New Delhi: At least 20 Indian soldiers died after clashes with Chinese troops at the Galwan Valley in Eastern Ladakh late Monday evening.
This was the first time in 45 years that soldiers have died in clash with China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
While the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has accused Beijing of trying to unilaterally change the status quo in the area, the Western Theatre Command of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has blamed it on India, claiming Galwan Valley as Chinese territory.
The matter has been reported widely by the international media. While many have said the clash was “historic”, some suspect India’s road building exercise in the valley led to the face-off. Here is a round-up of foreign media reporting on the violent face-off.
A Geo News’ report Tuesday noted how Prime Minister Narendra Modi was receiving flak for his silence on the clashes. Titled ‘Indians slam PM Modi for staying silent over Ladakh face-off with China’, the report quoted tweets by former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, journalists Smita Sharma, Barkha Dutt and Rana Ayub, as well as defence analyst Ajai Shukla who have questioned the PM’s silence.
The same day, Geo News also published a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which said Pakistan and China have a “qualitative edge” over India in terms of nuclear weapons.
Pakistani newspaper Dawn’s coverage of the clash led with Beijing’s claim of Indian soldiers making the first attack.
Quoting agency reports, the report noted that India and China have “long squabbled about their border but recent weeks have seen an escalation”.
It said, “…the Chinese foreign ministry said only last week a ‘positive consensus’ was reached following ‘effective communication’.”
In another report, Dawn quoted Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s reaction to the face-off, the country was “observing the developments carefully but that it held India responsible for the conflict”.
The Himalayan Times called the clash “an unfortunate turn of events” and asserted that “not a single shot had been fired”.
In a report titled ‘India Says 3 Soldiers Killed In Standoff With Chinese Troops’ Tuesday, The Rising Nepal Daily says India’s attempt at building “a strategic road connecting the region to an airstrip close to China” had escalated tensions.
The paper also published two op-eds Wednesday, one by editor Namrata Sharma and another by analyst Rambhakta Thakur, on Nepal’s push for a new map that includes the disputed areas of Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura.
While Sharma commended Nepal’s move to assert sovereignty, Thakur noted that since the 1962 India-China War “Nepal has been asking to go for survey in the disputed areas which was being ignored for this or that reasons by India”.
The New York Times called the Galwan Valley stand-off the “worst clash in decades” and suggested that Home Minister Amit Shah played a role in aggravating things by vowing to take back Aksai Chin in a speech last year.
The report referred to India and China as “nuclear-armed rivals” and held both their “nationalist leaders” responsible for “adding tinder to a long-smoldering conflict”.
However, it noted that China has an upper hand over India in terms of military might, especially since Nepal and Sri Lanka, “once reliable India allies”, have “titled” towards China.
Political scientist Ian Hall wrote in The Conversation that the clash could be China’s way of “humiliating India for perceived transgressions”, like cosying up to the US, or to “send a message to others — in Taiwan, Japan, Southeast Asia, or elsewhere”.
For Reuters, Sanjeev Miglani pointed out “India’s impatience” with Modi’s silence, and how the situation is proving to be the “greatest foreign policy challenge” for him since he entered office in 2014.
In the Washington DC-based magazine Diplomat, author Ankit Panda said the last time the two countries used firearms was in 1975 in the Sikkim sector. This is now a “a 21st century tipping point”, more serious than the 2017 Doklam standoff, he wrote.
However, he said the “small silver lining” could be that the two nations have been in dialogue through military channels.
In his comment for The Economist, defence editor Shashank Joshi mentioned that “India’s government played down the severity of the crisis” in the last month and India’s build-up of infrastructure in the region seems to have been the trigger for Monday’s clash.
Like Panda, Joshi also said India has been “anxious” over China’s wooing of Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Ashley J. Tellis, from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said India-China relations cannot go back to as it were in the past since lives have been lost.
In an Axios report, Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert, questioned whether guns were used in the “perilous” clash, considering the number of fatalities.
Meanwhile, UK’s The Telegraph insisted there were only “hand-to-hand clashes” while The New York Times said “wooden clubs…some possibly studded with nails or wrapped in barbed wire” could have been used.
British daily The Guardian’s headline mentioned that the troops “fought with rocks”. The report talked about “India’s shock and caution to the loss of at least 20 soldiers” and mentioned UN Secretary General António Guterres’ remark on the clash.
Chinese and Southeast Asian media
In an editorial piece, Chinese paper Global Times referred to the face-off as a “physical fight”.
“The arrogance and recklessness of the Indian side is the main reason for the consistent tensions along China-India borders.”
Meanwhile, People’s Daily reported Chinese military spokesperson Zhang Shuili’s remarks against India in a report titled ‘Chinese military urges India to return to correct track of dialogue, negotiations’.
The South China Morning Post’s latest report carried the Chinese army’s live-fire drill in Tibet “as tensions with India escalated following a deadly clash on the disputed Himalayan border”. The drill took place more than 1,000 km from the site where the troops had clashed Monday night, it said.
The Straits Times took the story forward, publishing a report Wednesday on India’s deteriorating ties with Nepal, indicating “border troubles with its neighbours have continued to intensify beyond China”.
Japanese paper Nikkei Asian Review’s report included a graph comparing India and China’s military arsenal, to highlight the latter’s military might. Public policy professor James Crabtree’s piece in the paper tried to put the clash in context as it pointed out that South Asian nations “will be among the most significant losers” of the Covid-19 pandemic.