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India-China Standoff: Will Border Skirmishes Between The Two Asian Giants Continue To Escalate?

Indian soldiers in Kashmir near the disputed border with China. Photo credit: Tauseef Mustafa.

The India-China border-standoff has turned stormier for the very first time in more than the last 45 years as reports of killing of at least 20 Indian soldiers surfaced. The Indian and Chinese armies had been locked in a stand-off at three sites in Ladakh.

Earlier Chinese incursions in Ladakh occurred in 2013 and 2014, and weeks longer stand-off on the edge of Bhutan back in 2017. Both Asian giants quickly moved troops and heavy weapons towards the LAC.

According to estimates a former head of the Indian Army’s Northern Command, the PLA grabbed around 40 to 60 square kilometers of territory in total that India considers being its own.

After the May episode of scuffle and fistfight between the two militaries, the Indian Government on June 9 said that China had pulled back troops, tents and vehicles at the Galwan valley and another site (though not the lake), and that India had reciprocated.

India’s army chief declared that talks had been “very fruitful”. However, the deadly clashes that happened two days later suggest otherwise. India’s army initially said that an officer and two soldiers had been killed “during the de-escalation but sources later revealed the heavy casualties on the Indian side.

If Barkha Dutt, an Indian Reporter, and Washington Post’s Columnist is to believe then 76 soldiers were injured in the clash with Chinese troops. 18 of the injured are in Leh Hospital and 58 at other hospitals, she told quoted sources in the army.

India as of now, apart from the internal challenges of Covid-19, has to face military and diplomatic turbulence with three of its neighbors; China, Nepal, and Pakistan. On June 12th an Indian citizen was killed by Nepalese border guards, amid a separate border row between India and Nepal.

Nepal’s government has claimed a sliver of territory on its border that India considers its own. India’s defense minister recently blamed that Nepal’s border actions were taken at the behest of China.

According to the Global Times Editorial piece, India was unjustified in the border dispute. Indian troops violated the China-India consensus of stabilizing the Galwan Valley region reached during the two militaries’ commander-level talks. Indians crossed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and forcibly demolished the Chinese troops’ tents. This led to the encounter, and India suffered many casualties.

It further claimed that Indian troops broke the deal regarding LAC and 17 Indian troops died because they were exposed to freezing temperatures at high altitudes after being injured.

The Indian military is one of the world’s largest and most funded but it has failed to modernize at large.

This year, India announced a military budget of nearly $74 billion, compared with China’s $178 billion. India is still well behind China when it comes to military, diplomatic, and economic prowess.

This may give China an edge over India’s infuriated sentiments and can compel Prime Minister Modi not to further escalate the border tensions on their disputed Himalayan border.

Analysts fear that the new tensions between China and India may be the starkest test of India’s willingness to faceoff an immediate hostile neighbor bent on expanding its interests and territory.

Boycott Chinese products

Soon after a serious skirmish between Chinese and Indian troops along the border, the Indian public has shown nationalistic fervour over the border escalations.

#BoycottChineseproducts, and #WewillcrushChina have become the most prominent slogans over the media, especially social media in an attempt to befittengly reply China.

Indian cricketer Harbhajan Singh has called the people of India to “ban all Chinese products.”

Retired Indian army major Ranjit Singh has also asked people to throw Chinese goods out, saying “we can break China’s backbone economically.”

China’s GDP is about five times that of India’s. India can suffer more losses if it launches a trade war against China.

India-China Trade Ties

China is Asia’s largest economy and the world’s second-biggest with a GDP of about $13.6 trillion. India is No. 3 in Asia at $2.7 trillion.

From supplying industrial components and raw materials to investments in India’s startups and technology firms, China is India’s biggest trading partner after the U.S.

China is one of the biggest exporters to India and accounted for over 14% of the Indian imports in the financial year 2019-20. China-India trade has been expanding over the years. India imports several goods from China.

Chinese mobile phones. Chinese lamps, ceramics, electrical appliances, power plant inputs, fertilizers, auto components, finished steel products, capital goods like power plants, telecom equipment, metro rail coaches, iron and steel products, pharmaceutical ingredients, chemicals and plastics, and engineering goods are some of the goods that India imports from China.

Many Chinese products cannot be produced in India, and India cannot rely on the West to buy these products at the same flexible price and at short distances.

Moreover, Chinese smartphone brands, led by Xiaomi, Vivo, and Oppo, are market leaders in India with an estimated 72% share put together, leaving Samsung and Apple behind, according to a report by Gateway House.

TikTok is also a China-backed mobile application with a huge following in India. Reportedly, India saw a 165% increase in app downloads between 2016 and 2018. However, Tiktok is not the only Chinese app being used in India.

Tourism between India and China has been growing, and according to the report of Bloomberg Quint, more Indian tourists visit China every year than Chinese that comes into India.

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