Wednesday, December 1, 2021
EditorialsEditorial: Thaw in frosty relationship

Editorial: Thaw in frosty relationship

Published: 9th Aug 2021 12:00 am

The successful disengagement of troops from key positions in eastern Ladakh marks a turning point in the Indo-China relations that could help reduce the tensions along the border. Of particular significance is the withdrawal of troops from Gogra as it indicates that there is a definitive mood in both countries to put the acrimony of the past behind them. The development must surely bring some cheer to India’s foreign policy establishment after a series of setbacks to the country’s interests in its immediate neighbourhood, particularly in Afghanistan where the re-emergence of the Taliban has completely altered the dynamics, making India largely irrelevant. The Gogra withdrawal signals a significant thaw in the frosty relationship between the two giant Asian neighbours, marked by the lowest point in June 2020 when 20 Indian troops were killed in a violent clash during the process of disengagement in the Galwan Valley. The clash, which did not involve any firearms, queered the pitch in the otherwise robust relationship between them. Since then, the ties have only gone downhill with the Narendra Modi government erecting obstacles to Chinese investments in India and banning Chinese apps. The Ladakh standoff had started in May 2020, when China diverted its troops who were on a routine military exercise in the Tibet area to four patrolling points in eastern Ladakh. At these four points — Galwan Valley, Pangong Tso, Hot Springs and Gogra Post — Indian and Chinese troops found themselves almost physically facing each other, causing enormous friction.

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The Galwan disengagement happened in July 2020, while Pangong Tso saw a mutual withdrawal in February this year. A partial disengagement also reportedly took place at Hot Springs around the same time. What remains is disengagement in Depsang Plains. The latest disengagement at Gogra means that complete disengagement in eastern Ladakh along the remaining friction points should happen sooner than later. China is already at loggerheads with its neighbours in the South China Sea including Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines, and has been flexing its muscles in the region. The growing aggression of the Xi Jinping regime is apparently aimed at dissuading New Delhi from deep engagement with the West, particularly the United States. However, Beijing must have realised the folly of provoking India by deliberate border incursions. Some would argue that given China’s dubious track record and its growing territorial hegemony, India should not allow itself to be lulled into complacency on the border issue. China’s misadventures in recent years have tempered India’s optimism with caution. There are also lessons to be learnt from history. In July 1962, then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had welcomed the ‘partial’ withdrawal of Chinese troops from Ladakh but the euphoria ended soon with China invading Indian territory.

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