During early May, Chinese forces put up tents, dug trenches, and moved heavy equipment several kilometers inside the Indian as its territory. The move came after India built a road several hundred kilometers long connecting to a high-altitude forward airbase that was reactivated in 2008.
The message from China appears clear to Indian officials in Delhi: this is not a routine incursion.
“The situation is serious. The Chinese have come into territory which they themselves accepted as part of India. It has completely changed the status quo“, says Ajai Shukla, an Indian military expert who served as a colonel in the army.
India and China shares border more than 3,440km (2,100 miles) long and have overlapping territorial claims. Their border patrols often bump into each other, resulting in occasional scuffles but both sides insist no bullet has been fired in four decades.
In the midst of escalating border tension between Indian and Chinese troops in eastern Ladakh, Prime Minister Narendra on 26 May 2020 met with National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and the three service chiefs with a focus on bolstering India’s military preparedness to deal with external security challenges.
“China’s strategy to put military pressure on India will not work. We want restoration of the status quo along the LAC” said an official on the condition of anonymity.
The Chinese side had been particularly peeved in India laying a key road in the finger area of the Pangong Tso Lake region besides another road connecting the Darbuk-Shayok-Daulat Beg Oldie road in Galwan Valley.
The situation in eastern Ladakh deteriorated 05 May 2020 when 250 Chinese and Indian soldiers engaged in a violent face-off which spilled over to the next day before the two sides agreed to “disengage” following a meeting of local commanders.
Over 100 Indian and Chinese soldiers were injured in the violence.
In a separate incident, 150 Indian and Chinese troops faced off near Naku La Pass in the Sikkim sector on 09 May 2020. At least 10 soldiers from both sides sustained injuries.
Although there is a general framework to settle the India-China border dispute, neither side can move forward with any agreement because:
- a) Both sides are “fundamentally distrustful of each other”
- b) Domestic politics will prevent either side from making any concessions. He said the talks have reached an impasse, and there is no hope of settling the issue in the near future.
Chinese officials have also warned India that it should learn “historic lessons” from its humiliating defeat in the 1962 war that both countries fought over their border. In response, Indian Defense Minister Arun Jaitley retorted that “India in 2020 is different from India in 1962,” referring to its improved military strength.
Indian media issued shrill warnings about Chinese expansionism, while Chinese state media ramped up their bellicose rhetoric, with the nationalist tabloid Global Times warning that Beijing would make no concessions.