India-China Duet

Ladakh presents a surrealistic scenario. Both India and China frequently issue statements that they would disengage from the region while maintaining restraint all along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). But the ground reality tells a different tale. The current standoff in the Himalayan border areas is not in the best interest of either. Despite all the peace rhetoric, the disputed 2,175 mile (3,500 km) boundary separating India and China, from Ladakh in the west to India’s north eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims in its entirety. Recently India’s foreign minister S Jaishankar and China’s foreign minister Wang Yi, met in Moscow on the sidelines of a gathering of the foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), comprising India, China, Russia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Whether Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov played any role in executing the sideline parley is not known. Modi met Xi on several occasions on sidelines without really breaking the ice. The Chinese are hard nut to crack. Any sincere move to ease tensions along LAC through sideline diplomacy or bilateral dialogue may bring in sigh of relief for the people of India.

No doubt Indian and Chinese foreign ministers agreed on the sideline business in Moscow, that their troops should disengage from a tense border, maintain tranquility in the Ladakh region where the two sides in June had their deadliest clash in which 20 Indian soldiers were dead. China reported no casualties. As per a report in a recent issue of News Week 60 Chinese soldiers also lost their lives in the confrontation. Shots were fired along LAC for the first time in 45 years. What they are saying before the press is one thing. But what is happening all along the shared boundary--LAC---is quite another. An un ease truce is no guarantee for lasting peace. Jaishankar reportedly told his Chinese counterpart Wang that India would never support any attempt to change the status quo along LAC unilaterally. China, however, accused India, of changing the volatile boundary, unilaterally. As things are if the two sides don’t budge an inch from their stated perception of border, nothing positive will emerge from ‘diplomatic handshake’. Russia didn’t say anything publicly on the India-China standoff in Ladakh but Sergey Lavrov said, after meeting with Jaishankar and Wang that India had expressed a wish to disengage through diplomatic channels. In other words the big brother seemed to pacify them!

Ladakh skirmish apart China has been in the news for Corona. Almost ten months into a global pandemic, the Corona virus pandemic still remains undecided. Scientists across the world speculated that the killer virus may have originated from wet-food market in Wuhan as the new novel corona virus was first detected in Wuhan. Scientists and Virologists are divided over the dispute whether corona virus was man- made or not. Back in April, a French Nobel prize winner scientist Luc Masterganier supported the ‘man-made idea’.

Now a Chinese virologist Dr Li Mang Yan who has allegedly fled China, claims that she has proof that the virus was in fact made in Wuhan laboratory. WHO and Hong Kong University, however, disputed her claims. That WHO is very much in China camp after America’s withdrawal from this UN body, is a fact of life. As per a recent write-up in the reputed scientific journal NATURE, Covid-19, originated from natural processes. Vested Interests are very much in action to defend their interests. Meanwhile, people are dying in thousands everyday and there is no possibility that Corona virus will go away any time soon. WHO remains elusive and its experts have no business other than spreading panic.

Whether prime minister Modi is downplaying the India-China border dispute, taking advantage of the Corona virus pandemic is questionable but what is not questionable is he has already lost the diplomatic initiative internation-ally. Media persons across the world mostly dish out the Chinese version of the story because Indian official version is not available. For all practical purposes India- China relations have once again come to a crossroads. Military commanders from both sides are meeting regularly only to say ‘they will meet again’. After each bout of high level discussion it is the situation of back to square one.

Unless two sides work out a mutually acceptable methodology for de-escalation nothing will move. What is required is political will and direction to resolve the crisis. India and China fought a border war in 1962 that spilled into Ladakh and ended in endless boundary talks without producing any results.

Vol. 53, No. 13, sep 27 - Oct 3, 2020