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The roller-coaster ride of India-China relations that ended in Ladakh standoff

World’s two most populous and two of the most powerful nations, India and China are at odds since decades. Both of the nations claim area over the border with which the other disagrees and it has become a bone of contention between them. Both the nations even have fought a major battle known as “Sino-Indian war” in 1962 causing deaths of thousands of soldiers from both the sides. 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had maintained good relationship with his Chinese counterpart even before he acquired the post. As Gujarat’s Chief Minister he visited China four times. The Chinese also responded him well. China was one of the first few countries which allowed Natendra Modi a visa when America and European Nations denied in the wake of allegations of his involvement in Godhra riots.

When Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister of India, he visited China five times and met Chinese leader Xi Jinping 18 times in other world forums. On 11 October 2019, PM Modi greeted Chinese President Xi Jinping in Mahabalipur in Tamil Nadu. Both the leaders seemed to enjoy a great mutual understanding. Draped in the traditional attire, PM Modi even guided Xi Jinping shore temples. Experts then termed it “Swing Diplomacy” and saw it as an important chapter in the India and China relationship.

But all of it came down when a skirmish broke out between Indian and Chinese troops at Pangong Tso in Ladakh on the night of 5 May and 6 May. It caused many injuries on both the sides. It caused 70 Indian Army personnel’s injuries including a commanding officer. The number for Chinese isn’t known. A couple of days later on 9 May, a conflict between troops broke out on the eastern front in Naku La in North Sikkim. 

The conflicts became deadly on May 15 when 20 Indian soldiers lost their lives in Galwan Valley after the face-off with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA). However, the number of Chinese casualties remained a secret as they never officially disclosed the exact numbers but it was estimated somewhere around 40. It was the first incident of casualties in about 45 years.

3 years back in 2017, Indian and Chinese forces came face to face in the Doklam region of Bhutan. The 73 day long standoff started when the Chinese entered the area with road construction equipments and wanted to build a road in that area which they claimed to be theirs. While the skirmishes between both the troops continued to take place, China captured a significant area in the Pangong Tso valley.

When the Wuhan originated Coronavirus started engulfing the world into a pandemic, the Chinese Communist government started receiving backlash from the world and within. The stories of alleged abduction of the doctor who first informed the authorities of a possible new disease and the cover up of the Chinese government’s coronavirus mishandling started to reach the masses. Many believe that the Chinese government started fighting with the neighbouring nations in order to distract the Chinese people from the government’s failure. The theory rests on the fact that China shares its border with 14 other nations and has border disputes with all of them. Many of these border conflicts were rekindled in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Another reason behind the China’s incursion into the Indian territory could be its expansionist policies in which they try to acquire their neighboring country’s area and claim it their own. When China saw that all the nations are going through a pandemic and are very vulnerable in terms of their economy, as pandemic brought lockdown and low economic activities, and internal politics as most of the governments mishandled the virus and were a subject of criticism within the nation. China saw a golden opportunity to attack them in that particular moment when every other nation was at one of their lowest levels. 

India isn’t the only victim of China’s expansionist policies. China has border disputes with all of its neighboring nations. In India, China has illegally acquired approximate 38,000 square kilometer area of Aksai Chin. China also claims about 90,000 sq km area of Arunachal Pradesh which they believe is a part of “Southern Tibet”. China also claims parts of Nepal believing that they constitutes Tibet and has even illegally annexed Rui village of Nepal. China and Bhutan have a border dispute of around 495 square kilometer area, the latest being Sakteng Wildlife sanctuary.

China claims all of Taiwan under its “One China Policy” and believes that the island of Taiwan is a part of China and not a separate sovereign nation. While China doesn’t seem to have any active territorial dispute with Myanmar, it has indirectly accused China of supplying weapons to the rebel group of Arkan Army to create insurgency in Myanmar. China also claims parts of Laos on “historical grounds”. China claimed Altai Mountainous region of Mongolia and the area was disputed until 2015 when both the nations resolved the issue. China also has a territorial dispute over a group of uninhibited islands known as Senkaku Islands with Japan. China also claims over the Russian territory of “Vladivostok”. 

India has border disputes with China for a long time but it has tried to avoid getting into a physical combat. India tried to be in the good books of China and even didn’t blame China for the pandemic. When the tensions grew between US and China, India didn’t take sides as a part of its non-alignment policy. But, however, according to experts China saw India as an ally of its rival US and framed its policies towards India in the same way. 

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