Tough rescue of trapped Indian tunnel workers shows need to revise view of China
Published: Nov 21, 2023 10:22 PM
Illustration: Chen Xia/Global Times

Illustration: Chen Xia/Global Times

The situation of 40 workers trapped in a tunnel collapse in Uttarakhand, a northern Indian state bordering China, has entered its 10th day. After earlier rescue attempts failed, the heart-rending rescue operation finally brought good news.

For the first time, visuals of the workers trapped inside the collapsed tunnel surfaced on Tuesday morning. The rescue teams managed to create an additional supply line on Monday to provide food for the workers, the Times of India reported.

This significant development has somewhat relieved the concerns of the outside world. However, considering that the accident took place beneath a Himalayan mountain, the rescue effort is really difficult. Yet it remains urgent to save their lives.

The common hope of the international community is a quick and successful rescue operation. Many countries, including China, are believed to be willing to participate in cooperative rescue efforts if they receive a request from India.

There have been reports and analysis in the Indian media regarding the causes of this accident and how to prevent such heartbreaking incidents. Apart from the specific technical analysis, this incident and the rescue efforts demonstrate the urgency and importance of enhancing mutual trust and cooperation between China and India, two neighboring Asian countries and developing nations.

During the rescue operation, the Indian side has already sought international assistance. Indian authorities contacted a Thai cave rescue team as it became more urgent to reach the trapped men, CNN reported on Thursday. Indian authorities also sought assistance from foreign experts, including international tunneling expert Arnold Dix, according to media reports.

China has rich experience in rescue operations and tunnel construction. If cooperation is needed, China can play an active role in terms of technology, experience and equipment. In recent years, China's rescue teams have participated in many international rescue missions and were recognized for their performance. They were involved in the rescue of a young football team in Thailand in 2018 and they also provided assistance during earthquake relief efforts in Nepal.

However, the prerequisite for such cooperation is for the Indian side to dispel suspicion toward China and show a willingness to cooperate. The urgency of the rescue operation in this accident, which involves the lives of 40 workers, shows the importance for India to dispel its doubts about China and promote people-to-people exchanges and cooperation in multiple fields. 

This skepticism hinders India's cooperation with China in such matters. This tunnel is located in an area close to the China-India border, which has strategic considerations for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, according to Western media outlets that are skilled in sensationalizing geopolitics but reluctant to promote cooperation between China and India. 

In the narrative of the Western media, it seems that China and India only have differences and will only wear each other out. The Western hype and exaggeration of concerns and skepticism between China and India are aimed at preventing them from expanding cooperation.

But in reality, China and India have extensive common interests in a wide range of areas including infrastructure. For example, China has accumulated a wealth of technology and experience in tunnel engineering through its high-speed rail and highway construction, leading the world in this field. Even in the case of this tunnel rescue operation, it is believed that China's participation can provide assistance to India.

Skepticism not only hampers China-India cooperation involving rescue operations in this tunnel incident but also obstructs cooperation in other areas, and it has even seriously affected and damaged bilateral economic and trade cooperation and people-to-people exchanges. This trend is detrimental and even dangerous for both sides.

China and India are capable of properly managing differences while continuously expanding cooperation. Both sides also have vast areas in which they can expand their cooperation, including some important and urgent matters on the international stage.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.