Monday’s violent clashes in Ladakh’s Galwan area along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which resulted in at least 20 Indian soldiers losing their lives, has, without doubt, stunned the Indian leadership and its people, who were hoping for de-escalation with China, its bullying neighbour.
Sticking to the rulebook, the Indian leadership had been telling people over the past week that normalcy would be restored on the border even as it would have asked our forces to keep an eagle eye on Chinese movement along the LAC.
But whether such a violent face-off was expected and that too during the course of what was touted as a deescalation process is still a matter of guess.
B Upendar, the father of Colonel B Santosh Babu, quoted his son as saying that the ground situation in the icy heights was far different from what was being shown on TV channels.
The late Colonel obviously meant that the situation was volatile, edgy and tense, different from the perception people had in their drawing rooms that the stand-off was easing and that there was partial disengagement of troops on both sides.
Experts also disagreed with the view that the clashes were the result of differing perceptions of the LAC.
Many of them pointed out that at least 4,000-5,000 Chinese soldiers had crossed the LAC with the clear intention of claiming the land.
This is corroborated by the PLA’s claim on Tuesday that “China always owns sovereignty over the Galwan Valley region”.
What led to China’s expansionist moves is still a matter of conjecture but that the Indian government is preparing to take the Chinese bull by the horns was clear from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assertion that the sacrifices by our soldiers will not be forgotten.
The PM has now called an allparty meeting to discuss the issue. This is welcome, as a national consensus—based on a convergence of diplomatic, military and political initiatives—needs to be built for a measured response.
While it will be naive to expect the government to give out sensitive information, it is equally important to be as transparent as possible and keep the nation duly informed.