By Gurmukh Singh | OPINION |
Following the border clash between Indian and Chinese troops on 15 June 2020, Indian Prime Minister Modi is reported to have said, “no one had entered Indian territory or captured any military posts.” Yet, within hours of Modi’s comments, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian tweeted that the Galwan Valley belonged to China and the Indian troops had provoked the clash.
Pakistan, too, has moved large number of troops to its border with India. However, reports of the possibility of World War III being triggered by these events are rather alarmist. Other than achieving strategic border objectives, China has no reason to invade India – for the time being.
China’s expansionist strategy is global, multi-pronged, well-planned and almost unstoppable. It combines the strict and disciplined regime of communism with certain aspects of capitalism which can be exploited in the market place when the rules of fair competition are broken. It exploits to the full the uncertainties of softer democratic systems with changing politics and policies.
China’s border dispute with India goes back to 1962 war with India. Both countries continue to claim large territories along the 3,500 km (2,173 mile) Line of Actual Control (LAC) through high mountains, valleys and rivers. There have been many clashes along the LAC over the years before the more significant incident on 15 June this year.
According to India, Chinese soldiers had crossed over to the Indian side at many locations in early May. The Galwan River and Pangong Tso lake in the India’s Ladakh region have been mentioned. One reason given for the recent movement and fortifications on the Chinese side is the construction of a road by India near the Galwan valley “to narrow the gap with China’s superior network of roads that it built years ago.”
On the night of 15th June, the 16th Bihar troops had to fight with “sticks, bare hands, rocks and with weapons snatched from the Chinese.” According to earlier reports twenty Indian soldiers, including two Sikh gunners, died in the clash with many injured. Reports differ about casualties and there is very little information from the Chinese. The fight broke out when the Chinese started to erect structures just across the LAC in the Galwan Valley.
India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar accused the Chinese of trying to erect structures in the Galwan Valley on the Indian side of the LAC. Naturally, the Chinese claimed the opposite. There is also a mismatch between the statements made by Jaishankar and PM Modi.
However, a BBC report gives some basic facts with the use of satellite images. These show the area near Patrol Point 14 where the clash took place on 15 June. An image taken in May shows no structures in the area overlooking the Galwan River. However, at a later date the images show Chinese construction at the same point.
There have been “angry responses from India’s army veterans and analysts who saw it as New Delhi ceding territory to China to avoid escalation”. That seems to be the ground reality as verified by satellite images.
Due to other incidents along the border, this incident raises the question of combat-readiness of Indian soldiers even though the Chinese casualties are not known. Regardless of isolated acts of bravery e.g. by a Sikh jawan, Gurtej Singh, the impression gained is that the Chinese were better prepared. The Indian soldiers were outnumbered and overwhelmed except for the timely support later by some Sikh jawans. They should have been alert to the dispute situation they were walking into.
In addition to their military strength, well-supported by logistics, the Chinese are known for their high efficiency in building large infrastructure projects including roads and bridges through mountainous terrain. They are known for their discipline, organisation and work ethics. In these respects, with few exceptions, the Indians usually show the opposite traits. Projects linger on for years in the centres of Indian cities blocking traffic and bringing travel and business to a standstill.
Chinese are at the forefront of innovation and over the decades China has been “successful in powering its economic growth and using its billion-plus population to its advantage.” China dominates the whole of South-East Asia, has trade advantage with Australia and has major investments in India and other countries.
The position of Sikh Indians: The Sikhs have been antagonised by the 1984 traumatic events and the injustices they have suffered since the partition of India. Victim families of Delhi-centred genocide await justice. State terrorism in Punjab and extra-judicial killings of Sikh youth in the following decade drove thousands of young Sikhs abroad. Sikh recruitment to the Indian army has been reduced as a matter of state policy.
Yet, the Sikhs are the friends of the people of India. Despite all the wrongs suffered by the Sikh nation, the Sikhs are likely to regard it as their duty and destiny to defend the borders of Guru Nanak’s Hindostan, the sub-continent, no matter what the cost or how unequal the contest due entirely to the political corruption and bankruptcy. And not because the state controlled media will now start singing the praises of the invincible Khalsa and the great sacrifice made by Guru Tegh Bahadur mis-represented as in defence of Hinduism! (See Guru Tegh Bahadur: The True Story)
India is in the grip of Covid-19. It cannot confront China and Pakistan at the same time. Despite brave military gestures, India seems to be at the mercy of China regarding the border dispute.
Punjab is close to the border and, as usual in Indian wars, Sikh soldiers are bound to be at the forefront in defending the border. That is matter of grave concern for the global Sikh community.
Gurmukh Singh OBE, a retired UK senior civil servant, chairs the Advisory Board of The Sikh Missionary Society UK. Email: email@example.com. Click here for more details on the author.
* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
Sikhi: The Path for the New Age (Asia Samachar, 17 May 2020)
How coronavirus can change the world (Asia Samachar, 29 April 2020)