Cautious, but firm: on India-China stand-off
# After weeks of more diplomatic wording, the statement by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on June 26 appears to signal that patience in dealing with Beijing is reaching a dead end.
Shifts of note
# The statement said publicly, for the first time since reports of the stand-off, that the Chinese build-up and clashes with Indian troops, including the Galwan Valley incident on June 15 in which 20 Indian soldiers were brutally killed, had a “larger context”.
# It also admitted that the Chinese side had built up a large armed presence since early May, making it clear that India’s strategic establishment has had much to worry about.
# While each of the MEA’s several references to the situation at LAC in May and June had mentioned dialogue as the way forward, its latest statement makes it clear that it is China’s responsibility to restore peace and tranquillity along the LAC, without citing further dialogue.
# It warned that a continuation of the current situation “would only vitiate the atmosphere” for the relationship, indicating that the current status quo is unacceptable.
# In detailing the number of clashes, the use of unauthorised violence on June 15, and the sheer numbers of troops and weaponry “amassed”, the government is pointing out that China has violated every agreement on border peace that the two sides have committed to since the 1993 Agreement.
# In short, the message is this — not only is the situation at the LAC of concern, but China’s actions have also probably undone decades of careful negotiations on the boundary.
# It is only inevitable that the government will face probing questions on its silence when such a large troop mobilisation by China threatened Indian frontiers weeks ago, and whether it missed signals out of Beijing that this build-up was intended.
# Other questions remain about Prime Minister Modi’s insistence and the MEA’s consistent stand that Chinese troops have not come across the LAC, and that there have only been “attempted transgressions” by the PLA.
# Satellite pictures and media accounts point to the contrary.
# The government must now ensure some clarity. The nation must be apprised on the challenges and the steps planned beyond ongoing military and diplomatic exchanges, to ensure that the status quo ante, prior to May, is restored by China.
# Each step, whether it involves military action, international support, or sanctions by banning Chinese products or the participation of Chinese telecom and other companies, will come with serious consequences, and the government must ensure wide consultations, simultaneously preparing the people for what may follow.
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