India’s constructing activities along its side of Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Galwan Valley have led to a dispute over the Galwan Valley with China for the first time. China is now claiming sovereignty over the entire Galwan Valley. According to several reports, the Chinese army has infiltrated into this side of LAC and has already constructed a metallic road in the region between Finger Four and Finger Eight, which was until recently patrolled by the Indian Army.
The Galwan Valley is where the Chinese had pitched their tents and this is what led to the confrontation in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed. We don’t have clarity yet on what exactly happened on that night but it is one of the deadliest episodes in Indo-China conflict and requires urgent de-escalation as well as resolution.
There is mistrust between the two countries. China is expanding not only its territorial claims but also its influence both militarily as well as economically. The aggressive position of China on the South China Sea, the dispute with Japan, the rising tensions between China and the United States, and with India coming closer to the United States with events like Howdy Modi and Namaste Trump, the Chinese are viewing India as a proxy of the US. The situation is further complicated by what is happening in our neighbourhood. If we look at the Line of Control (LOC), it is under fire from both sides. In Afghanistan there are peace talks between the United States and the Taliban and in all likelihood Taliban will be given Afghanistan on a platter. Taliban will rule Afghanistan but the biggest victory would be of Pakistan because it is Pakistan which brought Taliban on the negotiating table, while India is completely missing from the dialogue process in Afghanistan. If we look at Nepal, there has been a clash for the first time with India. Some of the territories, such as Kala Pani, which India considers as its own have been included in Nepal’s new map. On top of that Bangladesh, once considered to be the shining example of India’s diplomacy, is also upset with India because of CAA. All these countries pose a serious diplomatic crisis before the current government and the standoff between India and China only complicates it.
The Foreign Policy magazine has said that government of India’s actions on Jammu and Kashmir by scrapping Article 370 have given an opening to China. If we look at Article 1 of the Constitution of India, it says that that the territory of India consists of states and union territories and/ or acquired territories. The Articles uses the term Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir. This prefix was not used for any other state. The Indian Constitution was adopted on January 26, 1950, but at that time one part of Jammu and Kashmir was already occupied by Pakistan. Constitutional experts say that the definition of the territory of the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir was waiting for the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir to be adopted, which the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir had to do. The Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir in the year 1956-57 adopted its own Constitution and it unambiguously states that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and it is the state that existed on August 15, 1947. But on August 5, 2019, the government of India discarded the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir. It was this Constitution which made the entire territory of Jammu and Kashmir an integral part of India, otherwise the Constitution of India under Article 1 only says that the state of Jammu and Kashmir is that which existed at the time of commencement of the Constitution of India. That is why some people say that because the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir has been rendered ineffective, there is now no definition of territory of Jammu and Kashmir. This basically gives China an open hand to interfere on the Jammu and Kashmir question, because if tomorrow China comes on the negotiating table and India claims the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir as its own, China would ask for proof. China would say that the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir has been thrown into the dustbin so there is no territorial definition of the state of Jammu and Kashmir which India can claim. Some people also say Home Minister Amit Shah’s statement in Parliament that the entire region of Aksai Chin is Indian territory, infuriated the Chinese authorities.
What is the way forward? The situation is quite serious. Hand to hand combat has taken place. There is solace that no bullets were fired, otherwise it would have been very difficult to de-escalate the tensions. There is hope that diplomacy will triumph. Going to war will be disastrous for both the countries. It would be better that instead of the military leaders of the two countries talking to each other, a Foreign Minister-level dialogue takes place to de-escalate the border situation.
The writer is from Raiyar Doodhpathri and writes regularly on current affairs. [email protected]