China urges India to investigate border incident

By Yang Sheng and Liu Xuanzun Source:Global Times Published: 2020/6/17 22:23:40 Last Updated: 2020/6/17 22:43:40

India’s heavy casualties show military vulnerability: expert

Photo: Xinhua

China demands that India carry out a thorough investigation into the incident, severely punish those who should be held accountable, strictly discipline Indian frontline troops, and immediately stop all provocative actions so as to ensure that such incidents do not happen again, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the Indian foreign minister during a phone call on Wednesday regarding the Monday border confrontation that caused casualties on both sides in the Galwan Valley. 

Under the circumstance that the current situation in the Galwan Valley has eased, the Indian troops once again crossed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) for deliberate provocation, and even violently attacked the Chinese officers and soldiers who went to the terrain for negotiation, Wang said to Indian Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry's website.

"The hazardous move of the Indian army severely violated the agreement reached between the two countries on the border issue and the basic norms of international relations," Wang said. 

India must ensure that such incidents do not happen again. India must not misjudge the current situation, or underestimate China's firm will to safeguard its territorial sovereignty.

The Indian foreign minister said India would like to ease the border tension through peaceful dialogue with China. Wang stressed that China and India, both emerging powers with a population of over 1 billion, bear the historic mission of accelerating their own development and rejuvenation. Hence, acts of mutual respect and mutual support are on the right track and conform to the long-term interests of both countries.

Chinese analysts noted that from the phone call between the top diplomats of the two countries, China showed its sincerity to ease tension and also sent tough signals and showed its firm stance on safeguarding its principle and bottom line, which means that whether India chooses to ease or escalate tensions, China is fully prepared. 

Unlikely to escalate

The China-India border confrontation that caused the deaths of 20 Indian military personnel will not escalate as the two sides share a consensus to solve the issue through communication, and if India cannot control its military forces in the border region, it would pay a heavy price as its economy has been damaged by COVID-19 and its undeveloped military power makes it incapable of escalating tension with China, Chinese analysts said.

The incident was very clear as it took place on the Chinese side of the LAC, and the responsibility does not lie with China, Zhao Lijian, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, made the remarks at Wednesday's media briefing in response to questions raised on whether diplomats or military officers of the two sides were involved in resolving the issue.

Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Wednesday that China has no intention to change the border situation at all, and the incident happened on the Chinese side of the LAC, so the confrontation causing the deaths of 20 Indian military personnel was entirely provoked by the Indian side.

Currently, India is facing heavy domestic pressure as its unsuccessful measures to handle the coronavirus has brought huge damage to its economy, so it needs to make moves against its neighbors, to distract domestic attention and incite nationalism to reinforce Modi'sapproval rating, Hu noted. 

US multinational investment bank Goldman Sachs predicts that the Indian economy will experience a recession after its already weakened state was further dragged down by the nationwide lockdown to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the third time that Goldman Sachs has slashed its forecast for India's economic growth in 2020-21, CNBC reported in May.

Hu said India has engaged in border disputes with China, Pakistan and Nepal at the same time.  As Pakistan is a reliable strategic partner of China, and Nepal also has close ties with China, and both of them are key partners under the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, if India escalates border tensions, it could face military pressure from two or even three fronts, which is far beyond India's military capability and this might lead to a disastrous defeat for India.

And a defeat right now would be disastrous as rising Hindu nationalism will not accept such a failed outcome and the Modi administration will lose power, Hu said. He noted that Indian policymakers should not miscalculate the situation as some of them believe that the worsening China-US ties would provide a chance for India to challenge China, because India is not an important topic for neither China nor the US.

Chinese experts noted that the Modi administration should control pro-US forces in India, as unwise movements to provoke China could bring about serious consequences. 

Limited power

According to the number of casualties released by India, observers noted that this is the most severe border confrontation that China and India have experienced in decades, and the best choice for India is to cease provocations and settle down tensions with China through dialogue as soon as possible, and not miscalculate the situation just like what it did in 1962. 

When addressing questions about Chinese casualties, Zhao didn't answer the question directly instead he said that border troops are jointly resolving the issue on the ground, and the overall situation at the China-India border remains stable. 

A military expert at a Beijing-based military academy who requested anonymity told the Global Times that the reason behind China not releasing the number of casualties is that China does not want people in the two countries to get further impacted, as any comparison of casualties could incite nationalist sentiment on both sides, and such an event is totally unhelpful for the two to ease tensions. 

"In other words, if Indian nationalists see the number of fatalities and find out that the Indian military lost more soldiers than China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) did, then the Modi administration and the Indian military would be under huge pressure to escalate and continue their provocations. So staying silent regarding this matter is very wise," he remarked. 

Hu said the reason why India released the number of deaths is to gain sympathy from the international community, but at this moment, all major Western powers are busy handling their domestic problems such as nationwide riots and the pandemic, so no one would and could provide concrete support to India.

A PLA veteran who has experience conducting missions in plateau regions told the Global Times anonymously on Wednesday that freezing temperatures and altitude stress are indeed challenges for high-altitude operations, but 17 Indian soldiers having died after a violent encounter with no shots fired indicates their physical conditions were not fit for deployment to such a harsh environment.

It also showed the lackluster medical and logistics capabilities India has on the frontline. If treated quickly and properly, they would not have died, the veteran said. They might not have access to a qualified field hospital, and not have rapid transportation means, oxygen bags, or even warm clothes, the veteran said.

These details show that Indian troops' combat capabilities are limited, the veteran concluded.

Chinese and Indian border defense troops have a tacit understanding of not carrying lethal weapons and bullets, which is a precautionary measure aimed at preventing the escalation of any conflict, a source familiar with the matter told the Global Times under the condition of anonymity.

This tradition shows that China and India have always kept a clear and careful outlook, that even if such a violent encounter occurs, it should remain small-scale and controllable rather than an intensive one with gunfire that is bound to lead to more deaths, analysts said.

The PLA recently conducted a series of military drills in the plateau regions of Tibet bordering India. Some experts said this could also be a signal that Chinese military forces are preparing for the worst case scenario despite the two sides having agreed to solve the problem through negotiation. 


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