- Galwan Valley tragedy: Himalayan geopolitics
- Why didn’t Soldiers at LAC open fire?
GALWAN VALLEY TRAGEDY: HIMALAYAN GEOPOLITICS
Focus: GS-II International Relations
Underlying messages and possibilities of Galwan Valley tragedy
- Immediately after the incident, PLA’s Western Theatre Command (WTC) issued a statement claiming China’s territorial “sovereignty” over the entire Galwan Valley.
- The incident appears to have been triggered by local factors at a micro level, with, at the most, instructions from WTC headquarters. It is a case of a disengagement process not being handled properly at the local level and things going out of control.
- The top PLA officials of WTC seem to enjoy more autonomy than other Chinese military theatres. It also has a larger focus agenda with regards to securing Chinese interests, including safeguarding China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)-related projects moving just north of the Karakoram Range.
- The incident can either spark greater escalation or actually, counter-intuitively, lead to de-escalation.
- If China refuses to revert to a pre-standoff status quo position, India may be forced to evict PLA from the Indian side though a military intervention.
Way Forward and Where does this leave India?
India must respond to China’s move, not just with military defense, but through a forward-looking strategic, economic and connectivity vision matching China’s BRI project, by reconnecting or resuming old trade links.
- Ladakh administration can distribute the entire stretch of vacant land in eastern Ladakh among the population of the Leh district for agriculture, horticulture and other economic activities.
- The government can expedite infrastructure airport/road network expansion in eastern Ladakh.
- Authorities can re-populate the area with legal ownership to citizens and not leave the borderland vacant. Large-scale forestation and large-scale grass-sowing activities through aerial seeding and use of drip-irrigation technology can also be undertaken.
- NITI Aayog should prepare a defence development plan for area development, and Indian Army should revisit the idea of legalising the existing illegal border trade at specific places such as at Dhumtsele and Demchok.
-Source: Hindustan Times
WHY DIDN’T SOLDIERS AT LAC OPEN FIRE?
Focus: GS-II International Relations
The Soldiers martyred at Galwan on 15 June, during the violent faceoff with the Chinese, were carrying arms. However, they did not open fire.
They did not open fire, because they were following The protocols from agreements signed between India and China in 1996 and 2005.
Protocols to prevent open fire
- The 1996 agreement is on Confidence-Building Measures in the Military Field Along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas.
- The 1996 agreement says “With a view to preventing dangerous military activities along the line of actual control in the India-China border areas, neither side shall open fire, cause bio-degradation, use hazardous chemicals, conduct blast operations or hunt with guns or explosives within two kilometres from the line of actual control.”
- However, the agreement also says “If the border personnel of the two sides come in a face-to-face situation due to differences on the alignment of the line of actual control of any other reason, they shall exercise self-restraint and take all necessary steps to avoid an escalation of the situation.”
- The agreement also calls for both sides shall to enter into immediate consultations through diplomatic and/or other available channels to review the situation and prevent any escalation of tension.
According to the 2005 agreement “the two sides will resolve the boundary question through peaceful and friendly consultations. Neither side shall use or threaten to use force against the other by any means”.
The 2013 agreement on Border Defence Cooperation also stated that neither side shall use its military capability against the other.
Clashes without firing
- In exceptional situations of aggression, since the routines of “not firing” has been drilled into the soldiers, every other weapon short of firing has become acceptable to use for the soldiers, who have used them during previous clashes.
- Even though the Army’s rules of engagement allow soldiers from opening fire if lives of their uniformed brethren is threatened, the recent clashes did not involve firing, which has avoided a full scale escalation of the conflict.
- Decisions are taken on the spur of the moment, which change the course of events, and their consequences have to be borne by posterity.
- Even though people have been injured in such clashes, no one has died due to use of rocks and sticks, until now.
- The killings have put a question mark on the terms of engagement between the two armies going forward.
-Source: Indian Express