The killing of Indian soldiers by Chinese forces and why it matters

Written by Comment

Fighting broke out between Indian and Chinese troops in the Himalayas when they unexpectedly encountered each other on Monday evening. An Indian commanding officer was pushed into the river gorge at Galwan valley. Reinforcements were called on both sides and bloody hand-to-hand combat ensued. This caused the deaths of 20 Indian soldiers, with reports of Chinese casualties too.

The conflict dates back to at least 1914, when British, Chinese and Tibeten representatives established the MacMahon line (see a map to know what I mean), separating China and British India. China has never accepted this as an official border, and further disputes in the 1950s led to the Sino-Indian war in 1962, ending in an uneasy truce which established the ‘Line of Actual Control’ (LAC). This, too, has never been officially agreed.

Now, with increased activity in the largely unpopulated disputed regions, the two countries’ conflicting policies are driving up diplomatic tensions because both maintain they are operating within their own territory. The biggest clash is over India building infrastructure in the Galwan valley along the LAC, which China has sent troops to defend. Despite some 5, 000 miles between us and Tibet, this conflict should concern us.

Allegedly the first bloodshed over the border in 45 years, its potential to escalate means we owe it to India, after years of British colonisation there, to pay attention.

Although another war is unlikely because the disputed land holds no resources, so the costs far outweigh the benefits to both parties. But this leaves me wondering if so much tension and bloodshed throughout the decades is worth it for the difference of a few square miles of uninhabited land. While the scale of the deaths so far can’t compare with that caused by corona virus or the countless impoverished Indians left in its wake, it is vital that agreements be made to avoid any more needless bloodshed in a time when both countries, face increased economic pressures.  These soldiers are individuals: brothers, husbands, sons. Their lives matter.

Last modified: 23rd June 2020

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