A year after the deadly clashes between Indian and Chinese armies in the Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh, India is better prepared to deal with any eventualities along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) as the trust deficit between the two sides persists, people in the defence establishment said on Monday. They said the Galwan Valley episode helped Indian security planners crystalise the country’s approach towards China as well as recalibrate the short-term and long-term goals considering the possible security threats.
In the first deadly clash in the border area in nearly five decades, 20 Indian soldiers were killed on June 15 last year in the Galwan Valley, triggering a large deployment of troops and heavy weaponry by both armies at the friction points. In February, China officially acknowledged that five Chinese military officers and soldiers were killed in the clashes with the Indian Army though it is widely believed that the death toll was higher.
”We are much better prepared militarily. The Galwan Valley clashes helped us prioritise our national security approach towards the northern border,” said one of the persons cited above. It is learnt that the Chinese military has also enhanced its positions in several depth areas in the high-altitude region.
The people said the clashes also helped in hastening the ”jointness” among the three services and cited the example of a united approach by the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force in dealing with the overall challenge along the LAC. ”The clashes brought out a high degree of synergy between the Indian Army and the IAF,” said another person.
The people cited above said the ”trust deficit” between the two sides still persists and India is fully ready to deal with any situation in eastern Ladakh and other sectors along the LAC. The ties between the two countries came under severe strain following the Galwan Valley clashes that took place over a month after the border standoff began between the Indian and Chinese militaries in multiple friction points in eastern Ladakh.
Days after the incident, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar bluntly told his Chinese counterpart that the ”unprecedented development will have a serious impact on the bilateral relationship. India held the neighbouring country accountable for triggering the Ladakh standoff by violating rules of engagement on border management and conveyed that peace and tranquillity along the LAC is the basis for the progress of the rest of the relationship and they cannot be separated.
Months later, Jaishankar and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi agreed on a five-point pact to resolve the row at a meeting in Moscow on September 10. The two sides completed the withdrawal of troops and weapons from the North and South banks of Pangong lake in February following a series of military and diplomatic talks.
They are now engaged in talks to extend the disengagement process to the remaining friction points. There was no visible forward movement in disengagement of troops in the remaining friction points as the Chinese side did not show flexibility in their approach on it at the 11th round of military talks.
Last month, Army Chief Gen MM Naravane said that there can be no de-escalation without complete disengagement at all friction points in eastern Ladakh and that the Indian Army is prepared for all contingencies in the region. Gen Naravane also said that India is dealing with China in a ”firm” and ”non-escalatory” manner to ensure the sanctity of its claims in eastern Ladakh and that it was even open to initiating confidence-building measures.
India has been insisting on complete disengagement in remaining friction points to de-escalate the situation in eastern Ladakh.