2 Years of Galwan Clashes: Tracing India-China ties since deadliest duel between neighbours in 45 years
It has been two years since the deadliest clash between Indian and Chinese troops in 45 years erupted in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley but a resolution to the conflict still seems like a far-fetched reality.
So far, the Indian Army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have held 14 rounds of talks since the Galwan clashes and one before June 15, 2020, to resolve the stand-off but the blow hot, blow cold relationship between the countries continues.
WHAT HAPPENED ON JUNE 15, 2020?
In an unprecedented face-off between the two sides, unheard of since 1975, a disagreement over the continued presence of the Chinese led to a bloody clash. The PLA had pitched tents and an observation post on India’s side of the LAC but after an agreement, they agreed to withdraw. However, things got heated on the night of June 15, leading to a five-hour-long confrontation. Twenty Indian soldiers, including Colonel Suresh Babu, commander of 16 Bihar, lost their lives in the stand-off. While there were casualties on the Chinese side too, Beijing refused to accept the same. The first acknowledgement of Chinese casualties came eight months after the incident, in March 2021. In February this year, Australian website Klaxon said at least 38 PLA soldiers drowned in the river.
ANY HEADWAY IN TALKS?
While multiple rounds of talks have been held, trust deficit has been the biggest impediment in repairing of ties. The negotiations have led to withdrawal of troops by both sides from Galwan, Pangong Lake and Gogra/ Patrolling Point 17A, but there is no return to status quo ante.
What has added to India’s worries is China’s fortification of military infrastructure on its side of the LAC. This was also confirmed by General Charles A Flynn, Commanding General of the US Army in the Pacific region, who said during a recent visit to Delhi that the build-up was “alarming”, and while talks were useful, “the way they are acting and behaving is concerning, and should be concerning to everyone, and I think it is”.
WHAT ABOUT TRADE & DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS?
China insists that it is still India’s biggest trade partner in 2021-22 as per its figures and attributed the “disparity" to different methods of calculating the trade volume by New Delhi and Beijing while referring to reports that the US has unseated it to take the top slot.
“According to the statistics of Chinese competent authorities, bilateral trade volume between China and India stood at $125.66 billion in 2021," Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing when asked about reports of the US overtaking China to become the largest trade partner of India in 2021-22.
“China remains the largest trade partner of India and for the first time the bilateral trade exceeded $100 billion in 2021," Zhao said.
The trade deficit with China rose to $72.91 billion in 2021-22 from $44 billion in the previous fiscal year as per Indian figures whereas the US is one of the few countries with which India had a trade surplus amounting to $32.8 billion last year.
As per the Indian data, China was India’s top trading partner from 2013-14 till 2017-18 and also in 2020-21. Before China, the UAE was the country’s largest trading partner.
Asked whether the Ladakh standoff which cast a shadow on the bilateral ties for over two years is also impacting the trade ties between the two countries, Zhao said, “At present, the border situation is stable in general. The two sides have been maintaining close communication through diplomatic and military channels."
On the political front, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Delhi in March. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval participated in meetings of the multilateral Shanghai Co-operation Organisation, and attended a BRICS security officials meeting hosted by his Chinese counterpart Yang Jeichi.
On Wednesday, Beijing also lifted a two-year Covid ban on visas to Indian professionals and their families. It has also indicated it is processing visas of Indian students who had returned home on account of the pandemic.