The unilateral declaration of Ladakh as a federal territory separating it from the state of Jammu & Kashmir in August 2019 is destabilising the region leading to bad blood between India and its neighbours, first Pakistan, then Nepal and now China. The unnecessary death of 20 Indian soldiers on Monday 15 June is being exploited by the governing Hindu nationalist party, using jingoistic rhetoric to win upcoming state elections.
The BJP used, the terrorist attack in Pulwama in Kashmir in February 2019 in which 40 Indian soldiers died, by creating hysteria against Pakistan and playing Hindu/Muslim divisive politics for its electoral advantage, thus helping Modi to win a second term during federal elections mid 2019.
Twenty Indian soldiers were killed in the confrontation with Chinese soldiers on Monday 15 June night in the disputed Galwan Valley in Ladakh. China did not disclose whether its forces suffered any casualties.
There have been a number of clashes during the past month between Chinese and Indian border security forces along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh region where the border lines have never been physically determined and agreed upon by the two neighbours.
Both countries claim vast areas of each other’s territory along the Himalayan border, with some disagreements rooted in demarcations by British colonial administrators of India.
Both sides have accused each other of instigating the Monday night clashes between their soldiers in the Galwan Valley, part of a disputed region in Indian-administered Ladakh territory.
China on Wednesday 17 June claimed “sovereignty over the Galwan Valley region” – a claim rebutted by India as “exaggerated and untenable”.
Indian security forces said neither side fired any shots, instead throwing rocks and trading blows. The Indian soldiers, including a colonel, died of severe injuries and exposure in the area’s sub-zero temperatures.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned India not to underestimate China’s determination to safeguard what it considers its sovereign territory.
“The Indian side would best not make an incorrect judgement of the situation, would best not underestimate China’s strong determination to safety its sovereign territory,” he said.
The Indian foreign Minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar has accused China of erecting a structure in the Galvan Valley, which he called a “premeditated and planned action that was directly responsible for the resulting violence and casualties.”
PM Narendra Modi using hawkish rhetoric for its electoral advantage declared, “Their sacrifices won’t go in vain. For us, the unity and sovereignty of the country is the most important thing. India wants peace, but when provoked, it is capable of giving a befitting reply if provoked.”
Members of the public in both nations have since staged protests over the clashes while BJP activists have been burning posters of Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese-made goods during protests against China in Delhi and other cities of India.