The Strategist

Two biggest Asian powers turn on each other after border incident

06/18/2020 - 05:10

The Indian and Chinese military began to withdraw forces from the control line in East Ladakh, where was the most serious clash of border guards in half a century. According to recent reports, 20 Indian soldiers, including their commander, were killed during the incident. The PRC did not disclose information about its losses. However, the Indian military, referring to the radio interception, report that the number of dead and wounded from the Chinese side exceeded 40 people. The massacre at the border undermined the reboot of relations between the two countries, on which Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and PRC President Xi Jinping counted.

BMN Network via flickr
BMN Network via flickr
A fierce clash between the border guards of India and China, which occurred on the night of June 16 on the control line in the Himalayas, received a loud resonance in Indian society on Wednesday.

Against the backdrop of spontaneous anti-Chinese actions that swept India, whose participants were burning portraits of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held an emergency video conference with Heads of 15 states and union territories, the participants of which honored the memory of the dead Indian soldiers with a two-minute silence.

Following the meeting, Prime Minister Modi, who received the Chinese leader in the Indian city of Mahabalipuram with great fanfare last fall, made the toughest statement to his neighbors during his reign: “India wants peace, but if it is provoked, it will be ready to give a worthy answer.”

In its official statements, the Chinese side insists that the situation was provoked precisely by the actions of Indian soldiers, who allegedly violated the control line in Ladakh twice.

According to the Indian Prime Minister’s office on Wednesday, Narendra Modi held an emergency video conference with leaders of all political parties on Friday evening to discuss the reasons of the clash in East Ladakh and build a nationwide consensus on further relations with China.

It is not clear yet why the incident caused such a number of deaths, given that the parties did not use firearms. Recall that in early May there was already a similar mass brawl of border guards in Ladakh, in which about 300 people took part, but no one died in it. It is also unclear why the Indian side did not report such massive losses immediately, but only after a few hours.

According to the Times of India, one of the reasons for the mass deaths of the military, in addition to the harsh climate and the lack of the ability to provide timely medical assistance to the victims, could be that during the fight not only sticks and stones were used, but steel rods with nails. At the same time, given that the clash took place at a high altitude, part of the military personnel died falling off the rocks. 

The Chinese side did not officially report its losses, however, the Indian military, referring to the radio interception data, claim that the total number of killed and wounded from the Chinese side was 43 people.

While Chinese officials have refrained from attacking India, voices have already sounded in China with tough warnings against the neighbors. “I want to tell the Indians: do not take China's restraint for its weakness and never be arrogant with China. China does not want a conflict with India, but he was never afraid of it,” commented an editor-in-chief of the state-run English-language newspaper Global Times.