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Thursday, Jul 02, 2020 12:00 [IST]

Last Update: Thursday, Jul 02, 2020 06:19 [IST]

Chinese Intrusion In the Galwan Valley: The Hidden Side

CHOKEY NAMGYAL BHUTIA
In the early days of May 2020, clashes between the Indian and Chinese soldiers occurred at two different sections of the line of actual control, near the Naku La pass in Sikkim and Pangong Tso in Ladakh, which resulted in injuries on both sides of the troops.  The clashes between the two sides were not restricted to just the above mentioned locations. In the underway, of these two incidents, Chinese troops made a serious intrusion in the Galwan valley area, creating another new point of contention between India and China.  The recent was the Doklam standoff in the year 2017. On June 15th 2020, violent clashes between the Indian and Chinese troops resulted in the death of twenty Indian soldiers of the 16th Bihar regiment and an Indian Colonel.
The Galwan valley is a land that is located between the mountains that buffet the Galwan River. The source of the Galwan River is in Aksai Chin, on Chinas side of the Line of Actual Control, (LAC), and the river flows from the east to Ladakh, where it meets the Shyok River on India’s side of Line of Actual Control. The valley is strategically located between Ladakh in the west and Aksai Chin in the east, which is currently controlled by China (Krishnan, 2020).
China has time and again made claims to its ownership of the entire Galwan valley area. In the 1962 war India had almost lost its control in the Galwan valley, if it had not been saved by the Nepali Ghurkha soldiers. Post the 1962 war, China had not claimed the Galwan valley up to June 15th 2020.  The pertinent reason being the strategic Darbuk –Shyok –DBO road infrastructure project of India in Ladakh.  The DBO road project of India is seen by China as a mechanism to offset the China Pakistan economic corridor. Therefore the Chinese made an attempt to capture the Galwan valley to stall the DBO road project of India in Ladakh.
Border skirmishes between the two countries and China’s constant intrusion on the Indian side of the border have occurred in plethora over the decades.  Hence, the recent intrusion by Chinese troops in the Galwan valley area and the clashes in Naku La pass and Pangong Tso was not really a surprising action on the path of China. They have always been an irritant for India’s national and international security.  What stood out as a surprise was the timing of the intrusion. This connects to the reason for China taking this step amidst the corona pandemic which has grappled up the world currently.
Strategic reason as mentioned above was factually the primary reason for Chinese intrusion to the Galwan valley. But hypothetically as some incidents give a lead, the reason for China to intrude and create haywire in India can be to protect its own internal regime.
The entire country is under the ambit of the Communist Party of China. The Communist Party of China does not entertain any kind of dissent to its regime. The public opinion in strictly controlled by the Communist Party. Anyone who criticizes the government and its decisions face the risk of governmental persecution. China has been able to rule unconditionally because the communist party of china makes the people reel under them with aggressive consequences. Fear exist amongst the people, therefore they rarely speak up, criticize and act against the government. China cannot tolerate any kind of opposition within and outside the country, when it comes to fulfilling its designs.
However the COVID- 19 pandemic outburst placed China under the radar of strong backlash and criticisms from the world. The image constructed was deconstructed, which can have some serious implication for China in the post pandemic world.  China faced opposition and criticism not just from the other countries, it had to face some amount of detest from its own people regarding the origin and the handling of the pandemic situation, raising serious concerns for China. Many young and educated youths of China began to protest against the communist party, holding them responsible for the virus spread and the governmental failure in handling the corona virus outbreak. Three Chinese academicians were arrested for raising their opinions on the COVID-19 outbreak. 
Legal scholar Zhang Xuezhong from China was seized from his home in Shanghai on May 19th 2020, after he posted an open letter on social media addressed to National People’s Congress (NPC) deputies saying the outbreak and spread of the COVID-19 epidemic was a good illustration of backward Chinese governance and called on NPC members to draft a new constitution. He included his own draft proposal for a new constitution describing the current national constitution as fake (Sharma, 2020).
Dr Li Wenliang who had initially raised an alert for the virus in December was reprimanded by the authorities for making false statements. He succumbed to the virus on February 2020. His death flooded the social media in China with a lot of anger and protest, which was not liked by the government. According to BBC news “Chinese government initially gave directions to the news outlet to say that doctor was still on life support and in critical condition”.  The motive behind  this was to keep the wave of people’s anger and protest down , because China fears any kind of democratic protest , it fears opinionated people, it fears dissent. China knows that the people of its country are one of the major stakeholders in forwarding the unsympathetic regime. If the people can be kept in their grip, then the communist party can rule the country aggressively. Therefore China cannot tolerate any kind of public outrage.
The outbreak of the virus put the Communist Party under the radar of its own people, many raised their voice, many criticized, and many wrote articles and open letters to reprimand the government. China feared it all; it might have sensed that it would lead to the development of disunity between the people and the government, which China cannot afford, especially at a time when China is under the scanner of the entire world.  It feared that if it loses the support of its people too at the pandemic juncture, it would not be long that the communist regime might have difficulty to sustain its power.  History has proved that autocratic regimes cannot sustain, when the people stand against it.
Therefore hypothetically, the attack on India can be an agenda of China to divert its people’s concentration from the wave ongoing protest and anger. Through such conflict China is attempting to portray to its people that the country’s national interest in under threat in an already weakening situation due to the COVID-19 criticism and cornering from the world. It wants to falsely convince the people that China is under threat from the neighbors therefore they should stand united and not get dissected due to any other internal matter. They want to convince its people that any kind of fragmentation arising out of the protest and anger within the country would not be favorable for China and its people in the world affair.  By intruding into India and creating violent conflict, China is fulfilling its double agenda of strategic interest and its domestic interest. It is creating a picture of national security threat so that the people do not contradict the government and there is no threat to the autocratic regime of the communist party in China. It is playing the role of the victim, to manipulate its people. By implicating such kind of attacks on other countries, China is trying to divert its people’s attention from its domestic issues to international issues. Chinese government is trying to save itself from any kind of democratic wave which can be a source of danger to its communist regime.
(The writer is Assistant Prof, SIkkim Government College)

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi