On the afternoon of Tuesday, the world was shocked to learn that a violent clash had broken out between India and China at Galwan Valley while they were supposedly engaged in efforts to deescalate the situation at the border in Ladakh. While China blames India for crossing the border and attacking its troops, India has not made any such remarks.
However, both sides agree on one essential fact, that there were casualties on both sides. India has confirmed that 3 Indian soldiers have died during the clash but China has not confirmed its numbers yet. But no matter how we look at it, it is truly unprecedented. India insists that the clash occurred during deescalation efforts and given China’s propensity towards obfuscating the truth, we are inclined to believe that it was China which decided to escalate matters.
And as it so happens, there is good reason why China may want to escalate affairs with India. It is certainly consistent with their conduct post the advent of the Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic. As we have reported earlier, China increased its military exercises in the South China Sea region amidst the pandemic while simultaneously engaging in atrocious conduct otherwise.
Users on social media speculate that recent events may have something to do with possible differences between the Chinese Army and President Xi Jinping with the latter losing control of the former. It could also be that the pandemic has initiated a succession war at multiple levels or it could be that Xi Jinping is attempting to create an external enemy in order to forge internal unity, they say.
Inexplicable conduct— gab.ai/TheCol🇮🇳 (@desertfox61I) June 16, 2020
– #XiJinping is not in control of #PLA in internecine conflict between factions
– #WuhanCoronavirus Pandemic has caused vacancies ( Death) succession struggle at all levels
– Engaging external enemies to forge internal unity
It is entirely a possibility that it is a combination of all three factors with the second unlikely to have played any significant part. The Chinese arrangement is such that their military is prone to external influence and it is not insulated from the other machinery of the state as it is in mature democracies like in India or the USA.
In recent years, we have witnessed Xi Jinping make a power grab which certainly made a lot of people within China uncomfortable. He has persecuted his political opponents in China quite ruthlessly and has attempted to create a cult of personality around himself. And then, he implemented provisions that would enable him to remain President for life. It is easy to see why his political opponents would be wary of the power he has amassed for himself.
And then came the Wuhan Coronavirus outbreak which has weakened Xi Jinping’s position within the country. Dissidence has been rising against him and it became evident that not everyone was happy with the manner in which the pandemic was addressed by the regime. An influential man within the party, who has the reputation of being an ‘outspoken maverick’, wrote an opinion post headlined, “An official call to arms against Xi: The clown who insists on wearing the emperor’s new clothes.”
The pandemic also will certainly have economic repercussions for the party. The regime has managed to sustain goodwill among its citizenry by the virtue of the economic development they ushered in. In the absence of such sustained development, it is unclear to what extent it will affect the perception of the populace with regards to the party.
Thus, there is certainly a possibility that factions within the Chinese Military are not following the commands of Xi Jinping and acting of their own accord or taking orders from others. Violent revolutions and power grabs in China is not new, it has a history of such rebellions and revolutions.
Simultaneously, another possibility exists that Xi Jinping is initiating conflict abroad in order to quell the differences within his party. The rising dissidence against him could very well have prompted the Chinese President to trigger a conflict with India so that he could consolidate his own position within the party.
Thus, from an Indian perspective, it becomes mandatory for us to expect China to not really deescalate matters at the border. There are multiple factors at play here and not all of them are under our control. The only thing we can exercise an influence over is our own response to Chinese aggression. And that is what we must focus on the most.
If the current conflict at the Ladakh border is a consequence of internal turmoil within China, and it is the basis on which we ought to proceed, then there is not much we could do to resolve the matter amicably. And it does some certain that our relationship with China is unlikely to improve any time soon in the near future.