the last two years. Exactly two years back, on June 15, a deadly clash between Indian troops and the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers in Galwan valley had brought back the memory of the 1962 Indo-China war. 

The Galwan clash, in which 20 Indian soldiers including the commanding officer got killed -the first deadly clash in the border area in four decades triggered massive deployments of troops and heavy weaponry by both armies in and around the area. 

In the clash, an undisclosed number of PLA soldiers also got killed. Colonel B Santosh Babu, the commanding officer of the 16 Bihar Regiment, was posthumously awarded Maha Vir Chakra (MVC) for extraordinary courage and leadership, and five other soldiers were honoured with Vir Chakra (VrC) for their valour in the Galwan valley.

But, 'trust' was the biggest casualty between the two neighbours (in Galwan clash), which took decades to regain after the 1962 war, as per military planners.

Since then, the trust deficit between the two nuclear-armed neighbours has further widened. While China is building bridges on Pangong Tso and strengthening its infrastructure, the Indian side is also ramping up its military facilities in the region.

Nothing less than 15 rounds of Corps Commander level - the highest military rank negotiations, have been unable to make any significant headway into the disengagement between the two armies. Except for partial disengagement on both sides at Pangong Tso, talks have not yielded much. However, military negotiations have managed to control the temper of both forces and have been able to prevent a repeat of a Galwan-type clash.

And, 24 rounds of meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) have taken place. In the last meeting held on May 31, both sides reviewed the situation along the LAC.

But, during the Shangri La dialogue on Sunday, Chinese defence minister Wei Fenghe blamed India for the ongoing border tension in eastern Ladakh, saying that the responsibility for the standoff does not lie with its country.

On the other side, the Indian government has been maintaining that peace and tranquillity along the LAC were key to maintaining overall bilateral relations.

Thinning of troops has not happened in the Ladakh sector. Instead, PLA has strengthened itself in other areas in the eastern sector (Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim) and the middle sector (Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh); though the Indian Army has also done mirror deployment to counter any belligerence of the Chinese military.

Military experts believe that by amassing a huge number of troops along with artillery and armoured support, China wants to dominate the entire Himalayan mountains from Shaksgam Pass to Arunachal Pradesh.

When the Chinese side was showing aggression at other friction points, the Indian Army, in Operation Snow Leopard on August 29 in 2020, had managed to take control of some of the dominating heights on the southern bank of Pangong Tso. And by gaining control of those positions, the Indian Army could overlook the Chinese's Moldo Garrison, which had irked the Chinese military that has been insisting India vacate the positions. Strategic heights like Magar Hill, Gurung Hill, Gorkha Hill and Reqin La were within their side of the LAC. But eventually, the Indian side agreed to vacate these heights after the military commanders talked to downsize the military strength on Pangong Tso.

Military strategists believe that building bridges on Pangong lake is a defensive action by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) after it was caught off guard by the Indian army's Operation Snow Leopard.

Indian military observers believe that there is nothing, we (the Indian military) can do to prevent the Chinese from doing infrastructural activities beyond raising a voice through diplomacy or flag meetings between two militaries. Physically stopping them would eventually lead to hostilities. At the best, we can have reciprocal infrastructure development in our area. Similarly, India also built a lot of bridges on the Shyok river and in the Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) and Chinese did the protest. 27 new roads and bridges built by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), many of them close to the China border, were inaugurated early this year.

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