The build-up of Chinese forces along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh first appeared on the radar of the government in end-April, and exploded on Monday in the violent clash at Galwan. Tensions in remote Ladakh came home to Indians in 11 states as funerals were held for 20 soldiers who became the first casualties in 45 years on this border with China.
Sino-Indian relations are not going to be the same again. The investment of over three decades of diplomatic efforts towards building a working relationship spiralled southward this last week. Diplomatic and military contacts, though not snapped, are on a razor’s edge. The two sides appear to be talking not to, rather at, each other, and the build-up has continued.
The nature of the diplomatic engagement and military disengagement in the coming week(s) will decide whether the relationship will slip from low-trust to mutual suspicion. On Tuesday (June 23), the Foreign Ministers of India and China are slated to engage at the Russia-India-China (RIC) forum. And on June 24, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will attend the Victory Day Parade in Moscow to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. Russia has good relations with both India and China.
While these engagements could be reason for some to be optimistic about an early resolution, this week might well see more statements and counter-statements from military and diplomatic establishments on both sides.
Also, whether the standoff spills on to economic/trade relations will be watched keenly. A contract to a Chinese firm in the Railways’ Dedicated Freight Corridor project has been scrapped, as has the bidding process of the Mumbai monorail project in which Chinese firms were promising contenders, and a Haryana tender in which Chinese firms were bidders. The Telecom Ministry has dropped hints that it will curtail use of Chinese equipment in Indian networks, which might impact business interests of Chinese firms like Huawei and ZTE. Depending on how the situation evolves, you could see more such moves, or veiled threats to Chinese businesses this week.
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A lot changed in Sino-Indian relations last week; not much can be expected to change this week. As for the other big concern, the coronavirus situation, the number of recovered/discharged cases (about 2.28 lakh) is now more than the active cases (about 1.7 lakh) in the country.
However, this is not much of a respite. The reason being cases continue to snowball – with each week adding more cases than the previous week. This means that the pressure on the health system will continue to increase, as the active cases mirror the cases of the previous two weeks. Over the last fortnight, India has identified over 1.6 lakh new cases, which is little less than the total active cases (about 1.7 lakh) in the country. Given that about 90 lakh cases were added last week, do not be surprised if, thanks to the increased testing, more than a lakh cases emerge in the coming week.
Bottomline: If you live in any of the major urban centres in India, do not drop your guard. Take all possible precautions, and act with the utmost responsibility at all times. As always, stay safe!
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