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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

ExplainSpeaking: With stand-off at friction points continuing, expect a longer battle of nerves on Ladakh LAC

For the military, which thwarted Chinese advances in the Galwan valley, the challenge is to check them without things escalating into uncontrolled violent face-offs. The political questions have also constrained the government's room for manoeuvre.

Written by Ravish Tiwari , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: June 30, 2020 9:02:40 am
Paramilitary soldiers keep guard as Indian army convoy moves on the Srinagar- Ladakh highway at Gagangeer. (AP)

Hi there,

It’s a fortnight since the violent face-off between the Indian Army and Chinese forces at the Galwan valley in Ladakh created ripples in the bilateral relations between the two countries.

Since then, there has been interaction between the foreign ministers (June 17), at the Corps Commander level (June 22), and in the Working Mechanism for Consultation & Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) (June 24). Additionally, there have been several statements from New Delhi and Beijing since then. Both sides have seemed to be talking at each other instead of talking to each other.

No wonder, not only has the military stand-off continued, but both sides have also firmed up their military build-up along the LAC in Ladakh. This is a clear indication of the trust deficit between the two sides.

The only redeeming development has been the absence of another violent face-off in the last fortnight. This, however, is no guarantee of none in future. More so, when the forces on both sides are engaged in a virtual eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with at least four friction points – Pangong Tso, Galwan Valley, Hot Spring and Depsang.

Not only will these four friction points remain in public conversation during the coming days, there is also a risk of new friction points getting added to the conversation by one side or the other. Consequently, the military will continue building up along the LAC, while the diplomats will keep exploring options to defuse the situation.

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For the military, which thwarted Chinese advances in the Galwan valley, the challenge is to check them without things escalating into uncontrolled violent face-offs. Politically, the funerals across the country have brought the stand-off close to the domestic audience. The political questions have also constrained the government’s room for manoeuvre. So expect more mud-sligning between the BJP and opposition Congress, even as other parties watch from the fringes.

Hazarding a guess on how the situation develops at the LAC is like guessing the Chinese intentions behind the unprovoked military build-up. Hypothesize at your own risk.

The risks from Covid-19, however, continue, with each week adding more cases than the previous week. India reported about 1.2 lakh new Covid positive cases last week. Four hotspot states – Maharashtra, Delhi, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat – still accounted for two thirds of new cases last week. While the intervention of Union Home Ministry, and in particular Home Minister Amit Shah, in Delhi, and the non-confrontationist approach adopted by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has demonstrated a new purpose in the response to the outbreak in the national capital, which has surpassed Mumbai as the city with the most cases. Some positive trends towards stabilization seem to be emanating from Mumbai, but it is still a long way before either of the two metropolitan cities turn the corner.

The disease trajectory and the response to the outbreak in other states – Telangana, West Bengal, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu among others – remain a point of concern. The unlockdown guidelines issued for June expire on Tuesday. Unlockdown 2.0 guidelines are expected to continue with the opening up exercise that started last month.

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However, the last one month of opening up has not resulted in people coming out to embrace the activities they missed during the lockdown. This reflects the continuing low public confidence about normal life. It’s going to be a long, slow, journey towards normalcy. Staying the course without hurting the cause of recovery will be key.



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